Monday, December 19, 2005
Secondhand Lions and Big Fish
[Boy] "Those stories about aftrica, about you, they're true aren't they?"
[Man] "Doesn't matter."
[Boy] "It does, too. Around my mom all I hear is lies, I don't know what to believe."
[Man] "If you want to believe in something, believe in it. Just because something isn't true doesn't mean you can't believe in it. Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things that a man needs to believe in the most. That peoplare basically good. That honor, courage, and virtue mean everyhitng. power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this that love, true love never dies. Remember that, boy. Doesn't matter if its true or not. A man should believe in those things, because those things are worth believing in."
This is the question that each of us brings to the Bible. Are the stories true? Unfortunately, in this exchange, the final word seems to be that of Stephen Gould's Non-overlapping Magisteria (or NOMA). The problem with NOMA is that it says that, for belief, facts don't matter. But that is in fact the sole purpose of belief -- to believe the facts. It is quite useless to believe something else. So, if what you believe in isn't factual, there isn't much use in believing in it.
The boy in this story, however, is searching for what is true. Having been next to the lie his whole life, he is DESPERATE for the truth. A good morality tale isn't what he is looking for. This is the same drive that was within the man in Big Fish. His Dad had told so many fantastic stories, that he was no longer able to separate the truth from the lie.
In Big Fish, it culminates with the man joining his father in constructing interesting morality stories. Ultimately, it seems that Big Fish concludes that what is truth does not matter, so long as you live the moment to its fullest.
Secondhand Lions, however, shows that knowing what is true really does matter. Ultimately, the question of what is true or false was a pivot of the boy's life. He was being told that his uncle's were bankrobbers, while they had told him that they won their money from a middle-easter shiek in a series of swordfights. The pivotal conversation went like this:
[Boy] They couldn't have robbed any banks, they were in africa!
[Mom] Here Dan's got actual evidence and you believe in that africa crap?
[Boy] Yes, yes I do.
The Mom's boyfriend had fabricated some evidence about where they had been. In that moment the truth really mattered, and the evidence appeared to be on the side of the Mom's boyfriend. But, ultimately, he decided to trust his uncles. While being ridiculed by those in positions of authority and power, he held on to his belief. And, unlike what his uncle said, it did matter greatly which was true.
The ending of Secondhand Lions is fantastic. I will leave you to watch it, but suffice it to say that the boy's trust in his uncles is vindicated.
Of course, it is easy enough to view a movie and pretend that the question is easy.
The problem with Christianity is that there is no option to hedge your bets, as many in the liberal wing of Christianity are trying to do. What Paul said was that if Christ has not risen from the dead, then we Christians should be the most pitied of all people -- he is quite correct! To live your life for something that is a fantasy is the ultimate waste. As Christians, we can't hope for a second savior if Christ isn't the real thing. Some people have represented Christianity as the "safe" option -- you should at least believe in case it is true. But in fact the opposite is true. Christianity is unsafe in the sense that it requires a total commitment. It doesn't work at all as a fallback option. And if it is false, then all of us who have committed our lives to the cause are fools, and should be pitied more than anyone else.
While I don't think that Creationism is a prerequisite for salvation, I think that trusting in God about what He said occurred is a part of being a Christian. We have to trust that Christ really resurrected. Why would we trust Him for that and not on how He said He created the world?
Unfortunately, there are also some who go too far in this. Not in trusting God, but in what trusting God means. Trusting God does not mean giving counterfactual reports on what you observe. It means dealing honestly with the facts as they are presented. When you believe something on faith -- say so. If the facts as you know them contradict what you believe on faith, there is no harm in saying so. In fact we must. We should be as Kurt Wise, who said:
Although there are scientific reasons for accepting a young earth, I am a young-age creationist because that is my understanding of the Scripture. As I shared with my professors years ago when I was in college, if all the evidence in the universe turned against creationism, I would be the first to admit it, but I would still be a creationist because that is what the Word of God seems to indicate.
When we are honest fully with God, ourselves, and others, God will honor that. He will not honor any deceit in His name.
Anyway, I'm sorry for being rambly, but ultimately what I wanted to get across are:
1) Truth does matter. If Christianity is factually incorrect, it is fully incorrect. NOMA need not apply.
2) Truth also involves separating out what we believe by faith and by observation. There is no problem with taking faith over observation, provided one is honest with this. However, as creation research advances, there has been less and less reason to need to do this.
3) See both movies. They are worthwhile. Be warned -- Secondhand Lions contains lots of moderately foul language and Big Fish has some foul language and some brief nudity. Don't view either if these are things you struggle with.