I am not known to be on the cutting edge of culture, of being aware of what is “trending”, of being first in line for the new change-your-life tech gadget, nor being aware of the new hottest musical acts that have hit the scene, but every so often something is bubbling within culture enough that the more erudite voices rightly sense the need to address the issue from a biblical perspective so that Christians will know how to respond well to the issue at hand. There are a couple of those issues disturbing the not so placid waters of the ether sphere this week, and one of them is the movie, “Son of God.”
At issue here is the tendency for Christians to get excited about the fact that there is a movie about the Bible that looks like it will go mainstream without adequately discerning beforehand whether we should in fact want it to go mainstream! Too often the Christ and the cross that are depicted in such a movie are anemic, weak, and oddly-shaped. The fullness of the Glory of God that was made known in the cross as God poured out his wrath for sin on Christ for us, making it possible for Him to provide the righteousness of Christ to us as both a just and justifying God, is difficult to portray in a film. To adequately convey the deep, life-changing truths of the cross of Christ would require a screen-play that would most assuredly kill any chance of such a movie going mainstream as it spoke truths such as: there is only one God, and He is the God of the Bible; that every man is sinful through and through, unwilling and unable to please God and earn for himself salvation; that the penalty for all sin is death, physical death and eternal separation from the living God; that there is only one name under heaven and earth by which a man can be saved, Jesus Christ; that there is only one way a man can be saved, through a faith that trusts in Christ’s death as the satisfaction for our sins and the provision of our righteousness; that Christ actually died and physically arose from the dead; and so much more! Do you really see the mainstream culture sponsoring, promoting, and sitting through that as the dialogue and central message to a movie about Christ?
There will be a lot of talk about the themes of love and hope that such a movie presents to the culture at large coupled with a massive movement to use the movie as an evangelization tool along with the inevitable shushing of those that would dare to question the efficacy of such a movie in presenting the gospel, but will there be an honest conversation about whether the infinite depths of the love of God and the hope that comes through it have potentially been hollowed out of the story of Christ and the cross in order to make the movie culturally palatable? In the end, will there be much left that is distinctively Christian and true to the central message of the cross of Christ? If not, how does such a movie advance the gospel? How could such a movie be useful as a tool for evangelism? Do we run the risk of pointing people to an image of the glory of God in Christ that is so woefully inadequate that the culture would rush to accept that vision of Christ when we know that it rejects the Christ of Scripture?
There are serious questions that should be asked, and we should be honest in our assessments in spite of the excitement we might be feeling. The clarity of the message of Christ and its culmination in the cross should not be boiled down to a moralistic message of love and hope. I hope that is not all that there is to the movie, but if that is all that is left, then there is in fact no gospel being presented at all.
Here are links to some of the voices speaking about this issue in recent days:
Son of God Will Show Crucifixion, Not the Cross, by Tim Challies
Writing Checks to Mel Gibson, by Tim Challies
Surface Appearances, by Doug Wilson
The Second Commandment and the Son of God Movie, by Garrett Kell
Three Questions to Ask Before Watching a Movie, by Jonathan Parnell