[Mr. Stagingpoint was kind enough to allow me to make a post on his blog. All views expressed in this entry are those of bcp. Thanks, jrau.]
Having seen The Passion of the Christ recently, I feel compelled to verbalize my thoughts in writing. Yet I’ve found it difficult doing so, as it’s an experience that is hard to explain to those who have not experienced it first hand. If you don’t think you can read yet another person’s thoughts on the subject, now’s your chance to bail. I hope you give it a read …
I am glad I watched the movie and recommend it to others, though I recognize that those who view it as a stumbling block to their faith may chose not to see it. The movie told the story of Christ’s last hours in a way I will not soon, if ever, forget. It forced me to understand more completely the burden Christ had to bear for my sins.
The beliefs expressed by some Christians that this movie is idolatrous and biblically inconsistent are as frightening and saddening to me as I am sure my views are to them. After seeing the movie, all of the criticisms and controversy don’t seem applicable. The purpose of this movie was to tell the greatest love story in history and to help the viewer understand the role they played in Christ’s death. For me personally, it accomplished its purpose very well.
I Can Only Imagine
Trying to imagine the actual events of the last 12 hours of Christ’s life is something every Christian must do. How else could you knowingly accept Christ as your Savior, unless you have consciously thought about the penalty He paid for our sins?
When we imagine such an event, our minds formulate mental images based on a lifetime of earthly experiences, whether it be things we’ve heard, read, seen, or physically experienced. Trying to imagine God or Jesus is not idolatry. God sent his Son as a human to this earth, in part for us as humans to be able to know God more fully. Christ took on a “truly human nature so that he … [would be] like his brothers in every way except for sin” (Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 35). God intended us to see Christ’s humanity. We all have a mental image of Christ already formed in our minds. Is that a sin, or because it’s only a mental image is it okay? I not only believe it is okay, I think that type of reflection is healthy for our faith, when understood as being only an image of Christ.
Obviously we do not know his appearance exactly, though Scripture does not shy away from describing Him physically (e.g. Isa. 53:2 “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”).
The second commandment is talking about worshiping a human created object, in place of, or alongside, God. Drama telling the story of Christ (who was fully human), is not inherently idolatry. In the case of this movie, it did nothing but further my understanding of what Christ did for me. When I think back on the movie, I don’t worship Jim Caviezel. Instead, all I can think about are the atrocities committed against Christ, and the reasons he endured them willingly. All throughout Christ’s ministry, he used human events, current situations, stories, parables, and objects around him to try to communicate His Father’s love.
Based on my understanding of the Gospels, the movie was accurate. Yes, there were supplemental things said or done in the movie as they may have happened. Whether those things came from the Catholic tradition or Mel Gibson’s understanding of the story, we were not present at the time of Christ so we cannot know every detail fully. However, those things in no way distracted from the main story that is found in the Gospels. They supplemented the Gospel story in a way that was realistic, without changing the story as told in Scripture.
And yes, it was a human’s interpretation of the story. When a pastor preaches a sermon based solely on Scripture, that sermon is an human interpretation of that passage. When a theologian writes a book, all of its conclusions and teachings are an human interpretation. When a denomination writes its doctrines, those are all human interpretation. The Heidelberg Catechism, as helpful and accurate as it is, is still human interpretation of Scripture.
Longing to Understand
All teaching we receive in this world, no matter how biblically accurate it is, will fall short of being a perfect explanation of God and His love. The Passion of the Christ is a visual way of telling the story of Christ. It is the telling of that portion of Scripture; it is a telling of the Word, done in a manner that encourages our minds to try to understand Christ’s death.
Due to our sinful nature, we will never be able to fully comprehend God, the sacrificing of his only Son, or the love He has for us. But using whatever means we have to share that story, to strive to understand that love for us, is something I believe we, as Christians, were created to do.
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” — 1 Cor. 13:9-12
— brian pikkaart