Faith in Film, The Book of Eli

"For we walk by faith, not sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7

Sometimes we get movies like "The Book of Eli," which are about faith and Scriptures but don't totally nail the correct tone and theology. This is a film that, when it came out, was lauded by many Christians. On the surface it appeared to be a movie about the centrality of faith and Scripture, even in apocalyptic times. And it was a mainstream film.

But I contend that we miss the point of the narrative when we uplift films like this in that way. Denzel Washington, who stars in the film, is a self-professed Christian, who brings that to his work. He once said, "A part of me still says, ‘Maybe, Denzel, you’re supposed to preach. Maybe you’re still compromising.’ I’ve had an opportunity to play great men and, through their words, to preach. I take what talent I’ve been given seriously, and I want to use it for good.”

But what of the Hughes Brothers who directed the film? Nothing in their public comments — nor their previous work — suggests a hint of evangelistic intent. And when you watch the film, you see that. Yes, the Bible is literally at the center of the narrative, but it's not in the way we might think as people of faith. The Bible is a plot device for this story, and doesn't really mean much to anyone in the film besides Eli.

There are some nuggets of faith in this story, a sort of Paul-Timothy like journey, but it's not quite the evangelistic film some Christians wanted to believe it was. And that's also part of the marketing campaign, as filmmakers were very careful at the time of release not to disclose their position on faith. But they aren't Christians, and they weren't seeking to make a Christian film.

In fact, in a recent interview, screenwriter Gary Whitta was asked about his personal faith, and this is what he said, “My own faith? None at all. I’m an atheist. It’s funny because I wrote The Book of Eli, which has very heavy religious themes and so many people who saw that movie assumed I was a Christian. Not at all. In my view that movie tries to take a kind of neutral view on religion, speaking to both the positive and destructive forces it’s capable of creating. But regardless of my own beliefs I’ve always found spiritual and religious motivations in others fascinating...”

But "The Book of Eli" likely started many conversations, and we can never doubt that God speaks to us in ways that people don't intend, including movies made by atheists. The flaws in the theology, however, are reflective of a people that know about the Bible, but don't know the Bible.

Discussion Questions:
1. Did this movie work for you? Why or why not?
2. What is the path that God is leading you down in your life?
3. What does it mean to walk by faith?

4. Why is it important to be in the Word every day?


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