Constantine

Recommended with qualifications. Constantine is a mixed bag of good and bad theology with high production values, proving once again that secular movie makers make movies about Christian concepts better than Christians do. But everyone suffers because of it. This is basically a secular interpretation of spiritual warfare that a movie of Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness should have been. But this is a topic I am sore about, because it seems that the world does better movies about Christian themes than Christians do. Okay, The Omen or Left Behind? Which is better, Hmmmm? I wonder. By the way, The Omen still stands strong as a movie 30 years later. Scary as hell. I don’t even agree with its theology but I still think it’s the best Antichrist movie ever. (That is, until they make Hank Hannegraaf’s book The Last Disciple into an epic). The Exorcist or Raging Angels? Heck, even the Seventh Sign was better than the slew of Christian end times movies, and that was a pretty bad movie. I wrote a review of Constantine for Christian Research Journal, so I have to write something different here. Okay, so Constantine is an exorcist who has a special talent of seeing the spiritual world. He committed suicide in the past, but came back to life, so he is condemned to hell by Roman Catholic theology for a mortal sin. Therefore he seeks to work his way back to heaven by casting demons out of people and sending them to hell, thinking that his good deeds will outweigh his bad. Okay, here are the good things I liked about the movie: 1) you have to realize that in our postmodern society that denies evil as a cultural construct, a movie about good angels and evil demons battling over souls of men, with a REAL hell where people suffer for their sins, is A GOOD BEGINNING. No, an excellent beginning. After all, in our world, there is a growing number of people who actually believe that one God’s “terrorist” is another Satan’s “freedom fighter,” as if Satan has a legitimate perspective. As if evil is relative. Well, this movie dispels that ignorance pretty well and I like it for that. 2) It shows angels, not just demons, 3) it communicates a rudimentary notion of salvation through faith when Gabriel tells Constantine that he can’t earn his way to heaven because of the sin he’s committed. That’s a powerful truth that is certainly politically incorrect to communicate. Constantine begins the story with a grudge against God, and he thinks God is a “kid who’s not planning anything,” but ends up asking God for a little help at the climax and concludes that God does have “a plan for all of us.” Before I talk about what I didn’t like, I want to establish that a movie DOES NOT HAVE TO be theologically correct to be a legitimate story. Much like Jesus’ parables, the important point is the overall worldview or overall theme of the movie. I have a movie coming out about demon possession (The Visitation) that takes creative liberties with the concept of demon possession and healing. But the whole point of the story is how people can be religious and miss the truth if they don’t have it right to begin with. But having said that, I still must give my complaints of elements that bugged me about Constantine: 1) The entire scenario of the movie is based on a Dualistic worldview where God and the devil make a bet to win the souls of men, but only through influence, not direct contact. It makes them look more like equal powers fighting “to see who would win.” Constantine is an Arminian Free Will nightmare of dualism where God and the devil are near equal beings of power…” Think about it, If our salvation is all up to our will and God can’t change our hearts he can only persuade us—as the Arminian believes—then God really is no stronger than Satan in the battle for men. Satan really does have a chance to win if he can convince more men to his side. In this view, God is thought of as the most powerful being in the universe, but not truly all-powerful. And technically, he isn’t even the most powerful. Man’s will is the most powerful being in the universe and gosh, I sure hope God is good enough to convince man. You get the point. This is on the level of the light and dark sides of the Force baloney. Some may point to Job as an example of the wager, but that is a specific instance of one man’s life and God is always in control the entire time, which he makes very clear in the final chapters: “Job 42:2 “I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” In Constantine, it is the ultimate picture of the universe, a worldview. But if one looks at the Bible, there may be a bet in Job, but the whole story has already been written from beginning to end, or Genesis to Revelation, and God’s battles with Satan are predestined to failure for Satan. So, yes, there is struggle in Biblical spiritual warfare, but from God’s perspective, he is still in control of every thing that happens and has it all planned out. 2) Another thing is that they set up the “Spear of Destiny” that pierced Christ’s side as the McGuffin that the demons are trying to get a hold of. They say that Christ didn’t die on the cross, the spear killed him, so whoever has the spear will rule the world. Well, GOD SAYS that Jesus gave up his spirit and the spear merely proved he was already dead by illustrating the division of his blood and water flowing from his side. This is a typical occult Gnostic view that uses talismans as objects of power in the spirit world. I’m not against using these as cinematic symbols of spiritual powers all together, but it’s just the whole context makes it seem that even GOD can’t stop them. I am reminded of the famous line in Raiders of the Lost Ark where they say that whoever has the ark is unstoppable, as if God can’t even do so. But when they open the Ark, God does kill them cause they did not anticipate God’s power. 3) Another thing, Even though hell is real in this story, the depiction of demons ruling over hell is more like a Roman Catholic medieval picture out of Dante than the Bible. The Bible says that the devil and his angels will THEMSELVES be tormented forever in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). So, hell is not a party or realm of power for demons, it is a place of punishment for them as well as humans. 4) Also, the goal of the demons is to bring forth the “Son of the devil” by human birth, in the same was as Jesus was the “Son of God.” Well, this is a common movie convention, but it is terribly unbiblical. There is not a single Scripture that indicates Satan can have the same kind of incarnation that God had. Here is another of my censored sentences from the Journal article: “This may fit the fanciful theology of Left-Behinders whose blessed hope is the coming of an incarnate “Antichrist,” but it has no place in a biblical theology of incarnation.” 5) There is a voodoo witchdoctor who is portrayed as “neutral” in this battle between God and Satan. Which is a joke, because God says that witchcraft is detestable in his sight and that there is no neutrality, you are either for Him or against Him (Deut. 18:9-14, Matt 12:30). Neutrality is, as they say, a lie of the devil. Ain’t no purgatory, folks. And there ain’t no sin, like Constantine’s suicide for instance, that cannot be forgiven. 6) An interesting thing that they had in the movie was that they used the term, “half-breeds” of angels or demons who were suspended between heaven and hell or something like that. Well, that seemed to me to be a pretty racist language in today’s politically correct fascist fashion. But all in all, considering our anti-supernatural Darwinian society, I consider the spiritual breakthrough of Constantine more good than bad, and quite frankly, I’m glad Christians didn’t make it cause they probably would have screwed up even worse. (Unless it were me, of course ☺)

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