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A Scottish-Presbyterian review of "The Passion" film

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  • Colin
    Here are some excerpts from a recent review of the Passion film from a Minister in the Free Church of Scotland:The Passion by Rev David Robertson[full
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 31, 2004
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      Here are some excerpts from a recent review of the Passion film from a
      Minister in the Free Church of Scotland:

      "The Passion" by Rev David Robertson

      [full review at]:
      http://www.freechurch.org/robbo.html

      "It is not often that yours truly sneaks away in the middle of the day from=

      the excitement of Free Church committee in order to frequent a cinematic
      establishment – especially when the film one is going to see is an 18 with =
      a
      reputation for excessive violence.  Not often, but it did happen.  Though i=
      t
      was with some degree of trepidation that, having been invited to attend a
      church leaders screening of the Passion in Edinburgh earlier this month, I =

      entered the UGC cinema.   Trepidation because I have little interest in
      Christ being portrayed by an actor and also because the film is so violent =

      that it has an 18 certificate.   That fear was well founded.  It was not a =

      pleasant experience.  The film is horrific.   There is no possibility of be=
      ing
      able to sit through it munching popcorn and drinking coke.  After watching =
      it
      I was shattered.  Worse I had to go back to Church committees and I had a
      migraine!   However since then I have taken some time to think about the
      film and have read a great deal both for and against. Let us look at some o=
      f
      these objections and some of the claims made for the film. 

      "....Another negative is the whole question of the second commandment. 
      There are those who would argue that it is de facto blasphemous for
      anyone to portray the Son of God.  I have a great deal of sympathy with
      that argument and I still think it is very significant that we have no phys=
      ical
      description of Christ within the New Testament.  However the argument
      proves too much.  Firstly the second commandment says nothing about
      pictures of Christ.  It forbids us making images to worship.  If a picture =
      of
      Christ was used for that purpose then it would be wrong.  But does that
      mean that all symbols and images are banned?  If that is the case then
      virtually every Presbyterian church I know in Scotland is guilty of idolatr=
      y. 
      Most of us have the symbol of the burning bush somewhere in our churches
      - I know that we say it speaks of the church not being consumed in the
      midst of persecution – but it was God who was in the bush – the God who
      revealed himself as Yahweh – the I AM.  The burning bush was holy
      ground.   Churches which have it as a symbol can hardly claim that they
      allow no symbols/images or pictorial representations of God.   ]

      "Meanwhile some would object that it is a terrible thing for an actor to
      attempt to portray Christ.  Again, whilst I would have some sympathy with
      that viewpoint, it also proves too much.  When we read the words of Jesus
      in the Gospels do we read them deadpan, without expression or feeling? 
      No, we do not.  We read them as we imagine Christ might have said them,
      with the emphasis, tone and feeling that Christ may have had (even though
      the Bible does not always tell us what the mood or tone was).  Why then is =

      it right for us to `act' the words of Christ in speaking them, but sinful f=
      or
      anyone to act the actions of Christ?   I accept that there is a real danger=
      in
      having an actor portray Christ – not least because it may leave the ignoran=
      t
      with the illusion that we know what Jesus looked like.  However as long as =
      it
      is not an image used for worship it is not breaking the second
      commandment.   Besides which the mental imagery left in my mind by The
      Passion is not that of an angelic looking almost unreal Christ but rather o=
      f a
      broken, bloody and beaten body.  It is the very opposite of the sanitised
      Jesus of much religious art.

      "The above are the most serious objections.   However there are others –
      some of which have come from the `Reformed' camp and which really make
      me ashamed.  The worst of these is the accusation that Mel Gibson is a
      catholic and therefore the film cannot be right.  An example of this kind o=
      f
      argument is the statement released by the Reformed Witness Committee of
      the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Ireland.  I know many good people in
      that church and I can hardlybelieve that the language used in this
      statement is representative of that Church.   It declares that `much of its=

      content comes from a book called `The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus
      Christ' by an 18th century German nun, Anne Emmerich,'.  This was
      obviously written by someone who had not seen the film.  The vast majority =

      of the Passion is straight out of Scripture.  Yes there are some extras, bu=
      t
      to be fair, they are largely peripheral and on the whole do not detract fro=
      m
      the clear biblical content.   Gibson told Christianity Today: "Wow, the
      Scriptures are the Scriptures – I mean they're unchangeable, although
      many people try to change them.  And I think that my first duty is to be as=

      faithful as possible in telling the story so that it doesn't contradict Scr=
      ipture". 
       The RP statement then goes on to declare that the message of the film is
      that of `Roman Catholicism, not Biblical Christianity' and attacks `Mel
      Gibson's non-existant pseudo-christ' as contrasted with `the Christ who
      really saves, the Christ of the Scriptures'.  I find such language ill info=
      rmed
      and deeply offensive.  If it is accurate then I am a Roman Catholic and I
      believe in the same Christ as Mel Gibson.  The Christ who is both God and
      man, the Christ who was crucified for our sin, the Christ who battled the
      devil, who rose from the dead and who ascended to heaven.  It is one thing =

      to disagree with someone portraying Jesus Christ, quite another to make
      such statements – statements which come very close to blasphemy.  In
      theological terms the author should know that Roman Catholic christology is=

      not the problem – the RC's are as sound on that as any Ulster
      Presbyterian!  It is on the whole question of soteriology that RC theology =
      is
      unbiblical.   `Needy sinners' as the RP church points out need the Christ
      who really saves. They do not need ill informed criticism which comes acros=
      s
      as little more than sectarian prejudice.  Many people, many of my non-
      Christian friends, will go to see this film – a film which tells them about=
      the
      Christ who really saves. With all its faults I am still thankful for that. =
       
      Certainly let us correct the false impressions, the misunderstandings and l=
      et
      us tell people why Jesus died (as the film does – it opens with Isaiah 53 –=

      he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities). =


      "What about the film itself?  You will understand that this is very much a =

      personal reaction.  Others may react and think differently.   It is a well =
      made
      film which is generally faithful to the biblical text.   

      "I was also impressed by the portrayal of the devil as a genderless cold
      menacing figure.    It is quite clear that Mel Gibson believes in a literal=
      devil
      and that there was a spiritual battle and struggle going on.   He also
      believes in a literal resurrection.  The Passion ends with the resurrection=

      and a note to triumph and wonder."

      "Those who speak about the spiritual sufferings of Christ being the
      important thing are sometimes almost dismissive of the physical.  Indeed it=
      is
      one of the major objections that some have to the film.  Again I find mysel=
      f
      having to agree with this to some extent.  The Passion does not do a great =

      job of portraying the alienation of the Son from the Father or the burden o=
      f
      his carrying the sins of the world.  Perhaps it would be asking too much to=

      see that conveyed in film – which after all is a far more limited medium th=
      at
      the written word.   But there are those who seem to go almost to the other =

      extreme – denying the importance and validity of the physical suffering of =

      Christ.

      "....Some argue that the Bible says very little about the physical sufferin=
      gs
      of Jesus.  I disagree.  There is considerable detail.  My bible tells me th=
      at
      they spat in his face, struck him with their fists, slapped him, mocked him=
      ,
      bound him, flogged him, stripped him, twisted together a crown of thorns
      and set it upon his head, struck him on the head with a staff and crucified=

      him.  Hardly a shortage of detail!  Besides which I don't notice a great de=
      al
      of detail given in the Scriptures about the `spiritual suffering'.  That do=
      es not
      make it unimportant.
       
      " I came away from that film absolutely convicted and convinced of the
      amazing love of Jesus Christ.  Maybe you might want to argue that I should =

      feel that all the time.   Maybe you would be right.  Maybe you have that
      awareness – but I do not.  So many things get in the way of my sight of
      Christ.  "The Passion of the Christ" [film] cleared away a lot of the debri=
      s
      and helped me to think about Jesus and to love him more. How can that be
      wrong? 

      "I am not saying that every one should go to see the film.  There are good =

      Christians who will not go to see it and who will have good reasons for not=

      going.  There is no problem with that.   It is not the fifth Gospel!    Nor=
      am I
      going to state what every individuals response to it should be.  But I am
      profoundly thankful that in every newspaper in the land, in every universit=
      y
      and at dinner tables up and down the country one of the hottest topics of
      conversation this Easter is going to be the Cross of Christ.  Our local
      contemporary arts cinema is hosting four discussions on the meaning of the =

      Passion.  You could not buy an opportunity like that!   Whether you see the=

      film or not, is that not a fantastic thing?  

      "The film did not take away from the Word of God.  Nor from the necessity
      of preaching.  In fact for me it made it all the more essential.  The film =
      was
      so important and moving for me because I know why Christ suffered.  And I
      know who suffered.   Many many people will go to the cinema, watch this
      film and not know.  We have to tell them.  That is the important thing. 
      Seeing this film is not an essential prelude to becoming a Christian. 
      Hearing the word of Christ is.   I know that there are those who will argue=

      that The Passion communicates the gospel in image to a visual generation
      in a way which preaching does not.  I disagree.  The Passion is a graphic
      account of what crucifixion involves.  It is a great reminder of what Chris=
      t
      suffered.  But on its own it will not proclaim the Gospel.  It can be a gre=
      at
      help but more is needed.     It does not tell us who Christ is, or really w=
      hy he
      suffered.  It does not say a great deal about the life of Christ, his mirac=
      les
      and context set within the whole Bible.    Which is why we need the word
      and the Spirit.     And that of course was true for the event itself.  Ther=
      e
      were many who witnessed the Cross who were not converted by it.  It was
      not until the day of Pentecost, when Peter preached the Word and the
      Spirit came that thousands were convicted and brought to a saving faith in =

      Jesus.    The crucified Christ needed to be preached.  He still does.' [End=

      quote]

      Colin 
    • Deejay
      Well, just a quick ponderization... do many folks who have seen the film Braveheart not think of Mel Gibson when they hear Braveheart s name? I think its
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 31, 2004
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        Well,  just a quick ponderization...  do many folks  who have  seen the film Braveheart not think of Mel Gibson when they hear Braveheart's  name?
         
        I think its a relevant parallel.    
         
        ~Deejay<---still recovering from seeing Mel Gibson in a kilt.
         
         
        -----Original Message-----
        From: Colin [mailto:ctx292@...]
        Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2004 7:53 PM
        To: covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [Covenanted Reformation] A Scottish-Presbyterian review of "The Passion" film

        Here are some excerpts from a recent review of the Passion film from a
        Minister in the Free Church of Scotland:

        "The Passion" by Rev David Robertson

        [full review at]:
        http://www.freechurch.org/robbo.html

        "It is not often that yours truly sneaks away in the middle of the day from=

        the excitement of Free Church committee in order to frequent a cinematic
        establishment – especially when the film one is going to see is an 18 with =
        a
        hy he
        suffered.  It does not say a great deal about the life of Christ, his mirac=
        les
        and context set within the whole Bible.    Which is why we need the word
        and the Spirit.     And that of course was true for the event itself.  Ther=
        e
        were many who witnessed the Cross who were not converted by it.  It was

        Colin 


        Delivery confirmed by confimax.com
      • Karsten Nordmo
        thanks for posting this review, Colin David Robertson is a good guy, but it s not the first time I ve disagreed with one of his editorials :) It declares that
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 31, 2004
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          thanks for posting this review, Colin

          David Robertson is a good guy, but it's not the first time I've
          disagreed with one of his editorials :)

          It declares that `much of its=> > content comes from a book called
          `The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus > Christ' by an 18th century
          German nun, Anne Emmerich,'.  This was
          > obviously written by someone who had not seen the film.  The vast
          majority > of the Passion is straight out of Scripture. 

          that really is a moot point. The same thing is true about Anne
          Emmerich's visions..The vast majority of the Dolorous Passion of Our
          Lord Jesus resembles or is straight out of Scripture, also


          sight of
          > Christ.  "The Passion of the Christ" [film] cleared away a lot of
          the debri=> s > and helped me to think about Jesus and to love him
          more. How can that be > wrong? 
          >

          How could it ? I seem to recall one of David Robertson's pieces
          which took the opposite tack on another issue. It was many moons ago,
          but I'll see if I can locate it in the editorial archive :)

          God Bless,
          Karsten
        • Karsten Nordmo
          thanks for posting this review, Colin David Robertson is a good guy, but it s not the first time I ve disagreed with one of his editorials :) It declares that
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 31, 2004
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            thanks for posting this review, Colin

            David Robertson is a good guy, but it's not the first time I've
            disagreed with one of his editorials :)

            It declares that `much of its=> > content comes from a book called
            `The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus > Christ' by an 18th century
            German nun, Anne Emmerich,'.  This was
            > obviously written by someone who had not seen the film.  The vast
            majority > of the Passion is straight out of Scripture. 

            that really is a moot point. The same thing is true about Anne
            Emmerich's visions..The vast majority of the Dolorous Passion of Our
            Lord Jesus resembles or is straight out of Scripture, also


            sight of
            > Christ.  "The Passion of the Christ" [film] cleared away a lot of
            the debri=> s > and helped me to think about Jesus and to love him
            more. How can that be > wrong? 
            >

            How could it ? I seem to recall one of David Robertson's pieces
            which took the opposite tack on another issue. It was many moons ago,
            but I'll see if I can locate it in the editorial archive :)

            God Bless,
            Karsten
          • gmw
            ... Yes, like those who framed and those who hold to the Westminster Standards. [T]he making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 31, 2004
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              --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, "Colin"
              <ctx292@y...> quoted a guy saying:

              > There are those who would argue that it is de facto blasphemous for
              > anyone to portray the Son of God.

              Yes, like those who framed and those who hold to the Westminster
              Standards.

              "[T]he making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three
              persons" is forbidden in the second commandment, and I don't frankly
              care to hear from anyone else in this forum either pretending to hold
              to the Standards but in reality arguing contrary to them, or outright
              disagreeing with them concerning this issue.

              gmw.
            • Karsten Nordmo
              The Passion of the Christ [film] cleared away a lot of ... Hello, I wasn t able to locate the article I was thinking of or maybe it was in another piece. I
              Message 6 of 7 , Apr 1, 2004
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                "The Passion of the Christ" [film] cleared away a lot of
                > the debri=> s > and helped me to think about Jesus and to love him
                > more. How can that be > wrong? 
                > >

                Hello,

                I wasn't able to locate the article I was thinking of or maybe it was
                in another piece.

                I would like to throw this out, though. How is the above quote any
                different from icon worship ? Really. I can't believe the reaction to
                this film ("historically and scripturally accurate" being the
                oft-repeated phrase, when it's not) and the setting aside of the
                Second Commandment and the means of worship from most in the Reformed
                community, it seems.

                FWIW,
                Karsten
              • s.padbury@tiscali.co.uk
                Quoting Colin paste-in from the FC of Scotland:-
                Message 7 of 7 , Apr 2, 2004
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                  Quoting Colin' paste-in from the FC of Scotland:-

                  <<"The RP statement [against Mel Gibson's film] then goes on to declare
                  that the message of the film is that of `Roman Catholicism, not Biblical
                  Christianity' and attacks `Mel
                  Gibson's non-existant pseudo-christ' as contrasted with `the Christ who
                  really saves, the Christ of the Scriptures'. I find such language ill informed
                  and deeply offensive. If it is accurate then I am a Roman Catholic and
                  I believe in the same Christ as Mel Gibson.">>

                  Quoting myself:-

                  <<The Second Commandment does not merely cover worship that take place within
                  public acts at stated times, but it covers *any* man-graven image that is
                  intended to portray God. Never can we accept a man-made depiction of anything
                  in the universe, adopting as our own belief concerning that man-made thing,
                  "This is indeed a representation of my god. My god is (even somewhat) like
                  this thing."
                  It is because we always, men always, misrepresent God (Christ Himself alone
                  excepted); and by however much we do so, by that much we dishonour God.
                  And besides this dishonour that is always done, the artist (metal-worker,
                  painter, actor) and the approver thereof are also violating God's revealed
                  commandment.>>

                  I say moreover:-

                  It is obvious from that FC member's own words that he thinks Mel Gibson's
                  portrayal of Christ is the Scriptural Christ, indeed he agrees that the
                  film is Scripturally accurate in most places at least.

                  Besides this, and moving on from the Second Commandment to further discuss
                  this movie which I have no intension of seeing:-

                  (1.) We Reformed Christians have no hesitation to say that the teachings
                  of the Romish church concernig the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ are
                  not the true, Scriptural gospel.

                  (2.) Mel Gibson obviously would not have betrayed his own thinking concerning
                  these matters, or his beloved hard-line form of the doctrines of Rome concerning
                  the sacrifice of their version of the Lord Jesus Christ, or his own priest(s),
                  or his pope.

                  (3.) We know that there are many high ranking Romanists who are on record
                  as giving this movie their approval. And that's an understatement!

                  (4.) Therefore we can do no other (I intentionally echo Martin Luther here)
                  than conclude that this is an heretical, blasphemous, anti-Christian and
                  anti-Christ movie.

                  Metaphorically speaking, you have to be blind not to see this.

                  Sincerely,

                  Simon Padbury.


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