Prof. Decker is professor of Practical Theology in the Protestant Reformed Seminary.
Christ in Hollywood 1
“Christ can be found in Hollywood, and without having to view only such films as ‘Oh, God’ or ‘Last Temptation of Christ.’ His trail can be seen in movies such as ‘Superman,’ ‘Star Wars’ and ‘E. T., the Extra-terrestrial,’ says film critic Roy M. Anker.”
Anker, an English professor at Calvin College, recently lectured at Third Christian Reformed Church in Kalamazoo about what he considers good and bad in the movies. Anker, according to the newspaper, “minced no words in talking about what was bad at the movies . . . but appeared most interested in talking about what was good at the movies.” George Lucas’ “Star Wars” trilogy is a “profoundly Christian saga that shows the spiritual journey of a wanderer who comes to believe in a positive supernatural power,” Anker said.
Anker described the alien figure of “E. T.” as a “Christ figure.” He claims that when E.T. dies in the movie, “there’s an ascension scene and a bit of a halo around his head.”
According to the newspaper, “The movie ‘Superman’ is rated first on Anker’s good movie list. He sees this movie as a retelling of the Christ story. ‘There’s Brando. Looks like God, doesn’t he? He even talks like God,’ Anker joked while playing a scene from the beginning of the movie.”
“Eyes in the audience widened as the super boy was thrust out to space from the exploding Krypton and Brando’s voice boomed, ‘I will always be with you, my only son.’ “‘Only son’ – that’s Jesus plain and simple, Anker said.
“Then the boy lands on earth in Kansas. Anker described Kansas as the Biblical equivalent of Nazareth – it’s in the boonies . . . . ‘These fables can teach us something, us church folks, about what it’s like to meet the incarnation,’ Anker said.
“The movie, ‘Places in the heart’ is so profoundly Christian ‘it will knock your socks off,’ Anker said.”
The article goes on to point out that Anker does not consider the movie “Last Temptation of Christ” as blasphemous. The newspaper quoted Anker as saying, “Instead of a mamby pamby Jesus who’s way up there, we have a human Jesus, perhaps much too human for some.”
Fifty or sixty years ago movies were considered dead wrong in the Reformed tradition. Consistories disciplined those who refused to cease attending movies. It happened more than once in those years that pre-seminary students who were caught attending the movie theatre were barred from the seminary and the ministry.
Then we were told that because of “common grace” there was some good in movies. The people of God were called to “redeem the film arts.”
Now, if there is as much good in the movies as Anker claims, why bother trying to redeem them? There is no need!
There is one simple test to apply to movies as well as to all of life. It’s found in Holy Scripture, in Romans 14:23, “. . . whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”
1. I am indebted to Miss Berdena Rust, a member of the Protestant Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for sending me the press clipping from the Kalamazoo Gazette.
The World At War
It would appear that President George Bush’s dream of a “new world order” will not be realized in the near future. Currently there is war in thirty-two countries of the world. In the Americas there are Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Peru; in Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Burma, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, and Sri Lanka; in Europe: Turkey, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia, and many of the countries that made up the former Soviet Union; in Africa: Angola, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Liberia, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, Sudan, and Western Sahara.
In most of these countries it is civil and revolutionary war. Guerilla forces are in revolt against the established governments. Many of these countries, Ethiopia and Western Sahara for example, are in the throes of severe drought and famine. Thousands are dying daily from lack of food and even minimal health care. According to figures released by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World watch Institute based in Washington, D. C., there are severe food shortages in East Africa and Iraq and elsewhere. The reasons for this are: the largest one-year drop ever in the world grain harvest, higher prices, and deeper poverty. The UN claims there are 500 million people underfed and at least 24 countries are short of food.
Observing all this we are reminded of the words of Jesus, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars . . . and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:6-8). Jesus also told us that when we hear of these things we, “. . . must not be troubled: for all these things must come to pass . . .” (Matthew 24:6). They must come to pass because they are determined by Almighty God as signs of the coming of Christ and of the end of the world (Matthew 24:3).
The Evangelical Church In Spain
The Evangelical churches in Spain have had a tough time of it ever since the victory of General Francisco Franc0 in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Franco worked hard to crush his enemies, including Protestants. Churches were shut down, Bibles and Christian literature confiscated, and evangelism was forbidden.
All this could change in the near future. The Spanish national parliament, the Cortes, is considering legislation that would grant new religious rights to the nation’s Protestant Christians. The proposed legislation, called the Accords of Cooperation between the Spanish State and the Federation of Evangelical Entities of Spain, gives official status to Protestant churches in such areas as taxation, professional ministry, and education.
Of Spain’s 39 million people only 71,000 are evangelicals.
Church Calls Homosexual Minister
A test case on homosexual ministers is moving through the courts of the Presbyterian Church (USA). A church in Rochester, New York, called Jane Spahr to be its pastor. Spahr was ordained before she openly acknowledged that she was homosexual. She is 49years old, divorced, the mother of two children, and now living in a “committed” relationship with another woman.
The Rochester church has survived the first challenge to her call. The challenge was based on a ruling of the 1978 General Assembly that said homosexuals could not be ordained. The church believes that condition was met since Spahr was ordained before she acknowledged her homosexuality. Officials of the Rochester church say they called Spahr because she was the best qualified and most wonderful candidate for the job. In the meantime Spahr cannot be installed until the challenges are complete. That may take another year.
As long as churches continue to refuse to maintain the clear teaching of Holy Scripture this problem will remain.
REC News Exchange
Jimmy Swaggart Still in Trouble
The IRS placed tax liens on Swaggart’s and his family’s earnings, demanding $346,511 for taxes, interest, and penalties owed for 1985 and 1986. In addition Meredith Corp., a broadcaster in Fairfield, Kansas, won a court judgment of $34,358 against Jimmy Swaggart Ministries (JSM). Other broadcasters have cases pending.
Frances Swaggart, Jimmy’s wife, told reporters that the ministry had suffered a $1.5 million deficit the last quarter of 1991 but that “we are slowly regaining” the TV stations JSM had lost. She also said that her husband had become a changed man since October (when his latest scandal involving a prostitute was publicized). “Our home is different, our marriage is different, everything is different,” she said.
We’ll see. Even apart from the heresy (Swaggart is a Pentecostal) Jimmy Swaggart lacks key qualifications for the ministry (cf. I Timothy 3:2 and 7). God is not mocked.
National & International Religion Report