ONLINE SCHOOL: The online school for CARM is still going strong. I expect its completion in about 3-4 months. If you want to see a demo go to www.CARM.org/demo/equip.htm. It will be tuition based. $50. The goal is to both educate the body of Christ as well as help provide funding for CARM going full time. At the time of its release, if you cannot afford the online school then email me requesting a free signup and I will set you up for free, no questions asked. Remember, everything on CARM is free. Eight years of writing and 24 years of research have gone into it. I hope to be able to move CARM to a full time position so that I can research, write, and provide more free information. If you want to see what groups are listed for analysis, then please see the To do list of groups, issues, and people to cover.
REGARDING FULL TIME: I know that many of you already support CARM and want to see it go full-time. For those who are supporting, I thank you. If I go full time, I hope to get a staff (there are already several people interesting in raising their own support and joining CARM). This would greatly increase the ability of CARM to produce more research, tapes, books, etc. To that end, I have been considering moving this newsletter to a paid subscription format. For $10 per year, you'd receive this newsletter every other week.
Therefore, I am doing research as I try and determine what the best route to go is. If you would be willing to support CARM by signing up for a $10 annual subscription rate for this newsletter, would you simply drop an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know? It is a temporary email address that I have set up for the sole purpose of seeing who might be interested in this offer.
If I do this, I would put the newsletters on CARM three months after they are written instead of right away as I do now. So, you'd be getting this newsletter three months before anyone else. Again, if you would be interested in supporting CARM this way, please email me at email@example.com and let me know.
BOOK: I am still working on the book aimed at helping Christians keep their faith as then enter secular school. It is written in text chat dialogue format. The setting is a secular school where John, the Christian, discusses various topics with people in a class room called the Crucible, a room designed for open discussions on campus. John challenges the various presenters of seculars positions. It will cover atheism, evolution, philosophy, psychology, Christian defense, etc. Please pray for the successful development of this work.
CARM CONVENTION: The Next CARM convention is planned for May 21-22, in Redlands California at The River Christian Reformed Church. We hope to arrange a debate for Friday night and then follow up on Saturday with a full day of speakers. For more information on the conference please see, CARM Conference 2004.
Communion: The Greek word for communion is "koinonia." The word koinonia is rendered as "fellowship" in 1 Cor. 1:9 which says, "God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." This communion/fellowship is also with the body of Christ. 1 John 1:3 says, "what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you also may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." God desires that we have fellowship, intimacy with Him and with one another. It seems that the closer we commune with God, the better our fellowship is with one another. Therefore, communion is a desire of God for us and for one another.
The movie "The Passion" by Mel Gibson is an account of 12 hours of Christ's ministry dealing with His trial and crucifixion. It is a violent and graphic depiction that displays with great detail the painful ordeal of Christ. For this reason the movie is rated R.
If an R rated movie about Jesus weren't enough in itself to cause controversy, fuel has been added to the fire by a host of disparate critics. Some Jewish leaders worry that the film might incite anti-Semitism. Segments of Hollywood have decried the movie as a waste of time and nothing more than a religious self-cathartic effort of Mr. Gibson. And, of course, let's not leave out Christians. Some Christians are complaining that we should avoid the movie because it was made by a Roman Catholic who, I have heard, stated he wants it to help promote Roman Catholicism. This latter complaint is known as the genetic fallacy.
The genetic fallacy is the error of argumentation that attempts to endorse or disqualify a claim (or movie) because of the origin of the claim. Some Christians have fallen into this error because Mel Gibson is a Roman Catholic and they decry the movie for that reason. To my shock, I have even heard more than one Christian say the film is a tool of the devil, corrupted, and promotes Roman Catholicism....and they hadn't even seen it! The content of the film is what needs to be examined to see if the film has merit or not. It isn't the author that is in question. Let me illustrate.
If an atheist made a biblically accurate movie of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection and did so for the sole purpose of making money, does that mean the movie is bad or its message is invalid? Of course not. I would recommend the movie whole heartedly. In fact, I would rejoice that such a movie had been made, regardless of who made it, and I would pray that the Lord would use the film for His glory -- even though a "godless atheist" made it for the purpose of profit.
Okay, so what of the content of The Passion? Does it promote Roman Catholicism? Unfortunately, at the time of this article (2-20-2004), I have not seen the film so I cannot comment about the content. However, a CARM Board of Directors member has seen it and he told me it is excellent with no overtones of Roman Catholic theology except maybe a prolonged shot of Mary in anguish. He also said you don't watch the movie. You experience it.
CARM does not discourage examining the movie critically. We Christians need to do that, especially since official Roman Catholic theology has so many serious problems (Mariolatry, denial of justification by faith alone, purgatory, penance, etc.). CARM opposes such heresies. But, from what I have heard of the movie, these things are not in it. What is in it is a brutally detailed depiction of Christ's suffering, apparently, just as it really was.
Therefore, I am glad the movie is out because it depicts very accurately the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. Also, it is causing people to speak of Jesus and what He did. The power of seeing the depiction of the crucifixion will burn into the hearts and minds of countless people. For this I rejoice. I rejoice that Jesus is proclaimed, even if the motives of Mel Gibson are not pure.
Notice the underlined words in the verses above. The NIV says "...whether from false motives or true..." The RSV, KJV, and NKJV say, "whether in pretense or in truth." Pretense means the act of pretending, a false show, false outward appearance, etc. Paul was rejoicing that even those who had wrong motives for proclaiming Christ, were at least proclaiming Him. This is profoundly important because it recognizes the power of the person of Jesus. The movie isn't even out at the time of this article's writing and it has already caused all sorts of discussion about it and about Jesus. Praise God!
Of course, CARM does not advocate making any movie of Jesus. They should be done as close to the Bible as possible. CARM does not advocate the cults preaching Jesus because they preach a false Jesus. But The Passion does not. It teaches a biblically accurate account of Christ's passion, though with a little cinematic license.
Perhaps Mel Gibson, a dedicated Roman Catholic, is not Christian. Perhaps it is true that Mel Gibson has stated his purpose for making the movie was to promote Roman Catholicism. Okay, maybe his motives aren't pure, maybe they are done "in pretense." Maybe the movie doesn't present the defined gospel of justification by faith in Christ alone who is also God in flesh, as we Protestants so adamantly proclaim. Maybe it doesn't focus on the resurrection of Christ -- though the movie's last 12 seconds show the risen Lord. To me, it matters not about the motives of Mr. Gibson. It matters not if justification by faith is not explicitly presented (is it presented in the gospel accounts of the passion, or even in the pastoral epistles?). Instead, I rejoice that Christ is proclaimed -- at least He is proclaimed! I rejoice that millions of people, believers and unbelievers alike, will go see the movie and be forced to deal with the issue of that horrible event where the Son of God was crucified. Countless people will ponder its purpose and ask Christians about it. I rejoice that millions of Christians will have the opportunity to share the gospel. I rejoice that the Lord has ordained that this movie come forth. Praise God!
Does the movie violate Exodus 20:4-5?
Debate will always rage in the Christian church as to whether or not this includes making a film about Jesus. I do not condemn those who feel The Passion violates this commandment. They must be true to their own consciences. But, I do not believe the movie violates the commandment. Here are some commentaries on these verses in Exodus 20.
At the risk of offending people, I do not see making a movie that portrays Christ, in biblical fashion, to be a violation of the commandment to not make idols and graven images of God because we are not bowing before the image on the screen and it is not meant for worship. But, even if some erringly do idolize the movie, it does not mean that the movie itself is sinful.
But some might say that the image is then in the mind and people might look to it and mentally form an image of Jesus and that that violates the commandment. First of all, I do not believe that is not what the commandment means. It is dealing with graven images used in worship not about a movie used to promote Christ. Second, did not God Himself produce an image of Himself when He became man? Did God then violate the commandment? Of course not. Therefore, we can see that making an image of God is biblical: "And He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation," (Col. 1:15). Third, were the disciples breaking the commandment when they remembered what Christ looked like as they went about preaching and teaching? Fourth, have you ever drawn a picture of a triangle as you have tried to represent the Trinity? If we are to be literal about the commandment, then does this mean that all who have made such triangles have sinned because they have dared to make an image of God?
It is the spirit of the Law that is meant here, not the letter of the law. We are free to draw triangles to illustrate the truth of God. We are free to see movies that depict Christ as crucified and risen.
What should Christians do?
I believe the Christian should thank the Lord that such a powerful movie has been made which has provided us with a great opportunity to promote Christ. We need to get off our duffs, stop whining, pray and get ready to present the gospel. Ask for doors to be opened. Ask to be used of God. Also, for those who are complaining about this movie, then go support "real" Christian movies. Support "real" Christian media, missionaries, and efforts. Put your money where your mouth is.
Christians need to realize that the gospel is very powerful and even though a Roman Catholic made the movie, and whether or not it is tainted by Rome's heresies, we should be prayed-up and ready to present the true gospel to those who ask about the movie. The fact is that The Passion will generate a lot conversation about Jesus! Praise God! Christians should be rejoicing in that.
I hope that no Christian foolishly refuses to speak to someone about Jesus because his/her "principles" are such that he would not participate in an opportunity generated out of a movie he disagrees with.
Finally, the gospel is the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16). It is more powerful than a movie potentially tainted by Roman Catholic theology, that is authored by a Roman Catholic, and that hasn't presented justification by faith. We need to focus on the gospel. Preach it. Teach it. Live it. And, thank God for the opportunities to be used by Him to present it to the lost. It is important!!