My wife and I just got back from watching the Book of Eli starring Denzel Washington, and I have to tell you that we weren’t quite prepared for what we saw.
My wife described the movie as “poetically violent”. I like action movies but I’m not really into gore (squirting blood and all). So if anyone has seen SAW or Rambo 4 you may not relate, but this has been one of the goriest movies I’ve seen in a long time.
Putting that criticism aside (and the fact that there were a few “F” bombs), it was a fascinating and even stimulating movie. I sometimes felt as though Eli (Denzel) was like a futuristic Abraham, receiving a divine call to go to a land he doesn’t know and to – quite literally – walk by faith (you have to see the movie, I’m not going to spoil it for you).
I’ll share a bit of the plot here, but don’t worry no spoilers. The movie takes place sometime not far from “now” after WWIII turns the surviving humanity into nomads, and sometimes cannibals. And Eli has within his possession the last remaing copy of the Bible in the world, and with it he’s been given a divine mission.
The villian in the movie is a man who remembers the “power” of the Book and has been searching for years to get his hands on it. Upon discovering that it is in Eli’s possession the man stops at nothing to obtain it.
Throughout the film Eli turns a blind eye to people who are in need, who are in danger and who are being killed and raped; reminding himself to keep to his mission and that nothing else matters. But at one point in the film Eli and a young woman who has “tagged along” are surrended by the bad guys. The woman was held a gun point and Eli is asked to give up the Book to save her life. To everyone surprise he does just that.
Later he is asked why, if the book is that important, would give it over to the enemy to save her life. His responds with a lesson we Protestants need to take to heart.
I have cared for it for so long, and I got so caught up in protecting the book, that I have forgotten to go and do what I learned from it.”
“What did it teach you?”
“Do unto others more then you do for yourselves. At least that’s what I’ve gotton from it.”
Sometimes we can get so caught up in defending the Book, in protecting the Book, that we have forgotten that the Book – as important as it is – is only a book apart from its Author. I hear the concern from my Catholic friends that we Protestants have fallen into a kind of idolatry, worshipping a book over it’s Creator. Many treat the Book as though it is magical in its own right, going so far as the chant it for healing like a warlock might do as he casts a spell. Many think there is power in the Word; and by Word they mean the ink on the pages of their genuine leather KJV.
But the scriptures are emphatic. The Word of God is not an object, a thing. He is a person, the Son of God and the Son of Man. John states, “In the beginning was the Word…” but he does not continue, “and the Word became a book, ink, pages, bonded leather, gold imprinted KJV” or any other nonesense like that. He writes, “and the Word became flesh”. The risen Jesus states that all authority has been given to Him [Matthew 28:18]. By whom? Paul writes that all authority is from God [Rom 13:1].
As N.T. Wright points out, when the Reformers utter the phrase “authority of scripture”, that this phrase was a short way of saying, “authority of God as it is exercised through the scriptures” [Chpt. 1]. But the shorthand way of refering to Gods authority exercised through the scriptures has become so common that it has actually supplanted the intention of those who used it.
People have forgotten that the phrase, “the authory of the scriptures” is actually a reference to Gods authority and not just the authority of a book. I think that if we would all begin to get this write it would clear up many confusions, bad doctrines, biblical abuses (such as the “venerable dogmatic approach” as one scholar put it – proof texting [Larry Heyler p.32) and even begin to clear some debris between Catholics and Protestants.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father. [John 1:1, John 1:14]