Thoughts on The Golden Compass & Philip Pullman

02 Nov

Philip Pullman is an Oxford-educated British author. He published a trilogy of children’s books in the 1990s called His Dark Materials. The books include Northern Lights (1995), The Subtle Knife (1997), and The Amber Spyglass (2000). He has been honored with several awards for these books and he has sold millions of copies in the UK and the US.

Northern Lights was published in the US as The Golden Compass and New Line Cinema is releasing the film adaptation of the book next month. The movie is a fantasy adventure similar to the look and feel of The Chronicles of Narnia, but with a much different theme. Read a synopsis of the movie here. My guess is that most kids will miss the meanings of the metaphors in the film, but a review of Pullman and his books makes it clear–the books, and presumably the movie, challenge some of the basic tenants of the Christian faith.

I have not read any of Pullman’s books and I have not seen the movie, but from what I can piece together from reading a number of interviews with Pullman, he is passionate in his position that God doesn’t exist, the Christian Church is oppressive and the biblical view of God, creation and redemption is wrong.

Here are a few quotes from Pullman in an Interview with the UK’s newspaper the Guardian:

Pullman says: ‘Blake once wrote of Milton that he was a “true poet, and of the Devil’s party, without knowing it”. I am of the Devil’s party, and I know it.

‘I’m just as interested in the Creation story as the fundamentalists are,’ says Pullman, ‘but in the part played by the tempter, who leads us to the kingdom of good and evil, which is wisdom, as an act of kindness towards those beings who had been kept as prisoners by the authority.’

‘I hate the Narnia books, and I hate them with deep and bitter passion, with their view of childhood as a golden age from which sexuality and adulthood are a falling away…

‘The Kingdom of Heaven was over… we shouldn’t live as though it mattered more than this life in this world, because where we are is always the most important place.’ [Source]

Pullman’s distain for Narnia seemed to fuel his passion to write a children’s trilogy that paints a view of reality that is quite different than the biblical picture. In Pullman’s trilogy, the climax of the final book is the killing of a character called “God.” He feels that the Christian faith leads people to social and intellectually bondage, a prison from which people need to be set free.

Peter Hitchens, a British writer and columnist called Pullman “the most dangerous author in Britain.” Why? Because it is clear that Pullman desires to undermine the authority of the biblical story and the vitality of the local church. In one of the books, a character says, “Every church is the same: control, destroy, obliterate every good feeling.” [Source]

So how should Christians respond? Should we boycott the movie? Hold up picket signs at local theatres? Should we allow our kids to see the movie? Or read the books?

I think Christian parents should be aware and be educated on the movie and the books. Whether you purchase a movie ticket or a book is their choice. I think we need to be careful not to make the movie too controversial. Controversy leads to more publicity. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as bad press. But certainly get educated. Learn what the movie is about before you launch into a tirade against atheists in America or how this is a sign of the end of the world.

Here are two good articles you can read:

I believe it will blow over, much like The Da Vinci Code. Do you remember when that movie came out? I heard one national Christian leader say that The Da Vinci Code was going to be the biggest attack on the Christian faith in our lifetime. Maybe that was a bit of an overstatement.

For me, I don’t intend on watching the movie or reading the books. I still haven’t got through all of the Narnia books! For me, Lewis and Tolkien are masterful story-tellers and the stories they tell reinforce biblical truth. These are the books that I want to stick in the hands of my kids as they grow up. For me and my family, we will stick with Lewis and Tolkien.

Here is one of my favorite scenes from Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:

Mr. Beaver says,

“You’ll understand when you see him.”

“But shall we see him?” asked Susan.

“Why, Daughter of Eve, that’s what I brought you here for. I’m to lead you where you shall meet him,” said Mr. Beaver.

“Is – is he a man?” asked Lucy.

“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood and the son of the great Emperor-beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”

“Ooh!” said Susan, “I’d thought he was a man. Is he – quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

“That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver; “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else just silly.”

“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.

“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver; “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.

I think Aslan could take out Pullman’s armored bear anyday!

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Posted by on November 2, 2007 in Theology


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