angels, Angels and Demons, christian, christianity, Dan Brown, demons, entertainment, faith, fiction, movies, religion, Roman Catholic, science, truth
Angels and Demons, the movie sequel (novel prequel) to Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code is showing in theaters now. The new film attempts, among other things, to explore the relationship between science and religion. Obviously, the movie and the book it’s based on are both fiction, but it seems as if the line between fact and fiction is often blurred in movies like this. Westminster Theological Seminary has created a website, Angels and Demons Truth, designed to help anyone who’s interested separate what’s fact from what’s fiction in the movie.
If you’d like to read a review of the movie from a Christian perspective, I recommend this one. Ben Witherington has also written a brief post about the movie, which you can find here. Reviews of the movie, even by Christians, are all over the map. Some are neutral, some negative, some critical, some positive. For example, Stephen McGarvey has written a pretty positive review of the movie:
If not for the fact that the story was originally written by the now infamous Dan Brown, Christians would be flocking to this movie. Angels & Demons not only portrays Christianity in a positive light, it has some thoughtful things to say about the apparent ageless conflicts between faith and science.
In light of the different ways Christians view the movies based on Dan Brown’s novels (and a lot of other movies, for that matter), I have some questions.
- Do you plan to watch Angels and Demons?
- Why or why not?
- How do you decide whether or not to watch a particular movie?
- What criteria do you use to assess the value of the movies you do watch, or do you simply watch them uncritically?
- What do you think about the disagreements Christians often have with each other over whether or not to watch a particular movie?
Barry: Thanks for posting this! I had not read a lot about this book or movie and was making an assumption that it was just more DaVinci Code. I am glad I took the time to read the review you linked to. I am not sure if I will go see it, but it will make it’s inevitable cable run with multiple showings that will make it hard to miss. I will wind up watching it then if not sooner.
I go to movies for entertainment not education, so I look for things that are well done, well acted and enjoyable that do not completely assault my Christian worldview. The downsides of this movie as to violence, language and the like do not trouble me to the point of not watching, but i prefer my movies with much less of that than a little more.
I prefer that movies, and the comments on them be less hurtful of people and more indicative of honest and true disagreement with each other. I do not suppose to judge other’s tastes in movies, but allow me mine. We live in a country that permits a wide range of artistic license; and an equally wide range of consumer preference and action.
David Porter said:
My wife and I saw this movie, in a matinee, a few days ago. It was OK. Nothing earth shattering. I would likely tell people to wait for the DVD to come out on Netflix.
Are far as controversy goes, it was nothing like The DaVinci Code. I supposed if you looked real, real, real, hard, you could come up with something. Certainly highlighted is the early Roman Catholic Church, verses Science.
The DaVinci code was so offensive because it struck at the core of our faith, and dreamed dreams that are not true (Gnosticism).
Here, in Angels & Demons, we find the tension between Rome & Science. A different matter altogether.
Laurie M. said:
I hardly ever go to movies at the theatre, only maybe once a year, and only then if it’s highly acclaimed by critics. We tend toward art films/ foreign films and the like – looking for beauty and depth. Paul usually picks them, because he’s more motivated, for one, and gets way more feedback from different sources. We also do not limit ourselves to films with viewpoints we agree with. We are not Michael Moore fans, for instance, but last night we sat down and watched his film “Sicko”. It was worth it. Well worth it.
We will likely not see Angels and Demons unless the reviews are almost universally fantastic. We did not see the DaVinci Code, because all reports we heard (secular & Christian) were that it was not a good film. Paul was not impressed with the book either. I’ve got to say, I’m very disappointed in the ability of people to discern fact from fiction, and am rather disgusted when writers take advantage of that fact to get their views across. I remember hearing, years ago, about the Celestine Prophecy. Folks were ga ga over that book, and it became almost a religious cult. People loved it and lived by it. When I picked it up to read it, I was fascinated. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was just a story, a very interesting story, very insightful, but fiction. This is what bothered about The DaVinci Code, and also The Shack, especially the Shack.
Paul M. said:
I don’t plan on watching Angels and Demons and I did not see The Da Vinci Code, but not for any ideological reason. I recall a blogger who said when The Da Vinci Code came out “The Catholic Church would probably do better instead of telling their followers not to see the Da Vinci Code because it is false, tell their followers not to see The Da Vinci Code because it sucks.” Pardon the crass terminology, but I agree with the sentiment and that did seem to be the conclusion drawn by the bulk of the criticism I have read.
I don’t shy away from films that I might disagree with. Usually, if I am in a video store, I stay completely in Classics, Documentary and Foreign although mainly I stick to the library’s DVD selection which saves me the trouble of finding those sections (and paying any money at all.) I avoid films that seem sensationalistic and bombastic, or hopeless, or purposely cruel, or entirely crude and devoid of meaningful social importance. I did not want to see the Dan Brown films because I did not want to throw my money as a reward to what I understood to be a bad movie no matter how big the kerfuffle. In fact I think that rewarding kerfuffles with box office money simply because of the hyped uproar undermines the quality of all movies to come. They get enough money from other people. We almost never go to the theater and usually when we do it’s usually for something that only plays at the little art house theater up the block.
The value I find in movies usually comes from the conversations that the films spark, the way I look at the world afterward, if the film has changed me in some way, evaluating the conversation with the artists involved in the film making. Again, the bulk of the Megaplex films scream to me that I will not get any of this from them; and I have no misgivings about eschewing new releases. It’s a bit like Twitter. Technology is not in its self vapid or lame or pointless. It’s as good as the people who wield the technology. For me one must never view films uncritically.
Certainly one must never leave their theology at the door. Cloaking myself daily in the truth of scripture, there is nothing Dan Brown has to say that will shake my faith. So, had I any desire to see the film and interact with his ideas I would not hesitate to do so. I would also have no problem telling my pastor that I did. Again, I do not have that particular desire. But were there a film out there with ideas, well formed and well explained, that may not match up to my own but would at the very least give me a lot to think and talk through about why, yes, I would see that film.
Barry Wallace said:
Andy, David, Laurie, Paul
Thanks for all the feedback on my questions! I believe it’s always a profitable exercise to think about why we do what we do, whether it’s watching a movie or something else. I wouldn’t disagree with anything any of you said, and I especially agree with a couple of points that were made.
1) There are some movies I won’t support simply because of their content. For me, The Da Vinci Code was one of those movies. It’s not because I feel threatened in any way by the content; it’s because I no more want to directly fund a movie that promotes heretical ideas than I would want to directly fund literature (like The Watchtower) that promotes heretical ideas. My view on that point is probably similar to David’s.
2) With Laurie, I find it disturbing that people are unable to distinguish fact from fiction, and that others take advantage of that fact to spread poisonous ideas. It makes me want to help people do the former, and to do whatever I can to prevent people from doing the latter.
3) Following up on that point, I agree with Paul that we should never watch a movie uncritically. There’s never a time when we can afford to be undiscerning. That may be the subject of my next post.
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