Monday, July 04, 2005

The Fireworks of the War of the Worlds

The 4th of July is an appropriate time for fireworks, and there are certainly plenty of those to be found in the new War of the Worlds movie. This movie is not for the faint of heart nor for small children, though the female lead is a child, and she steals the show (as she did in her duet with Denzel Washington in Man on Fire). War of the Worlds is in the true sense of the word a horrow movie with very realistic special effects, and even a good cameo appearance by Tim Robbins.

Of course we could debate how faithful to H.G. Well's original novel, Steven Spielberg's adaptation for the 21rst century movie audience is. We could also compare the impact of Orson Welles original radio broadcast of the story a sa newscast which caused considerable hysteria during the Depression, and even some suicides. By comparison with the original and its radio broadcast the react to Spielberg's show has been mild, if enthusiastic.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of this movie is its presentation of malevolent blood-sucking aliens which stand at the other end of spectrum from Spielberg's earlier classics ET and Close Encounters of the First Kind.

Science Fiction has always dabbled with the idea that aliens would be super powerful, indeed there have even been those prone to read parts of the Bible as dealing with aliens instead of angels (see e.g. the throne chariot vision of Ezekiel in Ezek. 1). But it is equally possible that if there is life on other planets in some other galaxy it maybe far more primitive in form than what we find on earth, and may not even involve what we call sentient beings.

The question this movie provokes is--- why is apparently so much easier for modern persons to suspend their disbelief when it comes to the possible existence of super powerful aliens, all the while maintaining considerable skepticism about the supernatural in general, especially the concept of an all powerful God? Is this another example of those who will not stand for something are likely to fall for anything? Are human beings just selectively gullible? Or should we rather see the 'War of the Worlds' and its current appeal as more evidence that there is a very strong and deep seated desire humans have to believe there is more to existence than earthly life as we know it? I think the latter is definitely in play.

Of course 'War of the Worlds' in its modern movie version reassures us in the end that human beings can even overcome or outlast aliens, with a little help from amoeba and the like. But the truth is that Tom Cruise in this movie and his children survive so many potential disasters, that it is less a stretch to see him as an example of having benefited from extreme divine providence rather than human ingenuity or pluck and luck. He and his loved ones should have been dead at least five times in this movie, if secular science fiction's premises are accurate.

If the test of a good movie is that it raises more profound questions than it answers, then this Tom Cruise adventure is one of his better efforts. And in the end, the final quotation from H.G. Wells himself at the close of the movie (with voice over by Morgan Freeman) in fact suggests that the universe is as God has designed it for a reason--- and no aliens had better mess with the creation order, or they too will pay the price. Perhaps we should all sit down now and read Gen. 6.1-4 and ask--- 'what is that text really all about?'


J said...

Mr. Witherington, are you a dispensationalist? What are your feelings toward the covenant position? Jon

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Jon:
No I am certainly not a dispensationalist, but why in the world would this blog prompt that question? I am not sure what you mean about the covenant position.

Dr. Ben W.

J said...

Well... I'm confused by your Revelation Commentary and some of your comments on Romans 11. I wasn't sure where to put the question. What is your opinion on how ethnic Israel fits into the scheme of eschatology? Jon

Ben Witherington said...

It seems to me that the early church's judgement about Revelation was clear enough. Before Eusebius the vast majority of interpreters affirmed what today is called historic pre-millenialism, which is to say pre-mil without the rapture and without the bifurcating of God's people into two peoples. The early church was unanimous that the only people of God during the church age were Jews and Gentiles united in Christ. This did not mean that God had reneged on his promises to Israel, but it did mean they would not be fulfilled outside of Christ and his followers, or outside of the return of Christ, as Rom. 11 suggests. The orientation of my Revelation commentary reflects the views of the earliest Christian interpreters of these things, of which John of Patmos was one. The a-millenial approach to these matters does not really show up in church history before Augustine.


J said...

Thank you sir! And please forgive me for my question. I do appreciate your response and clarification. Blessings to you as well, Jon =)