I’m just home from the movies.  A handful of saints from the church met at our local theater to check out the new movie Prometheus.  On the strength of a recommendation from a pastor friend and fellow sci-fi movie buff, I thought I’d check it out.  I needed this recommendation because, honestly, based upon the trailers, I couldn’t tell what the movie was about.  And, frankly, 3-D movies are too expensive nowadays to risk two hours on a sub-par plot.

So, how was “Prometheus”?  [Spoiler Alert]  Well… I think I’ll let you decide.  I will say this: Like a lot of people, I was most taken with the religious themes running through the movie.  Unlike a lot of sci-fi films that either take a condescending attitude toward religion, scoffing at the very notion of God’s existence, or those films that use bright lighting and a little feng shui on the set to turn New Age, pantheistic, panentheistic, and squishy, I rather enjoyed the almost point-counterpoint exchanges dabbled throughout Prometheus.  Here’s a movie that puts the question of origin and God’s existence center stage–perfect for an outing with that neighbor or friend that does not yet believe in the Lord.

I think the movie makes sharing the Good News easy because of the question it asks.  Prometheus doesn’t simply ask, “Is there a God?” or “Where do we come from?”, the movie pushes further and dares us to ask, “What if you meet your Maker and he’s angry with you?”

Ahh… now there’s a question worth asking!  And along the way, we meet some characters that illustrate for us all the wrong answers to that question.

There’s the eccentric multi-trillionaire who finances an expedition to another galaxy and planet in hopes of finding a way to stave off his imminent death.  He wants to meet his ‘maker’ so that he might go on living the lavish lifestyle he’s created.  But what happens when a rich man–young or old–finally meets his ‘maker’ but loves his money?  Let’s just say “walking away sad because he had a lot of possessions” would be the easy button.

Then there are the scoffers and mockers, those who reject belief and believers with disdain.  They’re scientists who love rocks and animal life but can’t bring themselves to seriously contemplate that the far flung galaxies and the microscopic alien life might actually be pointing to a ‘maker.’  Actually, they don’t have the privilege of meeting the ‘maker;’ they’re destroyed by his ‘angels’ long before seeing his face.

There’s the fella that tries to live off the faith of one close to him.  He seems stoked, but then a little disappointment chokes out that life.  His belly becomes his ‘god’ until his ‘god’ almost burst from his belly.  Filled with alcohol, his false faith goes up in flames.

Finally, we might consider those noble souls who sacrifice themselves on behalf of others.  They appear to live for themselves, seeking petty pleasures while maintaining religious festivals.  But when the chips are down, they man up and go all in to protect others.  ”Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).  And yet, their own sacrificial love cannot save them.  They perish and their deeds must soon be forgotten.  Even those who benefit from so noble a sacrifice cannot long ponder it and do not really reap any lasting benefit.

You see, if you meet your ‘maker’ and he is angry with you, you really don’t stand a chance against him.  How often the psalmist teaches us this: “Who can stand before you when you are angry?” (Ps. 76:7) ”No one who practices deceit will dwell in my house; no one who speaks falsely will stand in my presence” (Ps. 101:7).  ”If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3)  Or as the prophet asked and proclaimed: “Who can withstand his indignation? Who can endure his fierce anger? His wrath is poured out like fire; the rocks are shattered before him.” (Nah. 1:6).  Great and terrible is the anger of God Almighty!  Everyone faces the fierce anger of this great God unless His wrath can be turned away.

Prometheus surprises us.  We’re not sure what will be found, or if anything will be found at all.  But there, in the barren rock of a dark planet, lives a ‘maker’ who “welcomes” the self-interested seeker, the scoffer, and the self-righteous do-gooder with the same stunning outcome: swift and violent death.  They were taken in surprise, like those in Noah’s day who were marrying and giving in marriage when the floods came, like those on the last Day who will find that the end has come in stealth like a thief in the night.

Only one escapes.  And in that one we nearly see a parable of the Scripture: The ark of safety protects and carries only those who believe, like righteous Noah in the day of the flood (1 Pet. 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 2:5).  Ridiculed for her faith, question even by those with no soul, and brought face to face with the “Engineer” of her life, this one chooses to believe.  Her belief strengthens her and shields her until the day of her salvation, the day she enters the “ark” and flies into the heavens rather than sails in the flood.  Broken and battered, she’s “justified” by her faith.

And so in the end we’re left with a slightly different question: What happens when you meet your ‘maker’ trusting and believing in him?  Believing in the “Engineers” didn’t matter much in the movie.  Yet only the one who believed escaped the wrath of the ‘maker.’  Kinda reminds you again of the psalmist’s declaration: “Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Ps. 32:2).  Or as the Master himself put, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him shall never perish but have everlasting life.”  Seems to me that’s the lesson of Prometheus.  That and don’t judge a movie by its trailer.

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40 thoughts on “The Gospel According to “Prometheus””

  1. Darby Hicks says:

    Please put *SPOILER ALERT* at the top of this post since you reveal so much of the plot. Paragraphs 5 though 7 and 10-12 reveal way too much. You say “frankly, 3-D movies are too expensive nowadays to risk two hours on a sub-par plot.” But it’s even more frustrating to have major plot points revealed before you’ve plopped down hard-earned money to see a movie. I don’t want to take away from the value of your blog post, but you should warn readers who haven’t seen the movie that your remarks (profitable as they are) shouldn’t be read if they plan to see Prometheus.

    1. Karen Butler says:

      Actually, ‘Spoilers Don’t Spoil Anything’.

      Thabati has only increased your pleasure in viewing the movie, as recent studies have found that “knowing the ending might increase the narrative tension”, as for example in Oedipus, “the disparity in knowledge between the omniscient reader and the character marching to his doom.”

      The author continues, “In this age of information, we’ve become mildly obsessed with avoiding spoilers, staying away from social media lest we learn about the series finale of Lost or the surprising twist in the latest blockbuster. But this is a new habit. After all, mass culture consisted for thousands of years of stories that were incredibly predictable, from the Greek tragedy to the Shakespearean wedding to the Hollywood happy ending.”

      1. @Karen Butler: I have never thought of this before. And I am now going back and reading the bits I skimmed for fear of spoilers. Thank you!

  2. Dean P says:

    What I found so fascinating about not only all of the symbolism that you have mentioned here, but that despite all of the implied stuff that the director (Ridley Scott) has only hinted at in the film but also stuff that he has blatantly revealed in recent interviews SPOILER ALERT!(The Engineer’s mission to wipe out humanity 2000 years ago followed the death of an ambassador engineer sent as a last ditch effort to get humanity to change her ways before he was killed by us) is is then finding out not only that he is an agnostic but that he has an almost primal hatred and disdain for all organized religion. And he views it as the biggest problem in the world today. Yet he is still drawn to the grand narrative and themes that come from the Bible and it seems from this revelation a deep fascination in the life and words of Jesus. If your interested this is a great article that really analyzes the themes and symbols imbedded in the film. http://cavalorn.livejournal.com/584135.html

    1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

      Dean P.,

      Much thanks for the link to Cavalorn’s article. I saw the movie and didn’t see half of all the symbolism that Cavalorn noted.

      I saw the movie at about the same level of literary discernment as Pastor Thabiti.

      And my “why” for seeing the movie is that “Alien” was one of the scariest movies I’d ever seen as a teen-ager, and I was highly interested in seeing the genesis or explanatory prequel to “Alien”.

      Prometheus wasn’t as frightening as “Alien” but it was still disturbing.

      Lastly, Prometheus may give more fuel to Richard Dawkins’ theory of panspermia.

  3. Brinn Clayton says:

    I saw some parallels with Brothers Karamozov. The struggle of “believers” with those who have lost or do not have faith. David the android seemed to be a combination of Ivan and Smerdyakov from the book. Dr. Shaw was like Alyosha, the son who is a monk. Their interactions bring the questions or the existence of God, mockery of believers and freedom from authority. Smerdyakov says something like “doesn’t everybody want their father dead?” to his brother Ivan. David says the same thing to Dr. Shaw.
    Since this movie is not done by Christians, we can hardly expect them to represent “faith” and the arguments surrounding God with perfect understanding. But they are exploring these thoughts only proves man has a deep seeded need for God. Man is home religious. Let’s share with them the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

  4. I’m seeing this movie tonight! Unfortunately due to timing it also has to be in 3D (YUCK!), but I’m very excited to have some context in which to think about it. Thank you, Mr. Anyabwile!

    1. alex says:

      I have to say. One of the best 3D movies I’ve ever seen. I’ve only seen 2 before this. I thought the 3D actually added to the visuals and experience.

  5. Michael says:

    From what I’ve seen of the movie and read on it, it seems to be very nihilistic, just like the Alien movies. The Alien tagline was, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” The theme of Prometheus seems to be, “Sure, you can search for God, but there is nothing really there but pain, agony and death.”

  6. Matt Gladd says:

    Thanks for your post! I’ve always enjoyed sic-fi as a genre because I feel it tends to treat the difficult questions of life a little more boldly than other movie genres. Personally, I find it interesting that so many movies made largely by people who do not believe in God pus the movie envelope to the point of bursting at the seams with questions of where we come from?, and what is our purpose in life? People might dismiss God, but they cannot account in any other way an answer to the deep questions and they can’t avoid asking the questions either.

    SPOILER ALERT*** A small one, at least, in the movie, Dr. Holloway looks at Dr. Shaw and asks, “You’re STILL wearing that?” Looking at the cross necklace around her neck. Dr. Holloway professes to be a classic natural scientist, but instead of noticing how if this particular finding is true and their origins are found elsewhere that all evolution at least which includes humanity is false, he decides to mock Dr. Shaw for her faith. He behaves as if a trump card has been played with this new discovery, but the discovery itself undermines the fabric of natural science today and the entire theory of evolution, his beliefs. It’s interesting that instead of noting how his own beliefs have been shown wrong, he prefers to mock the beliefs of others.

    It’s a bit ironic, then, his comment about her faith and still wearing the cross necklace. He presumes her faith has been proven false while blindly missing the fact that the theory of evolution so closely linked with natural science today has been proven false in that discovery. This begs the question, if someone’s beliefs are proven false and their belief is in something other than the Christian faith, will they honestly confess their wrong or blindly go about promoting their false belief whether knowingly or unknowingly? I believe within nearly all sic-fi movies there is the underlying question of human existence and experience. What is our origin? What is our purpose? Though, these movies do not land home on the answers which can only be found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they seem to do the best they can unbeknownst to their makers to open doors to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We can pray that Christians will use this as an opportunity to address the deep questions of the heart and share the Gospel with others.

    For more on the questions and themes in sci-fi movies, see my latest 2 part blog post on The Quest for Otherness. http://thatishouldgain.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/the-quest-for-otherness-pt-1/

  7. Pete says:

    It’s too bad it’s such an awful movie. It tried to do some interesting things but I’m afraid Mr. Scott is far out of his depth.

  8. JJ says:

    I knew it was just a matter of time before some well-meaning believer started seeking for “Christian” themes in Prometheus. SPOILERS if you haven’t seen the film.

    While I appreciate the thesis question: what if you meet your maker and he’s angry with you? — they miss the entire point that this “creator” was veangeful and one-dimensional from the outset. not a God of perfect fellowship, but a Greek/Roman styled god of conquest. The article also misses the point that Shaw “escapes the wrath” of the maker BY KILLING the maker, and continues her ‘tower of babel’ quest at the end of the film by stating her intention to essentially “climbing” to heaven to question “god” even more.

    Does the writer of this article NOT SEE the pantheistic themes in Prometheus that are there from the outset? Shaw dreams, but even in her dreams her father assures her that “whatever you believe is right, as long as you believe it” — essentially, that heaven has a different name depending on your global/cultural GPS.

    Shaw’s “faith shields her” / “ark of safety”? Seriously? Shaw is portrayed as immoral and having a form of godliness but denying its power.

    This is my big gripe with Christians and cinemas. We are SO starved for God-honoring content, that we hastily give any film that appears remotely moral or “Christian” the rubber stamp of approval. let’s just take the movie for what it is: modern myth / hero’s journey paradigm. substituting “god” for any other macguffin and leave it at that. seriously.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi JJ,

      Thank you for stopping by the blog and leaving your comment. I could be reading your comment incorrectly, but you seem frustrated and perhaps that leads you to attribute more to the article than I actually write. So, for clarity, and hoping that cooler heads prevail in the discussion, let me add a couple counter-points.

      First, I don’t think the “engineers” are as one-dimensional as you posit. It’s clear that they’re the “creators” of the human race and from what we’re told in the film (frustratingly little!) the original creation was not malevolent. The big surprise is the discovery of a WMD facility apparently targeted to exterminate the human race. Meanwhile, we’re left guessing about the meaning of the ghost-like images of “engineers” fleeing through their ship with one being decapitated. What was that about? Calling the engineers “one-dimensional” seems to me to be a rather flat reading of them. It seems to me the more accurate statement would be to say we don’t know much about the motivation and character of the “engineers”–they’re still an enigma and leave us wondering what happened. (Actually, I’d say one serious weakness of the film is that there’s not much character development across the board)

      Second, Shaw does not kill the “maker.” The maker’s creation kills the maker. It’s an alien that consumes the last of the “engineers.” It’s not difficult to see a “death of God” nihilism at work there. And we’ve seen that movement in Christian history. It’s not difficult to make the connection.

      The tower of Babel allusion you make is a good one. You’re correct to say I didn’t make mention of of Shaw’s continuing quest because it’s difficult to know what it means (beyond the obvious set-up for a sequel). Here’s where I think your concern about over-spiritualizing the film might be more evenly applied to your own comments. Even as you critique my musings you pull on biblical themes to do so. Perhaps seeing those Christian themes is not as big a stretch as you contend???

      Honestly, I did not see any pantheistic themes in Prometheus. That’s part of what I think sets the movie apart from other films like Avatar, for example. The movie clearly aims at theistic themes. True, Shaw’s father takes a classic postmodern position on deity and heaven, but it’s not pantheistic or even panentheistic. And, once again, your citing the father’s liberal faith proves what I say at the start: Prometheus puts the question of “who is God” or “Is there a God” squarely in front of the viewer. That’s not a “well-meaning believer… seeking for ‘Christian’ themes” as much as it’s Mr. Scott directing us to these issues.

      Finally, I don’t pretend that Shaw is some morally pure character or even that her morality saves her. That, frankly, is partly why the movies makes getting to the gospel so easy. There are characters arguably less flawed morally than Shaw (take the co-pilots of the ship) who do heroic things but perish nonetheless. Why don’t they survive–especially when they had opportunity to escape? What’s the message being communicated by Shaw’s lone survival–especially after making so much fuss about her faith (explicitly Christian faith, at that) and about the symbols of that faith (her father’s cross)? It’s not difficult to see that sinners and the morally compromised are saved not by works of their own but by the grace of God. At this point, perhaps your comment (written in haste and frustration???) actually fails to understand or represent the logic and power of the gospel itself???

      Now, the movie doesn’t make this gospel point in some direct, Bible-quoting way. I assume the viewer would know that. But we can see the analogy to the Scriptures and if we’re seeing the movie with non-Christian friends then I think it’s wise for us to make these bridges.

      Nothing I’ve written is meant to be some seal of approval for the film. And I’m certainly not starved for God-honoring content; I have my Bible and the fellowship of the saints for that (which I enjoyed even as we watched the film together). “Read” the film in whatever way you’re lead. Draw analogies or not. Seems to me that’s long been the heart of literary and film criticism. “Beauty is still in the eye of the beholder,” don’t you think?

      Thanks for your comments and contribution to the discussion.

      For Him who saved me,
      Thabiti

      1. JJ says:

        I’ve read your reply. You are right, I did write pantheism, where I meant to write polytheism.

        To clarify, my comment was not written in haste or frustration. I am actually a filmmaker and screenwriter. I have also read 2 of Jon Spaihts (the co-author of this script’s) other screenplays. I can assure you there’s no Christian themes he was shooting for in those(consciously at least) and I am inclined to believe it is the same in his Alien prequel script. And a look at Mr. Lindelof’s (who rewrote the script) track record seems to indicate the same.

        Both are simply writing from the hero’s journey paradigm, drawn from Joseph Campbell’s “Power of Myth” and “Hero with a Thousand Faces” — which was more notably applied to screenwriting in recent years by Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey.” Every Hollywood film draws from this 12-point paradigm to some extent, and it’s a story structuring tool which most screenwriters know and are able to pitch. That paradigm begins with “The Ordinary World” and “The Call to Adventure” and concludes, in Act 3, with the “death & resurrection” moment of the hero. The device of the macguffin is a film plot device which describes the object the hero is seeking. In the above paradigm, it would be called the “seizing the sword” moment — when the hero gets what he’s after (at least he thinks he does). Which is why I said this film’s macguffin was Shaw’s “god.”

        Though you say Shaw did not kill her god but the proto-xenomorph did, that is true — nevertheless the screenwriters, in their understanding, have constructed a “god” who can be killed and it was Shaw’s intention to kill him by releasing the proto-xenomorph to attack him. So, to your point that I don’t understand the gospel, overall, I have to counter that by reminding you that Christ always looks at the heart MOTIVE and not merely the external behavior. The gospel says it’s not just our ACTIONS that are corrupt, but our very NATURE, including the thoughts and intents of the heart. So whether Shaw literally killed the engineer with her own hand is irrelevant. Even following your paradigm: she saw her “god” as malevolent and took it upon herself to kill him.

        My point in all of this is that I do not believe the screenwriters are writing from a Christian perspective at all. They may INDEED be writing from a fallen understanding of God — as we all are “writing” from that perspective before we come to know Christ — so the danger of “Christianizing” Prometheus lies in your attributing to these screenwriters motives and intentions that, apart from a public confession of faith/conversion by them, we have no reason to believe they possess. Therein lies the danger of presuming Christian themes and championing the film expressly for those themes. Yes you could follow the “all truth is God’s truth” path with this, but I think that contains snares. And scripture is clear in the fact that the screenwriters CERTAINLY don’t possess knowledge of God by their own cunning or understanding — the natural man cannot comprehend the things of God…which is also the danger of using a seeker analogy.

        My overall point is that “the hero’s journey” paradigm can give almost any film themes of redemption that may appear to “Christianize” it. I put this under the category of God’s general revelation of His nature and character, and to the fact that man — created in God’s image, though now fallen — will always be haunted by the God question and occassionally will do “good” things or write “good” stories — but those cannot and should not be taken as examples of man (Ridley Scott not excluded) somehow on his own hitting the spiritual bullseye and “achieving” some sort of Christian insight apart from Christ. That is the danger of so heavily and deeply reading a Christian cautionary fable into this text. Regarding my ‘tower of Babel’ comment — I was not misreading the (film) subtext as presented, I was commenting on the text from MY own Christian understanding from outside the world that the film presents. That being that, as written, Shaw’s and the screenwriters’ quest to have her continue to seek “God” was an exercise in hubris. That’s what was meant by my “tower of babel” comment. Hope that clears it up. At the end of the day I think the writers just tried to tell a good story. It was lacking in areas, yes, but as with any film it will be viewed through the eye of and pondered by the beholder.

        1. Gerald Mick says:

          Thanks for your post Thabite. I saw the movie its opening weekend and thought it was very entertaining (I hope there’s a sequel!). I loved your review and most of the comments too; you saw things I didn’t see in this movie, and I love to have my world view probed by a movie like this, especially with your insight–it makes me enjoy it and think about it even more. I wish I could learn to find ways to opening a gospel conversation with others so readily. Maybe it’s just a matter of engaging my brain more while watching instead of being such a cinematic hedonist? :)

        2. The Janitor says:

          Great discussion Mr. Anyabwile and JJ. I’ll say I was skeptical of your article after reading the title “The Gospel According to Prometheus” since there really is no gospel in Prometheus (Christ has paid the penalty for your sins and lived the perfect life you cannot). But I think your main article is good.

          When I read your article Mr. Anyabwile, I didn’t understand you to be saying that the screenwriters or director intended to communicate the points you brought out, which is how JJ seems to be reading you. Is this correct?

          If this is correct, then I think JJ’s criticisms don’t apply to you, even though JJ makes good points that should be considered.

          After all, I hope you would agree, JJ, that even though the director & screenwriter(s) may not *intend* to communicate anything about the Christian worldview, they can throw out bits and pieces that we can use as a spring board to discuss with friends and family? And to that end I think even your own points would be worth bringing up. For instance, you say ” this “creator” was veangeful and one-dimensional from the outset.” But of course I doubt you’re saying *this* is what the screenwriters and director were actually trying to communicate, right? After-all, maybe the screenwriters don’t intend vengeance (in the modern sense of the term with pejorative connotations), but justice. We don’t seem to have enough information in this movie. But you can read that into it and, thus, the movie gives rise to that discussion. And this is how I took Anyabwile’s remark that “Here’s a movie that puts the question of origin and God’s existence center stage–perfect for an outing with that neighbor or friend that does not yet believe in the Lord.” Not because it gives the right answers to God’s existence, but because it provides a framework in which we can give those answers after the movie.

          1. Thabiti says:

            Leave it to “the Janitor” to clean everything up! ;-) Yes, brother, I think you’ve understood my point/intent pretty well. Thanks for adding to the discussion!

            T-

    2. JJ, I always find it is helpful when viewing a movie to look at the themes and contemplate the worldview. We should always be discerning, yes? Some filmmakers do have themes that (while they obviously fall short of the scriptures) can be used as a jumping off point to talking about God and about our Christian worldview.

      No one is saying, “Prometheus is a Christian movie…it preaches the gospel.” I think the author was saying, “Here are some of the themes. You should use them to discuss BIGGER things…like Christianity…with your friends.”

      I’ve always thought it’s not only unhelpful but potentially pretty dangerous when we switch our minds off and think…this is only a movie.

      1. JJ says:

        yes, i understand and agree it is a helpful jumping off point. we should use any opportunity we can to discuss the gospel.

  9. Michael Beattie says:

    While it was an interesting movie, providing the back story to what led to the events depicted in the original “Alien” film I would like to warn fellow readers that much liberty is taken with the Holy Name of our Lord in various ways. If that is something you are sensitive please beware.

  10. Chris Miller says:

    It seems to me that it is not “christianizing” when a person points out redemptive themes in movies that were not consciously written with redemptive themes. Movies are not saved by Christ therefore movies are not Christian (in union with Christ). The fact is a person can find truth in even the most sinfully and evil written plots. Why? Because evil and sin do not and cannot exist apart from good and the truth of God. Evil and sin is merely using the good God has made and has given…using good for evil. Since the fall of man we have been using God’s good creation for evil (against God). Lets say that I created guns and my purpose for creating guns was so that you and I could hunt for food to eat and stay alive and love one another in good fellowship. But when I gave you the gun and told you my purpose for it…you picked up the gun and shot me with it. That was an evil act but it only exists dependent upon the goodness for which I purposed to make the gun. It is not Christianizing a film by pointing out the good and truth of God that is apparent there…it is simply announcing reality…announcing truth. Even films that were written consciously from a world view that correlates with being a Christian, have themes that one might point out as being against Christ in subtle ways.

  11. Trent DeJong says:

    It is one of my great pleasures to look at popular culture through the lens of the gospel and to eavesdrop on the conversation as artists like John Irving, David Shore, and Cormac McCarthy discuss the complexities of faith and doubt in their works, A Prayer for Owen Meany, House, Sunset Limited respectively. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott has come into the room and attempted to insert his thoughts into the conversation. The role of the moviegoer, Christian or otherwise, is not only to mine the film for truth, for all movies will have truth of some kind or another, but to evaluate how it wrestles with its central themes. In other words, do we allow it a seat at the table where faith and doubt are being discussed?

    I don’t think it should be allowed in the room. Rather, it should be set down in front of television with a large bowl of Cheezies while the grownups talk.

    I saw it opening night and I was tired, so maybe I missed the parts where this movie dealt with the issues surrounding faith and doubt in a post Christian world. (SPOILER ALERT) What I did see was a lady with a cross who believed in some transcendent good in the universe and a robot that didn’t. Oh, and the woman with the cross, got an abortion. My issue with the movie is that none of the complexities of the conversation about faith and doubt (and abortion) are appreciated. They are sort of just sprinkled on the surface to give the illusion of being profound.

    Yes, there are some things a Christian can pull out of the film and say this or that was Biblical. But really, it Scott isn’t going to take this theme seriously, I don’t see why I should.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Trent,

      Thanks for joining the conversation and leaving such helpful things to think about. By the way, I’m a real House fan–thanks for inserting that!

      Just a quick question: Do you intend to equate aborting an alien monster deceptively implanted by an amoral android with the kind of abortion we would all (I hope!) rightly oppose?

      I’m not sure the film really raises the abortion issue for any discussion. Nor do I think Scott would pull at some of these themes in the way Christians might. In the end, we’re just trying to make contact with some issues and ideas present in fallen culture. The Lord give us grace to do it winsomely, legitimately, and ultimately redemptively.

      T-

      1. Trent DeJong says:

        I agree the film does not raise the abortion issue for any discussion. I think he’s just tossing the abortion in there to be ironic. My critique is that this film doesn’t raise any issue for serious discussion, even though it presumes to deal with the very serious and complex issue of faith/doubt.

        I think he may be guilty of the same thing in the title. Maybe some of your readers are able to explain its significance to me. Prometheus created man and sorta fell for the little beggars so he stole forbidden fire from the gods and gave it to humans. For his pains he enjoyed a quotidian extraction of his liver by a raptor. At this point, I can’t figure out the relevance of this allusion. The only connection I see in Scott’s film is that the “engineer,” like Prometheus, created man. Where’s the Promethean rebellion against the gods? Where is the perpetual torture that is a result of immortality?

        Like the abortion, I suspect he just tossed the allusion in there to create the illusion of profundity.

        Regarding shallow characterization, did anyone else think that Mr. Weyland and David just like Mr. Burns and Smithers from the Simpsons?

        I must tell you that I am fully supportive of your desire to look at the popular arts from a Christian perspective. I just wish this film would have given us something important to talk about.

  12. Chris says:

    Scott adopted Dawkins’ views of humanity’s origins a few years ago- we come from aliens. He speaks plainly of this on the BBC series about science.

    You can lay a Biblical idea over this film, but it was not the intent of the author.

    I am a fan of Scott’s films (Blade Runner in particular) but this was just terrible story telling. This was Scott’s Ishtar or A.I. Baaaaad.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Chris and all,

      Just to be clear: I am not alleging that this post reflects Scott’s worldview or intent or perspective on origins. I’m simply saying these are my musings about ways to get to the gospel using the films characters and plot.

      And I couldn’t agree more about the plot. It’s fairly flat along with the flat characters as well.

      T-

  13. Jay says:

    According to a Christian movie review web site, this film has “nearly 20 misuses of God’s name, including four or five pairings with d‑‑n. Jesus’ name is abused three or four times.”

    So instead of being saddened and angered that the Name above all names is abused, this article actually tries to find a “religious theme” in this film? Lord help us all.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Jay,

      Thanks for coming by and thanks for pleading that the Lord would help us all. We all do need His help, do we not?

      As for the Christian movie review you’ve read, it would seem to me that blasphemy and taking the Lord’s name in vain is itself a “religious theme,” is it not? Rather than be saddened or angered and miss the obvious, I’m inclined to take the worldly thing itself and attempt some connections to the Truth. After all, the problem isn’t merely that the film has “nearly 20 misuses of God’s name, including four or five pairings with d–n,” or that “Jesus’ name is abused three or four times;” the problem is the heart of the filmmakers and the viewers. For its out of the abundance of the heart that man vainly speaks and blasphemies emerge. Yet the heart will never be addressed by Christian retreats into sadness and anger, which often have more to do with our self-righteousness (“thank God I’m not like these publicans”) than it does with either the proper fear of God or compassionate fear for the souls of the lost.

      I don’t claim this for my post, but it might be that compassion looks like telling people how to have a new and different heart through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s going to mean finding points of contact with an unclean world–of which there are many such points. Which itself will mean sticking around enough to actually talk with sinners and tax collectors–which we can find in the movie house as well as our family’s house. I think we need to think less about Christian movie reviews as an end while having more Christians viewing and engaging the thinking of movies.

      Just my opinion; I wouldn’t rob anyone of the liberty to go or not go to any particular film. Much grace to us all,

      T-

  14. Contrarian says:

    Interesting to read all the various “takes” on this movie. But what about this one, in light of its title:

    The tall beings in the cave drawings (engineers) are not God, but the ones who point us to Him, i.e. established religion. When reached, their great cavernous ship/temple/ship (which contains what appears to be an idol)is empty and their only survivor is on life support. Apparently, they have been destroyed by their own hubristic invention.

    The one character who has any “faith” at all, has neatly compartmentalized her faith and her science. After religion (personified by the engineers) is dead, she moves on as the only survivor in her search for the creator – a God who will meet her on her own terms and give her answers.

    Perhaps the story is less about the death of God or one person’s salvation, and more about the death of organized religion. Only those who can come to a nice, tidy separation of faith (in spite of the evidence) and science will be able to survive and continue their truth-quest.

    Prometheus is man’s striving for the ultimate knowledge. It releases man from ancient superstitions to seek after the real creator. This is embodied in the character of Dr. Shaw. At one point she asks, “But who created the engineers?” Her departure at the conclusion is simply mankind’s ongoing search for truth.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Contrarian,

      Thanks for putting forth a contrary opinion ;-). Actually, I think your reading is a very good one. It’s probably closer to the writer and director’s view of religion and faith. And your observation about the multiple “takes” on the film really helps to illustrate the basic point of the post: The film gives us a lot to talk about. It doesn’t give us everything to agree on, but that’s not what we ask our entertainment to do. That’s what we ask our religion to do, but not our entertainment. Which, of course, reveals why it’s so dangerous to see religion co-opted by entertainment. It leaves man without authority other than his own. And our unchecked authority (autonomy) makes us more beast than man. But I digress. We want movies to open questions and stir conversation. I don’t want to be finished with a film once I’ve seen it. I want the film, like a good novel, to be the beginning of the story and conversation. Perhaps that’s why epics like “The Lord of the Rings” has done so well and we’ll see “The Hobbit” hit screens soon. They leave us with more story to tell and debate to have. On that score, even with a flat story line and characters, I think Prometheus does what it ought to do–leave us talking and hopefully thinking too.

      T-

    2. Trent DeJong says:

      Thanks Contrarian — I think you are on to something here. Thanks.

  15. For what it’s worth, if anything, I left some remarks on Prometheus here.

    As many have noticed, Prometheus regurgitates Christian themes. For example, there’s the Christmas theme throughout the movie. There’s the main character who wears a cross. There’s the plot element that the main character is infertile or barren and can’t have kids. Yet she later has a “virgin birth” of an alien. There’s the allusion that Christ was really one of the engineers who came to Earth on a sort of goodwill peace mission; but since he was crucified by humans, this upset the engineers who created mankind, and so they (I suppose) created the aliens as biological weapons to punish humans who crucified Christ.

    But all this is on a backdrop of archaeologists in the movie coming across wall paintings and artifacts from ancient civilizations pointing to UFO visitations. I suppose this is meant to take its cue from the likes of Erich von Däniken, Raëlism, etc. The whole ancient astronauts idea. Although this isn’t new. Spielberg has done this sort of thing in his movies too. That’s what the latest Indiana Jones installment was all about, for example.

    This bleeds into Arthur C. Clarke’s “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” which a lot of secularists apply to religious miracles. In this sense the movie Prometheus is Ridley Scott trying to make sense of the big questions of life – where did we come from, why are we here, etc. – on secular scientific grounds. On the one hand, secular scientists are supposedly the voice of reason. On the other hand, if Prometheus is meant to be at all reasonable to some degree (despite the fictional storyline), there’s not a whole lot of stuff that’s less reasonable than the ancient astronauts theory.

    Secularism doesn’t have any myths of its own; it needs to borrow its symbolism from Christianity.

    (Also, I don’t know if it’s true, but I saw a YouTube clip where someone mentioned the moon where the movie takes place is LV-223 referring to Leviticus 22:3: “If any one of all your offspring throughout your generations approaches the holy things that the people of Israel dedicate to the Lord, while he has an uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from my presence: I am the Lord.”)

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Thabiti Anyabwile


Thabiti Anyabwile is assistant pastor for church planting at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC and a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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