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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Friday, December 15, 2006

More on The Children of Men

I. The liberty which Christ has purchased for believers under the Gospel consists in their freedom from the guilt of sin, and condemning wrath of God, the curse of the moral law; and, in their being delivered from this present evil world, bondage to Satan, and dominion of sin; from the evil of afflictions, the sting of death, the victory of the grace, and everlasting damnation; as also, in their free access to God, and their yielding obedience unto Him, not out of slavish fear, but a child-like love and willing mind. All which were common also to believers under the law. But, under the New Testament, the liberty of Christians is further enlarged, in their freedom from the yoke of the ceremonial law, to which the Jewish Church was subjected; and in greater boldness of access to the throne of grace, and in fuller communications of the free Spirit of God, than believers under the law did ordinarily partake of.

II. God alone is Lord of the conscience, and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.

III. They who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, do practice any sin, or cherish any lust, do thereby destroy the end of Christian liberty, which is, that being delivered out of the hands of our enemies, we might serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life.

IV. And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church. and by the power of the civil magistrate.

- Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 20

A friend asked me today what knew about the movie The Children of Men, since he had seen me mention it on my blog. I’ve just recently begun reading the book, so my knowledge is little at this point. I had heard an interview with Ralph Wood (who some of you might know for his work on J. R. R. Tolkien, Walker Percy, or Flannery O’Connor) with Ken Myers on Myers’ Mars Hill Audio Journal a few years ago in which they talked about P. D. James and this book in general (the journal edition was no. 54, Jan./Feb. ’02). I had heard of James prior to this, but knew nothing about her. Since hearing the interview I’ve been intrigued, but her works have remained on the back burner, and this is the first time they’ve moved up front.

Here is what I do know: the book is set in the year 2021. The prose takes the form of a journal written by one Theodore Faron, an Oxford historian. The crisis point of the book is that no children have been born anywhere throughout the world since 1995. In spite of the attempts of science to rectify the problem, it has proven impotent in all its efforts (pardon the pun). I know that by the nature of the story there is a sort of pro-life and anti-naturalist bent to the book. I just finished chapter four today, so that’s about all I know about the book itself. I know that James herself is a Christian, a member of the Church of England.

I wanted, though, to buffer what might be viewed as an unconditioned recommendation of the movie. I mentioned it here because of the interest that James’s writings have conjured in the Christian community, especially among those who tend to engage more or less frequently in the so-called “culture wars”, or, in a less militant way, for those who simply see the place of enjoying the fruits of God’s creation in culture formed by the hands of men.

But I cannot wholly endorse the film. For one thing, I haven’t seen the movie, so it could be either a bad adaptation of the book (change of storyline, or something of the like), or for one reason or another just a poor film.

But secondly, I wanted to add a caveat based on the rating of the film. It is rated R, and the website follows this up with “strong violence” and “some drug use and brief nudity”. On the basis of this, I probably won’t go see the film myself. My big concern isn’t the violence, though I don’t personally enjoy a lot of violence in films. And the drug use is of no concern. But the nudity is a concern.

It’s hard sometimes to know exactly what is okay and what isn’t okay to view in the media. I think the average Christian knows that to view anything that might be labeled as pornography is a grave sin. The problem is in knowing what should and shouldn’t be labeled as pornography. “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous” (Hebrews 13:4). There have been those from within the Christian community throughout the history of the West that have argued in favor of nudity in art as legitimate, and I can’t fully argue against it. Nor would I seek to bind the conscience of any, hence the inclusion of Chapter 20 of the Westminster Confession of Faith above. And if one goes strictly by what is mentioned in connection with the rating, we may assume that what takes place in the film is just nudity, entirely apart from any hint of actual sexual conduct. I’m not sure that’s a safe assumption, but it’s the best one can do given the information provided.

I guess when it comes down to it, the question I have to ask myself is this: would I want my daughter, my sister, my wife, or my mother to be the one up on the screen and unclothed? The answer is an unequivocal “no!” It may actually be male nudity in the film. But since female nudity is far more common in movies today, I think it’s safe to expect that to be the case here.

One of the things that has gradually eroded in our society today is any concept of the reality of a woman’s honor. Women are meant to be honored, and where that has been erased from the consensus understanding of a community it is first and foremost the fault of the men of that community. This is not to say that women aren’t sinners too, or that they can’t do anything to cause or contribute to their dishonor. But where there is a failure in a community, it is a failure on the part of men to lead, and in this case, a failure on the part of men to hold up women as something to be treasured.

I think also of the general absence of shame in our society. Think, for instance: when was the last time you saw some one blush? Shame in a sinful world is a beautiful thing. It says that a person has a sense of purity of life and of mind. It is a sign of one’s consciousness of his or her own limitedness - a sense of humility. It is dismissed by the cynical and proud of the world, who deep down inside know they have lost their purity and who think there is no hope of recovering any of it. But God says otherwise.

The issue here isn’t really even my own purity as the one who will or will not see the film. The issue here is as it always is. I am to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. I am to give myself away in sacrifice where it is called for, as my Saviour did. I don’t think I can do that and go see this film, as much as I might like to. I leave it to you to decide whether or not you can.

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