Hawthorn Presbyterian Church

Hollywood, Christmas & Christianity

According to various news reports, Hollywood has found Biblical themes fashion-able (and for this, read “profitable”) once more and so block-buster movies with Biblical-historical themes are under consideration again. Leading movie production houses have seen the success of low budget Christian-friendly films such as Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, One Night With the King and Soul Surfer and are taking opportunity to profit from this resurgence. Paramount is backing a film on Noah, Stephen Spielberg is considering a new film on Moses called Gods and Kings and yet another production house is making Goliath, which was apparently pitched on the grounds that today few young people understand the sporting (sic) metaphor of a David & Goliath contest. Perhaps less helpfully, a film version of Milton’s epic Paradise Lost is also planned – less helpfully because it will require visualisation of spiritual realities and concepts that are best dealt with in the mind. All this is from an industry that has previously encouraged themes that have undermined Biblical morality, challenged Christian theism as imperialist or irrelevant, mocked the importance of the family unit and rejected any fundamental difference between masculinity and femininity. So why the sudden change? Is this new desire for the Bible evidence of a genuine conversion on the part of filmmakers, a desire to repent of past sins and bring all to the truth of the Scriptures, or is it the possibility of a dollar or a few million? We do not read minds, but do seriously suspect the latter!

God is sovereign so these films may be helpful to some, but only to the extent that people are spurred on to read the Bible narrative in its proper scope. After all, what shall it prosper anyone if they should know all the Old Testament narrative, but not know Jesus Christ? Old Testament history is not just human history, to be re-told or interpreted at will. The records of Noah, Moses, David, etc. are all a record of God’s preparation for the coming of Jesus, and a warning to flee the wrath to come. Moses is the redeemer who leads God’s chosen [elect] people out of slavery to the Land of Promise. David is the anointed shepherd-king, who as Substitute for a cowering, helpless, Israel alone can defeat Goliath and all he represents. Then Solomon, the Son of David builds the kingdom. All these were flawed, so another must come.

It is for this reason too that we object to the tendency among film-makers to “enrich” the Biblical narrative by the addition of extra characters and sub-plots. But sadly, it is not only film-makers who take liberties with the Biblical narrative. Many a Sunday School lesson or nativity play has been wrenched from its historical setting & “re-told” to “engage the children”. No doubt some will wonder why this should be a problem: the film is more interesting, the drama more intense and the children learn something! However, when Biblical history is taught and re-told out of context, it subtly moves into the realm of “myth”: a story told for the message it carries, but not meant to be believed as historically real. [The problem also exists when pictures of Noah’s ark do not show its true proportions.] As Christians, history is vital!

The Graeco-Roman world was full of religious myths but Christians were adamant that Jesus’ birth was not one more myth to teach the love of God or the dignity of man. A real birth was essential to his living a perfect human life and dying a real sinner’s death. It was true in the normal sense of the word. They knew a mere myth could not physically rise from the dead, nor save anyone, nor come again. A myth cannot deal with the reality of sin. Jesus does! As you mix with those who do not yet know Jesus this Christmas season, do not give them any reason to conclude that the wonderful message of your Saviour is all just a sentimental story.

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