Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Using Films to Rattle Cages: Movies and Apologetics

Speaking of films, has posted an excellent audio by Andrew Fellows on the use of film in apologetics. Fellows, a staff member of L'Abri in England, gave this presentation to a group of campus ministry workers.

He begins by dividing the apologetic process into three stages:

1. Subversion
2. Persuasion
3. Proclamation

Proclamation is the telling of the core gospel. Fellows says this is the most precious stage in the process yet complains that for many Christians, this is the
only stage. Consequently, we miss many opportunities. Persuasion targets those who, though skeptical, are open to dialogue about the possibility of Christianity being true. Here, believers give reasons for their faith. Finally, subversion, the most challenging stage, is needed when dealing with those who are completely closed to considering the gospel. This involves getting inside the other person's worldview and "rattling their cage." (Though he doesn't mention it, this is equivalent to what Francis Schaeffer meant by "taking the roof off.") Fellows thinks that popular films can be effective tools in this phase of apologetics and estimates that about 80% of his own conversations with those who are closed to Christianity revolve around movies.

Fellows' talk has four main points:

1. Don't underestimate the power of film
2. Allow film to function as narrative
3. Be attentive to the worldview that lies beneath every film
4. Checkpoints for our use of films

In the course of the talk, Fellows explains the power of narrative and how we must learn to make connections between a film's narrative and the Christian story which is the one, true, epic story. Every other story that has ever been told connects to
this story in some way. Subversive apologetics through film seizes or exploits the similarities between the film's story and the Christian story while recognizing the essential differences in worldview. (Fellows offers nine worldview questions to ask when viewing a film.) However, the focus of this kind of engagement is not primarily about arguing worldview but about the story and its appeal to the imagination.

Fellows says that the more his own Christian worldview has developed, the more his enjoyment of film has increased. He also says that if unbelievers see that we love and understand films, real discussions will emerge.

During the Q & A, he urges the campus ministry leaders to teach their students how to watch movies, something most of them don't know how to do. Teaching them how to do this will equip them to discuss films with their peers. This caused me to think about the need for churches to educate believers in a similar manner. For those interested, Brian Godawa's book, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment, is a good resource for that.

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