Portrait of Christ makes us uncomfortable

Paul Schrader, screenwriter for "The Last Temptation of Christ" called this movie violent in Reuters interview.

The Last Temptation of Christ, an ambitious film from a director of significant stature, based upon a serious novel by a talented writer, met with widespread acclaim and praise among film critics, yet drew enormous negative attention in many religious circles, often from people who hadn’t seen the film and were not in a position to frame their objections critically.

Now, Christian theology teaches that Jesus Christ was fully human as well as fully divine; and certainly there is nothing objectionable about trying to evoke or express in art the humanity of Christ. A work of art, a film or novel or painting, that evokes the truth of Christ’s humanity is a good and noble thing, even if it doesn’t directly address the subject of his divinity. A recognizably human portrait of Jesus — for example, one that envisions him being capable of suffering weakness, loneliness, fear, exhaustion; of becoming exasperated with his disciples, or of having a good time at a wedding party — all of this can be quite valid and worthwhile.

Moreover, the mystery of Jesus’ dual nature is one that no Christian can claim to fully understand or imagine. In particular the experience of being a mortal man who was also God in the flesh is one we cannot begin to grasp. Unanswered questions exist that leave room for a range of different ways of envisioning the person of Christ in drama and art.

For all these reasons, we must not be too quick to judge any particular portrait of Christ merely because it challenges our expectations or makes us uncomfortable, or because it doesn’t immediately evoke his divinity.

Steven D. Greydanus

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