The Gospel in Hollywood – Part 2

Previously, we have discussed some of the Gospel elements that appear frequently in Hollywood fiction. Movies often portray a Christ-figure who fights for truth and saves people. Often the Christ-figure experiences a (usually symbolic) death and resurrection, and defeats an imposing enemy against incredible odds. We have seen how the Christ-figure is generally the main character in superhero movies. We now examine the movie genres of science fiction and fantasy.

Unfortunately, most books, movies, and television shows of the science fiction genre are steeped in evolutionary mythology. Such films portray extra-terrestrial lifeforms as having evolved on other worlds over billions of years. Many science fiction franchises seem to promote secular humanism quite heavily. And yet, despite all these anti-Christian themes, science fiction often portrays the Gospel in symbolic form. So, you can usually find both Christian and anti-Christian themes in science fiction.

Why such inconsistency? I suggest this reflects the worldview schizophrenia of the unregenerate mind. Unbelievers know God in their heart of hearts, but inconsistently suppress that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-20). Consequently, their creative efforts inevitably mix Christian and anti-Christian themes. But the Gospel is subtly there in the form of allegory. Let’s examine a few sci-fi / fantasy movies in light of their similarity to the Gospel.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

If you want to enjoy a delightful sci-fi classic, watch the 1951 movie The Day the Earth Stood Still. In contrast to the disappointing 2008 remake, this old black-and-white gem featured a fascinating story with likeable characters. Needless to say, there will be spoilers below. So if you have not yet seen this movie, go watch it now and come back to the article. I’ll wait.

The movie begins with a saucer-shaped spaceship of alien origin landing at a park in Washington, D.C. Military vehicles and personnel quickly surround the ship, and tension is quite high. A crowd gathers as curiosity rises. Finally, a door opens and the ship’s occupant, Klaatu, steps out. His helmet obscures his face, but his form appears basically like a human being. Klaatu announces that he is on a mission of goodwill, and begins to present a gift to one of the people, but is shot by a nervous soldier.

This action triggers a robot (named Gort) on board the ship to shoot a beam from his visor that instantly destroys all weapons in the vicinity while miraculously leaving the soldiers unharmed. Klaatu orders Gort to cease and is then taken to the hospital. The doctors find Klaatu to be human in appearance, but are astonished at how quickly he heals.

Already we see many Gospel elements. Klaatu is the central Christ-figure who has come down from heaven with a message of peace and goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14). Rather than welcoming him in peace, his arrival generates anxiety, just as Christ’s did (Matthew 2:3). This is followed by an (unsuccessful) murder attempt, just as Herod tried to assassinate Christ (Matthew 2:16).

As Klaatu appears human, so Christ was fully human. Both had the power to heal. Both had great power available to them, but did not use it in vengeance against their oppressors. Indeed, Christ did not retaliate even when His critics crucified Him (Luke 23:34). Likewise, Klaatu orders Gort to stand down, even after being shot.

In the movie, Klaatu escapes from the hospital and dresses as an ordinary human, using the alias “Mr. Carpenter.” No doubt, this is an allusion to Christ’s human nature as the son of a carpenter. So again we have the dual-identity: one appearing as an ordinary man (Mr. Carpenter / Jesus), the other as a heavenly being of tremendous power (Klaatu / the Lord). Klaatu befriends a boy named Bobby. The dialog between these two characters is delightful. Michael Rennie (the actor playing Klaatu / Mr. Carpenter) is very believable as a gentle, wise, highly intelligent man from another world. Like Christ, Klaatu is full of compassion for the people of earth, and deeply disturbed by mankind’s violent ways.

Klaatu meets professor Barnhardt, a highly respected scientist, to whom he reveals his identity as the alien visitor. He asks for advice on how to get the world to listen to his important message. The stakes are high, for if Klaatu’s message is unheeded, “Planet Earth will be eliminated.” Barnhardt suggests that Klaatu should demonstrate his great power, but in a way that does not harm anyone. Klaatu’s solution to this puzzle is ingenious. He programs his ship to disable all electricity on Earth for precisely thirty minutes. No vehicle, light bulb, phone, or television will operate. Klaatu compassionately made exceptions for life-critical equipment, such as hospitals and planes in flight.

Again we see many biblical parallels. As Klaatu makes the Earth stand still metaphorically by disabling electricity, so God literally made the earth stand still on one occasion (Joshua 10:12-14). Likewise, when God’s message of repentance is unheeded, He is able to destroy the earth on behalf of human wickedness (Genesis 6:5-7).

Later, Klaatu is again shot, this time fatally. Anticipating this end, Klaatu had previously told a woman to get a message to Gort, lest Gort retaliate for Klaatu’s murder by destroying the world. The woman relays this message: “Klaatu barada nikto.” No translation is given in the movie. However, based on Gort’s response, the words must mean something like “Do not retaliate.” This reminds me of Christ’s attitude at the crucifixion: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

True to the Gospel, Klaatu’s death is followed by a resurrection. Gort rescues the body of Klaatu, and is able to resuscitate him using technology in the spaceship. People again gather to the spaceship, and Klaatu delivers his message. Essentially, the message is that humanity must give up its violent, wicked ways or be destroyed. Repent or perish. This is remarkably similar to Christ’s warnings during His earthly ministry (Luke 13:3,5). Klaatu goes back inside the ship, which then returns to the sky while the people below stare up in wonder. This is similar to Christ’s ascension at the end of His earthly ministry (Acts 1:9).

The Lord of the Rings

J.R.R. Tolkien’s engaging trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” is full of Christian symbolism and allegory. We see this both in the books and in Peter Jackson’s masterful movie adaptation. The story is complex and intended to be part of a rich mythology. It focuses on the adventure of Frodo Baggins, a “hobbit” of the Shire, who is given a magic ring that bestows great power on its keeper. But the ring is inherently evil, eventually enslaving and corrupting its keeper and strengthening its creator – the evil Sauron. The ring can be destroyed only by returning it to its place of origin in a volcanic mountain in enemy territory. The task of destroying the ring has fallen to the innocent Frodo and his companions.

The ring seems to represent sin. It answers only to Sauron, a nonphysical enemy representing Satan. Like sin, the ring is superficially attractive, desirable, and gives its wearer great power. But it inevitably destroys its wearer and enslaves him to the evil Sauron. Those who have been in possession of the ring find it nearly impossible to give up, even though it slowly destroys them. By way of backstory, we learn that many otherwise good men have been corrupted by the ring; they attempt to use it for good but it works its evil through them instead. Perhaps because of his innocent and selfless nature, Frodo is resistant to the corrupting effects of the ring, making him the ideal choice to carry it to its destruction.

At least three people typify Christ in the Lord of the Rings. First, Frodo is innocent and yet must bear the ring, just as Christ bore the sins of the world. Like Christ, Frodo willingly suffers great misery in his journey to undo the evil caused by others. Frodo ultimately defeats Sauron – the Satan figure. The analogy falls short because Frodo does eventually (though briefly) succumb to the ring’s power before it is destroyed.

Gandalf the Grey, who aids Frodo in his quest, also parallels Christ in some ways. Gandalf has a dual identity. He is humble and seems like an ordinary old man. Yet, he has existed from the beginning of creation and has tremendous seemingly supernatural power. Most significantly, Gandalf is killed early in the story, but is resurrected as Gandalf the White – as if to represent his glorified, eternal body.

From a creation perspective, the most interesting Christ-figure in this trilogy is Aragorn. Like Christ, Aragorn has a duel identity – one ordinary, one extraordinary. He goes by the name “Strider” – an unassuming ranger from the North, of humble apparel and few possessions. But secretly, he is also the rightful king of Gondor. Aragorn is a warrior who fights for good against incredible odds. He is able to “heal” people using herbs. In the movie, Aragorn falls in battle, and his comrades think he is dead. But he returns to them later, as if resurrected.

The First-Adam / Last-Adam connection here is remarkable. Aragorn’s distant ancestor was King Isildur. Isildur had the opportunity to destroy the ring, but he instead succumbed to temptation and kept the ring for himself. This led to his death, and plunged the world into an age of darkness, much as Adam’s sin brought death and suffering into the world. But Aragorn succeeds where his forefather failed. Aragorn does not succumb to temptation. He is not tempted by the glory and power the ring promises (see Matthew 4:8-10), but wants only to save the world from the evil bestowed upon it by his ancestor. After conquering evil, Aragorn is officially installed as the king. Likewise, Christ came into the world to save people from sin; Christ succeeded where Adam failed. Christ defeats evil and is installed as King (Psalm 2:6-9).

Conclusions

Many sci-fi and fantasy films contain such Gospel elements. These are not always intentional, nor are they always obvious. They are sometimes mixed with anti-biblical elements as well. The blending of Christian and anti-Christian themes may reflect the unbelievers’ mindset: having knowledge of God but suppressing that truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18). So the next time you watch a movie, see if you can pick out biblical and anti-biblical themes. Cinema may be entertaining. But why not let it serve to practice discernment as well?

20 Responses to The Gospel in Hollywood – Part 2

  1. A movie that had many Christ elements had me wondering at first if it was a parable was the 1982 version of Tron. Programs were in awe of Users, and a User became one of them to combat evil, and had great powers. As you said, science fiction and fantasy stories have weak spots in their analogies, but Tron had quite a few before the similarities fell apart.

  2. Nina Ruth says:

    To shorten my original reaction & subsequent nerdy epistle of joy…I mean…comment on this post:

    Great post – very enjoyable and thought-provoking.

    God bless.
    Antonina

  3. Nina Ruth says:

    Been thinking about…ok, obsessing over, the last part of your post for the past four days. Double imputation. Re-reading Romans along with one of my fave books (Newell’s Romans Verse by Verse), and was just praying from Ephesians 6 this morning. Got to the armor piece dealing with righteousness, and have tears in my eyes. No wonder the point you made regarding Dark Knight is so touching – grace is just astonishing. A double imputation! There are other spec fic examples of this, but the Real story of this blessedly unfair exchange has me overflowing in gratitude this morning.

    Thank you! I’d love to hear more about this theme…Good News never gets old!

  4. Nina Ruth says:

    Interesting observations about comic book heroes and current culture by Al Mohler:

    http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/04/12/briefing-04-12-17/?segment=3

  5. Val says:

    Hey Doc,

    Quick question (that has nothing to do with this post. I just didnt know how else to contact you.) I’m new to the Astronomy world and in my Astro Class my prof talks about new stars being born. Biblically speaking… does that make sense? Are there new stars being born or were they all created at Creation? Merci!

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      The original stars were all created on day 4. Although the Bible does not preclude the possibility of new stars forming, I haven’t seen any evidence that they do. Under the normal conditions that exist in interstellar space, gas will not spontaneously contract. So I very much doubt that new stars have formed since the original creation.

  6. Nina Ruth says:

    Praying for you this morning, Dr. Lisle.
    Happy (Young!) Earth Day! 😉

    Galatians 4:5-6
    Romans 8:15-16

  7. Tim Griffin says:

    seriously…dinosaurs are only 7000 years old. You embarrass people who are thoughtful and have faith. Your Youtube video in dinosaurs and the bible is just backward, lacks apprehension of simple genetics, aging, and scripture.

    You may be trying in earnest but I believe it is not in inspired.. Making arguments based on wrong assumptions and facts is misleading. You should be apologizing for misleading people.

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Tim,

      > seriously…dinosaurs are only 7000 years old.

      No, of course dinosaurs are not 7000 years old. That would make them 1000 years older than the universe – which would be absurd! Most dinosaur fossils are found in layers associated with the global flood described in Genesis 6-8, which puts their age around 4400 years ago. That is much younger than the age evolutionists believe for dinosaurs. But it explains why we find c-14 and soft-tissue in many dinosaur remains, which wouldn’t make sense if these creatures lived millions of years ago.

      > You embarrass people who are thoughtful and have faith.

      Faith in what? Not the Bible apparently. The Bible teaches that God created the universe in six days. That embarrasses some people because they have been brainwashed into thinking that the universe is billions of years old. The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted (Proverbs 29:25).

      > Your Youtube video in dinosaurs and the bible is just backward, lacks apprehension of simple genetics, aging, and scripture.

      Can you provide a specific example, and back it up with actual evidence?

      > You may be trying in earnest but I believe it is not in inspired..

      Do you mean that you don’t believe that the Bible is inspired by God? If so, what evidence do you have for that belief?

      > Making arguments based on wrong assumptions and facts is misleading.

      Yes. Many people have embraced evolution and deep time because they have been misled by bad arguments based on wrong assumptions. We attempt to correct this as much as possible.

      > You should be apologizing for misleading people.

      Can you back up your claim (that I am misleading people) with actual evidence, and not just your opinion? Hypothetically, if the Bible were not true, and people are just chemical accidents of evolution, why would it matter if one chemical accident “misleads” another chemical accident? If creation were not true, then what rational basis would you have for being upset with a chemical accident about anything whatsoever?

      • Josef says:

        “But it explains why we find c-14 and soft-tissue in many dinosaur remains, which wouldn’t make sense if these creatures lived millions of years ago.”

        It’s hard enough to believe soft-tissue could be found if a dinosaur had been dead for 4400 years. I bet if an animal the size of an elephant were dead and buried, none of its flesh would survive after 1 year. So imagine how much more faith it takes to believe it survived 65 million years!

        And I’m glad to see new content, Dr Lisle. Hope all is well.

        • J says:

          What do you think of the argument that evolutionists/old-earth believers use that the reason the soft tissue has been preserved is iron? Supposedly some ostrich blood vessels were preserved in a laboratory at room temperature for 2 years after being put into contact with iron.

          • Josef says:

            >”What do you think of the argument that evolutionists/old-earth believers use that the reason the soft tissue has been preserved is iron? Supposedly some ostrich blood vessels were preserved in a laboratory at room temperature for 2 years after being put into contact with iron.”

            The first thing that comes to my mind is I am reminded of what Dr. Lisle wrote regarding rescuing devices in “The Ultimate Proof of Creation” (if you haven’t read this book, I would recommend it as I actually feel it is a must-read for all Christians who want to defend their faith).

            But also, this is highly desperate. The study you’re referring to was a case where the ostrich blood vessels were soaked in an iron-rich liquid. But this seems pretty unrealistic, and doesn’t represent actual conditions in which the dinosaur blood vessels were found.

            Preserving blood vessels in a controlled environment like this for 2 years is one thing, but it’s a huge leap to say that because they were preserved for 2 years, this could account for 65 million years! Though ironically, this might explain thousands of years (as I said in my comment earlier, even 4400 years is hard to grasp).

            So unless evolutionists come up with a mechanism that demonstrates how the blood vessels could survive over 65 million years in a way that simulates actual/realistic conditions, then I don’t see how this can refute the obvious: the dinosaur bones simply aren’t millions of years old.

            Furthermore, I can’t help but think of the consistency of the evidence between the dinosaur soft-tissue and that we find C-14 in dinosaur bones (and actually virtually anything that has carbon). Since C-14 has a half life of approximately 5730 years, it simply cannot last for millions of years. Even if a dinosaur was made of 100% C-14, all of it would decayed well before 65 million years.

  8. Brayden says:

    Hello Dr. Lisle,
    I would like to ask a quick question: I recently read an article by Dr. Faulkner on Answers in Genesis in which he stated the raqia (expanse) which was named samayim (heavens) was made on Day 2; the astronomical bodies were place in samayim on Day 4. I read an article by you that stated the universe is expanding. But how can this be? Would the ‘waters above’ be above the universe? If so, how could the universe continue to expand. Dr. Faulkner believes the expansion was a past event. What do you think? What are the waters above mentioned on Day 2 of Creation Wekk?
    Thanks for much,
    Brayden

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Hi Brayden,

      The shamayim (heaven) basically means the sky – the visible hemisphere above Earth’s horizon. It can refer to the atmosphere, outer space, or both. When God separated the waters, that expanse (raqia) marked the separation of those below (ocean) and those above. God then called the expanse (raqia) heaven/sky (shamayim). So raqia also apparently refers to the visible sky. My suspicion is that the waters above are clouds – which are collections of liquid water droplets in suspension above much of the visible arch of the sky. Faulkner might disagree with me on this.

      The expansion of the heavens is alluded to in passages such as Isaiah 40:22. God apparently is stretching or has stretched out the universe – the starry realm – such that galaxies are farther away from each other than when the universe was first created. Is the expansion entirely in the past, or does it continue today? It’s impossible to know for sure. My guess is that it still continues.

  9. J says:

    I’ve been discussing the myth of neutrality with a journalist friend of mine. I suggested to him that neutrality and objectivity were impossible positions to take in regards to origins. He reluctantly agreed after some persuasion. He wanted to make the case that objectivity is at least possible in other matters. For instance, he said an unbiased reporter can objectively report the details of a crime scene. Do we has creationists say that objectivity is NEVER possible? Even at a surface level? I know I’m not wording this as well as I could, but perhaps some of Dr. Lisle’s readers can help here.

    • Josef says:

      >”He wanted to make the case that objectivity is at least possible in other matters. For instance, he said an unbiased reporter can objectively report the details of a crime scene. Do we has creationists say that objectivity is NEVER possible? Even at a surface level?”

      The myth of neutrality applies to all levels of reasoning, even in matters that one would consider trivial or surface level.

      First note that ironically he showed partiality in his example when he said, “An unbiased reporter…”. His example is begging the question as he’s already taken for granted that the reporter is unbiased.

      But even with this aside, we need to ask why a reporter should report things in an unbiased way? When we make claims of how people “ought” to behave, we’re really saying there is a moral standard that they should abide by. But does such a moral standard make sense apart from the Christian worldview? I think it’s been well demonstrated that an objective moral standard only makes sense in the the Christian/biblical worldview.

  10. Cambridge Hathaway says:

    Hello Dr. Lisle!

    (BTW this comment is unrelated to the post…sorry!)

    I cannot express how eye-opening and refreshing your book Ultimate Proof is!! It has helped me understand the Bible and the origins debate in a way that I could not have come to on my own. (I just have to say that the fact of the uniformity of nature is my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE way of questioning any worldview. Truly brilliant!! 🙂

    Anyway, I have been wanting to contact you for some time now and I didn’t know how else to do that. This one question has bugged me and I’m sure you will have a simple answer, but I just can’t get around it in my own head for some reason. It is this: Suppose Mr. Jeff Random grew up on a deserted island (maybe shipwrecked parents?) and had no access to the Scriptures. Now, we know the Bible is true, but Jeff can’t even read it. Yet he still trusts his senses, memory and the laws of logic. In fact, Jeff is blessed with impeccable logic, and realizes that he needs an ultimate standard to justify his senses and his logic, but he has none. Is Jeff then irrational for trusting his senses, memory, and logic? And an additional question: With such impeccable logic, would Jeff be able to discover all the attributes the Ultimate Standard would need in order to justify the things he has heretofore assumed? And one more (the last one I promise!): If he is able to discover the attributes of the Ultimate Standard through logic, wouldn’t his logic supersede the Ultimate Standard he has created/discovered?

    Sorry this is so long, but these are questions I have not been able to conclusively put to rest. But I know you will have a good answer!

    Thank you and God Bless You!!

    • Dr. Lisle says:

      Thanks for the encouraging feedback. I appreciate it! With your hypothetical scenario, I would say that Jeff does indeed have an ultimate standard for trusting his senses, memory, and laws of logic. And it is the same as ours: the biblical God. Romans 1:18 indicates that God has revealed Himself to everyone. God has “hardwired” knowledge of Himself, including some of His attributes (Romans 1:20) into all human beings, such that when we observe the world we recognize it as the creation of God. Jeff even knows about God’s moral standards which have been written on his heart (Romans 2:14-15), and he further knows that he doesn’t live up to God’s standard. So Jeff does have justification for trusting his senses, memory, laws of logic, morality, and uniformity in nature. However, he would have a more difficult time defending his presuppositions than someone who has read the Bible, because the Bible gives an objective and propositional description of the biblical God and His attributes.

      RE: “If he is able to discover the attributes of the Ultimate Standard through logic, wouldn’t his logic supersede the Ultimate Standard he has created/discovered?” No. What you use to discover something is not necessarily more ultimate than what is discovered. Astronomers use telescopes to observe the universe and to discover how laws of physics work; but that doesn’t make the telescope more foundational than the laws of physics that hold it together. We might see the roof and walls of a house, and conclude that it must have a foundation. But the roof and walls are not more ultimate than the foundation.

      I hope this helps. God bless.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *