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October 31, 2007

Comments

Alex Marshall

Very good insight. I think its a mistake for believers to avoid things that oppose their way of thinking. To engage the opposition we must understand its arguments, and that involves reading and examining them.

I wonder if there aren't some grains of truth in this work? It has been my experience that when skeptics attack the church, they very often attack a corruption of what Christianity should be and inadvertently advance a more Biblical Christianity in the process (which I find fascinating for a number of reasons). Do you think any of that may be occurring here? Is Pullman attacking corruption in the church or is he out-right attacking the idea of God (for reasons other than corruption among the followers of God)?

Jim Fleming

I get the sense from reading on his website that Mr. Pullman did not set out to "attack" anything. He merely sought to write a series of children's books. Nonetheless, a different world-view than what we would espouse under-girds his story line.

Alex Marshall

So what is the agenda/theme of his writing?

Jeff

Does there have to be one?

I had almost this same argument with someone awhile ago about Pokemon, believe it or not. This person was convinced that Pokemon was created to turn people away from God and that it needed to be avoided. My position was pretty simple: they made Pokemon to make money. It pointed to a definite world-view difference, but it wasn't malicious or even intentional...it's just inspired by what they think and know.

Anyway, I think it's probably the same...the guy wrote them to make money. I'm not sure there's more to his intentions than that.

Alex Marshall

Hm... perhaps not, but I tend to think that when someone writes something, there is some intended message they wish to convey (literature is an art, not sure Pokemon fits into the same category...).

Jeff

I get what you're saying. I dunno...somehow "make money" and "give kids something to read" sounds like reason enough to me for anyone to create anything. The second reason was really the reason The Hobbit came to be, because Tolkien wanted to write a story for his kids. And he even stated that he didn't realize how much of his world-view made it into the LOTR trilogy until after he wrote it, so his motivations are possibly just as dubious.

Jim Fleming

There are several statements the author makes on his website that speak to his motive. Here is one that addresses the question of what inspires him: "Three things. (1) Money. I do this for a living. If I don't write well, I won't earn enough money to pay the bills. (2) The desire to make some sort of mark on the world - to make my name known. To leave something behind that will last a little longer than I do. (3) The sheer pleasure of craftsmanship: the endlessly absorbing delight of making things - in my case, stories - and of gradually learning more about how they work, and how to make them better."

Alex Marshall

So Jeff, it sounds like you were pretty close to the mark there. So really any expression of his world-view would be more incidental than intentional. In which case the "boycott" reaction I've heard from several people would seem very unjustified. Certainly we should understand and be able to engage this world-view. But that is probably not best done by avoiding it.

Jeff

Oh, absolutely Alex. I've never understood the concept of avoiding something when it can be at least engaged and at most challenged (big shock from me, huh? Wise as serpents...that I get. It's the gentle as doves that I'm still in process with. :)). It's the knee-jerk "It's not written by a God-approved author, therefore it should be banned" reaction that bugs me the most from the mainstream Christian ghetto. But that's another issue entirely...

Besides, the idea of bears being the bravest warriors in the world is just a cool idea.

Rufus

I see the books and movie as the author's attempt to answer Nietzsche's God-is-dead question: "What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent?" Entertainment has become the modern equivalent of the sacred games of ancient times. Full text of the quote can be found at http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/philosophy/friedrich_nietzsche_quotes and is well worth reading.

Jim Fleming

Rufus,
You have put your finger on something important. The entertainment industry is "inventing gods" for the masses, gods who have great appeal because they connect with the natural man. We are not surprised.

jg

I'm all for being informed and engaging in our culture so that we can be effective sharers of the truth. We are supposed to have an answer for anyone who asks us about the hope that is in us. But how are we to come by the answer(s)?
I have a couple of concerns about going to see Mr. Pullman's movie and/or buying and reading the book.
1)Do we really need to risk the possibility of getting mired down in the darkness that is in this story? I know that the One who is in me is greater than the one who is in the world, but I also want to flee immorality and darkness. It's one thing to have a general knowledge about what is presented in the film, and it's another to delve into it and become actively involved by submitting to it as we sit in darkness with the images plastered across a screen. This is too risky to me, no matter how in-control I may think I am of my own mind. There's something about the image that influences us, and for this reason I'm more opposed to boycotting the movie than the book. I think this may have something to do with God's warning about creating a graven image and bowing down to it. I fear that in the name of engaging in the culture, we might inadvertently make ourselves guilty of bowing down to its gods.
2) We don't have to be of the world, although we live in it. If we are well-equipped with the truth and we daily pray for the wisdom God gives, we will have all we need to combat the lies that are propagated in this book/film. This may be a bad example, but I doubt that the B.C. Israelites (those who were not corrupted by idol worship) discussed whether or not they should hang around the Asherah poles so they would know what it's all about, in hopes of engaging in a discussion with friends and pointing them to the truth. So while we don't want to leave our young people floundering in search of Truth while we are unable or unwilling to enter into a discussion with them about their sincere questions, we also must ground them in the Truth and follow Paul's injunction to think about those things that are "true, noble, right, pure, etc." No one should consider him/herself immune from the evil that is in the world; we should pray to be delivered from it.
3) To put money in Mr. Pullman's pocket doesn't seem honoring to God. It's His money, and His time, and for us to submit ourselves to Mr. Pullman's evil, dark thoughts and to use God's resources to do so seems wrong. I'm not saying that the Lord may not want some to do so; perhaps our money and time would be well spent if to become informed would give us access to a forum we might not otherwise have. But this would most likely be the exception and not the rule. Is there not a middle ground between avoiding this and actively supporting it with our time and money? Thanks, Jim, for helping us out here. I think this might be close to all I need to know for the purpose of countering any friends who want to talk about it.

Alex Marshall

JG, I understand your concern, primarily because my first reaction was similar. However, I think there is a little bit of faulty reasoning in there:

First, I think there is a significant difference between bowing to and idol and seeing a movie. Bowing to an idol was an act of worship. In our culture, we don't have idols to bow to. But we still have worship. Our understanding of worship in large part revolves around your devotion of heart to something. If you watch this movie and are not devoted to it cause, are not worshiping the movie or what it represents, then I do not think you are in any danger of committing idolatry. So in that sense, I am not sure your example about BC Israel quite fits. The ancient Israelites were hanging around the temples of idols, but there was a significant difference. They did not go to find out what was happening and understand it so they could argue with it. They went to worship. Certainly we should not do that.

However, contrast ancient Israel's idol worship with the example of the Apostle Paul. Paul was a great scholar steeped in Jewish culture and religion. But he also understood and studied other cultures and religions. When he gave his sermon to the Athenians (Acts 17) he states that he visited their temples and even quotes Greek poets/philoshers twice! Paul studied their culture and understood it, and that enabled him to better engage them. It seems to me that the idea of engaging the outside world is at the heart of what we do, and we will do it better when we are informed. So I would say being informed is the rule, not the exception.

Also, remember, the one in us is greater and can protect us from whatever plans the enemy has, even as we are seeking to learn. By the way, when Paul wrote about thinking on what is pure, etc. I think (correct me if I'm wrong) he was talking primarily in regards to sexual immorality, which I also do not think is a big theme of this book or movie. If you are worried about being influenced by the ideas presented, I would challenge you to ask yourself why. I think self-evaluation and to an extent "skepticism" can be healthful at times, allowing us to really examine ourselves and see why we believe what we believe. Sometimes our beliefs are not all correct, and the challenge or influence of someone outside the church may help us see that. For instance, the book Huck Finn by Mark Twain was written as a pretty scathing attack on the hypocrisy of slavery in the Bible belt. He spends a good deal of time criticizing the church and even suggesting it is fraudulent. However, the end result of his portrayal is not to cause us to loose faith in Christ but to see a place where the church had become distorted and needed fixing. This might never have been seen without someone from the outside challenging the church. I don't know enough about Pullman's books to say that something similar may exist there. However, I think a fear of challenge or outside thought in general can limit us tremendously. There may be exceptions to that, but I see it as the general rule.

jg

Alex, I didn't mean that hanging around Asherah poles was equal to worship, but it just might lead to worship. I just wonder if there is a difference between debating with the people using their perspective as a springboard and entering into the behavior yourself in order to fully understand it. As I said earlier, you can know the perspective of the other side without wasting time and money on it. In my opinion, what we do with our time and money reflects where our heart is, and therefore, whom we worship.
I also don't want to put my head in the sand when it comes to evil. I agree that a challenge to one's faith can strengthen it, and therefore is a good thing. However, we need to be careful not to overestimate what we can do in our own strength. Not that that is what you intend to do.

Alex Marshall

Certainly there is a difference between studying and doing. I would not call reading a book or watching a movie to "entering into the behavior" though. I think that fits in the first category better, using their views as a springboard I think you said. Good word picture!

My question for you is this: how do we learn another perspective without putting time into it? I can understand perhaps learning it without spending money, the internet is a great resource for that (though caution is needed to make sure the information is reliable). But even then, there would be time devoted to learning. I would not consider that wasted time if it makes us better prepared to engage our culture and make disciples. But perhaps you mean there is a line at which the time becomes wasted. Where would we draw that line? What criteria would we use? These are genuine questions, I want your thoughts here.

By the way, I definitely appreciate the point about not overestimating our own strength. Very much agreed with you on that.

jg

I honestly don't know; I guess we're all accountable to God for how we spend our time, and we have to seek His leading on something like this. Due to personal conviction, I can't help feeling like it would be wrong to spend money on this; that doesn't mean that it might not be a good idea to spend time investigating in another way, like on the internet as you suggested or possibly by reading the book. Just borrow from the library! (And I certainly wouldn't judge anyone who did decide to go see it.)

cs

If you do go to the movie with the intent of learning so that you can understand and engage others, you have to make sure you go in to the movie prepared. I suggest prayer for discernment, for eyes to see & ears to hear the lies, twists and distortions of Truth, as well as possible uses of Truth, whether accurately applied or not. It is easy to get caught up in the entertainment and emotions in a movie theater, but if our motive is learning, then we must go purposely looking for clues to what world view is presented, how God is represented, with what ideas about God/religion/Christianity could someone walk out, etc. We also need to be looking for characters, themes, or specific dialogue that can be referred to when engaging others in conversation about the movie. If the movie is to be used as a tool, then treat it as such (like a classroom). This then could be viewed as spending money on a tool to help understand or engage people in this culture, which could be a way to turn something that could be seen as for evil (faulty representation of God) to actually being used for good (connecting with others for Christ).

jg

It was brought to my attention that I had a mistake in an earlier post. I think it's much more important that we refrain from seeing the movie than from reading the book due to the more influential nature of the image over the printed word. I don't want to add my dollars to the millions reported in the box-office ratings. If Christians stood up for what is right and decent, refusing to go along with what the culture says is the next hot thing, maybe we wouldn't have so much trash in Hollywood and elsewhere. Money talks, and it takes one person to make a difference. If we need to be informed, let's read the book. Better yet, let's read THE BOOK, if you know what I mean. That's really all we need to be up-to-date and informed anyway.

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