Thursday, February 24, 2005

where is the gospel in film?

Last nite I kicked off teaching in gospel and film. It struck me in preparation that 50 years ago, Christians weren’t even allowed to attend films, let alone have them taught on at a theological College.

Film Course.jpg

Why a gospel and film course? I suggested 5 reasons;

1 – New Dialogue partners: In the words of Douglas Hall, “Who is telling the worlds story?” For many years theology turned to philosophy to listen to a telling of the world’s questions and dreams. Today the world’s story; conversations about meaning, life, God, spirituality are occurring everyday on our big screens. Theology needs a new dialogue partner.

2 – Looking closer: The film American Beauty invited us to look closer at the life of suburban America. What happens when you look closer? Well in one scene, as the hearse drives past, the invitation “look closer, becomes spiritual dialogue, “God is looking right at you … you can look right back.” It is interesting that in the book of John, Jesus plays in a similar way with the metaphor of looking closer (John 1). Will we take the challenge of Jesus, and the opportunities provided by film, to “look closer” at our world?

3 – The First shall be last: We might be evangelised. How seriously will we take the gospel as presented by a movie maker like Spielberg in Amistad?

4 – Tell me a story: Film allows us to explore stories together. Around coffee, amid plot and interpretation, comes the time to consider the narratives of culture and the narratives of Christ.

5 – Funding a new cultural imagination: “Gospel and film” is more than how film might shape the church. A Kingdom vision will also want to ask how the church can influence film. We need film industry people who are Christians. Note the words are chosen with care. We need not Christian film makers (ala Left Behind), but film makers who are Christians.

We then had a great discussion around R-rating the Scriptures – plenty of sex and violence – and WWJW (What would Jesus watch)?

Posted by steve at 02:37 PM


  1. Do we need film makers who are christians, or do all film makers – at some point or other – make an interaction with kingdom themes? Is it necessary that they give the “right” answer, even the “right” context, or just that they pose key questions of meaning?

    Comment by Gary — February 24, 2005 @ 3:23 pm

  2. Maybe not absolutely ALL film makers, but I think yes to the latter.

    Where film makers are genuinely seeking to engage with the big human themes, there must surely be intersection/overlap/symbiosis with “kingdom” themes.

    And even when they are not meaning to, some of that stuff naturally slips in.

    We humans are after all made in the image of God. God is the source of creativity and life.

    Having said all that, I am not certain I like an implied juxtoposition between kingdom and non-kingdom themes. Are not the human themes also the themes that concern God?

    Comment by lynne — February 24, 2005 @ 4:47 pm

  3. Film has been a rich tapestry of spirituality for arguably some time. One thing that has stuck with me regarding this topic is a comment by David Bruce in one of his newletters back in 2001.

    He quotes C.S.Lewis as sayiny, “We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’ they ought to be there -it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must welcome them not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome.”

    Certainly the idea of teaching gospel in film is a great move forward, gets christians focus off traditional entry points for the gospel and hopefully gives an appreciation of contemporary spirituality. Bruce himself at the time said, “I encourage non-mystical Protestant churches to take the leap of faith into the Post-Modern era and explore the value of image, movies, story telling and other non-literary forms of communication.”

    In movie after movie we find gospel allegories. Its really quite a comment on western society where spirituality in film is based in Christian themes with pagan Christs. People seem to identify with a crisis beyond their ability and a saviour often with some sort of resurrection powers. It sells, its a great formula and it connects with popular culture.

    Comment by Garth — February 24, 2005 @ 10:34 pm

  4. Along this line of movies poses the question – how much can we draw lessons out of? How deep do we go? Like the Matrix – do we use illustrations, even though they are flawed?

    Aside from that – one really good movie (in my opinion) is Signs. That director is really good at hiding messages in his films.

    Comment by Jon L — February 26, 2005 @ 1:00 am

  5. Thanks for posting these. I think they are very helpful. I’m hoping to begin some interaction with film in our Christian community.

    Comment by Steve McCoy — February 27, 2005 @ 8:14 am

  6. Where can I find advice from christian producers ? I`m studing film production at my latino homeland of baja/mexico..where to start and how can I interact with non-christians producers and crews..?All opinions are welcome .thanks a lot .

    Comment by "pepe"zavala — April 3, 2005 @ 4:57 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.