mbm_book_official

I am excited to announce that my first book The Message Behind the Movie is being “rebooted” by Ignatius Press!

20180620_145328

A lot has happened to me since the book’s first publication. My family has been significantly enlarged, I completed a Ph.D. in theology, and moved across the country, and – perhaps most significantly to readers – I entered into full communion with the Catholic Church. (Why I gave up my job, doctoral studies, and much of my social network to become Catholic is recounted in Evangelical Exodus , so I will not go into it here.)

This event did not affect most of the books contents, and its basic structure remains the same. “Act One” goes into how to engage movies actively rather than merely watching them passively. “Act Two” considers topics particularly important to Christianity such as the knowability of truth, God’s existence, and discovering true religion. “Act Three” wraps it all up with some practical guidelines on which movies to watch. As with the original, many chapters include portions of an ongoing story illustrating the principles discussed in the chapter.

Besides providing a refreshing re-write of the general material, I am adding material that my previous publisher left on the cutting room floor. So not only will this book be a significant reboot, it will also be something of a Director’s Cut! Notable additions include: a metaphysical argument for the existence of God (plus its own Coffee Shop Talk  “extended scene”), a brief look at the argument from beauty, a historical argument that the Church demonstrates Christianity’s truth, a discussion of desensitization, and two new “Extra Features” looking at the cultural history of horror and the “clean films” controversy.

So here I am, ten years after sitting down to write my first book, sitting down to write it again! I am well into the process, and hope to see it come out in late 2018 or early 2019.

 

Advertisements

mbmrebootupdateMy manuscript submission goal is the end of August. My initial run-through is complete after about two months of line-by-line editing. I have rooted out most of the editorial changes I disliked from the first edition, added back material from the cutting room floor, and written several new sections. It will be great to have a more personal version of my first book!

trumanascends

To many Christians who viewed The Truman Show, the message was clearly anti-religion and perhaps even anti-Christian. Christian screenwriter and author Brian Godawa, for example, concluded that the message behind The Truman Show was “submission to God leads to slavery.”[i] If this sounds like a paranoid reading of the film, consider some of the details (remember, everything noticeable in a film matters!).

  • The director of the show is named Christof (“Christ-Off” or “of Christ”?) who of calls himself the Creator and acts like God by controlling the world speaking invisibly from the sky (“Cue the sun!” cf. Gen. 1:3 and 14-15).
  • The star of the show, Truman, is the “firstborn” (to the studio), feeds 5,000 (cameras), walks on water, undergoes a baptism, crosses a stormy sea in a boat, takes up a crucifixion position, resurrects, and ascends into the sky.
  • The challenge to Truman’s ignorance begins when a studio light “star”  named “Sirius 9 Canus Major” (aka “the morning star”) falls from heaven (see Isa. 14:12-14!) which leads the first man to seek knowledge – some of which he gets from his “first woman” (Sylvia, whose name is associated with trees).

There is simply too much biblical imagery here to ignore, especially considering that the film’s story could have been told without any of these Christian “Easter eggs” thrown in. Given the shape of the narrative and the use of such obviously intentional “symbolism,” it seems that Godawa’s analysis could be spot on.

Other Christian reviewers disagree, however. Steven Greydanus notes that although “the imagery of the film’s final act is suggestive [of] an anti-religious parable about rejecting God . . . a fleeting climactic prayer to the real God offered on Truman’s behalf suggests that the target is not God, but his presumptuous imitators.”[ii] Another reviewer, Mark Shea, brings this theme out even more, pointing out that the one praying, Sylvia, had an original show name of Lauren (a name meaning “guardian spirit”), and wears rosary-like beads on her wrist. Truman’s means of escaping the fake world of Christof is to sail on a boat (an ancient symbol of the Church) named the Santa Maria (St. Mary)! Thus, Shea concludes that The Truman Show is “highly amenable to the Catholic hope of Heaven. For it is, after all, Jesus who condemns ‘the god of this world’ and assures us there is a reality which is larger than what we see around us.”[iii]

So which is it? Is The Truman Show a brilliantly subversive film attacking religion and the sovereignty of God, or is it rather celebrating the true God’s gift of human freedom in its criticism of those who would take his place?

The rest of this new chapter in The Message Behind the Movie is coming soon!


[i] Brian Godawa, Hollywood Worldviews (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2002), 52.

[ii] Steven Greydanus, “The Truman Show

[iii] Mark Shea, “A Catholic Look at The Truman Show

Below is the newer and improved(er) Table of Contents as it exists today.

mbmtoc2

From the Unnecessary Cosmos to the Necessary Theos

“Consider the questions of existence: Who am I?  Why am I here?  Does God exist? These are the questions man has asked ever since he first gazed at the stars and dreamed. My Vulcan ancestors  . . . believed in a place where these questions of existence would be answered. . . . My brothers, we have been chosen to undertake the greatest adventure  of all time.” (Sybock, Star Trek V)

A more philosophical way of looking at creation begins by realizing that the cosmos is metaphysically unnecessary – it doesn’t have to exist just because of what it is. We can define everything in the cosmos whether any of those things exist or not. Rabbits and the Easter Bunny, teeth and the Tooth Fairy – we know what these things are, even though some of them exist and some do not. Anything that can be defined without existence is not something that exists simply because of what it is – otherwise, existence would be part of its nature – its definition.

Because they don’t have existence by nature, metaphysically unnecessary things unnecessary things have to have existence “added on to” their natures. They must be caused to exist. Since this is true of everything in the cosmos, something outside the cosmos is required to make it exist right now (not just “in the beginning”). Further, this thing cannot be getting its existence from something else, or we would be right back where we started from.

…To Be Continued…

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Coffee Shop God Talk (Extended Scene)

Not only has the content of the book been updated, Mike and Nita have returned in this extended Coffee Shop Talk which was recovered from the cutting room floor. It is a “popular level” discussion of an argument for the existence of God based on Thomas Aquinas’ philosophical work On Being and Essence. Enjoy!

. . .

“Well, let’s start with a premise that everyone can agree upon: Things exist.”

“That’s a pretty safe starting point!” Bert laughed. “OK, so things exist. So what?”

“Let’s begin with only one of those things – like a triangle. What is the definition of a triangle?”
“How about “a three sided, two dimensional figure”?
“Sounds good,” Mike responded. “Now, suppose I went through the universe and somehow destroyed all the triangles. How would that affect the definition of triangles?”
“It wouldn’t,” Bert said. ”Triangles would still have the same definition. In fact if they didn’t we wouldn’t know what one was if we saw it.”

“Very good,” answered Mike. “So what does that tell us about the existence of triangles?”
Bert caught on quickly. “That something doesn’t have to exist in order to be a triangle?”
“Excellent!” Mike said. “You’re well on your way to belief in God!” Everyone laughed.
Mike grinned. “I think you skipped a step or two,” Bert said wryly.

“Fair enough,” Mike replied, “let’s move on. So far we have discovered that triangles do not have to exist. That means they are not necessary. In philosophical terms, necessary means something that necessarily exists. It cannot come into, nor go out of, existence. Are triangles like this?” “No,” Bert answered. “Triangles are not necessary because they can exist or not.”
“Exactly,” Mike stated, “and it reveals something about the triangle’s definition.”

“I thought we already defined what a triangle is,” Bert said looking suspicious.
“Yes,” Mike said, ”and what did we say in this definition regarding existence?”
“We didn’t say anything about it in our definition.”
“And why not?
“Because existence is not part of its definition.”

“Correct again,” Mike said. Bert was following along very well so he pressed forward. “What would happen if existence were part of a triangle’s definition?”
“Then . . . triangles would have to exist,” Bert guessed.
“Very good,” Mike affirmed. “So you see then that we cannot simply define something into existence. For example, I could not define a unicorn as ‘a horse with a magic horn in its forehead that exists.’”
“Right,” Bert agreed, “because then unicorns would just pop into existence.”

“You’ve got it,” Mike answered. “Now let’s go back to triangles. Suppose that all triangles were in fact destroyed, could one come into existence?”
“Sure, I could draw one,” Bert said.
“And what would drawing a triangle do to its definition?” asked Mike.
“Nothing,” Bert answered. “There would just be one.”
“You mean that what a triangle is would not change?” Mike asked to clarify what was being said.
“Yes.”
“So what does that tell us about the actual existence of triangles?”
“That they must be caused to exist.”

“Very good,” Mike stated. “OK, let’s sum up what we have so far: Unnecessary things (like triangles) exist, but they do not have to exist. Therefore what something is and whether or not that thing exists is not the same thing.”

“Is that all we’ve got so far?” Bert moaned in mock exasperation. “Took us long enough!”
“Just wait ’till I get going!” laughed Mike.

 

…To Be Continued…