Film and Culture Ramblings

New Wine-Skins Blog

This entry is a sort of preface to a series I’ll be beginning next week:  My Unabashedly Biased Top Ten Spiritually Significant Films of the Past Two Decades.  While I was writing about the first film on the list, the video (at the bottom of the post) of Mark Driscoll’s comments on “Avatar” during a sermon came to my attention.  Instead of spending much time criticizing it, I’ll just present it below and add that, based on Driscoll’s criteria for accusing “Avatar” of being demonic, “The Lord of the Rings” series should be seen as an equally pagan, modernist-industry bashing movie that hooked audiences through special effects.  Hopefully the absurdity here is evident.

Though he may not appreciate the category, Mark Driscoll is, here at least, a poignant example of someone who is taking a “Worldview Approach” to cultural engagement.  He sees the world as a battleground between competing worldviews.  One convinces another to become a Christian by pointing out the flaws in their worldview and demonstrating the reasonableness of their own.  Part of a pastor’s job is to attack worldviews that may be influencing his flock.

Another typical evangelical method of engaging culture is known as the “Market-Driven Approach,” or also the “attractional model.”  In this method, one sees what is culturally popular and attempts to use that as bait to draw people in.  For example, there is (was?) a church in Chicago that regularly has a raffle for cash prizes (with the “Price is Right” music playing in the background, nonetheless) during services in order to attract people to attend their church.  There’s nothing more popular than money, and as long as it gets people in the door…

The last method I wish to highlight is what New Wine tries to espouse, however unsuccessfully, the “Incarnational Approach.”  The Incarnational Approach (also known as missional), looks to build relationships in the community.  While hopefully also showing the reasonableness and attractiveness of the faith, one simply loves other people in word (and so verbal evangelism is not left behind) and in deed.  Despite the fact that this seems to more closely resemble Jesus’ and the apostles’ ministry, people are rarely argued into a different position anyway (especially emotionally laden beliefs like religion or politics), and rarely stick around when the “raffle” is over.

I hope the following series will be an imperfect example of how the church can engage the arts, and specifically films, in an incarnational way.  I hope it shows how each of these films get at profound questions that the gospel is dying to answer.

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