While I read hundreds of articles about The Passion of the Christ before and after it was released, What You Need To Know About The Passion of the Christ is the first full-length book I have read on the topic. Ian Brown, author and pastor of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster (Ireland) has written this book to address three serious issues he has with the movie – its making, message and meaning. Drawing from numerous sources, he weaves together a fair and logical rebuttal against the film.
The first chapter is dedicated to the strife surrounding the film. He addresses those critics who charged that the movie was anti-Semitic and shows that to take issue with the Biblical account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion is to take issue with God. He believes the charges of anti-Semitism are nothing more than a red herring that steals attention from the more important issues regarding the movie. A second source of controversy surrounding the film was its level of brutal violence. Brown believes that God purposely chose to avoid portraying Christ’s death in graphic detail, lest Jesus’ physical suffering draw us away from the true meaning of the cross. He questions what right Mel Gibson has to focus so heavily on pain and brutality.
The second chapter speaks about the sources for the movie, showing that Gibson’s interpretation of the events of Christ’s last hours are muddied by his Catholic beliefs. His version of the events draws significantly from Catholic theology and tradition, so that the movie becomes little more than an “animated crucifix.” Even Catholics have been calling the movie a “two-hour catechism” and “a commercial for Catholicism.” He also takes the position that this representation of Jesus violates the second commandment which forbids us to make any image of God.
Chapter three goes into significant detail to show that the movie is Catholic through-and-through. He shows that the movie follows the Stations of the Cross and that many of the additions and subtractions made by Gibson were made specifically to make it fit better with Catholic beliefs. A movie that is so heavily Catholic must necessarily be anti-Protestant.
The fourth chapter is brief and speaks about the overwhelming Protestant support for this movie. Brown believes that pastors who encouraged their congregations to see the movie have failed in their responsibilities before God. “Instead of putting the trumpet to their lips and sounding an alarm, many evangelical leaders, lulled to sleep by the compromising spirit of this age, are clapping their hands and whistling in support of Mel Gibson’s Passion.”
The final chapter speaks about the perceived success of the movie. Brown shows that the movie can not be a successful tool for evangelism as it fails to present the gospel. There are too many additions and far too many subtractions from the gospel message. He says “Does revival spring from error, compromise and false gospels? The answer of history is a resounding “No!” Based on experience, it seems a safe prediction that there will be a spasm of emotion as a result of The Passion of the Christ. There will be a wave of false converts. There will also be a deepening of the ecumenical movement.”
I applaud Mr. Brown for writing this book, despite knowing it will likely serve to alienate him from many other believers. He has taken an informed and Biblical stand on an issue that is of utmost importance. While the author relies heavily on Internet sources, many of which I had already read, he has also found an abundance of sources that were new to me. Whether you agree or disagree with his conclusions, you certainly cannot fault the thoroughness of his research. If you are committed to the traditional foundations of Protestantism, I see little reason to believe you could disagree with his conclusions.