When in doubt…

Benjamin Franklin famously said, “When in doubt, don’t.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes famously said, “When in doubt, do.”

John Heisman said, “When in doubt, punt.”

Bill Blass said, “When in doubt, wear red.”

And, of course, Mark Twain said, “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Keeping his mouth closed is not something the Apostle Thomas was ever accused of doing.  Thomas gets a bad rap in Holy Scripture.  We call him “Doubting Thomas” or “The Doubter,” with an overt negative connotation.  That’s really not fair, though it is understandable.  Thomas appears eleven times in the New Testament.  In all but two of those occasions, his name is simply mentioned alongside those of the other apostles.  And in the two other instances—instances in which Thomas has a speaking part—he is questioning.

"When in doubt, don't."  Ben Franklin

“When in doubt, don’t.” Ben Franklin

The second of those occasions occurs in Today’s Gospel.  Late on Easter day, the resurrected Jesus appears to several of the apostles in Thomas’ absence.  (We’re not told where Thomas is.)  In order to get to the apostles in the locked upper room where they cower in fear, Jesus walks through the wall.  He speaks a word of peace and breathes the Holy Spirit upon the ten gathered apostles, granting to them the authority to forgive sins, an authority previously restricted to God and Jesus himself.  And then, virtually as soon as Jesus appears—poof!—he’s gone.

Thomas finally arrives, and the aforementioned is the story the others tell him.  Now, let me ask, how would you respond, if three days earlier you’d seen your teacher and hero ridiculed, derided, beaten, and crucified, if you’d seen his broken and lifeless body removed from the cross and carried to the graveyard?  How about if you’d then been told that Jesus is miraculously alive and walking through walls?  Yeah, maybe we should give Thomas a break.  For his part, Thomas responds to the other apostles, “You guys are nuts.  Unless I see the mark of the nails in Jesus’ hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."  Mark Twain

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”  Mark Twain

That’s the second occasion in which Thomas opens his mouth.  The first comes on Maundy Thursday, as Jesus is in the upper room explaining to the Twelve that he must go to the cross ahead of them, that he must prepare the way to God the Father.  Here, too, Thomas speaks up: “Lord, we do not know where you are going.  How can we know the way?”

I’m an amateur student of literature, and one of my favorite literary devices is the character who asks the questions the reader wants asked, the character who speaks for those of us who live just outside the pages of the story, but who read with interest, and, as we become engrossed in the narrative, whose lives seemingly depend upon the answers received.

You see, I love Thomas, and that’s why.  He asks the questions we all want answered.  He probes where we all need explanation.  He has the courage to pursue, seeking understanding, when most of us would stay silent or else give up and walk away confused.

My all time favorite song lyric is from the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.”  John Lennon reminds us, “Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.”  Living is also comparably easier with mouths closed, never probing, never asking, never doubting.  It would do us well to remember Voltaire’s saying, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.”

Riffing on Mark Twain, it is not, then, Thomas who is the fool.  It is the other ten, who sit silently by and pretend that they can fathom this resurrected Jesus who stands among them, and breathes the Spirit, and then disappears into thin air.  They sit slack-jawed as Jesus tells them at the Last Supper that he will go to the Father ahead of them.  In both cases, they are mute because they are utterly befuddled.  They don’t know what Jesus is talking about.  On Easter, they don’t even know what he is.  And they don’t ask.  They don’t utter a peep.Doubting Thomas

Not so, Thomas.  Thomas asks.  Thomas admits his doubts and his confusion and his lack of understanding.  He may be a fool, but at least he knows it.  And what is the result of his questioning?  Is he ridiculed by Jesus?  Is he marginalized or cast out?  No.  When the resurrected Jesus returns to the upper room, this time when Thomas is present, he says to Thomas just as he earlier said to the others, “Peace be with you.”  And he provides Thomas exactly what Thomas has declared as his need.  To Thomas who, in vulnerability, admits his doubt, Jesus says, “Place your hands in my wounds.”  Jesus might as well say, “Experience me in my immediacy.  Know me in my depths as a person, as one you encounter rather than a list of beliefs you check off.”

Only to Thomas—only to the one who questions—does Jesus offer this gift.  And Thomas among the Twelve—not Peter, not James and John, only Thomas—is the first person in all creation to declare of Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”

We must not, we cannot, understate the importance of this moment.  It is the moment in the Gospel.  Not the Transfiguration; not any of the grand miracles; but here is where the ultimate identification of Jesus the Christ as God is made.  By the one apostle who would not be content with blind faith, but rather wanted faith with understanding, who here and elsewhere found his voice to ask the vexing questions.  By the Doubter.  Through his questions, and not blind faith or simple certainty, Thomas alone comes fully to know Jesus, not as a proposition of faith, but as his Lord.

"Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd."  Voltaire

“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” Voltaire

I strongly suspect Thomas didn’t stop here.  Christian tradition tells us that Thomas’ evangelistic work took him further afield than any of the other apostles.  Thomas alone took the Gospel as far as South India.  When fourteenth century medieval Dominican missionaries arrived on Indian shores to share the Gospel, they were met by cross-carrying Thomist Christians who’d been there for over one thousand years!  I suspect it was the other apostles who sent Thomas to the end of the earth to get him out of their hair, with his incessant questioning, always seeking to plumb the mystery, to know God more deeply.

But what are we to make of Jesus’ injunction to Thomas in today’s Gospel, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”?  Too often in Christian history this has been taken as a counsel toward ignorance, but don’t believe it.  John the Evangelist is here having Jesus speak not really to Thomas but directly to us, the readers now two thousand years distant.  His words intend to be a comfort to us, that though Jesus no longer walks the earth, present to our mortal eyes, we can nevertheless know him just as intimately as did Thomas.  And as with Thomas, the peace of God is bestowed upon us not when we settle for easy certainty, but when we needle, when we ask, when we plumb the depths of God as Thomas plunged his hand into Jesus’ side.  Because it is through our seeking that we come to inhabit the vastness of God’s mystery and love.  It is through our seeking that we come to know Jesus as Lord and God.

Loosening our tongues for words of grace

There is a scene in the 2010 Academy Award-winning film The King’s Speech in which King George VI of England sits with Princess Elizabeth watching a news reel of a Nazi rally in Germany.  On the screen, Hitler yells and gesticulates to a mesmerized crowd.  From her chair, Elizabeth asks her father, “Papa, what’s he saying?”  The king answers, “I don’t know, but he seems to be saying it rather well.”

It is a pensive moment for the English king, because he is Hitler’s counterpart in England, and he lacks the ability to speak well.  The king is perpetually tongue-tied with a debilitating stammer.  So long as he cannot speak, the venomous voice of Hitler goes unchecked.  And thus, the king is desperate to find his voice.

Princess Elizabeth: "Papa, what's he saying?" King George: "I don't know, but he seems to be saying it rather well."

Princess Elizabeth: “Papa, what’s he saying?”
King George: “I don’t know, but he seems to be saying it rather well.”

The scene reminds me of the seventh chapter of Mark’s Gospel, when the Pharisees accost Jesus for violating dietary purity laws, while at the same time they (the Pharisees) speak words that degrade and take advantage of the weak.  Jesus responds by saying to the crowd, “Listen to me: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile.”  Jesus reminds the crowd—and us—that the words we employ affect us, for good or ill.  The form us and mark us.  We become, over time, the things we speak.  (When one views news reels from Nazi Germany, one ominously sees this process at work.)  Jesus then meets a man whose tongue has been tied since birth.  He heals the man, who then speaks clearly.

Blessedly, we do not face a Hitler in our present world.  But we do live in a world increasingly marked by bitter and venomous words.  We hear these words spoken by our politicians, social commentators, the talking heads in the media.  Such words are not the exclusive purview of only one end of the social or political spectrum.  Rather, it is as if the powers-that-be in our world have, across the board, lost the ability to speak graciously.

The miracle of the true story of The King’s Speech is that George VI’s tongue is loosened.  He, too, finds his voice, and when he does, he resists the urge to speak words that defile.

The miracle of the true story of The King’s Speech is that George VI’s tongue is loosened. He finds his voice, and when he does, he resists the urge to speak words that defile.

If such coarse and corrosive words were spoken clumsily, we could easily ignore them.  But they are “spoken rather well,” as King George VI says to Princess Elizabeth.  They are silky and compelling, and they prey upon our most basic fears and insecurities.  Almost subconsciously, they influence and form us.  We find are thoughts conforming to the fears such words instill, and in our worst moments we find coming from our own mouths similar words of venom.  We risk granting such words the victory, just as King George VI feared his silence would allow Hitler’s speech to overwhelm all that was good in George’s world.

The miracle of the true story of The King’s Speech is as grand as the miracle in Mark 7.  George VI’s tongue is loosened.  He, too, finds his voice, and when he does, he resists the urge to speak words that defile.  The King will not speak of wanton violence, vengeance, or division among peoples.  Rather, he speaks of the preservation of the Good and the hope that the peace of God will reign among people.

In this Easter season, it is my hope that we at Christ Church will speak only words of resurrection hope.  Blessedly, I already hear such words weekly in our parish life, and I pray we will speak them equally in our relationships beyond the walls of the church.  When we hear words of venom (whatever their source), I pray our tongues will be loosened, and we will counter them not with equal venom, but with words of grace.  When we do, we prevail for the God of love. We proclaim, with Jesus, that we will not traffic in words that defile, but will speak goodness and grace to a world that desperately needs to hear them.  Then God will say to the angels, “I know indeed what they are saying, and they are saying it rather well!”

Not just another butterfly sermon

I have always resisted the urge to preach an Easter sermon about the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.  These are, indeed, ancient Christian symbols of rebirth, but these days they are also in the same category as the “Starfish” story and other such memes that appear on gauzy inspirational posters, bumper stickers, and Facebook postings. Or else, our cultural image of the caterpillar is from Walt Disney.  I’m personally reminded of Squeaks, the caterpillar in The Fox and the Hound.  Throughout the film (which was released when I was nine-years-old and is thus my favorite Disney movie), Squeaks evades two cartoon birds, and at the end he emerges from his cocoon as a grinning purple winged butterfly Squeaks, giving the audience a warm and fuzzy feeling.  You can see, I think, why I have avoided this symbol in Easter sermons. The chrysalis is too easy.  It doesn’t challenge, and its comfort is of the feather pillow kind.

Squeaks the Caterpillar (pre chrysalis) from The Fox and the Hound

Squeaks the Caterpillar (pre chrysalis) from The Fox and the Hound

But I gave the chrysalis a second thought this year, after hearing last January an edition of one my favorite podcasts, Radiolab from New York Public Radio.[i]  The episode is entitled “Black Box,” and it focuses on, well, black boxes, those liminal, in-between spaces, where you see what goes in, you see that something different comes out, but what happens in the middle is a mystery.  At that, it strikes me, is the crux of Easter.  The tomb to which Mary Magdalene and the other women travel this very morning is the ultimate black box.

______________________

On Good Friday, just two days ago, Jesus was lifted, already bloodied and broken, onto a crossbeam of wood, where he was further taunted and derided as he slowly asphyxiated.  By the time Friday’s sunlight was waning, Jesus would’ve been scarcely recognizable, even to his mother and few remaining friends.  Through the rather pristine images on crucifixes we forget that, I think.  Jesus’ face, indeed, his tongue, would have been grossly swollen, his body contorted and bruised, with shoulders almost certainly wrenched from their sockets.  Jesus didn’t just die.  He died horribly.  And because the day was failing and it took Joseph of Arimathea some time to convince Pilate the Governor to release Jesus’ body, Jesus was rushed, unanointed and unceremoniously, into the tomb.  The rock was rolled in front of the opening, enclosing the corpse of Jesus in utter darkness—in a black box—and there it lay until this morning.

______________________

Black BoxI’ve always had an idea in my mind’s eye what happens in a chrysalis, when the caterpillar cocoons himself away from the light of the world, when he rolls the stone in front of his tiny tomb.  It is, I have imagined, the closed-door version of what happens to the tadpole.  First, little legs sprout from the caterpillar’s body.  Then his soft, inch-worm skin gains its rigidity.  Finally, gossamer wings emerge from his caterpillar back.  And when the chrysalis cracks open to the light, the beautiful butterfly flies to the heavens.  The action in the chrysalis is, I have always and hopefully assumed, a gentle metamorphosis from one thing into another.

It isn’t so.  In Radiolab’s podcast, biologist Andrei Sourakov takes a day-old chrysalis and slices it open.  Inside, there is no caterpillar.  There is no butterfly.  There is no halfway thing, like a tadpole.  There is nothing resembling an animal at all, no head, legs, or spine.  The content of the chrysalis is a white and oozy goo.  It turns out, when the caterpillar enters its tomb, cells rupture.  Muscle dissolves.  All that is left is an amino acid and protein soup.  The biologist calls what happens to the caterpillar “cataclysmic and catastrophic.”  It is a violent change, an utterly disruptive change.

After hearing Radiolab’s podcast, try as I might I can no longer bring to mind the cartoon image of a Disney butterfly as the norm anymore.  And the symbol resonates anew for me this Easter.  In order to emerge from the chrysalis, in order to enable a new birth of beauty and wonder, the caterpillar must first be entirely broken, even destroyed.  The caterpillar experiences its own Good Friday.crucifix

But there’s more.  Biologists at Georgetown have conducted experiments in which they condition caterpillars to respond to attractive and repulsive odors and then allow those caterpillars to enter the chrysalis.  Amazingly, when the butterflies emerge in new life, they retain the same attraction and repulsion to the same smells.  Do you get that?  Even though they, as caterpillars, are dissolved in their tomb, somehow something of them remains when they are reconstituted and reborn.  They are a new thing, but the old thing is not lost.

And there’s even more.  When biologists study young caterpillar anatomy, they discover that within the caterpillar, long before it enters the chrysalis, live the microscopic seeds of butterflies wings.  Even before the caterpillar’s destruction, the future self already lives within.

Easter is about Jesus, and the truths of the chrysalis are present in him.  When Jesus emerges from the black box of the tomb, the change is cataclysmic.  What was broken has been restored; what was dead has been gloriously resurrected.  When Mary meets Jesus, she does not even recognize the man she buried two days hence, this time not because of the brokenness of Jesus’ body, but because of the wonder of his rebirth.

And yet, we soon learn, even in rebirth the wounds on Jesus’ hands and feet remain.  His is new life, but evidence of the old life, the Jesus known and loved by Mary and the others, is still present.

And yet, as we learned in the Epiphany season just weeks ago, there were glimpses of the resurrected Jesus even before his Passion: at his baptism, on the Mount of Transfiguration.  Even then, the seed of resurrection dwelt within him.

Easter is about Jesus, and all of these things are true of him.  But Easter is also about us, and they are true of us as well.  These truths give us both pause and promise.  We say, again and again, that we must walk the Way of the Passion.  But this is not merely a liturgical observance.  If we are to experience Easter, if we are to share in Resurrection, in our lives we must walk the Way of the Passion.  That, indeed, should give us pause.  We must experience Good Friday.  We must be willing to be dissolved of those things to which we cling, of those things that threaten to put us in the spiritual—and sometimes earthly—grave to decay rather than rebirth.  We must enter the black box that is inky dark and whose other side we cannot clearly see.  Indeed, some of us may be in the black box even now.  We may, in various ways in our lives, be experiencing the cataclysm.

butterflyBut, oh, how Easter is worth Good Friday!  How the experience of the black box is worth the promise!  The promise is that the tombstone will roll away.  The chrysalis will crack open.  We will emerge from Good Friday with the Son of God into new life.  And when we do, the best and good of our old lives—our passions, our virtues, our beauties, our loves—will still be at the heart of us.  We will be who we are, but redeemed in the light of God’s grace.

It seems far-fetched.  What works for butterflies we can’t imagine will work for our souls.  Our flaws and fissures run too deep.  We are too far gone.  Our brokenness is irredeemable.  Friends, butterflies are but insects.  Beautiful, it’s true, but bugs, whereas we—every one of us—are created in the very image of God.  If we want to see true beauty, we need look inward, where the seed of resurrection life has been planted in us since God knit us in our mothers’ wombs.  It is there right now, ready to grow, to displace and dissolve those things that separate us from God and our neighbors, to burst forth in diverse and radiant color.

“When?” we ask.  Why not today?  It is Easter Day, the day of resurrection, not only in a biblical story but in our lives.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Why not us?

 

[i] http://www.radiolab.org/story/black-box/, first aired on January 17, 2014.

Showing I love you

Yeah, I know it’s kind of strange

every time I’m near you;

I just run out of things to say.

I hope you’ll understand.

 

Every time I try to tell you

the words just come out wrong.

So I have to say I love you in a song.

 

We know that feeling, don’t we?  We know what it is for our words, especially words of love, to be inadequate to the moment before us.  We know what it is to struggle to show our love in ways that do it justice, in ways that convey its power and truth.

"Every time I try to tell you, the words just come out wrong..."

“Every time I try to tell you, the words just come out wrong…”

A year ago, my family and I were in the midst of a six month separation, as I began ministry here at the Cathedral, and they finished the school year in Roanoke, Virginia.  Four times during those six months, we saw each other.  I traveled to Roanoke twice, and Jill and the kids came to Houston twice, the last time for Easter.  The visits were splendid, but the partings were excruciating.  As the family would drop me off at the airport, or vice versa, I would fumble with teary eyes, trying to convey in those hurried final moments just how very deeply I love them.  My words were never adequate to my feelings.  The time I remember most was Easter evening last year, when I said goodbye to my family at Bush Intercontinental.  As they were about to head through security, leaving me next to the ticket counter, Eliza looked up at me and said, “I don’t think I can go.  I feel like I’ll never see you again.”  I hugged her and said a few words, and as she walked toward the x-ray machines, I experienced the pang of regret that I hadn’t been able to show her, or Griffin, or Jill what I felt, to convey to them their centrality in my life.  Whereas my love for them is overflowing—with the volume, rush and power of Niagara Falls—my words were halting and stilted.  My words weren’t up to the task.  I needed to show my family how I loved them, but I didn’t know how.

In John’s Gospel today, Jesus, and to some extent the disciples, know the game is up.  After the week they’ve had, how could they not know it?  The buzzer is about to sound, the plane is boarding, the curtain is closing.  Soon and very soon Jesus will move into the Garden of Gethsemane.  There he’ll pray a prayer for release that he knows is futile even as he utters it, and the mob will come and drag him away.  But first, he’s in an upper room having his last meal with the ones he loves.

The Thompsons, Easter 2013, a few hours before taking the family to the airport.

The Thompsons, Easter 2013, a few hours before taking the family to the airport.

Though he is the Son of God, Jesus is also, we affirm theologically, fully human, and in the human attempt to convey his feelings, he talks during dinner.  And talks.  And talks.  For five full chapters Jesus talks, striving to convey his feelings and his hopes for the disciples.  He is saying goodbye, and the disciples fear they may never see him again.  There is an urgency to the evening, a desire to say it all, to share everything there is to share, to leave nothing on the table.

Jesus says amazing and unforgettable things, things that are preached and prayed and remembered to this day.  Most importantly, Jesus gives his disciples a new commandment—mandatum in Latin, from which the name “Maundy Thursday” is derived—in which he tells them what is most important in their lives together.  “Love one another,” Jesus says.  And not just any love.  “As I have loved you, love one another.”

But it is not what Jesus says at that most auspicious and last supper that is most daunting, most discomfiting.  Jesus—even Jesus—seems to recognize that there are times when even the most profound and eloquent words are inadequate.  In addition to all he says in that upper room, Jesus wants to show the disciples what he means, what his love looks like.

Jesus gets up from the table, takes off his outer robe, and ties a towel around his waist.  He kneels in the dirt.  And he begins to wash the disciples’ bare and road weary feet.

Do we understand the eye-watering, deer-in-headlights, unbelievability of this act?  Peter does.  He jumps up from his chair and says, “Not me!  You’re not washing my feet!”

Peter could sit through Jesus’ words (all five chapters of them), but he won’t abide this showing.  Why is that?  In his excellent book The Ragamuffin Gospel, Brennan Manning has God himself explain to us, saying, “Do you know from where the inspiration to wash the feet of the Twelve came?  Do you understand that, motivated by love alone, your God became your slave in the Upper Room?”[i]Jesus washing feet

In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis offers us another image.  In it, the ghost of a man who repeatedly refuses God’s gracious love shrinks smaller and smaller with each refusal.  As he diminishes, the Christ-figure in Lewis’ story—here a beautiful and angelic woman—first leans down to be nearer the faltering ghost.  Still, the ghost refuses and shrinks some more.  So she drops to her knees to speak to him.  Again, he refuses.  Until finally, she lowers herself until her face is practically in the dirt to reach him.  Christ, prostrating Christ-self on the ground…Christ who will even debase himself, in love for us.[ii]

That is why Peter jumps from his chair.  That is when the steady stream of Jesus’ words assume the force and power of Niagara Falls.   That is the way Jesus loves, and calls us to love: as one who removes the mantle of the savior—or, in our case, the CEO, or the senior partner, or the matriarch, or the self-sufficient American—and kneels as a servant to wash his sister’s and his brother’s feet.

People often ask why, two thousand years after the first Easter, the world it still a broken place.  It is because we do not yet love one another as Jesus loves us.  It is because we do not become servants to one another and—metaphorically in our world—humble ourselves to wash one another’s feet.

We think that love is too much to give.  It requires us, by definition, to disrobe, to remove the pretensions with which we clothe ourselves in the world.  And we fear—like the ghost in The Great Divorce, like Peter—that that kind of love is too much for us to receive.  Like Niagara Falls, it will overwhelm us.  It will drown who we are and turn us into something different.

Yes, it will.  But it is the only kind of love Jesus offers, because it is the stuff God is made of.  When the last syllable of the last word drifts away, there will be Jesus, kneeling in the dirt, washing our feet.  And tonight, there will be Jesus, receiving our blows.  And tomorrow, there will be Jesus, accepting the cross; not counting our trespasses against us, but countering them with the love that outlasts words, that cannot die to the grave, that will never leave us, in this life or the next.

 

[i] Manning, Brennan.  The Ragamuffin Gospel, pp. 166-167.

[ii] Lewis, C.S.  The Great Divorce, 104-116.

MORE Thoughts on “Noah”

This morning a friend on Facebook forwarded this link to me.  Read it before reading my post below:

http://drbrianmattson.com/journal/2014/3/31/sympathy-for-the-devil

People are sure talking about this movie...

People are sure talking about this movie…

I don’t know Brian Mattson, but his take on the film “Noah” is fascinating.  He may be onto something.  Mattson certainly gets the broad strokes of ancient Christian Gnosticism correct.  I know virtually nothing about Kabbalah, so I’ll have to take his word there.  Mattson’s take on the zohar mine is tantalizing.  I wondered throughout the movie why Aronofsky had invented such a weird element.  Whenever the characters are in darkness and need light, they crush zohar, and it illuminates like phosphorous.  This symbolism certainly contributes to Mattson’s interpretation of the movie as the revelation of hidden Gnostic light.

There are some problems with Mattson’s interpretation of Aronofsky’s movie as Gnostic.  The fallen angels say they are being “brought home” by the Creator.  They do not distinguish between the Creator (as the “bad god” in dualistic Gnosticism) and a good god (the force of redemption in Gnosticism).  Secondly and most importantly, in Gnosticism the creation itself is bad.  The entire point of salvation in Gnosticism is for the beings of light (who are trapped in corporeal bodies) to escape the creation.  But the overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity.  That theme is absent in ancient Christian Gnosticism.

The overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity

The overriding theme of Aronofsky’s movie is the redemption of the good earth from the ill effects of humanity

As a side note, Mattson quotes Adolphe Franck’s (with whom I’m also unacquainted) description of the redemption of demons in Kabbalah, “Nothing is absolutely bad; nothing is accursed forever—not even the archangel of evil or the venomous beast, as he is sometimes called. There will come a time when he will recover his name and his angelic nature.”  There are strains of Christian universalism—outside of Gnosticism—that affirm this same thing.  The early Christian father Origen believed even Satan will be redeemed.  It’s a minority view, to be sure, but it’s there.  It’s also something, I’d suggest, we should hope for: that ultimately all things will be reconciled to the God of love.

I’ll add this: If Aronofsky has indeed produced a sophisticated and subversive Gnostic film, it makes “Noah” all the more important as a Christian conversation piece.  We should view the movie and discuss it: where it gets Gnosticism correct, where it gets it wrong, where the film affirms things we can affirm, and where it portrays a cosmology that we as Christians should confront.  We certainly shouldn’t shy away from the film.  (It’s not unlike Dan Brown’s novels in that sense.)  So, who’s buying the popcorn?