Two weeks ago, I was able to go off to Lewisburg to a place for those who work within parachurch or church ministry. During my time of refocusing, reflecting, and relaxing, I was able to watch a movie that has challenged my thinking. The movie is produced by a Christian organization and would not have that “Hollywood feel,” which sadly turns off a few Christians. I do not understand the comparison of expectations from production teams that have very limited monetary resources verses ones that seem to have unlimited ones, but this is for another post.
The plot of the movie is based on a professor of the Bible (Russel Carlisle) desire to publish a book back in 1890. The theme of the book is that it is most excellent to teach morality whether we are able to use the name of Jesus or not. The idea is that it is better to raise morality than to do nothing. Yet, one of his colleagues (Norris Anderson) challenges this notion that this is exactly what Satan desires. The serpent does not mind good morals. Good morals are great as long as we divorce the giver of these morals from these statutes. In essences, the colleague states that he would rather have someone steal something than to tell the person that stealing is just wrong. Why, because there is a chance that someone guilty of stealing will desire to come to Christ than an individual who is told just to be good.
Russel disagrees with Norris informing Mr. Anderson that he is delirious. Norris convinces his friend to be sent to the future to see how such a teaching could devastate future people. This is the part of the story where the underling premise is unfolded. There is a bit of comic relief as Russel tries to ascertain himself to the new culture. Yet, there is a great sadness of how far our culture has tumbled away from even the moral moorings of the 1890’s. Russel meets up with a librarian of a local university allowing for frank dialogue of the culture and the effects on Christianity. The librarian hits the theme of morality without Jesus again and again, profoundly awakening within Russel that his colleague’s critique is quite accurate. He returns back to 1890 and reworks his book to fit with his new research.
One aspect that hit home was what I believed to be an accurate display of the American church in broad strokes. Russel is muffed that for a majority of Christians “being there” is much more important than actual involvement like attentively listening to the preacher. The picture develops that you can get enthusiastic participation from many Christians to attend a movie outing but a small handful for the work of church like visitation. The movie pits the Christian’s overwhelming ability to accept sin as the cultural norm and an unwillingness to engage to stand up for what is morally right. Why, because we have lost our center of authority.
Another takeaway of this movie for me was the engagement on some very deep theological issues, especially dealing with how we relate to others within and outside of orthodox Evangelicalism. Today, we are inundated with the need to be liked. We seem to bend over backwards to please others without defending the truth. We do not want to be embarrassed or ridiculed. We would rather laugh at Russel than to stand with him and weep.
Instead of following the dictum, “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)” we stumble and fumble about. Why is this?
I encourage everyone to take some time to watch Time Changer and reflect on its message. Feel free to share your own thoughts.
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