A couple of nights ago I watched “Constantine” and it has been stuck in my head ever since. Any movie that has someone flipping off the devil can’t be all bad.
It stars Keanu Reeves, hence the catchy blog title, courtesy of my office mate. It is the story of a demon hunter exorcist who gets involved in a plot by the devil’s son to take over the world.
The theology of the movie was a little off, though not as bad as many movies using Christian mythology. The biggest place it was off was the deal between the Devil and God to not work directly on Earth. No angels, no deamons actually on our plane. Instead there were half breeds that lived among us. I wasn’t sure if they were actually humans who had sold out, or some other type of being.
The theological problem with the deal was that God is active in our plane, and the devil didn’t keep the deal, which was a main point in the plot. Also it implied a equality between God and the Devil. But they aren’t equal. Dualism doesn’t work.
Putting that aside, you have a world alot like “This Present Darkness” by Frank E. Peretti. Now make your hero a man with no hope of going to heaven when he dies and you have an interesting premise. John Constantine killed himself and went to hell because of it, but then they revived him and he came back. But according to the movie’s take on Catholic dogma, he had committed an unforgivable sin, so he was destined to go to hell. So, like many people, John thought he could work it off. If he did enough good works, God would forgive him and let him in. But it doesn’t work that way.
At one point he has a discussion with “half-breed” Gabriel about it and she seemed to say he needed redemption, nothing else would get him in, not his good works. But she also said he couldn’t get redemption because he was a suicide. I went looking and found a discussion of suicide in the Catholic Encyclopedia. It has some interesting theology on why suicide is a sin that I won’t go into here, but I don’t disagree with. But the problem with suicide is you don’t get a Christian burial, and therefore can’t be rise when Christ returns. Also since you sinned at the point of death, you can’t get forgiveness.
But Constantine doesn’t have this problem. He can ask for forgiveness and receive it. He isn’t as Gabriel told him “F*cked”.
Also my own, and I think a fairly standard Protestant theology, is that you can go to Heaven if you are in a state of grace. A state of grace means you have turned your life and faith over to Jesus. And even if you sin, whether it is lust or suicide, and haven’t asked forgiveness, he will still forgive you and let you in. It is only when you are in a state of willful and consistent rebellion – when you’ve taken yourself out of God’s grace – that you will go to hell. (Please, I don’t want to argue once saved always saved in the comments).
BTW, even Catholic theology has an exception for insanity at the time of suicide, which is relevant to another person in the film. And the Devil isn’t the one to decide whether someone goes to heaven or hell.
But the movie did have a very strong redemptive them in it. A Christ like action that was needed, with a Christlike result. Hope that isn’t too spoiler.
I actually think that movie may become part of my own DVD collection.