The Golden Compass & Phillip Pullman¬â„s ¬Å“His Dark Materials Trilogy’

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The Golden Compass and Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”

During this most blessed of seasons comes the movie, The Golden Compass, based on Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, His Dark Materials.

Pullman is a notorious atheist with an agenda to smuggle disbelief into children’s fantasy literature in what he views as a response to C.S. Lewis, who he complains tried to smuggle belief into fantasy literature through his Chronicles of Narnia.

He joins fellow atheists Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) in an attempt to popularize a view held by fools, according to Holy Scripture.

What then shall the thoughtful Christian do?

1) Recognize Pullman’s talent as a writer and the attraction of the film based on his books.

The reason kids like the books is that they are imaginative and compellingly written. The movie is less compelling than the books, but will satisfy most readers of the series and will definitely draw large crowds of viewers who have not read the books but will now be more motivated to do so.

2) See the atheism for what it is and do not fear or overreact.

There is no question that Pullman is an atheist. Among his more provocative statements are these:

¢â‚¬¢ “I am all for the death of God.”
¢â‚¬¢ “My books are about killing God.”
¢â‚¬¢ “I am of the Devil’s party and I know it.”
¢â‚¬¢ “I’m trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief.”95

There is no question that the books are his attempt to do for atheism what Lewis did for Christianity–write a compelling fantasy that subtly promotes his atheistic views. Pullman detests Lewis and Narnia and has said, I loathe the Narnia books.” Indeed, he calls the message of those books “anti-life,” “cruel” and “unjust.” He even goes so far as to accuse Lewis of being “blatantly racist” and “monumentally disparaging of women.

There is no question that at the heart of his book is an argument for rejecting religious authority (represented by the straw-man Magisterium) and to position the rebellion of Adam and Eve as enlightenment not rebellion.

We need not fear atheism. Nothing in the new atheism is new, novel or different from the old atheism. In the 1800’s Philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche announced, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.” In my senior year of High School, in 1966 TIME magazine carried a cover story “Is God Dead? It caused a great furor at the time, but take my word for it–God is alive and well.

So my advice is to chill out a bit. The new atheists are having their day and making their best case, but they will remain a minority and a novelty–entertaining, but not particularly compelling.

3) Make wise entertainment choices for yourself and your household.

Having advised us to chill out, I am not saying we don’t need to be vigilant.

My friend and devout Christian, Adrian Wyard, really likes this trilogy as a reading experience and one that has been useful in sharpening his own beliefs– However, as I pointed out to him in our special “Golden Compass” podcast, he is a well educated man with 30+ years of intellectual and spiritual seasoning–in short¢â‚¬¦ he is not twelve years old!

No parent should blithely sit idly by while their kid reads this series or heads off to see the movie. As a parent you need to be as actively involved as your child or teen is. If they are reading the series you need to read it; if they are going to see the movie, you need to see it. If you do not want them to read the series or see the films, be prepared to articulate why (and they will not be convinced if you are not well versed in the series).

Unfortunately, though younger kids may take no for an answer–older kids may just sneak out and see it with their friends–so be on top of this situation and be prepared to engage your kids about the ideas an issues raised by this series. Pullman is good at what he does–you better be better.

As you will hear in our podcast, The Kindlings Muse @ The Movies: The Golden Compass & Phillip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials Trilogy”, distinctions can be drawn between Pullman’s personal atheism and the less forward way it is expressed in his books.

There is also a distinction between the books and the way their themes are addressed in the movies. “The Golden Compass” film has been “Hollywoodized” to remove some controversial material¢â‚¬¦you will still see elements, but it is muted.

4) Identify, empower & develop Culturewatchers in your church.

For a long time I have felt we need to root our responses to culture in the local church. Why not identify the person in your church who is most drawn to fantasy literature and who is also biblically literate and ask them to be your church’s expert on Pullman’s trilogy. Let them direct you to good material on the web, let them teach a special class on the trilogy–let them be available to talk to parents and kids in your church about the themes. Use the wonderful national resources like the piece put out by the Catholic League and others, but localize and enflesh them in your local fellowship.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

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    Posted in Staublog in December 7, 2007 by | No Comments »

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