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Contemporary Issues
Impassioned for the Wrong Cause:
A Zeal not according to Knowledge
(Romans 10:2)
 
by Rev Jack Sin
(Pastor, Maranatha B-P Church)
 (updated, 31 March 2004)

Introduction

Over the last two months, the worldwide Christian community is abuzz, with a new controversial film by Mel Gibson entitled "The Passion of The Christ" with famous actors and actresses like Jim Caviezel (who was well received by the pope in the Vatican recently), Morgenstern and Monica Belucci (who acted in the R(A) movie "Irreversible" and other soft porn movies). One lady died of heart attack while watching "The Passion of the Christ" in the US. This movie has polarised the evangelical world into two. Eminent heavyweights on both sides have given reasons for and against the movie. Those who are for it included celebrated men like the pope, Billy Graham, James Dobson, Rick Warren, Campus Crusade for Christ, Paul Crouch, Jack Hayford, Chuck Colson, Tim LaHaye, Southern Baptist Convention, Promise Keepers, Jerry Falwell, Robert Schuller, John Piper, (and others as it is not exhaustive). On the flip side, we have Peter Masters, A N Martin, Alan Morrison, Andrew Webb, Dennis Gibson, Iain Murray, Denis Shelton, John Robbins, C.D. Thomson, SH Tow and others. Some ministers and members in some churches and denominations are either indifferent or are split on this matter. Phones calls and emails have come in enquiring about the biblical stand on this matter. Convincing and cogent reasons have been advanced by both sides that are worthy of our consideration. The following are some of the possible reasons in favour of the movie to be noted.

1. Some people may be talking about the Lord Jesus Christ in open public debate.

2. There is some semblance of truth in the movie according to the biblical records.

3. It may have got some people thinking and asking questions about the Christian faith.

4. It may provide some opportunities to talk to people about the Lord and His death (who will not read the Bible) and possibly a tool for evangelism as well. (Some have called it the greatest evangelistic tool in 2,000 years).

5 There is the technical state of the art cinematic portrayal of Christ with a Christian theme that augurs well for an excellent and brilliant show satisfying the demands of any movie fan.

6 Some sympathizers may be emotionally moved by the graphic violent and gruesome death of Christ and may be prompted to seek to know about Him more and possibly even accept Him as their Saviour.

7. Even if it is not accurate or absolutely true to the Bible, there are still good morals to be learnt including sacrifice, love, faith and hope from the movie by both believers and non believers.

These are plausible reasons presented above for watching the movie. Is it possible that the advantages of the movie so called be outweighed by the grave disadvantages or demerits mentioned below?

Consider the following prayerfully and carefully

1. The focus of this movie (it has got an M18 rating which is the old R(A) when it hit the big screens here in Singapore on 1 April 2004) is purportedly the last 12 hours of Christ before his death and the playing up of the sadistic, violent and grotesque physical suffering of Christ among other things. But is this the main emphasis in the Bible (see Matt 27:26, 35)? The Bible is primarily concerned with the spiritual suffering and death of the Lord (Isa 53:1-7). The agony of bearing the sin of the world upon Himself and the accompanying separation from the Father (Luke 22:39-46). The first mention of the pain of shedding His blood is not from the wounds to His body, but the blood He sweat from the agony of His soul in Gethsemane (Luke 22:44). The greatest pain expressed by Jesus on the cross were the words, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt 27:46) The Bible emphasizes the spiritual suffering of the Lord (2 Cor 5:21) not withstanding that the physical aspects which is also mentioned as well.

2. In re-enacting the death of Jesus this film does something for which there is no Biblical mandate. One is charged to remember properly and reverently the death of Jesus in the Lord’s Supper, a sacrament and means of grace instituted and sanctioned by God (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:26) and not by any man-made re-enactment nor the encouragement of casual and non-committal viewing of a multi million blockbuster entertaining Hollywood movie in a secular theatre according to man‘s fertile imaginations.

3. This movie or any re-enactment of the crucifixion is a faulty and unapproved substitute for the God-ordained method of presenting the Gospel to a sinful world. It is not the way the Bible tells us to present the pure and unadulterated Gospel. We are to present the Gospel through the foolishness (medium and content) of gospel preaching (1 Cor 1:21) and not through the worldly fanfare of a secular movie no matter how well intentioned the directors, producers or actors (or even viewers) may be.

4. This movie can lead to a plethora of spurious spiritual experiences based upon emotions. (Billy Graham testified honestly that when he prays, his mind would think of the actor who is vividly displayed in the film. Is this a helpful thing?) Watching a movie nonchalantly cannot bring a person to salvation. Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ does not seek the sympathy of depraved men through the physical portrayal of His suffering, He demands and requires unreservedly our sincere and humble evangelical repentance of our sins, faith and devotion to him (Luke 9:23, 23:28) which this movie does not portrait.

5. The film undermines the Biblical doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture (Rev 22:18-19.2Tim 3:16,17). Mel Gibson, the ardent catholic director has admitted to filling in some details from sources outside the Bible. Much of this extra biblical material expresses Roman Catholic theology and the Latin Mass which protestants based on holy scriptures are at variance with (2 Cor 6:14-18).

6. The movie has the full potential of promoting ecumenism and consequently undermines the work of the 16th century protestant reformation. (Mel Gibson boasts of a crew and cast from 4 religious faiths to appeal to the worldwide community.) It reinforces the concept of religious pluralism and compromise, which says there are many ways to God, each as good as the other (see Gal 1:8). As true believers of Christ, we would distance ourselves from this religious accommodation.

7. The film gives approval to a tangible corporeal sinful man acting the part of the sinless Son of God, which according to the Bible is totally unacceptable to God, to say the least (cf John 14:9).

8. The film is a blatant violation of the Second Commandment (Exod 20:4). That alone is sufficient reason to reject it altogether. It is a graven image when God would have no such visual representations made of Himself: Father or His only begotten Son or the Holy Spirit. This is the most compelling reason of it all not to support this movie from a biblical perspective.

9. Produced at a staggering cost of US$25 million, it brought in US$125.2 million in the five days of showing in 2,000 theatres in the US. Up to date this money churning machinery has already racked in more than US$212 million and it is not even screened in Asia and other parts of the world yet. It is touted to be the movie (at least for the money if not content) of the year, if not for the decade. 2 Tim 2:20,21 speak of clean sanctified vessels that are approved of God for his use. Is the glorious and somber once and for all vicarious atonement of the Son of God for guilty sinners to be used as a lucrative spectacle for profit making purposes by men whose salvation are questionable?

Conclusion

The entertainment industry has finally infiltrated and invaded the church successfully. With the good response for this "Christian" movie, more of such films are already in the pipeline. Without the use of emotive language and with due respect to proponents of this movie, and appreciating the "advantages" of watching the movie, on the balance, it may be said finally that the Christian constituency is better off without this controversial movie. The end does not justify the means and aged old pragmatism and utilitarianism of king Saul is still no substitute for compliance and obedience for believers to the expressed will and Word of God.

(Some portions are modified, expanded and moderated from the message by Rev A.N. Martin.)


 
 
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