Can Watching a Horror Film Save Your Soul?


William Peter Blatty, the son of Lebanese immigrants from New York, won an Oscar and three Golden Globes for his famous movie, The Exorcist. Before this film, Blatty’s success was limited. Most likely, the success of The Exorcist exceeded even his wild imagination. It turns out, the success of that movie extends beyond the material world and into the spiritual. God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.

Exorcist Salvation While Blatty was touring and doing interviews about his movie, a street kid from Los Angeles was studying martial arts. Mr. E grew up in the city, in a home which included daily beatings from his dad for both him and his mother. Mr. E was cruelly made tough. He could take a hit. And he learned to deliver one as well.

Nevertheless, the streets were hard. So, Mr. E decided that he could not yet match everyone on the streets. He had been fighting since he was a kid in grammar school. And he knew there were kids tougher than he was. Sort of foreshadowing the MMA/UFC movement, Mr. E decided he needed the extra advantage martial arts could give him.

Feeling relatively secure with his fighting abilities and martial arts training, Mr. E was beginning to trust himself more and more in the concrete jungle of inner-city LA.  Drugs, violence, and a cock-of-the-walk swagger characterized the young man’s life, until his friends took him to see this “bad” movie (Bad meant then what sick means now). The movie, in his words, “literally scared the hell out of me.”

The young man wasn’t scared because he realized the demonic powers might really exist. He knew such forces of evil were real. He was scared because of how much sense the movie made to him. He was scared because he felt like he knew these demonic powers. The movie made Mr. E realize that no amount of martial arts sophistry—no degree of toughness or physical power—could enable him to stand against the forces of evil.

The next Sunday—not knowing what else to do—Mr. E went to a local church and asked someone there to tell him whether God had the power to overcome the forces of evil. Can you imagine stepping out of Sunday school and being asked such a question by a troubled young man? What glorious Providence!

The young man went home after the service and devoured the Bible he was given, reading the gospels with such a liberating force that he knew he was saved before he reached the Great Commission of Matthew 28. His life was transformed, and his soul secured in the rest of Christ.

Today, this street kid no longer fights with his fists and his feet. He no longer needs the empty crutch of martial arts to protect him. He no longer craves the drugs that once drove his fleshly desires—he flushed two bags of dope the day he read the gospels. And he never went back.

Mr. E has earned college and seminary degrees and pastors a church in a growing suburb outside of LA. His life has been surrendered to fight the good fight of faith, a fight which has love as its aim and eternal security as its prize. Blatty may in fact be glad to know his movie played a part , but I doubt he ever expected The Exorcist to lead to the saving of a man’s soul.

Is it Evil to Say God Has Purpose for Evil in Connecticut?


To my post Did God Cause Kids to Die in Connecticut, some objected that it did not go far enough. Some believed that it was necessary to say that God actually caused the school shooting for the purpose of judging Americans for kicking God out of our schools. Yesterday, I demonstrated why that position is inaccurate. Today, I look to a different objection, one that says my original post went too far.

The original post argued that Adam Lanza was the immediate cause for the evil. As such, God would hold him accountable for God and Evil School Shootinghis sins. In addition, I argued that God was also active throughout the event, causing it to work together for His ultimate good. In all events, there is both a temporal (immediate) and eternal (ultimate) purpose.  Some disagree, stating that this theological idea goes too far.

Specifically, some say that viewing God as having a purpose to accomplish through evil makes God evil. Some even say it would be cruel to tell a child that God has a cause to accomplish through the school shooting in Connecticut.  So, I ask, Is it evil to say God orders evil for His ultimate purposes? I don’t think so for at least two reasons.

First, if God does not order evil for His ultimately good purposes, who does? If evil exists independently—apart from God’s authority over it—then there is a force (or being) outside of God’s control. If this is true, then God is diminished—He is not omnipotent. God is omnipotent only if he has the power to accomplish all of His will.  If there is a force (like Satan or human free will) which operates independently of God’s ultimate control, then God may not be able to accomplish all of His will (because there would be a force opposing His will which He does not control).  If that is true, then whatever else God may be, he could not be called sovereign or omnipotent. He could not guarantee that His ultimate will would be done. He could only guarantee that He would do His very best to accomplish His will.

Of course, there is the possibility that no one orders evil. That evil is some chaotic, non-directed force inherent in the universe without regard to an ordered will such as God’s (or Satan’s). But, again, I would say that an all-powerful God could not coexist with a force outside of His control. One could argue for a system of gods who are at war to establish good and evil (and authority and power), but one is not able to pretend that God is somehow sovereign but also not sovereign over free will or over evil. That would be like saying you are an unmarried man but you are not a bachelor. Either God is sovereign, or he is not.

Second, if there is no God, or if God is not sovereign over evil–using it to accomplish His purposes–then there would be no purpose for suffering and no hope in times of loss.  It might seem insensitive to tell young people that God has an ultimate purpose for this loss of life. It might seem harsh to suppose that God’s will somehow mysteriously encompasses the loss of twenty children in a Connecticut school around Christmastime. But as harsh as that might seem, it is nowhere near as harsh as saying that the children were lost with no purpose or meaning at all. It would be even worse to say that they were lost to the purposes of evil.

God does not work some things out according to the purpose of His inscrutable will. He works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).  It is not cruel to admit that glorious fact in the face of suffering; it is helpful and hopeful. What would be cruel would be to leave people without the hope of redemption. In this world, there will be the heartache of deep loss. Jesus was never unclear about that point.

It does not go too far to say what Jesus says (and what the Scripture teaches): God is sovereign, and now all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus (Matthew 28:18-20).  God is sovereign over evil. It is under His control—even if for a season we do not understand how that dynamic works. We can trust the ultimate hand of God to accomplish a good purpose through all of man’s evil (so Acts 4:28).  And in this world of tragedy, sin, and loss, we have the Word of God to instruct us:

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33, nasb).

 

Thoughts About Tanks at Church


There is no shortage of jokes with Kentucky at the butt-end, like the one which says in Kentucky a toothbrush really is just that—a tooth brush (because keeping a single tooth is an accomplishment).  Speaking of accomplishments, most Kentuckians consider reaching high school or buying a pair of shoes to be activities of the “upper crust.” — You get the picture.

But even by Kentucky standards, my neighbor is a little backward.  (Backward is not a bad word in Kentucky.  Parents use it to describe their shy children.  It just means they are noticeably shy or to themselves.)  My neighbor keeps to himself.  Yet, he is very noticeable for his hobby.  He has a hobby that draws attention to his place like no other hobby I could imagine.

My neighbor collects army tanks and artillery.  I have grown accustomed to seeing tank turrets swing around in the direction of my garage.  I’ve also posted a couple of FB pictures recently of the tanks in use at our church’s VBS this year.  Realizing that it is somewhat unusual for a church to sport machine guns, tanks, and troop carriers, I asked my neighbor what he thought about it.  His answer reminded me of why I love the backward and backwoods people of Kentucky.

When asked about artillery at church, my neighbor replied that it made perfectly good sense to him because the church still understands there is such a thing as evil, and evil must be confronted.  In fact, his exact words were, “Corralling people like animals and shoving them into ovens is not a misunderstanding. It is evil.”  He is right about that.  It is also evil to strap bombs to people and blow them up while they are at pizza parlors, subway stations, wedding parties, and public transit.

The tragedy of the situation is that in America he cannot any longer display his tanks or share his message in public schools.  My neighbor spoke of years gone by with a lost fondness in the face of a new reality which rejects his message now.  He is not welcome at the public schools—for the protection of the children.  He says parents and administrators are not interested in such a “controversial” message.  In his words, the prevailing attitude is that the enemy is not evil, just misunderstood.  Therapy is now the weapon of choice, not tanks.

Yet, the truth is a stubborn thing, and it will continue to challenge our false assumptions.  Case in point?  Major Hasan of Ft. Hood, Texas.  He was a therapist.  Yet, he was also a Muslim sworn to jihad against the army which employed him.  The army sought to placate and appease him.  He sought to kill American soldiers.  Therapy did not work with Major Hasan.  He needed to be confronted long before he murdered our military personnel.

In a strangely ironic way, we might actually agree that the enemy is misunderstood.  We think our enemies need empathy and understanding—but that is a misunderstanding.  They need to be called evil and confronted.  Otherwise, they will feel justified (as Major Hasan did) in executing justice from their perverted view of reality, thereby killing us in cafes and on buses.

At the end of the day, I’ll take the mocking for being a Kentuckian.  As a matter of fact, I am a Kentuckian of the worst kind: A Bullitt County, Kentuckian.  And I can rest comfortably at night because I know that my neighbor’s got my back if worse comes to worse.  In a real world with real evil at work in it, give me tanks and the common sense ways of Kentucky.