10 Spiritual Observations After Screening Constantine….
This is not your typical movie review, but rather some spiritual observations that came to mind as I was invited as part of a group of pastors to pre-screen the movie Constantine before its release date. (This would not have happened to me when I was living in Arizona). While watching the movie I was struck by the reality of spiritual warfare, and the spiritual struggle that takes place all around us though we are not always in tune with such spiritual realities. And upon seeing the movie I realized that as an American evangelical Christian, I can be very naive to the realities of life, and what the Bible has to say about the schemes of the devil, and the battles in heavenly realms. That is something that I can ignore very easily, as I have surrounded myself with my cozy middle-upper class environment in which I live and attend church. With all of our technologies, convenciecnes, comforts and money, it is quite easy to mask the reality of life…especially the spiritual reality of life. And as you will see, I think that is exactly where Satan wouldn’t mind us being…content and oblivious…then we are not much of a pain to him as Constantine seems to be. These are the observations that I have made, and have been spurned on to write after viewing Constantine. These are not necessarily my own theological beliefs regarding God, or Satan, or demons, or the topic of spiritual warfare, but rather some interesting ideas that I think the movie brings up. So please read these thoughts, and I ask you to dialogue with me on this issue.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying, for all the saints.
—–The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:10-18
Observation #1: We are in a real spiritual battle with forces that our beyond our mere comprehension of flesh and blood fighting. And if we are to survive this battle we must be properly equipped with the armaments of God.
“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and then to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
—–C.S. Lewis in the Preface to The Screwtape Letters
Observation: #2: There are those who believe, and are attuned to the spiritual realities of good and evil, of God and Satan. And there are those who ignore, or dismiss any type of spiritual reality, whether good or bad. I am of the opinion that American evangelicals are more naive to the spiritual battles that take place in the heavenly realms that Paul desribes in Epheisisans 6. I believe that such a naivete puts us in more spiritual danger than we realize. A mission trip abroad to a place such as India or Africa or Central America will open your eyes really, really quick. But we must live in a balanced understanding of these spiritual realities as C.S. Lewis states. Too much emphasis on one side can put us in just the proper place to be overcome with temptation by Satan.
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for somone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
—–The Apostle Peter in I Peter 5:8-9
Observation #3: Satan is not some storybook character that we read about in the Bible, but rather is an adversary that is trying to destroy us. It is important for us to be self-controlled and alert in our lives, otherwise we leave ourselves open for attack when we let down our guard. I think Los Angeles is an easy place for Christians to let down their guard, so wanting to be like the “in culture” around us, while not realizing that Satan is out to bring destruction to our lives.
“In modern Christian writings, though I see much (indeed more than I like) about Mammon, I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, thte Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as ‘Puritanism’–and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life.”
—–Senior Devil Screwtape to his Nephew Demon Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Observation #4: Satan plays on our weaknesses, such as lack of self-control and vanity to tempt us away from God and into temptation and self-destruction. This is demonstrated so well in the movie as demons, known as “influencers” and “peddlers” job is to influence or push people into sin and self-destruction that they are most vulnerable to. It is done so subtely that one does not even realize that he or she is being whispered to by the demons…until it is too late.
“One of our best weapons is contented worldliness…..”
—–Senior Devil Screwtape to his Newphew Demon Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Observation #5: All Satan needs us to do is to live a contented life focused on the world. Once we have accustomed ourselves to such a lifestyle Satan has succeeded in slowly pulling us away from Christ, to a life focused on the values of the world. This is like the frog who is slowly boiled in the pan of water because it hasn’t realized that the temperature has slowly been turned up bit by bit, until it is too late, and destruction has befallen it.
“This story leaves no doubt that territorial spirits greatly influence human life in all it sociopolitical aspects.” (Warfare Prayer, Ventura:Regai, 1992, p.66)
—–Peter Wagner commenting on Daniel 10:13, 20
Observation #6: Some areas of our physical world, such as certain countries, cities, etc., have a greater inhabitant of demons and experience a greater level of spiritual warfare. This is a very controversial subject in many theological circles, with each camp Biblically defending their own position. The city of Los Angeles was strategically chosen as the setting for the movie Constantine because the filmakers were looking for a city that was dark, and conveyed a sense of evil. A movment known as Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare actually maps out territories, while charting three levels, or types of spiritual warfare and demon. The stories of this movement have taken on mythological proportions at Fuller Theological Seminary where I attended seminary. I was a part of many discussions with different members of each of the three schools as stories were swapped about which parts of Los Angeles had been mapped out as having higher demon strongholds. Whatever view you hold on territorial and spiritual mapping, I know that all of us have found ourselves in environments where we experienced some heavy or uneasy feelings that we equated to spiritual realities belonging to Satan or demonic activities. Note to you: Maybe you want to check out these maps before you make your next move
“After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.”
—–Luke in the Gospel of Luke 10:1
Observation #7: Companionship is not only important, but necessary to your life. Spiritual warfare, tempting situations and environments should not be handled alone. As Westerners we are used to a very individualistic mindset especially when it comes to our own independence. This is very foolish, especially when dealing with the devil and his schemes. This is in the Bible for a reason, so go out with a partner when you are going to be in tough situations and environments. “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man or woman who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man and woman. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
—–Paul’s Warning to the Church in Corinth is I Corinthians 10:12-13
Observation #8: We must be careful not to overestimate our strength, which can leave us very vulnerable to spiritual attack. Again, I see this as a huge struggle in Los Angeles as everyone wants to fit into the “cool and hip” environment of Los Angeles. This is a huge struggle for Christians in Los Angeles as everyone wants to be seen as the cool Christian who can move back and forth between the church and the world. In that process I think we often believe we are much stronger than we are, not realizing that we leave ourselves very vulnerable when we are more concerned about being cool to the world than being faithful to God.
“Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
—–Jesus describing hell in the Parable of the Wedding Banquet in Matthew 22:13.
Observation #9: Hell is a scary place. Constantine is one of those movies that depict hell in such a gruesome way that it will cause you to have several reactions from 1) feeling nauseas and throwing up 2) to believing in God so as to avoid Hell 3) to being overtaken with compassion for those who don’t know Christ. Whether you hold the view that hell is a real place, or you hold the view of annihilation, hell is a very scary place to go.
“And there was war in heaven.”
—–John writing in the Book of Revelation 12:7
Observation #10: There is going to be a spiritual war, and we are already a part of that spiritual war here on earth. It is a war that is not just fought here in the physical realm, but also in the heavenly realms. It is a real spiritual war, with real spiritual casualties, which you and I see everyday.
Spiritual warfare is a touchy theological issue. So I hope that I spurn you on to not live in a “contented worldliness” but rather that you are awakened to the spiritual realities of this life, so that you may be attuned to the workings of God.
For an interesting article, check out Robert Guelich’s article in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies in April of 1995, titled, “Spiritual Warfare: Jesus, Paul and Peretti.”