Thursday, April 27, 2017

A Musing on Christian Movies

I’m a Christian.  I’m proud of being so.  But I’m not proud of modern Christian movies.  Sure, there’s a few that I liked.  But even so, I’m generally frustrated because Christian filmmakers seem to be unable to make quality films.

You might say, “Hey, the important thing is that Christian movies may lead others to Christ.”  That may be true.  But we can’t give Christian movies a pass just because it has a “noble cause.”  It’s still a movie.  It should be subject to the same technical and creative standards that we hold for such form of art.  It’s not exempted from having its value as an art form evaluated and scrutinized just because it’s supposed to carry the Gospel.

Indeed, the Gospel is important.  And, yes, movies – like all forms of art – can definitely be used as a medium for its delivery.  But the Gospel is given more honor if it is delivered honestly, admirably, and beautifully. 

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God is a gloriously beautiful God.  His being equates to perfect beauty.  And since Creation is a reflection of its Creator, then Creation is objectively beautiful.  Moreover, being the Creator, He is the Master Artist – making Creation the purest and most magnificent work of art there is.  Thus, art is only art when it’s objectively beautiful, despite what some philosophers and artists say.
Creation declares the glory of God (Psalm 19:1).  Thus, art must declare the glory of God.  And since we are created in His image, we are also given the gifts of artistry.  We are artists.  We make art.  And we honor God when we make the most beautiful art that we can possibly make (Ecclesiastes 9:10).

So a movie, as art, should be made into the most beautiful it can possibly be.  That’s why the greatest movies in delivering Gospel themes and wisdom are those that, first of all, manage to excel as movies.

Such a movie doesn’t even necessarily need to be made by Christians or categorized as a “Christian/faith-based film.”  Sometimes the Christian message is just there as subtle undertones; sometimes its depiction is even flawed or incomplete.  Yet, it effectively showcases facets of the Gospel much more impactfully than most Christian films, which are deliberately preachy all the time.  Some examples of effective and terrific Christian and “Christian” movies are Luthor, The Ten Commandments, Passion of the Christ, Amazing Grace, Chariots of Fire, The Book of Eli, Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Silence, and Hacksaw Ridge.  In addition, tons of notable movies like Lion King, Spider-Man 2, and The Matrix trilogy have emphatic nuances of Christian themes, which many Christian films fail to present organically and strikingly.

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Even if, let us say, a badly crafted Christian movie is somehow able to be instrumental in leading someone to Christ, I don’t think that it’s vindicated for it.  If such a thing happens, then, praise the Lord!  Glory to God.  Salvation is ultimately due to His grace anyway.  Nonetheless, the end doesn’t justify the means.  A bad, doctrinally-flawed, eisegesis-based sermon isn’t vindicated when there’s a resulting conversion.  Praise the Lord for the saved soul, but grieve for the mishandling of God’s holy Word.  When we validate a bad Christian movie because it has led to the conversion of an unbeliever, the same logic can be applied to justify various kinds of evil deeds as long as someone is converted.  It’s the kind of twisted rationale that Thomas Aquinas – a great saint he may be – used in order to somewhat make a case for torture (if what I read is true).  The end doesn’t justify the means.  No matter what.

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I want to discuss Christian movies in a more in-depth manner, but this will do for now (however, I can’t really guarantee that I will do a follow up in a future time).  The bottom line is this...

The basics of the Gospel may be simple: “We are sinners.  We deserve hell.  Christ died on the cross.  Believe in him and be saved.”  But that’s barely scratching the surface.  Barely the tip of the iceberg.  It’s far richer, deeper, more delightful, and more glorious.  A single movie – or even an entire franchise – is incapable of containing it.  Hence, Christian filmmakers should stop attempting to condense the Gospel and forcibly pack it in one film.  The result will always be a watered down Gospel and a bad movie.

Instead, Christian filmmakers should be more concerned in making great movies.  Glorify God by making genuinely beautiful, admirable works of art; tell genuinely compelling, profound stories.  Through this, what is delivered may just be a mere “glimpse” of the glory of God and the Gospel, but it’s something genuine.  Thus, whatever impact from this “glimpse” is far more real than any spelled out message that could be gotten from a pretentious Christian movie with an abridged, fantasized version of the Gospel.  And since its impact is real, it’ll be effective – a true foretaste of the Beauty Beyond is offered, and a desire for it may be incited.  Hence, by the time the Gospel is finally delivered in a more suitable manner – through His Word – those who had been impacted by the movie may come to the realization that this is what they have been searching for  –  a sentiment, a “seed”, that the movie had planted on them beforehand.

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