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Evan Almighty: Blasphemy or Modern-Day Parable?

By Belinda Elliott Daily Life Producer - I wish I had a nickel for every email I’ve read lately asking why Christians would support such a “blasphemous” film as Evan Almighty. The comments got me thinking. What is it about the film that some consider blasphemy?

What exactly is blasphemy? Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines it as: (1) the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God, (2) the act of claiming the attributes of deity, (3) irreverence toward something considered sacred or inviolable.

The next question would be does the film do these things? I don’t think it does.

In the film Evan Almighty, Evan Baxter is a newly elected congressman who wants to change the world. Shortly after he takes his new position on Capitol Hill, someone claiming to be God appears to him and tells him that He wants him to build an Ark like in the days of Noah.

Perhaps what my brothers and sisters perceive as blasphemy is the fact that God is portrayed as a human. We know that He has no human body and is not confined by space or time, so perhaps to see him painted as “the guy next door” disturbs us. Would it be better to have a voice thundering down from heaven? God is holy above all, and perhaps we should not depict Him in such a familiar way.

On the other hand, our God is a very personal God. He speaks to us. He gets involved in our lives. He wants a one-on-one relationship with us. Isn’t this the picture we paint in our minds as we sing about “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” and “I Am a Friend of God”? Are we not supposed to acknowledge the Lord as the friend that sticks closer than a brother?

Is it any different than telling a child that God lives in Heaven and we talk to Him through prayer? Our minds tend to think of God in human terms because we cannot imagine anything different.

I don’t think the filmmakers of Evan Almighty are saying, “Look at God, He is a human.” I don’t think they are claiming that a person could ever have attributes of deity. Rather, I think they are saying, “God is like… .” The only clear way they could show any of God’s attributes, was to depict him as a human.

To me it is the same idea that Jesus used when He told parables to explain the things of God to people who had limited understanding. He compared the things of Heaven to things on earth that people were familiar with. The filmmakers do the same here by comparing God and how He works in our lives to a person – something we can watch and observe. They are taking something (God) that we could never truly understand with our finite minds and trying to present it in such a way that it can make sense to humans.

Perhaps the reason some believe the film to be blasphemy is because it does not capture all the attributes of God. For instance, it does not clearly portray His holiness or the extent of His wrath for sin. Instead, the film focuses more on God’s love for us and His involvement in our lives.

For me this is not a problem. Just as Jesus did not explain all of God’s attributes in one parable, we can not expect one story to explain something as complex as God and the way He works.

Yes, God is a holy and righteous God. His glory is such that we could not look upon His face and live. And perhaps the film does not portray this aspect of God as well as it should.

But God is also our Savior, our Father, and our Best Friend. Our relationship with Him is very real and very personal, and this is a concept that the film captures very well.

The film also does not show a lack of reverence toward God. In fact, if anything, the film clearly demonstrates that God always knows what is best. He is always right.

I won’t give away the ending for those of you who have not seen the film, but let’s just say that everything that the God character in the movie says will happen does happen. The characters in the film who come out looking foolish are the ones who did not listen to him.

While this is a comedy, I hardly think anyone will walk away laughing at God. If anything, the film could spark their interest in God and lead them to search for Him.

I hear Christians repeatedly complain that Hollywood never offers an accurate portrayal of our faith. They claim that filmmakers merely use Christians or God as something to laugh at. They say they wish someone would make a film that portrays God the way He is, or portrays Christians in a good light.

I also constantly hear that Christians want more movies that are wholesome, clean, and depict Christian values. But when a filmmaker like Evan Almighty’s director Tom Shadyac (who is a Christian by the way) attempts to do this, we want to rip him to shreds for one reason or another, rather than commending his efforts.

At its heart I think Evan Almighty is a profound portrait of how God often works in our lives. Sometimes He may ask us to do things we don’t understand. Sometimes He may task us with work that seems beyond our capabilities. Sometimes we will be persecuted or made fun of when we follow Him. But through it all He has a plan. He knows what is best for us, and He works in our lives to accomplish His purposes both for us, and for the world.

What better way to explain these attributes of God to unbelievers, than to depict them in the context of a story that will appeal to a broad audience? And if biblical principles such as obedience can be illustrated in a fun and entertaining way, I say let’s do it.

I think the Author of the humorous illustration about a camel fitting through the eye of a needle would approve.


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