Sunday, January 27, 2008

Luther (2003) a Big Screen Service to Christ

Following up on my invitation for you to suggest the Principal Christian Films, I watched the 2003 Joseph Fiennes version of Luther. I'm no film critic, and I don't pretend to be, but these are my impressions.

Given the state of the Lutheran churches and given how hostile people are these days to the message of the cross, I was expecting either Barthianism or some vague message about a nondescript "God." Instead, I was moved almost to tears of joy (I could have let loose) when Luther introduced his congregation to the gospel that had been withheld from them all their lives. When Satan reminds you of your sins and accuses you, your response as a Christian is to admit those sins in all their wickedness, and respond in peace, "...but what is that to me?" Then (and this is the heart of the gospel!) you point to Christ in confidence and look to Christ in hope saying, "He died for me, and in dying he bore the wrath and curse that I deserved for my sins." I forget what exactly he said in pointing to Christ, but it was definitely Christ to whom he pointed and specifically to his work of substitutionary atonement.

The whole film said, Look to Jesus! Look to Jesus! True to Luther's life and ministry, the film sets in sharp contrast the futility of rituals and religious labors for finding peace with God, and the serenity of seeking that peace simply by faith in Christ, freely offered in the gospel. Luther shows us the tyranny and avarice of the medieval Roman church, and by contrast the freedom which the Christ-centered gospel brings.

In the WORLD magazine review, David Coffin wrote:

What's most remarkable about Luther, though, is the weight of its theological content and the strength of its message—the "Christ stuff" is fully intact. Mr. Clauss told WORLD that despite the need to compromise during production, he would not allow three scenes to be cut: two in which Luther addresses his congregation in Wittenberg and one in which he agonizes in his monk's cell, crying out in despair for a merciful God. These scenes are some of the most powerful in the film. Christ is central in all three, not only as the agent of that mercy, but also as the sacrificial recipient of God's wrath, justly directed at man's sin.

The film was bankrolled largely by Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a Wisconsin based benevolent and financial services organization.

This film is definitely on the forthcoming list of Principal Christian films.

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