Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Movie Signs And Faith

This past Wed. night, we discussed the movie, Signs as we watched that movie for the last two Weds. Vick didn't have a handout prepared as we were going to watch the movie, The Big Kahuna, but had to substitute Signs instead. For that movie the question: how can we share our faith in this postmodern age? is appropriate. But anyways---back to Signs---here is some general background info on the movie:

Signs is a 2002 science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. Although the plot revolves around aliens and crop circles, producer Frank Marshall said, "It's really about human emotions set in motion by a supernatural event." The film received generally positive critical reception and was one of the highest grossing films of 2002.

(As a side note, since Vick is involved in the movie industry, I'd just like to say that one of my relatives on my dad's side, Don Smetzer got to know the Culkin family really well when he was the still photographer for Home Alone).

One of the issues of the movie, Signs, is the loss of faith. In one of the key scenes at 9:17-9:31 of this clip:

reminds me somewhat of 1:37-1:53 of this clip from Amadeus and Family Guy: ---if just for the sense of feeling abandoned by God. Loss of faith is a mystery, but for whatever reason---it happens and tragedy like in the movie is a common cause of it. As an example the esteemed textual critic, Bart D. Ehrman:
... says the reason he turned to agnosticism was due to his inability to deal with the problem of evil and suffering as it is presented in the bible and not the reliability of the text.

Vick brought up this verse within the context of the movie:
Romans 8:29 RSV- For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren.

In Greek: οτι ους προεγνω και προωρισεν συμμορφους της εικονος του υιου αυτου εις το ειναι αυτον πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις

Transliterated: oti ous proegnô kai proôrisen summorphous tês eikonos tou uiou autou eis to einai auton prôtotokon en pollois adelphois

For a more detailed study of this verse see: Romans 8:29. The two key terms are:
proginosko--- Definition
Strong's - to know beforehand, that is, foresee: - foreknow (ordain), know (before).
Thayer's - to have knowledge before hand; to foreknow - of those whom God elected to salvation; to predestinate.
Webster's - To have previous knowledge of; to foresee.
And: προώρισεν (proōrisen)--- Definition
-to predetermine, decide beforehand
in the NT of God decreeing from eternity
to foreordain, appoint beforehand

A Calvinist understanding of this verse is that individuals are randomly and arbitrarily chosen by God before God even created the world with no insight into individuals' lives as if God played Russian Roulette to determine who is saved. The Hyper-Calvinist view is that God even chose who is damned through no fault of their own. The Arminian understanding is that: "...God does not so much choose, but instead infallibly predicts, who will believe and, persevering, be saved. Although God knows from the beginning of the world who will go where, the choice is still with the individual." The Barthian view is that:
predestination only properly applies to God Himself. Thus, mankind is chosen for salvation in Jesus Christ, at the permanent cost of God's self-surrendered hiddenness, or transcendence. Thus, the redemption of all mankind is a devoutly to be wished for possibility, but the only inevitability is that God has predestined Himself, in Jesus Christ, to be revealed and given for mankind's salvation.
My view is somewhere between the Arminian and Barthian views, of course. One other note is the question of the Traditional understanding of one of God's attributes, Omniscience---which was subtly explored in the film. Although, I agree with the Traditional understanding, I am sympathetic to the valid question of Open Theism: does God know all? After all, Jesus who is God incarnate said:
Matthew 24:35-36 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

35Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

The Day and Hour Unknown
36"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[a] but only the Father.


Matthew 24:36 Some manuscripts do not have nor the Son.

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