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Wednesday, May 25

Seed of the Logos

Tertullian and some of the 2nd century fathers looked at Plato and some pagan philosophy as containing the 'seed of the logos.' In other words, Christ could be found among the philosophy of the ancients, what Paul might call 'general revelation' (Romans 1).

I have found a similar phenomena among recent films:
The Matrix Trilogy
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
and Revenge of the Sith (and the other Star Wars films)
(of course the Passion of the Christ is overtly Christian)

It seems that these films have done much to explore deeper themes and do a better job of asking eternal questions than we Christians have done. What do the readers think?

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22 Comments:

  1. Blogger Socratic Coyote said...

    I think you are right. Christians need to do a better job.

    11:16 AM, May 25, 2005  
  2. Blogger Shafter79 said...

    Intresting post Fr. Neo. It comes just after i finished reading and article on the same subject in March 2005 issue of Catholic Digest. The article is called "The Hidden Power ofGroundhog Day". It was about the religous meaning behind the movie Groundhog Day. I think in todays society the religous seek meaning behind stuff that may or may not be there. I also think this is dangerous water to tred upon. In some instances you know it is there such as Tolkein's "Lord of the Rings" C.S. Lewis' "Chronicles of Narnia". Yet in others we are just seeing what we want to see, not what is actually there.

    11:18 AM, May 25, 2005  
  3. Blogger voixdange said...

    Whenever guest speakers come to our church and begin to disparage Hollywood, I always do a mental double take and say, "Huh?" I am a movie junkie, admittedly, but I have found an incredible amount of inspiration from movies, such as the ones you mentioned as well as "Whalerider, Gladiator, Seabiscuit, etc... my list is a long one... But I have always beleived that God speaks through the unexpected, and not exclusively to those acknowledge Him, claim to know Him and/or hear from Him.

    11:26 AM, May 25, 2005  
  4. Blogger fatherneo said...

    Canine,
    Say more.

    S79,

    'See what we want to see...' what do you mean

    11:27 AM, May 25, 2005  
  5. Blogger Shafter79 said...

    We watch a movie or read a book. Then we immediately want to find some connection with the JEsus or or religous views. Even if the author had no intention of this. We want to see a corilation with what the main character went through and the tribulations of Jesus. Maybe this helps us process what we just saw better. Or maybe it gives us an excuse for watching what we just watched.

    11:43 AM, May 25, 2005  
  6. Blogger Constantine said...

    Amen and amen to Padre's post on this subject and especially to Angevoix's response. I couldn't agree more. Who in the hell are we, or anybody else for that matter, to decide how God might speak to us? The Imagio Dei resides in all of us and in nature. Yes, the distortion and scarring of that Image also exists as we all know too well, but which has more power? We need to learn from the Celtic Christian “tradition.” It’s a battle to be sure, but who’s in charge here?? Did Christ secure nothing for us in the present? Grant it, there’s plenty of trash out there, which is for the most part self-evident, but I have found by and large that "stories/art" in all their various forms have latent God potential. It is also my experience that "Christian artists" of late tend to be woefully inadequate. They are too busy living in their self-imposed ghettos in contented exile. You won't find me watching the "Left Behind" movies. Instead of reaching me they repel.

    12:24 PM, May 25, 2005  
  7. Blogger Dan Trabue said...

    S79 said:
    'Sometimes we just see what we want to see...'

    And of course, the opposite is true. Sometimes we read the Bible and see what we want to see there, not what is actually written.

    One of my favorite traditional firenbrimstome preachers when I was growing up once wrote:
    "One of these days some simple soul will pick up the Book of God, read it, and believe it. Then the rest of us will be embarrassed." (Leonard Ravenhill)

    Can I get a witness?

    2:04 PM, May 25, 2005  
  8. Blogger Shafter79 said...

    True Dan....Thats why Revelations is such a dangerous book

    2:07 PM, May 25, 2005  
  9. Anonymous Morpheus said...

    Fr. Neo turns us in a fruitful direction with his post. Yes, the sovereignty of God leads me to believe that he speaks to me everywhere, even through pagan writers. Gladiator was not a Christian, but the screenwriter was playing with powerful territory, of honor and courage. General revelation, indeed. Some movies have thrown me a life line, and some an anchor. Unexpectedly, some profane material has carried messages that moved me deeply, spiritually. Fight Club, for example, studied the insanity of searching for meaning in the gross, material, nihilistic world.

    I went to see Episode III wondering about what my seven year old grandson would see and understand. Was it, as he would say, "propriat for me". A "good" guy goes bad, drawn by deep conflicts, pride and the unwillingness to submit to anything but his will. This is not for Anthony. It will confuse him right now, but I want him to see the consequences of pride and understand them. I will watch it with him in a couple of years. We'll watch Matrix I, too, and talk about the White Rabbit, the blue and red pills, and good and evil.

    5:41 PM, May 25, 2005  
  10. Anonymous Morpheus said...

    And to Coyote,

    We need to bring a Christian worldview to the movies, and to conversations with our friends and help them know the value of kingdom living.

    5:44 PM, May 25, 2005  
  11. Blogger Socratic Coyote said...

    Wasn't it C.S. Lewis who said, what we need is not Christian artists, but artists who are Christian? I think he meant that Christians should be using their creative talents in all artistic fields.

    The flip side is that in many modern movies deeper truth is being explored. And not necessarily by Christians. Sometimes it seems like Christians don't want to go deep. They don't want to go mythic. They don't want to go mysterious. They don't want to go dark. Give me The Matrix and Star Wars any day over the Left Behind series.

    Depth and mystery is of God. Lets not abandon that realm to non-Christians. And, for God's sake, lets not let Tim LaHaye be thought of as the greatest Christian author of the last ten years. Barf!!

    8:47 PM, May 25, 2005  
  12. Blogger Constantine said...

    Amen Coyote.

    9:08 PM, May 25, 2005  
  13. Blogger voixdange said...

    Morpheus-
    What would you define as a "Christian" World view? Lately that seems like a title everyone is highjacking and claiming as their own... I keep telling people "God is not an American!" But I don't think anyone beleives me...
    My amen on the Left Behind series...I am,I think, the only one of my friends that hasn't read it!

    9:41 PM, May 25, 2005  
  14. Blogger Anselm Rocks said...

    Pejman Yousefzadeh over at Tech Central Station has an interesting take on the ancient roots of Star Wars. You can read his article here http://www.techcentralstation.com/052405H.html
    http://www.techcentralstation.com/052405H.html

    10:05 PM, May 25, 2005  
  15. Blogger fatherneo said...

    Depth, mystery, the mythic. Outstanding Wily Philosopher. You've nailed it.

    8:08 AM, May 26, 2005  
  16. Anonymous Seraph said...

    Anslem,

    Why do you rock, o technonerd?

    8:09 AM, May 26, 2005  
  17. Blogger Amy said...

    I think the Plato/movie analogy is a little bit apples and oranges. If indeed Plato had the 'seed of the Logos', then what do the movies have? The Logos has already been revealed to mankind! Also, I don't doubt that the Matrix et al contain all kinds of overarching themes of good and evil, redemption, whatever. Seems to me that is true of most art, written, musical, etc, through the ages, and in that respect these movies are nothing more than a continuation of that. But to me, the bottom line is that they are primarily entertainment, made to make big bucks for Hollywood.

    So Fr. Neo, explain more about the seed of the Logos and the movies, given the fact that the Logos has been revealed to us.

    8:59 AM, May 26, 2005  
  18. Blogger fatherneo said...

    Amy,

    I like grapes better than apples and oranges. Some of the early fathers, when referring to the ‘seed of the logos’ (Literally ‘spermatikos’ meaning life or remnant, not necessarily beginning) were talking about philosophy as it was expounded in their own day (after the incarnation). Their point was that Christ could sometimes be found in pagan philosophy. Did not Paul in Athens do something similar, quoting pagan poets and talking of the ‘Unknown God?’

    Your skepticism is not unfounded. I share it. But remember that though George Lucas and the Wachowski brothers are multi-billionaires and have cashed in through their success, they all started out as independent film makers who insisted that their stories be told on their terms! We can argue about the theological deficiencies in the Matrix and Star Wars (and there are many), but the way they tap into the mythic and the mysterious (to use Wily the Philosophers words) are quite powerful.

    For the majority of the population that will never read the Scriptures, or the Fathers, or never see an icon, could not this be God’s way of opening them up to something quite powerful. (That’s where we come in to clarify ‘the Force’ or the pseudo gnostic stuff in the Matrix.)

    My critique of what the Christian pop sub-culture tries to pass on as ‘art’ is that, one it usually sucks and two, that it is too agenda driven. In other words, it is too interested in ‘getting the message out’ or ‘getting people saved’ rather than telling a good story or creating beauty for beauty’s sake. Of course there are notable exceptions (The Passion being one of them, which of course was not made by the Christian sub-culture, but by an academy award winning actor who knows what a good film should look like), but they are difficult to find.

    9:44 AM, May 26, 2005  
  19. Blogger Amy said...

    I agree, your example of the Passion movie is exactly what C.S. Lewis was talking about; we need artists who are Christian, as S. Coyote pointed out. And I also agree that the Christian pop sub-culture mostly produces inferior stuff (a whole other topic, probably!). And of course! When you know the Greek for "seed" it makes sense. :)

    I guess I am just sad that all some people will know of deep mysteries of God is the Matrix and Star Wars, if it is as you say.

    2:49 PM, May 26, 2005  
  20. Blogger Constantine said...

    Padre's comments to Amy on Mel's "The Passion" strike to the heart. It took a man who loved and lived art for itself (a divine gift to him I suppose--a vocation if you will) to make a worthy "message" movie. Whether he's making "The Man without a Face," "Braveheart," or "The Passion," it's about creating beauty in art for him. Btw, if you haven't seen "The Man without a Face" please do so. It's one of my all time favs and a beautiful movie.

    3:01 PM, May 26, 2005  
  21. Blogger fatherneo said...

    Amy,
    Sad indeed--unless it is their starting point to a larger reality! Don't underestimate the power of God. Don't forget the truth of panentheism inherent in Orthodoxy!

    Constantine,
    Loved "Man without a Face." I'm curious to see what Mel will come up with next. Speaking of Mel, I thought 'Signs' was pretty dang cool.

    3:51 PM, May 26, 2005  
  22. Blogger voixdange said...

    Signs is another of my favorite movies...

    5:00 PM, May 26, 2005  

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