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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Spidey Senses and the Gospel

After writing my last article, I began cruising other corners of the blogosphere. I ended up at the site of a Grace Brethren church planter who makes this statement:

SPIDERMAN 3: Yes, I saw it. Yes, I recommend it. Basically tells the whole Gospel.

My heart sunk when I read those words. Shocking to some who think the only connection I have with culture is sour cream, Charity and I actually went to Showcase to catch Spiderman 3 on opening day. I really liked the movie. It was very entertaining. It was even thought provoking.

However, as we were leaving the theatre, Charity asked me the old standby, "So, what did you think."

Seriously, the first words out of my mouth were, "I thought it was really good, but I couldn't help but think, Some hoser is going to try to use this as a whole preaching series." I admit it, I'm sick. As I'm watching a movie about a man who is half-spider (purists will probably ridicule that description), all I can think about is the lack of discernment in the church. All I could think about was that pastors, desperate to impress and entertain congregants (just like movie producers) will desperately try to "change the referent" to teach a lesson. (In fairness to the quoted pastor above, he did not say he'd use it in as a sermon series, but he did claim it tells the gospel.)

But as Dan Phillips points out, We shouldn't do that. (You really need to check the article out. It's spoiler free, but should highten your senses before you enter the theatre.)


  • At 11:39 AM, Blogger Dale Harris said…

    "All I could think about was that pastors, desperate to impress and entertain congregants"

    You can question methodology all you want, but you're on pretty shaky ground when you're telling people what their motives are.

  • At 1:21 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    are you going to claim it's for clarity?

    toby maguire conveys the gospel more clearly than the apostle john, perhaps?

    by stating "all i could think" i was opening for the conversation for someone to tell me otherwise.

    i won't declare i know your motive, if you choose to "spidey-preach" but i will publicly scratch my head and ask, "huh?"

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Charity said…

    I have to respectfully disagree with the individual quoted.

    Although I did enjoy the movie, I don't understand how it can be said to "tell the whole gospel" when key elements of the gospel, such as our sin, and Jesus' atoning sacrifice and resurrection, were never mentioned; but the need to forgive ourselves and to look inside ourselves for answers, was a main theme. I'm not saying I was offended by this; on the contrary - I saw and heard philosophies I expected to see and hear in a secular production.

    As a congregant, my take is this: hearing a message based on "Spiderman 3" rather than on a Scripture passage is comparable to settling for a slice of bologna when you could be feasting on prime rib. (Since I have three munchkins, I often settle for the former out of necessity, but why would one choose this route when it comes to teaching truth?)

  • At 2:16 PM, Blogger Charity said…

    One other thought I forgot to mention. The movie teaches that man is basically good . . . which actually flies in the face of the gospel!

  • At 2:22 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    all i can say is:

    proverbs 19:14

  • At 4:43 PM, Blogger Dale Harris said…

    You were right to call me out for my tone on my blog. I re-wrote the post (and then deleted your comment since it wouldn't make sense under the new post). But I'm sorry for writing out of anger. The only thing I think worth clarifying is that I do believe in pre-tribulationalism. I was trying to say that by pressing that doctrine too far we can come to the place where the world is going down the tubes so we should just hold out for the future. I wasn't trying to rip on the doctrine itself.

    Now I'll write what I should have written the first time I commented on your post. I'm on record writing about "changing the referent" and this post implied that you could only see that as a move to "impress and entertain." I think it's becoming clear that we disagree about what it means to be relevant, but I was hurt by the written assumption that because of that my goal was somehow to impress and entertain more than to point people toward Christ. Even if it was an invitation to dialogue, why must it start by assuming the worst?

    That was coupled with phrases like "lack of discernment in the church" and "some hoser is going to try to use this." Please - while understanding that I admit I was wrong to negatively slam what I perceived as a negative slam on myself and those who think like me - please understand how hurtful such phrases are to me and anyone who thinks like me who might be reading this.

    Now, I haven't seen Spiderman 3 yet. I have no clue whether it has any content worth sharing. But I actually don't like to use movies like Superman and Spiderman to share the gospel. I like to use them to demonstrate how even secular movie writers see the beauty of the gospel story even in incomplete forms. And I like to use other movies to show either (1) an inherent worldview and how we can share the gospel with people who hold it or (2) to show some form of truth that aligns with the Bible, springboarding from there to the text. I agree with you that Spiderman 3 can't tell the gospel.

    Again, I'm sorry I reacted harshly about your tone. Please forgive me. It's pretty ironic to write so negatively about my frustration with negativism in Christian circles.

  • At 9:11 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    thank you for your gracious reply...and for rewriting your post.

    allow me to explain some things, and hopefully all offense will be washed away...

    *hoser* believe it or not, i use this term all the time...to people's faces. i actually consider it a playful term, short for "hosehead." if that seems like a critical term, i can only recommend watching "strange brew" to see the light-hearted nature of that term. (i regularly refer to myself as a 'hosehead' or 'hoser.')

    as we've talked before, i told you that i showed 'the simpsons' during sunday school for about 8 weeks. i'm not proud of that. i consider it a move that was infantile, base and stupid. however, my motive was trying to be relevant...i just didn't see until later how off target i was.

    that being said, i see a HUGE difference between showing a movie in a sunday school format and hijacking the pulpit to base a whole sermon series around a hollywood fabrication. as far as i know, you've never done this...and if you are considering doing it....please, please, please reconsider. i think a pastor that would center his pulpit around a tv series or a movie is showing a terrible lack of discernment. if you've done that before, i would have to say i consider it a lack of discernment. (just like my simpson's series was...but hey, we all can learn.)

    as for *changing the referrent* you know i do scratch my head when we talk of this. my point would basically be that which my wife so perfectly articulated. why settle for bologna when steak is on the menu?

    i assume you believe Scripture is set apart from all other revelation.

    i assume that you believe Scripture is powerful and effective.

    i assume you believe Scripture sanctifies.

    i assume you believe the natural man cannot discern the things of the Spirit.

    i assume that you believe that truth which is perverted or twisted is no longer truth.

    therefore, as you can see, i've assumed ALOT of good things about you, before i ask why some would prefer to preach a movie rather than the Word of God.

    so my questions i'm asking are out of a desire to continue giving you the benefit of the doubt.

    why take some other form of revelation, distort it (by changing the referent) and then try to introduce the gopsel through it...rather than just teaching from the Word of God?

    is it because you don't believe the Bible is as relevant as a movie?

    is it because you think people would find a movie more interesting?

    is it because you believe you can convince a person of the gospel without the Spirit drawing the person?

    is it because you find exposition boring and want to test your creative skills?

    you've told me your motivation is to reach people for Jesus. what you haven't told me is why you think movies, music and television shows can do a better job of reaching people for Jesus than His Word can.

  • At 9:09 AM, Blogger Zach Doppelt said…

    Over the last year or so I have considered how I preach (when I have the opportunity) and teach, and whether or not I am relying too heavily on cool methods and "relevant" style rather than the pure word of God. Fortunately for me, I am not very cool or overly relevant, but I do love people and the word.

    My prayer is that we do not lose this tension, even when we do not all agree on how this should be carried out. Thank you all for your discussion, it is very helpful for me as I process this stuff.

  • At 2:53 PM, Blogger danny2 said…


    you bring up a good point. i have before asked myself if i am just hesitant about these "new" methods because i'm not cool and fitting in has never really worked for me (let alone been a priority).

    but over time, i've come to see it a different way. God has preserved me from being deceived by some of these methods, by regularly reminding me i couldn't be cool no matter how hard i tried!

    but any of us can be accurate. being an unashamed workman is a goal that sits before all of us!

  • At 8:39 PM, Blogger BReformed said…

    The problem with the "referent model" is that it is a methodological fabrication from human reason, no different than Galatians 4 where Paul talks about Hagar and Sarah.

    Movie preaching is in utter opposition to the principle stated in Deuteronomy 12:3-4: "Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places. You must not worship the LORD your God in their way."

    Let's just replay that last verse:

    "You must NOT worship the LORD your God in their way."

    "In their way": that is precisely what is being done in referent methodology. God's disdain for that has never been diluted.

    Such effort attempts to share the glory of the Word of God with the paltry scriptwriting of human ingenuity. What part of "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light" and "evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" is not applicable here?

    The gospel is absolutely not preached through Spiderman3. No human being will stand before the great white throne and be held accountable for not responding to the call to repentance through Spiderman3 or Little House on the Prairie. To assert otherwise is not only foolish, it is outright stupidity. And for a pastor to not only defend this, but feed it to the people, utilizes about as much forethought as did Nadab and Abihu.

  • At 11:46 AM, Blogger Zach Doppelt said…


    I think you have some valid points. I know I have to be accountable to the very detail of how I present and communicate God's truth. It is so easy to overlook portions of scripture and not consider the implications of actions that SEEM so harmless, and SEEM to be for a good cause. Do the ends justify the means? These discussions should not be dismissed as empty disputes, but may have some important ramifications.


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