Shuck and Jive

Friday, December 28, 2007

We Have Killed God

God is toast. We killed the old fart today after watching the Golden Compass. Do what you want kids! Total freedom. Don't need to brush your teeth, obey your parents, or change your socks! Hoo Rah!

I thought the movie was great, even better the second time. I was so impressed, I decided to read the book. I ended up buying all three books, The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, which are part of the His Dark Materials trilogy. The checkout mistress of Barnes and Noble looked at me a little warily.

"Did you see the movie?" she asked.
"Yes, I did. I am going to see it again today."
"You haven't read the books yet?" she asked, punching in my B&N discount.
"The movie is a diluted version of the book. I wouldn't recommend the books," she said as she rang up my purchase.

I thought it was an odd conversation to have with a bookseller. Sometimes I have had little chitchats with the cashiers regarding my purchases, but I have never had a cashier suggest I not buy a book. But we are in the Bible Belt and even Barnes and Noble employees know what books are good for you and which are not.

After my purchase, I saw the movie with the youth group. They thought it was pretty cool as far as I can tell. I have heard the books are more explicit about the evils of the church.

I hope so. Maybe it is time to kill that grumpy old man in the sky and let his henchmen rot.

Speaking of grumpy old men, here is a review of the Golden Compass from the pope of the Southern Baptist Convention, Albert Mohler. Mohler writes:

Philip Pullman has an agenda, but so do we. Our agenda is the Gospel of Christ -- a message infinitely more powerful than that of The Golden Compass. Pullman's worldview of unrestricted human autonomy would be nightmarish if ever achieved. His story promises liberation but would enslave human beings to themselves and destroy all transcendent value.

The biblical story of the Fall is true, after all, and our only rescue is through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The curse of sin was not reversed by adolescents playing at sex in a garden, but by the Son of God shedding His blood on a cross.

Ed McNulty of Presbyterians Today offered this review. Here is a portion:

Given the controversy over whether Philip Pullman’s novels — and this film — promote atheism, how should Christian viewers approach The Golden Compass? First, read the original novels, especially if you enjoy fantasy literature. You will discover that Pullman opposes what any thoughtful Christians would also oppose: abuse of power by the church, and a view of God as a tyrannical ruler.

Is Pullman taking down a tyrannical god that no thoughtful Christian would believe in anyway, or is he criticizing original sin, which is for some Christians a central doctrine of Christianity?

I hope that he is attacking the barbaric notion of original sin, substitutionary atonement, church authority, special revelation, and all the rest of those outdated fundamentals. It is about time to revisit those things and if it takes children's fantasy books to do it, then all the better.

Hat tip to Viola.


  1. I am doing a similar thing but with a much more old school controversy. I am reading The Last Temptation of Christ and I will follow that with the film.

    The movie came out some 30 years after Kazantzakis wrote the book and it was the movie that got the Magisterium's panties in a knot (oops, I let my inside voice out)! I guess it was another one of those delayed reactions to something that only means something when it becomes popular enough to make some serious money and have serious impact in cultural consumption.

    I applaud your position here. If there are critical issues with doctrine that we need to address and God forbid change, then it is our Christian duty to God to do so lest we place ourselves at a level even close to that of God (which is about the most heinous form of idolatry that we can do). This is the problem with the Fall and Mohler wants to shove God in his box and constrain God to be a specific image for him and his church.

    The best service we can do with our youth is allow them to critically engage the structures in which they were and are being raised. Exposing them to media that is taboo defuses the taboo quality and strips it bare from its sensationalist clothing in order to see what the content is.

    If the one true authority of the church is Jesus Christ, then all authority under that is tentative and ought to be critiqued. The critique from the inside has not been good enough over the years. Perhaps that is why folks like Pullman will likely never set foot in a church and care to know God at all. And that is what we need to fix as members of the Body.

  2. Holy crap! God is dead? I didn't know she was sick.

  3. **God is toast. We killed the old fart today after watching the Golden Compass**

    I didn't know we had the power to do so. It would be nice if churches issued memoes on this sort of thing.

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. John,
    On your latest posting about the Golden Compass you wrote, "hope that he [Pullman] is attacking the barbaric notion of original sin, substitutionary atonement, church authority, special revelation, and all the rest of those outdated fundamentals. It is about time to revisit those things and if it takes children's fantasy books to do it, then all the better."

    I don’t care at all whether you like the movie or not. If I put what you call barbaric notions in a list it would look like this:

    The biblical truths that John Shuck denies
    1. original sin
    2. substitutionary atonement
    3. church authority
    4. special revelation
    5. other outdated fundamentals

    On top of your denial of all of these truths of Christianity you are treating children as though their eternal souls do not matter. It is one thing to take children to such a movie, it is quite another thing to take them with the hopes that they will reject the redemption offered to them by the Lord of Scripture.

    The Bible insists that if someone causes “one of these little ones who believe in Me [Jesus] to stumble it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt 18: 6)

    I have been listening to Bill Crawford speak about the Golden Compass on a radio station. In that talk I hear all of his concern not only for his children but for other children. He isn’t playing a game with the lives of others. But you are playing a game which you can only lose.

    John you are even now standing before the eternal Judge, claiming before those who are in your church and those who comment on your blog to be a Christian while denying all that Christians hold dear. You should be trembling that you have so mocked the God who loves you so much that he would die on a cross for your sins. I and many others are praying that you will repent and come to know Jesus Christ as your savior.

  6. Viola's post reminds me of the "church lady" skits on Saturday Night Live. Praying for John? What an inspiration.

    More like a reenactment of the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican...

    Viola: The biblical truth is that Jesus held his harshest words for people like you and Bill Crawford. If anybody should be trembling it is you folks.

  7. I read about half of Golden Compass last night. It really is good. Now the movie and character motivations make a great deal more sense.

    Lyra lives in a parallel universe to ours, which is very similar with some interesting differences. Here is one:

    "Ever since Pope John Calvin had moved the Papacy to Geneva and set up the Consistorial Court of Discipline, the Church's power over every aspect of life had been absolute." p. 30

    The Consistorial Court of Discipline.

    The Consistory. Hmmmm....

    Viola, I will be praying for you too, Love, but not for anything in particular.

  8. Thanks Drew. You nailed it. The critique needs to happen from the inside. We cannot fear deconstruction!

    Dr.--Yes, sadly, the poor Dame was fatally ill for some time. She has been sick of her followers.

    One--yes, a memo would have been nice. It sucks to be the last to know.

    Jodie--for you

  9. Jodie,

    Here's something about those fundamentals for which you will be praying for John and his children - you cannot find any of them by name in scripture. Any of them. These are doctrines and doctrines function as tools for us to understand what is in scripture. As tools they might lose their efficacy of function as any tool might. Why use a hammer when you can rent a nail gun if you are building a cathedral?

    Doctrines are fragile creations of human minds. Once doctrines, yes even those that you list, become immutable we are committing idolatry since it equates the doctrine with the only immutable existent in and out of the cosmos - and that is God.

  10. I think Drew meant to address that to Viola...

  11. Wow, she came out of the wordwork! Mentioning her name with a "hat tip" was all it took, I guess.

    At least this time she didn't sink to the level of accusing people of being Nazis.

    The funny thing about the church lady was that it was a parody, whereas Viola is dead serious. You can't make this stuff up.

  12. Nice to see Viola again, before I forced myself to affix a pink triangle on my shirt then shoot myself in the head. I had no idea it would be so hard to be a self-hating gay Nazi before Viola told me I was one (surprised the hell out of me, I tell you what).

    I'm not shocked, but rather amused that Viola apparently thinks that John Shuck is more powerful than God. My, my, John, I had no idea you could prevent one of the Elect from being saved.

    I'm not about to go into the list of Essential Doctrines. Viola, read up on your Presbyterian history, concentrating on J. Gresham Machen and which side our church ended up on.