Mel Gibson's "Passion"
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"Replicas of the nails used to hang Jesus on the cross have become the red-hot official merchandise linked to Mel Gibson's controversial new movie, 'The Passion of the Christ.'... Hundreds of stores across the country will be selling licensed items tied to the movie.... The souvenirs include a book, pins, key chains, coffee mugs and T-shirts....'The response so far has been overwhelming.'" 'Jesus' Nail S
"'I wanted it to be shocking,' Gibson said. "And I also wanted it to be extreme. I wanted it to push the viewer over the edge … so that they see the enormity — the enormity of that sacrifice...." Pain and Passion
"While newspapers focus on the vivid portrayals of Christ's Crucifixion... and the controversy with Jews as reasons why there is so much 'buzz' about the upcoming movie on Christ's Passion, there is a hidden, mystical element, and that's the charisma attached to the stigmatic whose revelations contributed significantly to the film....
"The mystic is Anne Catherine Emmerich.... [R]eading her revelations leaves one feeling that he has undergone an 'unusual influence' -- similar to what is now reported with those who see the movie.... It's no surprise that the movie's director, Mel Gibson, is said to carry one of her relics." "Behind film endorsed by both Catholics and Protestants is a stigmatic whose life and revelations continue to amaze" [Gibson pulled the relic out of his pocket and showed it to Diane Sawyer during a televised interview]
As most of you know, "The Passion of Christ" will be released on Ash Wednesday, February 24. It has been endorsed by Christian leaders such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren [see "Spirit-Led or Purpose-Driven?"] and James Dobson. Could there be any reason for concern?
Andy and I have seen the short promotional clip of The Passion, but not the whole movie. Like many of you, we long for deeper understanding of the suffering that Jesus willingly endured for our sake. If we could be certain that seeing The Passion would draw us closer to our Lord, and help us to better "know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings" (Phil. 3:10), we would look forward to opening day with fervent, heartfelt and sober anticipation. More than anything, we want to walk with Him in obedience to whatever He assigns us of pain or pleasure, peace or persecution.
But, at this moment, we are not sure what God wants us to do. We have more questions than answers. And we wonder if the subtle but potentially negative influences might be stronger than the positive ones. Yet, since many of you have asked for our views, we want to share what we have been given. We have six basic concerns:
1. What does Mel Gibson believe?
Near the end of his long article, "The Jesus War: Mel Gibson & "The Passion" (9-15-03), Peter J. Boyer gives us this glimpse into Mel Gibson's faith:
"I told Gibson that I am a Protestant, and asked whether his pre-Vatican II world view disqualified me from eternal salvation.
"He paused. 'There is no salvation for those outside the Church,' he said. 'I believe it.' He explained, 'Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She's a much better person than I am. Honestly. She's, like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus, she believes in that stuff. And it's just not fair if she doesn't make it, she's better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it.”
Apparently Mel Gibson's beliefs have changed since that interview last September. During his televised interview on ABC(February 16), Diane Sawyer raised a question about a scene in the movie. In the Biblical account, Simon of Cyrene, is recruited to carry the cross for Jesus. (Mark 15:21) But in movie, Simon "interlocks arms with the bloody Jesus as they struggle to take the cross." Why?
"It's his brother," explained Mr. Gibson. "It's about another human being. We're all children of God. All of us! It doesn't matter what you are -- whether you've got a bone through your nose or whether you look like a Viking.... or whatever you are. We are all children of God."
A little later, Diane Sawyer asked him about his traditional form of Roman Catholicism, which opposed Vatican reforms such as "more inclusion of other faiths." Would Gibson's traditionalist views bar the door to heaven to Jews, Protestants and Muslims?
"That's not the case at all," answered Gibson. "Absolutely not! It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the Kingdom of heaven. It's just easier for -- and I have to say this because it's what I believe...."
"You have a nonstop ticket?"
"Well, yeah, I'm saying it's an easier ride. I have to believe that."
"It is crucial to realize that the images and language at the heart of 'The Passion of the Christ' flow directly out of Gibson's personal dedication to Catholicism in one of its most traditional and mysterious forms -- the 16th century Latin Mass.
"'I don't go to any other services,' the director [Mel Gibson] told the Eternal Word Television Network. 'I go to the old Tridentine Rite. That's the way that I first saw it when I was a kid. So I think that that informs one's understanding of how to transcend language....
"The goal of the movie is to shake modern audiences by brashly juxtaposing the 'sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar -- which is the same thing,' said Gibson.
"This ancient union of symbols and sounds has never lost its hold on him. There is, he stressed, 'a lot of power in these dead languages.' Thus, the seemingly bizarre choice of Latin and Aramaic was actually part of the message. The goal of Gibson's multicultural, multilingual team was to make a statement that transcended any one time, culture and tongue."
2. Is God pleased with our man-made images of Him?
"The visual is back. Big time," writes publisher, Chuck Fromm, in his January/February issue of the Worship Leader, a magazine sent to pastors and church leaders across America. The cover features a picture of the suffering Jesus next to the current topic: "The Rise of the Visual." The lead articles asks: "As worship leaders, how should we respond to the burgeoning enthusiasm for visual arts in worship? We may be tempted to jump on the visual bandwagon because it's trendy. But is it right to take this leap?"
They will? How can a movie like "Signs" -- with its occult theme and twisted views of Christianity -- "reveal" truth or "redeem" viewers? [See "Aliens, Monsters and Creepy Creatures"] Yes, "the power of film can change lives," but the nature of that change will be driven by defined by the myths and emotional inpact of the story the follow the persuasions of the story. it cannot "redeem." Of Biblical redemption comes only through Jesus , our Redeemer and communicate truth; it can reveal and redeem.
Professor Johnston tells his readers that people who reject such "God-given resources" as The Passion are "arrogant and ignorant." I wonder if a greater sign of ignorance might not be our foolish disrespect and neglect of God's warnings both in the Old and New Testament.
Consider Deuteronomy 4:15-16. It warns us that, since we have not personally seen God, we ought not make or recreate His likeness.
Does this warning apply to the incarnate Christ who came to earth as both Man and God? I am not sure. But any man-made image of God could, in effect, be misleading, since it plants an untrue picture of God in our minds and imagination. No human imitation can match God's own descriptions in Isaiah 53 or in Revelation 1:13-15. While movies didn't exist back when the first books of the Bible were written, God's message through Moses was clear: the people must not make "carved images" (the only three-dimensional figures at the time) of God nor of the false gods of their pagan neighbors. The fact that Hollywood can now create far more realistic three-dimensional likenesses makes today's moving images all the more persuasive, memorable and deceptive.
The following verses suggest that God does not want our help, ingenuity or "creativity" in making a more visible image of Himself:
“Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure...." Deuteronomy 4:15-16
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth...." Exodus 20:4
“To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike?" Isaiah 46:5
“Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising." Acts 17:29
"Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man...." Romans 1:22-23
God's Word doesn't give us these warning in order to deprive us of visual gratification. After all, He filled His creation with glorious flowers, magnificent multicolored birds, vibrant, luminous fish and countless other delights to our eyes. But, like the forbidden fruit in the garden (often assumed to be an apple because artists painted their own interpretations of Genesis 3), one kind of image would be out of bounds: any image that depicted God Himself or any of the world's false gods.
3.Will the stirring images in The Passion speed the cultural shift from the written Word to visual images as the foundation for faith and "spiritual feelings?" That happened back in medieval times, when man-made icons and three dimensional visual images replaced God's actual Word as the daily and weekly inspiration for faith. In his article, "Five Reasons Not to Go See The Passion of Christ," Pastor Andrew J. Webb describes the danger:
"We need to remember that the last time dramatic presentations replaced preaching as the main vehicle by which the truth of the Bible was communicated was during the medieval times when the church refused to allow the translation of the Bible into common languages and when in place of the preaching and teaching of God's word, the common people were given visual presentations such as Passion Plays, statues, relics, and icons.
"These things were designed, like most visual imagery, to play upon the emotions and stimulate a response; but the ability to evoke an emotional response via imagery or drama is not the same as successfully transmitting the Gospel."
Postmodernity, global education, television, and the entertainment media are all promoting visual images as the foundation for learning and understanding reality. And many churches are following close behind. It is far easier to manipulate a hedonistic nation by enticing images than by persuasive words, and the images we collectively enjoy help establish the collective values needed for the global changes ahead. Synthesizing (blending) all kinds of images and suggestions (including pictures "of Jesus" without His actual words) are likely to speed the transformation. [See The Power of Suggestion and Movie Magic and Unconscious Learning]
Throughout the Bible, our Lord emphasizes the written Word rather than man-made images. In the Old Testament, meticulous scribes and leaders were assigned the task of documenting historical facts -- both the good and the bad. With utmost care, they recorded genealogies, eye-witness reports of God work and actions, prophetic warnings and encouraging promises. In New Testament days, those old prophetic writings were repeatedly quoted by Jesus and His disciples to verify their teaching and validate their ministries.
God knew well the power of the imagination to create false mental models in the minds of His people. Maybe that explains why none of Jesus' disciples or friends were led to describe the physical features of their beloved Master. He wants us to walk by faith in His Word, not in His visible appearance. Jesus Himself was introduced by John as the Word -- the living Word of God:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.... And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:1-5, 14)
Changes to the written Word are forbidden. Nor may we delete or add to any part of the gospel. Please consider these Scriptures prayerfully:
"...even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." Galatians 1:6-10
"For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!" 2 Corinthians 11:4
“Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." Deuteronomy 12:32
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." Proverbs 30:5-6
"If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." Revelation 22:18-19
4.How will the intense emotional experience of seeing this violent movie change affect viewers -- especially children and youth already immersed in violent "entertainment"? Will it further desensitize some to intense violence, build a craving for other emotional experiences, or alter the foundation for their faith?
Jody Dean, a CBS News anchor, shared his "Perspective on 'The Passion of the Christ' in an article posted atReligion Today. He wrote:
"This is not a movie that anyone will 'like'.... It certainly doesn't 'entertain'. There isn't even the sense that one has just watched a movie. What it is… an experience -- on a level of primary emotion that is scarcely comprehensible. Every shred of human preconception or predisposition is utterly stripped away.... Quite honestly, I wanted to vomit. It hits that hard.
"The film grabs you in the first five seconds, and never lets go. The brutality, humiliation, and gore are almost inconceivable - and still probably does not go far enough. The scourging alone seems to never end, and you cringe at the sound and splatter of every blow - no matter how steely your nerves. Even those who have known combat or prison will have trouble, no matter their experience....
"What you've heard about how audiences have reacted is true. There was no sound after the film's conclusion. No noise at all. No one got up. No one moved. The only sound one could hear was sobbing....
"I imagine Satan never quit tempting Christ, but this film captures beyond words the most opportune time. At every step of the way, Satan is there at Jesus' side - imploring Him to quit, reasoning with Him to give up, and seducing Him to surrender."
Is that true? Or could the intense battle in Gethsemane -- where Jesus prayed, "not My will, but Yours, be done” -- have been the last "opportune" time for Satan? Some think so, but we don't really know. Do we want Mel Gibson to make up our minds for us?
"The film grabs you," said Jody Dean. Of course! That's part of the persuasive power of a well-made film. It fills our minds and imagination with images that often impact and impress us far more than facts and truth. Educational change agents know that well. That's why they use shocking stories to evoke the strong emotions needed to implant new values and worldviews into the minds of our children. Whether imagined or real, events and stories that stir strong emotions build persuasive mental models.
When people are caught up in the emotional plot of The Passion, all the extra-biblical additions become as real to the viewer's experience as the factual (but less dramatic) framework from the four gospels. Consider an example from the article, "Witness to the Passion," by Lindy Warren. She writes,
"The ominous figure taunting Christ in the garden of Gethsemane shows up throughout the movie, personifying Satan and portraying the spiritual battle being waged, culminating in Christ’s last hours. Poignant flashback scenes from Christ’s life illustrate the dichotomy of compassion and brutality, as well as Mary’s love and anguish for her son.
"The film is 'substantially accurate,' says Darrell Bock, professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary...."
Some would disagree. Unlike our pragmatic and relative human standards, God's unchanging Word can't be bent or expanded to fit our "needs" or wants. Jesus said, "till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."(Matthew 5:18) The Levitical laws were fulfilled when He died on the cross, but His moral law -- including the Ten Commandments -- still stand. So do all His other unchanging guidelines -- all given us in love that we might walk in His ways and delight in His presence forever.
I appreciate the following statement by our friend, Kurt Fiech:
"After reading this, ask yourself the following question: Is this how God really wants us to evangelize the 'unsaved' TODAY....by overwhelming their SENSES in an EXPERIENTIAL display of realistic torture and sadism that would sear their minds and others who sees this? Experientialism trumping the preaching of the Word?
"Having had the EXPERIENCE of caring for a dying daughter with an inoperable brain tumor for a year up until her death, I can unequivocally say I would not wish that EXPERIENCE on my worst enemy. I can describe it in words to other parents and they understand and can relate to the pain and anguish. They don't need to have to EXPERIENCE it themselves.
"Likewise, as Christians, we can evangelize to the 'unsaved' and describe in words the Gospel - the pain and suffering Jesus went through, His death, resurrection, etc. and it will be the Holy Spirit who, spiritually, will convict the person. Do we need to promote a movie that seeks to assault your emotions, in all its graphic horror, and assaults your intellect with Biblical error, Roman Catholic theology and mysticism, when we have the Truth in the Word that can be preached and/or read? Which of these efforts do you think God would be pleased with?"
5. Will the movie's roots in traditional Roman Catholic mysticism affect the faith and understanding of evangelical or fundamental Christians? Among Mel Gibson sources and inspiration for The Passion were the visions of the 18th century mystic, Anna Katharina Emmerich. Author Michael Brown gives us some glimpses of her life. They remind me of the enticing visions described in Embraced by the Light, the bestseller by Betty Eadie, who blended her Mormon faith with her Native American spiritual heritage. (See Deliver us from Evil) Ponder these excerpts:
"Anne Catherine Emmerich was born on the feast of the Virgin's own nativity: September 8, 1774.... Her visions began early in life.... She claimed to see her guardian angel on a nearly constant basis.... Jesus Himself conducted her through many visions....
"She never entered the church without her angel-guardian who taught her by his own example the homage due to the Eucharistic God.'
"We could slough this all off -- attribute it to a meandering mind of an overly zealous nun -- if it wasn't... for the prominence of those who endorsed her. The Bishop of Limbourg approved of her work. So did canons and abbots. Famous Catholics of the day like Abbot Dom Gueranger and the Very Reverend F. Windischmann of Munich spoke about Emmerich in the highest terms....
"'After Holy Scripture, there is no book that contains so many words of eternal truth and life than the revelations of A. C. Emmerich.' Such is crucial as a movie based at least partly on her visions is ready to make an international splash....
"In 1798 the Crown of Thorns was 'laid' upon her brow by her 'heavenly spouse' as she prayed toward mid-day before a Crucifix...."
"The stigmata itself was incredible.... The wounds, up to half an inch in size, were in her hands, feet, side, and head.... Said one physician, '...The wounds speak for themselves, at least to a man of science. To ascribe them to natural causes such as imagination, induction, analogy, or similar causes, is simply impossible.' That physician was a Protestant -- just as we now see many Protestants backing the Gibson film."
You met Peter Boyer earlier. In his article (which, I should warn you, contains an obscene word in a quote), he wrote,
"As it happened, Emmerich had special meaning to Gibson as well.... Eventually, she began to experience ecstasies and develop stigmata. Her experiences attracted... the attention of the poet Clemens Brentano, one of the founders of the German Romantic movement.
"Brentano made his way to Emmerich... who told him that she had been awaiting 'his arrival. He wrote down her visions, including detailed narratives from Christ's Passion, and published them after her death, in 1824, in a book called 'The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.'...
"When Gibson returned to his faith, he acquired, from a nunnery that had closed down, a library of hundreds of books, many of them quite old. He says that when he was researching 'The Passion' one evening he reached up for a book, and Brentano's volume tumbled out of the shelf into his hands. He sat down to read it, and was flabbergasted by the vivid imagery of Emmerich's visions.
“'Amazing images,' he said. 'She supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of.' The one image that is most noticeable in 'The Passion' is a scene after Jesus' scourging, when a grief-stricken Mary gets down on her knees to mop up his blood."
6. How great an evangelistic tool is it? This may be the most important question of all. Does The Passion really communicate the gospel to a postmodern, biblically illiterate population? Many churches are counting on it to do just that. And the people they target -- many of whom are driven by a steady diet of MTV and gratuitous violence -- may be more emotionally prepared for the intense violence than many Christians, especially children. But will they hear the gospel?
"You cannot watch this film without being affected," writes Tim Timmons in his article ""The movie is great, but not the gospel." "In my opinion, it is, indeed, a great movie! But to say or promote it as the greatest evangelistic tool—the greatest gospel message—in the last century or in the last 2000 years is a bit strong and very misleading." He goes on to say,
”When you’re excited about something, there is always a tendency to oversell.... ...The Christian church seems to be lovers of the latest and greatest methodologies—especially when it comes to evangelism. Revival meetings and evangelistic crusades, books and booklets, radio and TV shows or an evangelistic system of training all promise to be easy, sure-fire methods of evangelism that will reach your neighbor. Now we have a movie!
"The New Testament doesn’t include any of these methods as the divine or most effective ways of reaching your neighbor. To overemphasize a method is to short-circuit what is really required for effectively introducing your neighbor to Jesus."
"Only 4 ways attract people to Jesus," he tells us. Then he lists the four:
LIFESTYLE—"Matthew 5…Let your light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER—John 13 & 17…If you love one another, then they will know that you are my disciples…that you might be perfected in unity, so that the world will know that Jesus was sent by God.
BLESS WHEN INSULTED—I Peter 3…Bless those who insult you…then they will ask you for the reason for the hope that is in you.
PERSONAL TESTIMONY—Romans 10…How shall they hear without someone to proclaim the message—someone who speaks his testimony."
The last point reminds us that unbelievers cannot be "born again" unless they actually hear the gospel. Since they will not hear it in Mel Gibson's movie, multitudes will walk away with their own unbiblical interpretation. The variations of those interpretations will be as diverse as the people who see the movie. Most will adapt it to fit their own worldview -- their mental model or filter for what is acceptable or not. In our postmodern tolerant and pluralistic culture, they are likely to be inclusive in their embrace of the crucifixion. Unless God Himself touches their heart and causes them to seek Him outside their own comfort zone, they will either be blind to any true meaning or believe like Mel Gibson that,
(from the ABC interview with Diane Sawyer, February 16 and 17, 2004)
"We're all children of God. All of us! It doesn't matter what you are -- whether you've got a bone through your nose or whether you look like a Viking.... or whatever you are. We are all children of God.... It is possible for people who are not even Christian to get into the Kingdom of heaven."
The truth is, we can neither know nor follow God -- nor understand His Word or the hope of eternal life -- unless we hear and believe the saving words of the gospel made alive by God's Spirit. As God tells us,
"How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!'
"But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, 'Lord, who has believed our report?” So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."
We want to thank three special friends, Barbara Wilhelm, Kurt Fiech and James who have sent us many links to informative and factual articles that prompted us to post this page. The first two links below are especially helpful. We suggest you read the entire articles, not just our excerpts.
"Five Reasons Not to Go See The Passion of Christ" by Pastor Andrew J. Webb:
"[S]hould Evangelicals be supporting The Passion of Christ and
endorsing its use as an Evangelism tool? Is this really the best
evangelization opportunity we've had since the actual death of
"1) Its Origins: Even though Evangelicals are promoting The Passion of Christ, it is not an Evangelical movie. As Mel Gibson, a devout Roman Catholic put it so well; 'It reflects my beliefs.' The Passion of Christ is a Roman Catholic movie, made by a Roman Catholic director, with Roman Catholic theological advisers....
"Caviezel [played Jesus] recalled telling Gibson, 'I think it's very important that we have mass every day - at least I need that to play this guy.'"
"2) Its Script: The script for The Passion of Christ contains much extrabiblical material, and is based in part on a mystical Roman Catholic devotional work by an 18th century German Nun (Sister Anne Emmerich) entitled The Dolorous Passion of Christ. Gibson stated on EWTN that reading Emmerich's book was his primary inspiration for making the movie. By introducing extrabiblical elements, not only does The Passion of Christ change some of the theological emphases of the Biblical account of Christ's crucifixion, but it will also create a false impression amongst the very 'seekers' that Evangelicals are trying to reach, that things were said and done at the crucifixion that did not actually happen.
"For Evangelicals, who
would feel very uncomfortable with a version of the Bible that
put words into the mouth of Christ that He never spoke, to
endorse a movie that does the very same thing seems hopelessly
inconsistent. Protestants traditionally rejected the Apocrypha
precisely because these books were fabricated and contained
inauthentic material, despite the fact that these books might
have been useful for evangelism. For modern evangelicals to
embrace a vehicle that is inauthentic in order to achieve
evangelistic ends indicates a serious decline in faithfulness.
"The script for The Passion of Christ was translated into Aramaic and Latin by Father William Fulco, an old friend of Mel Gibson's. This was not done for reasons of making it more authentic. The language decisions in The Passion of Christ were made for theological reasons: 'It is crucial to realize that the images and language at the heart of 'The Passion of the Christ' flow directly out of Gibson's personal dedication to Catholicism in one of its most traditional and mysterious forms - the 16th-century Latin Mass. ...
"'The goal of the movie is to shake modern audiences by brashly juxtaposing the 'sacrifice of the cross with the sacrifice of the altar - which is the same thing,' said Gibson. This ancient union of symbols and sounds has never lost its hold on him. There is, he stressed, 'a lot of power in these dead languages.'...
"The script of The Passion of Christ was specifically intended to link the crucifixion of Christ with what Roman Catholics believe is the re-sacrificing of Christ that occurs in the mass."
"3) Its Theology: The fact that Evangelicals have uncritically endorsed it speaks volumes about how far the Evangelical Protestant understanding of Christ's death and the related subject of Justification have slipped since the Reformation. In Roman Catholic theology the intense physical suffering of Christ's Crucifixion is the focus along with the emphasis on physical sacrifice....
"The theology of the bible
however points out to us that the grand importance of Christ's
crucifixion lay not in His physical suffering, but in His once
for all propitiation of God's wrath (1 John 4:10). Lest we
forget, the greatest torment that Christ experienced on the
cross was not caused by the nails driven into His flesh, but in
His being made 'sin for us' and vicariously suffering the
righteous punishment of the Father in our place. Even the worst
physical torments inflicted by the Sanhedrin and the Romans upon
Jesus were nothing by comparison to the anguish of having the
sins of all the elect imputed to Him and making full
satisfaction for them. Satisfying the justice of the Romans on a
cross was comparatively easy, thousands of condemned men and
women including Spartacus and several of the Apostles did that,
but only Christ could satisfy the justice of God.
"Also central to the Christian Gospel, but missing from The Passion of Christ, is the concept of Christ's active obedience. Christ not only died for the sins of His sheep on the cross but He established their righteousness through His perfect obedience to God's Law....
"...use of extra-biblical material, emphasis on physical suffering, exaggeration of the role of Mary, and explicitly Roman Catholic theology should not surprise us, however, as these are all hallmarks of the primary inspiration for this movie: The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ."
"4) Its Medium: Many Evangelical Pastors are hailing movies like
The Passion of Christ as part of a new and better way of
spreading the Gospel:
"...'Churches used to communicate by having a little lecture time on Sunday morning. People don't interact that way anymore. Here's a chance for us to use a modern-day technique to communicate the truth of the Bible," the Rev. Engel said."12
"It is indeed true that we live in a highly visual and increasingly anti-literate society that places a premium on sound bites and easily assimilated visual imagery, but does this mean that we should abandon preaching in favor of using movies or dramatic presentations? ...
"The means that God has
ordained for the transmission of the Gospel, was neither drama,
imagery, nor even "lectures" - it is preaching. Preaching involves
the communication of the Gospel in a way that patiently convinces,
rebukes, exhorts, and teaches (2 Timothy 4:2-4). The bible teaches
us the awesome importance of preaching and why it cannot be replaced
by another medium....
"God does not command us to produce dramatic presentations of Gospel themes, He commands us to preach. Though this option was freely available to the Apostles as they brought the Gospel to cities with amphitheaters and a long tradition of using the dramatic arts to convey religious and moral themes to the populace they did not do so. The wisdom of the Apostolic methodology has been borne out by the fact that it was when the Gospel was being transmitted primarily by plays and symbolism that true Christianity began to sink under the weight of superstition. We are in danger of returning to precisely that state of affairs by reviving the teaching methodology of the medieval church. Even though it was produced in the 21st century, The Passion of Christ is identical in all critical aspects to the Passion Plays of the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages."
"5) Its Main Character: Billy Graham in his endorsement of The Passion of Christ said, 'Every time I preach or speak about the Cross, the things I saw on the screen will be on my heart and mind.' This is unfortunately part of the problem with all visual representations of Jesus. Although we may intend for them only to have a role in teaching, they inevitably become part of our worship and adoration. As a result of seeing this film James Caviezel, the "Jesus" of The Passion of Christ, will become the figure countless thousands if not millions of people think of when they worship Jesus Christ. To do this is to fall into the trap of changing "the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man" (Romans 1:23) and to violate the Second Commandment.
"The Second reason why all visual representations of Jesus are lies is that they can never hope to represent the glory of Christ in His true nature.... While this may not appear to be a problem to us, the separation of Christ's manhood from His deity is actually a grave heresy called Nestorianism. ...
"For the first four centuries of its existence the church did not use pictures of Jesus as an aid to evangelism. This was despite the fact that they were bringing the gospel to highly visual cultures that had always used imagery to convey religious ideas. The initial movements towards making pictures of Christ were initially strongly opposed, and the practice was formally condemned by the church as late as 753 AD. Unfortunately, once they had taken hold of the public imagination, the practice of making visible representations of Christ proved difficult if not impossible to eradicate and gradually, pictures and dramatic representations of Jesus became quite commonplace in the church. At the time of the Reformation, Protestants overwhelmingly rejected the practice of making images of Jesus as a clear violation of the Second Commandment."
You can contact pastor Webb at firstname.lastname@example.org
"Why I Will Not See 'The Passion of the Christ'" by John LeGare: "In a New Yorker article entitled "The Jesus War," Gibson disclosed to the interviewer his fondness for an Augustinian nun named Anne Catherine Emmerich, described by a web site dedicated to her as a Mystic, Stigmatist, Prophet and Great Visionary. Her visions were recorded in a book before she died in 1924 called The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Here is the account from the New Yorker piece:
"When Gibson returned to his faith, he acquired, from a nunnery that had closed down a library of hundreds of books... He says that when he was researching 'The Passion' one evening he reached up for a book, and Brentano’s volume tumbled out of the shelf into his hands. He sat down to read it, and was flabbergasted by the vivid imagery of Emmerich’s visions. ‘Amazing images,’ he said ` ‘She supplied me with stuff I never would have thought of.’
"The one image that is most noticeable in 'The Passion' is a scene after Jesus’ scourging, when a grief-stricken Mary gets down on her knees to mop up his blood.'...
"I don’t know if that scene or others of Emmerich’s ‘amazing images’ have made the final cut but it is not true that the Bible was Gibson’s sole source. The book can be found online at www.emmerich1.com. I did not read the entire book but here are two quotes...:
"Her angel-guardian used to appear to her as a child; and when she was taking care of sheep in the fields, the Good Shepherd himself, under the form of a young shepherd, would frequently come to her assistance. From childhood she was accustomed to have divine knowledge imparted to her in visions of all kinds, and was often favored by visits from the Mother of God and Queen of Heaven, who, under the form of a sweet lovely, and majestic lady, would bring the Divine Child to be, as it were, her companion, and would assure her that she loved and would ever protect her."
"Whoever compares the following meditations with the short history of the Last Supper given in the Gospel will discover some slight differences between them. An explanation should be given of this, although it can never be sufficiently impressed upon the reader that these writing have no pretensions whatever to add an iota to Sacred Scripture as interpreted by the [Roman Catholic] Church."
Gibson depended on another person and book in the making of his soon to be released movie. That is, Mary of Agreda’s The Mystical City of God. You can read about her atwww.passion-movie.gnfi.org/html/mary_of_agreda.html. (Note: This is the correct address; however, you may have to Google ‘Mary of Agreda’ for a good link.) You, the discerning Christian, can reach you own conclusions as to what this all may mean.
Jim Caviezel: "I first heard about Medjugorje in 5th - 6th grade. They said that it was like the apparitions of [Mary at] Fatima, Guadeloupe, Lourdes, and they quickly said that the bishop said that it was false... Many years later, I met my wife, we got married, and after a few years she went to Medjugorje. While she was there, I was filming "The Count of Monte Cristo" in Ireland. She called me in Ireland, I felt that there was a change in her voice, but I wrote it off very quickly, thinking: "That’s good for you, dear, who am I to take away from you spiritual experience?" She said that Ivan Dragicevic was coming to Ireland...I met with him a couple of times, and during an apparition, I felt a physical presence."
Kerri Caviezel: "It took me 15 years to come [to Medjugorje]. When I came, I knew immediately - from what I was feeling in my heart - that it was real. I haven’t seen signs or anything, but - I have been a Catholic for my whole life and I had never felt in confession as I felt when I was here. It was a tremendous healing."
Jim Caviezel: "The catharsis for me to play this role was through Medjugorje, through Gospa. In preparation, I used all that Medjugorje taught me. Mel Gibson and I were going every day for Mass together. Some days I couldn’t go for Mass, but I was receiving the Eucharist."
Kerri Caviezel: "I pray that we are open to where ever Mary is leading us and that in all the places where we go and to the people that we meet around the world, we may bring these messages."
Jim Caviezel: "This film is something that I believe was made by Mary for her Son.
The complete interview can be found here: http://www.medjugorje.hr/int%20Caviezel%20ENG.htm
"There is much in the way of a Biblical response to this, so be a good Berean. I’ll just suggest 2Corinthians 11:14: 'And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light' and recommend a book called Messages From Heaven, an excellent Biblical response to the apparitions of Mary phenomenon.
"There are two principle reasons why I will not see Mr. Gibson’s movie and I direct this opinion to person’s that have "obtained like precious faith" (2Peter 1:1); those who have repented of their sin, believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ, placed their faith in Him alone and His substitutionary sacrifice for the salvation of their soul and have been born again by the Holy Spirit into the family of God.
"I’m not going to tell any member of Christ’s body to not see the film but my open question to believers is 'Why would you want to?' The great euphoria among Christians in regard to the release of this movie seems more related to the anticipation of seeing the film rather than excitement about the golden opportunity this movie presents for reaching the lost with the Gospel....
"The movie itself will not save a single soul! It is
the gospel that '...that is the power of God unto salvation to
everyone that believeth' (Romans 1:16). God has chosen to use the
Gospel message as the instrument of salvation because it proclaims
the Name that has the power to save. That message is not spread by
bloody images on a movie screen. Therefore, I would encourage
Christians to make plans and be ready to give the full Gospel
message to those who have seen the movie instead of making plans to
see it. ...
"So, here are the two primary reasons I will not see The Passion of Christ. The first is the idolatrous nature of the film. The second encompasses a number of related issues and is based on the professed and well-known testimony of Mel Gibson being 'a devout Roman Catholic.' Roman Catholicism and, in particular, the Roman Catholic Mass misrepresent and deny the completed sacrifice of Christ on the cross by claiming that the sacrifice of Jesus is continued in the Mass....
"Gibson refers to himself as a 'traditionalist Roman Catholic.' Without going into much detail, traditionalists reject the ecumenical outreach of the Roman Catholic Church that was declared at Vatican II. They hold to the rites that were codified at the Council of Trent in the 16th century that still hold today. Be advised Christian, the Council of Trent, the solidification of Roman Catholic theology, produced over 100 anathemas or curses against us 'heretics' outside of the Roman Catholic Church who refuse to submit to Papal authority and Roman Catholic teaching. Contrary to popular opinion, these curses have never been retracted .... Mel Gibson, the creator of The Passion of Christ does not consider salvation available to anyone who is not a part of the Roman Catholic Church. In fact, he does not even consider his wife to be saved. Hear him in his own words:
"I [the interviewer] told Gibson that I am a Protestant, and asked whether his pre-Vatican II world view disqualified me from eternal salvation. He paused, ‘There is no salvation for those outside the [Roman Catholic] Church,’ he said. ‘I believe it.’ He explained, ‘Put it this way. My wife is a saint. She’s a much better person than I am. Honestly, she’s like, Episcopalian, Church of England. She prays, she believes in God, she knows Jesus. She believes that stuff. And it’s just not fair if she doesn’t make it, she’s better than I am. But that is a pronouncement from the chair. I go with it." (reference)
"...The possible application of 2Corinthians 11:3-4 may make some sense as I continue to lay out what I’m trying to say. Please keep this in mind:
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him."...
"In regard to the charge that The Passion of Christ is cinematic
idolatry, I’ll rely heavily on the thoughts of J. I. Packer from
Chapter Four of his book Knowing God.
"Packer points out that if taken alone it would be natural to assume that the Second Commandment refers to the worship of images of false gods as described by Isaiah 44:9-20; 46:6-7 and about which Paul wrote of in Romans 1:23,25. 'But in its context the Second Commandment can hardly be referring to this sort of idolatry, for if it were it would simply be repeating the thought of the First Commandment without adding anything to it' (p.44). Packer quotes Charles Hodge who says 'idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images.' For the Christian, these men understand the Second Commandment to be saying that '...we are not to make use of visual or pictorial representations of the Triune God, or of any Person of the Trinity, for purposes of Christian worship" (p.44). An obvious objection would be in the form of the Christian saying, 'Well, I’m not going to see the movie as an overt act of worship.' Fair enough, but I believe some (many?) will be drawn into a form of worship that is spiritually unhealthy and related to Packer’s point especially in a film that, by every single account, is extremely and graphically violent. Some sort of sympathetic identification with the person on the screen who we would see as the real Jesus Christ seems to me to be inevitable. "Well, the crucifixion was extremely violent and bloody" you may say. This no doubt is true, but don’t forget about the extra-Biblical sources Gibson has used. The death of Christ was violent and bloody but Gibson’s film is not THE crucifixion. ...
"Packer maintains that the Second Commandment '...rules out the
use of pictures and statues of Jesus Christ as a man, although Jesus
Himself was and remains man; for all pictures and statues are
necessarily made after the 'likeness' of ideal manhood as WE
[emphasis mine] conceive it, and therefore come under the ban which
the Commandment imposes" (p.45). Many have and will disagree with
Packer’s position as it would eliminate the use of images as
evangelistic tools. Nevertheless, Packer maintains it must be a
matter of crucial importance as is evidenced by the 'frightening
sanction' attached to it.
"The Bible shows us that the glory of God and the spiritual well-being of humans are both directly bound up with it' (p.45). The lines of thought in the Second Commandment relate not to the perceived helpfulness of the images but to 'the truth of them.' Packer continues with the following points:
1) Images dishonor God, for they obscure His Glory. He quotes
Calvin: 'A true image of God is not to be found in all the world;
and hence...His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the
lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form.
Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious because by
this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be
other than He is.' This thought can be applied directly to the
depiction of Jesus in The Passion of Christ. Packer points out that
any image of Jesus '...inevitably conceals most, if not all, of the
truth about the personal nature and character of the Divine Being
who they represent' (p.46).
"...the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of His Deity, His victory on the cross, and His present kingdom. It displays His human weakness, but it conceals His divine strength; it depicts the reality of His pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of His joy and His power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy most of all because of what it fails to display" (p.46).
"...Images mislead us, for they convey false ideas about God.
very inadequacy with which they represent Him perverts our thoughts
of Him and plants in our minds errors of all sorts about His
character and will' (p.46-47). Church, we should get our idea of God
from what He has revealed to us about Himself. This revelation comes
to us through the Bible. Only from the Bible "...may we form a true
notion of God; without it we never can. Thus it appears that the
positive force of the Second Commandment is that it compels us to
take our thoughts of God from His own Holy word, and from no other
source whatsoever" (p.48).
If Packer’s analysis is correct and has application to The Passion of Christ, to see this movie could very well be spiritually damaging to many Christians. I guess you will have to decide that for yourself. As for me and my house, we will remain fixed on the image of the Risen Christ as described by the Apostle John:
"...and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:13-15).
‘Seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame’ Hebrews 6:6b
[Note: There is much more information in this article. To read all of it, including the references, go to http://www.informedchristians.com/articles/ART-why_i_will_not_see.htm
You can contact John LeGare at email@example.com
The following articles may also interest you. Unlike the earlier two, they don't necessarily reflect our views:
Will Mel Gibson's Passion of Christ help save Christianity? by Daniel Johnson (2-11-04): "I am, however, a practicing Roman Catholic. For me, the repudiation of anti-Semitism in all forms is not merely an issue of the utmost moral and theological significance....Gibson belongs to a small sect, the Old Catholics, who left the Church more than a century ago over the issue of papal infallibility and have been out of communion with other Catholics ever since. Hence Gibson is not bound by the constantly evolving Catholic doctrine on Judaism and the Holocaust. ...The American Catholic establishment, still reeling from the drubbing it received from the media over so-called paedophile priests, regards Gibson as an embarrassment."
"Exclusive Interview With Father Di Noia of the Doctrinal Congregation :
Q: Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" has been a newsmaker for months
-- well before its scheduled release. As one of the handful of people who have
actually seen it, what is your overall impression of the film?
Father Di Noia: Seeing this film will be an intensely religious experience for many people. It was for me.
Q: Is the film faithful to account of the passion of Christ in the New Testament?
Father Di Noia: Remember, there are four accounts of the passion of Christ in the New Testament, concerned chiefly to present the religious meaning of these events.
"Mel Gibson's film is not a documentary but a work of artistic imagination. He incorporates elements from the Passion narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but remains faithful to the fundamental structure common to all four accounts. Within the limits possible in an imaginative reconstruction of the passion of Christ, Gibson's film is entirely faithful to the New Testament. ...
"But Maia Morgenstern's Mary is equally powerful. It reminded me of something St. Anselm said in a sermon about the Blessed Mother: Without God's Son, nothing could exist; without Mary's Son, nothing could be redeemed.....
"There is a powerful Catholic sensibility at work here. In his recent encyclical on the Eucharist, Pope John Paul II says that Christ established the memorial of his passion and death before he suffered -- in anticipation of the actual sacrifice of the cross. In Mel Gibson's artistic imagination, Christ "remembers" the Last Supper even as he enacts the sacrifice it memorializes.
"For many Catholics who see these images, Mass will never be the same. In any case, issues of originality entirely aside, Mel Gibson's film will undoubtedly be considered to be among the very best.
Q: Does "The Passion" blame anyone for what happened to Christ?
Father Di Noia: That's a very interesting, and very difficult question. Suppose you pose it to someone who was unfamiliar with the Gospel passion narratives until seeing this film.
Q: There has been a lot of controversy about the film's alleged anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism. Can you tell ZENIT what you think about this?
Father Di Noia: Speaking as a Catholic theologian, I would be bound to condemn anti-Semitism or anti-Judaism in any recounting of the passion and death of Christ -- and not just because of the terrible harm that has been done to Jewish people on these grounds, but also because, as I have already suggested, this represents a profound misreading of the passion narratives.
"But let me answer your question plainly: There is absolutely nothing anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish about Mel Gibson's film.
1. "Behind film endorsed by both Catholics and Protestants is a stigmatic whose life and revelations continue to amaze"
2. Peter J. Boyer, "The Jesus War: Mel Gibson & 'The Passion'," The New Yorker, September 15, 2003.
3. Terry Mattingly, "The passion of old words and symbols," January 21, 2004.
4. "Visual Arts in Worship: A Search for Biblical Guidance," Worship Leader Magazine, January/February 2004.
5. Professor Robert K. Johnston, "Engaging Culture: Should the Church use popular culture -- such as movies -- to engage unbelievers in spiritual dialog?" Worship Leader Magazine, January/February 2004; page 34.
6. Pastor Andrew J. Webb, "Five Reasons Not to Go See The Passion of Christ,"
7. Jody Dean, "Perspective on 'The Passion of the Christ," Religion Today at http://www.religiontoday.com/faith/1242963.html.
8. Lindy Warren, "Witness to the Passion,"
9. Tim Timmons, "The movie is great, but not the gospel," Assist News at http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/s04020060.htm.
10. John LeGare, "Why I Will Not See 'The Passion of the Christ.'"
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