Category Archives: World Religions

The Fountain

the-fountain.jpgA couple weekends ago my wife and I watched a movie called The Fountain.  If I had to describe this movie in one word it would be “interesting.”  There is no denying that The Fountain is a movie of great intelligence.  It was uniquely developed whether you believe it was ahead of its time or just too complicated to be enjoyed.  The story consists of three accounts in time making up the past, present, and future.  Hugh Jackman plays the main character in each time period.  In the past, Jackman plays Tomas, a conquistador in the service of Queen Isabella.  In the present, he plays the research oncologist Tommy Creo.  In the future, he is an astronaut named Tom.  Though they exist in drastically different time periods, each character is connected by a common quest.  That quest is the search for immortality and the defeat of death.  They have their reasons for such a quest but a recurring factor amongst them all is their love for a woman.  And so it is that love drives these men to pursue immortality.

Here is where the water gets pretty muddy though.  It is hard to tell where the direct intersection between these characters exists.  All three time periods revolve around a particular Mayan story of the cycle of life.  However, the movie begins by quoting Genesis 3:24 which sets the foundation for this pursuit of immortality.  According to legend, the Tree of Life from the time of creation is said to be hidden in the jungles of New Spain or the New World (Americas).  If a person drinks of the sap of this tree, he/she shall live forever.  So Tomas the conquistador is sent to find this tree, drink of the sap while wearing the ring of the queen in order that they may experience immortality together as the new Adam and Eve.  However, the story drifts from a “biblical” basis to the Mayan belief of death and rebirth.  According to Maya mythology, when a person dies they enter into Xibalba or the Mayan underworld.  In the Mayan underworld the dead live under the Lords of Xibalba where they may be rebirthed to carry out duties on the earth.  So any time there is a nebula in the sky, it is a glimpse of Xibalba.

One of the glaring issues with this movie is the melding of different religions and worldviews into one “cohesive” story.  The movie begins with a biblical text that leads to the story of the Tree of Life (or the pursuit of the Fountain of Youth).  The story of creation is then phased into a Mayan legend about the afterlife which contains the cycle of life (Hinduism) and the idea of reincarnation (Buddhism).  All of these religions and worldviews combine to make an emotionally compelling story of eternity.  In fact Tommy Creo’s wife Izzi, who is dying of cancer, finds a sense of peace and wonder in this belief.  The problem is the fact that it is a designer religion at best.  It is a combination of many beliefs into a man-made story that fits into a person’s desire of what eternity should be according to that person.  Nevermind the competing truth claims of each religion that contradict one another.  It is simply a melting pot of the “best” elements of each religion made to fit the desired need of the individual.  What is “best” is relative to the particular individual.  What is “best” for one person may not be “best” for another.  This approach to religion and worldview destroys the meaning of life.  How can it be determined when all things can be mixed and matched to fit each individual person and their needs?  And who is to say that one particular view is right or wrong or better than the others?  There can be no means of evaluating such claims thus truth loses all meaning and so does life.

All in all I think this movie is very thought provoking and a great source of discussion across many lines.  Though I firmly disagree with the worldview and designer spirituality presented in the movie, I would recommend this movie to small groups for critical discussion.  It can also be a great starting point for an engaging spiritual conversation with a non-believer.

Are Mormons Christians?

On Beliefnet.com, Al Mohler and Orson Scott Card are debating whether Mormans are Christians.  This is an intriguing written debate for people who do not know the difference between a Mormon and a Christian.  Al Mohler is the President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Orson Scott Card is a well-known LDS author.

Here is a little peek at the discussion so far:

In any event, the question was framed theologically, and it was framed by Beliefnet in terms of “traditional Christian orthodoxy.” With the question structured that way, the answer is clear and unassailable – Mormonism is not Christianity. When the question is framed this way, Mr. Card and I actually agree, as his essay makes clear.

In his words, “I am also happy to agree with him that when one compares our understanding of the nature of God and Christ, we categorically disagree with almost every statement in the “historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations” he refers to.”

Stay tuned for more to come…

Christian and Muslim?

A recent article in the Seattle Times yielded an interesting and unique proclamation by the Rev. Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest in the Seattle area.  The title of the story, “I am both Muslim and Christian,” speaks for itself.  In the article, Rev. Redding confesses to be both an Episcopal priest and a practicing Muslim.  She states that her conversion as a Muslim has given her insights into Christianity.  In essence her claim is that becoming a Muslim has made her a stronger Christian.  Redding says, “At the most basic level, I understand the two religions to be compatible. That’s all I need.” 

There are many issues concerning Rev. Redding’s confession of faith.  Contrary to her belief, Christianity and Islam are not compatible.  It is true that they share a few historical figures in Abraham and Jesus.  According to Islam, Jesus is merely a prophet, not the Son of God who was sacrificed for the sins of humanity.  To a Muslim, Jesus is not the only way to God the Father.  For Christians, Jesus is God in the flesh.  He came down and sacrificed himself to bear our punishment for sin and reconcile humanity to God.  He is the only way to God the Father.  This fundamental difference cannot be reconciled between the two belief systems.  The very core of their identity puts them at odds with one another.  Leaders in both religions have spoken out in the same manner. 

“There are tenets of the faiths that are very, very different,” said Kurt Fredrickson, director of the doctor of ministry program at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif. “The most basic would be: What do you do with Jesus?”

“The theological beliefs are irreconcilable,” said Mahmoud Ayoub, professor of Islamic studies and comparative religion at Temple University in Philadelphia. Islam holds that God is one, unique, indivisible. “For Muslims to say Jesus is God would be blasphemy.”

This profession by Rev. Redding is not a great work of logic, reason, or reconciliation between two opposing belief systems and worldviews.  Redding admits this herself.  “It wasn’t about intellect,” she said. “All I know is the calling of my heart to Islam was very much something about my identity and who I am supposed to be.”  How can you be two things that cannot coexist?  Naturally there is always something behind a statement of this sort.  Something has to give.  That something is often the person of Jesus, the character of God, or the view of God’s Word.  As the article reports:

She believes the Trinity is an idea about God and cannot be taken literally.

She does not believe Jesus and God are the same, but rather that God is more than Jesus.

She believes Jesus is the son of God insofar as all humans are the children of God, and that Jesus is divine, just as all humans are divine — because God dwells in all humans.

To make matters worse, Rt. Rev. Vincent Warner (Redding’s bishop) says he accepts Redding as an Episcopal priest and a Muslim, and that he finds the interfaith possibilities exciting.  There is nothing exciting about her profession.  It does reveal many things.  It makes clear the state of the Episcopal church in America.  It is a sign of the culture and world we live in today.  It also reveals the anti-intellectual attitude that some people take in regards to Christian faith (as if you can separate the head from the heart).  It also shows disregard for the Word of God.

It is a sad story.  Dr. Al Mohler has some great commentary on this issue as well.  As this article reveals, we must be prepared for anything.