Monday, February 15, 2010

Thoughts On "Furious Love"

Last night at Redeemer we showed Darren Wilson's new film "Furious Love." Several hundred people showed up - it was a great turnout. The film premiered in 500+ churches around the world last night. It was cool for us since Darren grew up at Redeemer and his parents Gary & Linda are two of our great leaders. We are biased about Darren and what he does to bring in God's beautiful Kingdom. We all wanted the movie to be good. It was. Linda and I love it! Why?

"Furious Love" puts the heart of the Gospel and the Real Jesus in the spotlight. It's about love. Real love. Because God is, in his essence, love. Love, God-style, is other-centered and sacrificial. God fully displayed his love in Jesus on the cross. Love intentionally descends into dark places for the sake of rescuing ("sozoing") people held in the captivity of hatred, abuse, addiction, and all things sin-filled. While love is compassionate, and com-passion is a feeling-with others, real "love" is not essentially a self-centered quest for personal feelings. When that becomes the motive then there's manipulation taking place. We feel used by people who "love" us mostly or solely for their own selves.

"Furious Love" does an excellent job of depicting the essential verb-nature of love. Love's an action. Trinitarian theism explains this best. There were a few moments during the film that I had tears coming out of my eyes, because of the beauty of rescue. I now think that nothing in life captivates and moves me as much as seeing moments of human liberation. My Jesus is: the Liberator.

As one who was trained in evangelical theology, I know there are Christians who will see this movie who are like what I once was; viz., skeptics when it comes to the manifestation of the demonic. Some will watch the episodes of deliverance and, because it is in their theological genes, "reduce" the demonic deliverance to psychological factors. "A demon is causing that women to thrash around on the ground? Yeah, right!" Thirty to forty years ago I would be tempted to do this, in spite of an experience I had in my first year as a Jesus-follower that I was quite unprepared for and could not help but conclude that, "If the demonic realm is real, then surely this was it!"  Now, I've left reductionism far behind, except for a few moment that function like vestigial organs in me, serving no real purpose except to remind me that they once had a role in my life.

I want to help the Jesus-follower who loves Jesus as Lord but wonders about some of the "Furious Love" scenes where the claim is made that: here is a person manifesting a demonic presence. Here are some things I think may help, in no certain order.
  • At the heart of the four Gospel-stories about Jesus is the conflict with Satan and demons. I suggest that if we become theological reductionists in regard to this then we will have left the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus believed in Satan and demons, and that the act of redemption involves spiritual battle against these dark powers. Surely that ought to mean something to us as his followers?
  • I believe that at the core of any evangelical skepticism re. the demonic as explanatory of certain human behaviors is an incipient philosophical naturalism. This is part of evangelical theology's "Enlightenment inheritance." J.P. Moreland is interviewed in "Furious Love" and explains this well, especially so in his writings. (See herehere, and here.) Few scholars are today writing as well about the problems with philosophical naturalism as Moreland is. Because Christian theism is not indebted to philosophical naturalism we are able to not only affirm the existence of non-physical reality but experience it as well. The realm of Christian non-physical reality includes thngs like: "soul," "consciousness," "free will," and "spirits" both good and evil.
  • If we affirm the reality of Satan and the demonic, then we can expect the demonic to "manifest" itself, like we see it does in the Jesus-story. It then becomes an issue of discernment as to whether or not a certain event is demonic or attributed to, say, mental illness or something like it. For me, currently, to be following the Spirit means inevitable conflict with demons. More and more I wonder about churches that never talk about this stuff.
Greg Boyd and George Otis are also interviewed in "Furious Love." Greg especailly talks about the outrageous love of Jesus and his beautiful kingdom. George gives what I would call anthropological examples of evil that can best be attributed to demonic spirits. In that regard I believe Christian Trinitarian Theism best explains such manifestations as demonic, and that reducing all of them to physiological constraints is not helpful. "Furious Love" shows this well. Thank you Darren, for making it!