Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Disregarding “Exodus: Gods and Kings”

I don’t normally write movie reviews. In fact, this might be my first. I am a movie buff. And, when movies hold the Bible as their subject matter, I am often tempted to share my thoughts. That said, when the movie “Noah” was released earlier this year, I was able to easily resist the temptation since at the time it felt like such an unnecessary waste of my time to even watch it. Then along came “Exodus: Gods and Kings.” Why the different reaction regarding “Exodus” versus “Noah” you might ask? Well, they are alike in that they are both riddled with significant distortions of their source material (the Bible). But, where they are different is in their depiction of God, Himself. And it was the depiction of God in “Exodus” that served as the primary inspiration for this review.

This blog has long contended that the true battle over faith and reason begins with God’s identity. So, when a popular movie attempts to distort the identity of God, while ironically using the Bible as its source, I will likely weigh in. And, the chief distortion that this blog has often addressed concerning God’s identity is the repeated use of anthropomorphism. In simple terms, anthropomorphism is when we humanize something that is not human – in this case, God. Prior to sitting down, I was genuinely excited to see this movie and was somewhat engaged right up until the burning bush scene where we finally meet God. And, in this movie, God is depicted as an 11-year-old boy. And, not just any 11-year-old boy. But, this 11-year-old boy is petulant, childish, whiny and willing to resort to temper tantrums with the equally childish Moses. There are some pundits who have defended this as possibly representing something other than God. But, when Moses asked for the boy's name, the boy responded, “I AM.” For those of us who follow scripture, that is the name explicitly reserved for God. Therefore, all doubt is removed as to who this character is in the movie. From this point on I had to force myself to stay seated for the rest of the film.

As with most religious assertions, it is regarding God’s identity where this movie truly begins to fall apart in dramatic fashion (pun intended). Don’t get me wrong - it was a horrible movie even from a non-spiritual perspective. The plot was disconnected, the acting was sub-par, the music was not memorable, the character development was jerky and lacking, the special effects were not novel, and in a nutshell, the whole mess was boring. In fact, every memorable and entertaining aspect of the famous Moses/Exodus story was entirely neutered by this movie. The baby in the basket on the Nile was a passing mention, they marginalized the burning bush, naturalized most of the plagues, made the Red Sea parting virtually a mass bathing, and even transferred God’s etching of the Ten Commandments to Moses. I left wondering if there was anything this movie got right. I still can’t think of anything significant. Imagine seeing a movie about Humpty Dumpty with no wall, no fall and no horsemen. That would be a like analogy. But, all this distortion of the narrative might be remotely watchable if they just attempted to portray God rightly. But sadly, they did not.

Watching God depicted as a sulky boy is beyond detestable. I have seen God poorly depicted before as an old man, a young man, a woman and even an animal. But, I find a rotten boy to be the worst depiction I have seen yet. It is Isaiah 40:18 that asks the rhetorical questions, “With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?” A couple verses later, these questions are answered by the great Prophet, “He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing…The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” I don’t think an undisciplined brat even begins to rise to the challenge of comparison. Then again, nothing will. But, so many other possible depictions come so much closer than a screaming child.

There is more I could say about this movie. But, the failed depiction of God probably sums everything up. By getting that wrong, this movie was destined for spiritual failure from its beginning. And, by the way, it was even unfaithful in its closing scene. The movie ends with Moses very old and traveling in a covered wagon stabilizing a box (not the Ark of the Covenant) holding the tablets of stone. He then peaks outside the wagon to see God (the 11-year-old boy) walking next to the wagon following Moses as he did throughout the movie. Then, as they catch each other’s attention, the boy stops and stands still, thereby disappearing into the crowd that is closely following the moving wagon. It was as if Moses no longer needs God so God disappears. But, based upon the Isaiah passage above, isn’t spiritual reality exactly the opposite? Isn’t it we that pass away and God who continues on? Isn’t it God who goes before us and not us before Him? Isn’t it God that never leaves us while we repeatedly leave Him? Isn't it God who is always faithful, and especially so to His children?

Christian, if you have read this blog in time, you can save yourself the money and watch a more entertaining film. If, however, you have already seen the movie, I trust you have found this review to be faithful. Challenge what you have seen against God’s word. Only one of the two is lacking. And the identity that is lacking should be obvious to His children.

You can purchase my book, “Reason If You Will – How to Answer Questions Regarding Faith” by clicking the link/book cover at the top right of this page. And, you can also follow @ReasonIfYouWill on Twitter.