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Monday, May 16, 2005

A Christian Vampire Movie?

Today, a Lutheran pastor asked me about a movie I had recently recommended, The Addiction, so I decided to post a comment about it.

I’m not a film critic and I don’t particularly fancy horror films, but I did become intrigued by the genre after being assigned to write an article for Higher Things magazine. I found that there are some distinctly biblical notions underlying many of the better horror movies. I know that might sound strange to some, but it’s true. Check out my previous post to read where I’m coming from.

The Addiction is a vampire movie, pure and simple. I stand by my recommendation, but with this word of caution: It is a gory movie and has some quite unpleasant scenes. The fact that it is black and white helps a bit. But the easily rattled may want to stay away.

The vampire motif is the film's way of portraying Original Sin. The disposition of fallen man toward evil is a bit like an addiction, a craving that must be fed. One of the reasons I recommend the picture is because it does not buy at all into this modernist notion that people are good. Enlightenment optimism regarding man's nature is simply not borne out in our experience.

Don’t misunderstand, human nature is essentially good. If I said otherwise, I’d be accusing God of creating something evil. Even more, I’d be saying that God Himself is evil. We were created in the image and likeness of God after all. But since our first parents took the forbidden fruit, our pristine human nature has been corrupted. Now, as St. Augustine said, "Non posse non peccare," (“We are not able not to sin.”)

And that is what this movie is about. Why is that beneficial to the cause of Christ? Because we live in a society that is in denial. By failing to recognize our corruption for what it is, we fail to understand our need for a savior. As long as I can remain even the slightest bit optimistic about myself then I will not seek Christ. Martin Luther once said, “It is certain that man must utterly despair of his own ability before he is prepared to receive the grace of Christ (Heidelberg Theses).” To recognize your need is the first step toward recovery.

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Funky Dung said...

"Don’t misunderstand, human nature is essentially good. If I said otherwise, I’d be accusing God of creating something evil."

That doesn't sound much like Luther's concept of man's depravity being like a dung heap and baptism acting as a layer of pristine snow covering it. The notion of Original Sin you seem to be presenting sounds rather Catholic, actually. ;)

Then again, I'm no theologian...

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Hi, thanks for reading. Well, I think my view is catholic, though I'm not Roman Catholic. The Formula of Concord, 1580, Article 1 is about Original Sin. It might shed some light for you about the Lutheran position.

I suppose I could have been more precise and said, "pre-fall human nature." What I'm trying to communicate is that human nature, in itself, is good. All that God created He called good. And if human nature itself were evil, then Jesus would be evil because we certainly believe he possesses a true human nature. So the old saying, "To err is human," is not exactly true.

The question you raise really is, what moral or spiritual capacity remains in fallen man. At that point, I would say man has lost his original righteousness and is polluted with sin. Baptism offers forgiveness for sin, including original sin, but it does not eradicate it while we remain in this life. We still struggle against our sinful nature until the resurrection on the Last Day when Christians will be glorified and the sanctification of our human natures will be completed.

Lutherans believe that Christians in this life are simultaneously saints and sinners (simul justus et peccator). Justification means that I have been declared righteous by God on account of Christ through faith. "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." In that sense, all believers are saints, God's holy ones. But until the glorification on the Last Day, our sin nature remains and must be daily crucified through daily ongoing repentance and faith.

Luther never would have said that human nature is intrinsically evil. The comment you allude to simply means that Baptism offers forgiveness, but our basic corruption remains. Because of the atonement, God no longer counts our sins against us. We are covered in the white robe of Jesus' righteousness.

The doctrine of sanctification refers to the lifelong process of God's Spirit transforming us and conforming us to the image of Christ.

Funky Dung said...

So, Lutherans don't believe that baptism ontologically changes a soul?

Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

Well, I suppose that depends on the nature of the "ontological change" you refer to.

St. Peter, in Acts 2:38, describes two benefits of baptism: forgiveness of sins and reception of the Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness of sins is the person's subjective justification. On account of the atonement, God does not count the person's sins against him/her. He is pardoned or acquitted.

Reception of the Holy Spirit indicates sanctification, which is a life-long process of holy-fication which is only complete on the Last Day at the resurrection of all flesh and the glorification of the elect.

Other Scriptures, of course, identify other benefits and elaborate on the ones I've mentioned. So in baptism, we are forgiven. Our sanctification (purification) is begun, only to be completed when we are raised (1 Cor. 15). It's now and not yet.

Language used in other passages include: born again, washing of regeneration, crucified with Christ, united with his death and resurrection, and saved.

Until Jesus raises me, I still carry with me the body of death - or Old Adam - St. Paul talks about in Rom 7. But God, in His grace (mercy), will not condemn me for it. "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness." "The just shall live by faith."

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