Dennis Mansfield takes issue with Dr. James Dobson for refusing to endorse Evan Almighty. Before getting into this discussion, I should clarify that I do respect Dennis Mansfield and his accomplishments both past and present.
Having said that, Dr. Dobson raised a great concern:
My greatest objection to the film is its use of God’s name irreverently in eight or 10 instances, as in “oh my —.” It was simply unnecessary to write the script this way, and I was bothered by it. I was also uncomfortable with the depiction of our most righteous God as an ordinary man who, though endearing and warm, danced and performed funny miracles. Some people, even individuals with similar beliefs to mine, will not be offended by this presentation. But I was taught at my mother’s knee that God is profoundly holy, and we are to approach Him with deep humility and reverence. The first four of the Ten Commandments refer to this divine nature, including a warning to those who would misuse His name or refer to it disrespectfully. How can I endorse a movie that runs past those boundaries, even though most others do far worse?
Finally, I was concerned about the rewriting of the story of Noah and his ark. “God,” played charmingly by Morgan Freeman, told the new Noah character that the first flood occurred because the people hadn’t done enough “acts of random kindness” (as in A.R.K. Get it?). God destroyed the world and its inhabitants, the contemporary god said, not to punish a wicked and perverse generation as we read in Genesis 6, but as a benign object lesson to encourage people to be nicer to each other. It was bad theology and a radical distortion of Scripture.
As is usual with Dr. Dobson, I thought the response was quite appropriate and measured in tone. Dennis responds:
So, as I read his review I had to pause. Not because I disagreed with Dr. Dobson (though I did), but because I came to realize how I just don’t think I am “there” ….My forced entrance into the drug addiction world (and recovery world) has shown me: the deepest levels of pain can only be bridged by love, respect and honor. Not by criticism. Nor by inordinate “Christian-ism”, somehow out of synch with a world that is Biblically illiterate, yet it is starving and searching for truth. Somehow, withholding support for such a film pales in comparison to the things thadt REALLY are not good in our culture. Is “Evan Almighty GREAT”? No. but it is good. Is it BIBLICAL? No, but it is good. Is it a Sunday School lesson. Again, No – and it never was supposed to be.
I have to admit, this makes little sense to me. On one hand, the film is good because people are looking for truth and are biblicallly illiterate. On the other hand, the film is good even though its unbiblical and not truthful about the character of God. So, because people are searching for truth, it makes sense for Christians to support a film that tells an untruth about God.
While, I find the occurences of taking the name of the Lord in Vain to be a concern (as well as my own tolerance of it and desensitization to it in our culture), the question of the Truth of God’s character is essential.
God is often painted as some one-dimensional lovey dovey teddy bear, or an aloof “big guy in the sky.” Yet, our God is a consuming fire; He’s both perfect love and perfect judgment, and when a movie or a book creates something other than that, they’ve presented not the True God, but a false one.
If folks remember around the time I came to Boise, there was a huge row with AOL. AOL had run an ad for a New York Premiere that included this line, “You Didn’t Think We’d Launch Something Like This in Boise, Did You?” People were offended because our city had been defamed. How much more appropriate is it to be offended when God Himself is the subject of mockery and made into a false caricature?
Yes, I do believe that for recovery to happen and people to come to know Christ, we must be real, but being real is being honest about who we are and about who God is, and I can’t see how hurting people can be healed by stories of a God who’s made in the image of man, rather than being a portrayal of the true living God.