Dinsmore, Mark

Movie adaptation of atheist's controversial book trilogy creates ecumenical uproar; but is "killing God" the real threat?

For those yet unfamiliar with this movie and media event, an official press release announces: "Based on author Philip Pullman's bestselling novel, The Golden Compass tells the first story in the His Dark Materials (HDM) trilogy. An exciting fantasy adventure, the film is set in an alternative world populated by talking bears who fight wars, witches, Gyptians, and daemons [Webster: "demons"]. At the center of the story is Lyra, a 12-year-old girl who starts out trying to rescue a friend-and winds up on an epic quest to save not only her world, but ours as well."

Sound familiar? Enlightened children (neglected or ostracized by family or society) stumble upon a secret and are chosen to save the world, using any means afforded by their imagination while assisted by some form of ancient or supernatural power or spiritual entity. This premise is so widespread that many call it the "universal myth." Yet, no matter the time or the setting, the young hero theme continues to fascinate audiences and sell more merchandise than any other plot device conceived.

So, why the uproar about this film? Well, for starters, as the official website informs, "In the world of The Golden Compass, a person's soul lives on the outside of [one's] body in the form of a daemon, an animal spirit that accompanies [one] through life." While spirit guides in the form of animals are as universal and ancient as shamanism itself, Pullman's books are perhaps the first to popularize a creature as a manifestation of one's personal spirit rather than a separate "helping" entity (such as fairy, elf, angel, or "ascended master"). Also notable is the brazen stroke of calling such spirits "daemons" (which is exactly what these are, according to a biblical understanding of our real world). So clearly, this "literary device" reeks of occultism.

For this and many other reasons, it is difficult to swallow Pullman's professed atheism as genuine humanistic naturalism. While he steadfastly maintains that "this life is all we have," he has created a pseudo-scientific "parallel universe" based on quantum theory and metaphysics. These identical principles undergird the "secret knowledge" of esoteric religions, reflected in other postmodern stories, e.g., The Matrix trilogy and The Truman Show, where "true reality" is discovered through a process of rebellion against "authority," rebirth, and self-discovery.

Pullman's utter contempt of Catholicism is not even thinly disguised: the evil hierarchy established by HDM's "Authority" (the trilogy's euphemism for God) is none other than the "Magisterium." It is not surprising that Rome's perversion of the biblical gospel and persecution of true believers has actually destroyed the faith of many over the centuries-including, it seems, Pullman's hope of his own redemption. Informed evangelicals are well aware of the evil perpetrated by Catholicism in the name of God. Additionally, Pullman's perspective has also been skewed by the torture and murder committed in the name of Calvinism. For this reason, it is not surprising that he fails to distinguish biblical Christianity from the counterfeit forms that the world has long observed. It is this bias that forms the foundation for HDM in what may be the most powerful contemporary dismantling of the next generation's perception of Christianity.

No doubt children will be enraptured by the film and its fascinating gadgets and thereby drawn into Pullman's novels in Pied-Piper fashion. One of the primary tools used by the trilogy's hero, Lyra, is the "Alethiometer" (a.k.a. "The Golden Compass"). In much the same way as a dowsing pendulum or Ouija board, the device uses symbols, indicators, and "thought power" to divine the truth (Greek: Alethia) of a given question. A remarkable digital version of this imaginary instrument entertains guests visiting the official movie website, as does a 20-question personality profile that announces dramatically upon completion, "your daemon has been found." Children and guests are invited to join a special online community where one can then download icons (avatars) representing one's personal daemon.

It seems that Pullman has taken great pains to invert God's Word, twisting biblical parallels into the exact antithesis of the biblical account. As one reviewer notes, The Amber Spyglass (HDM's final installment) "recasts the biblical Temptation and Fall as the beginning of true human freedom." Again, this is shamanism revived; many religions still revere the Serpent as "bringer of light," as do modern esoteric cults and societies.

Pullman's publisher is none other than Scholastic, a vast media empire that describes itself as "the largest publisher and distributor of children's books in the world, including the phenomenally successful Harry Potter®, Animorphs®, Goosebumps® and Clifford the Big Red Dog®....Scholastic reaches 32 million children, 45 million parents, and nearly every school in the United States. Scholastic is a $2 billion multimedia company with 10,000 employees operating globally in education, entertainment and to children, parents and teachers." This is a veritable army of darkness.

Justifiably, many Christians are alarmed at Pullman's characterization of God as a feeble, frail, frightened, finite being who is a pretender (much like the man behind the curtain in The Wizard of Oz). Yet many of these same believers are supportive of ecumenical, mystical, and occult-based spirituality in their own churches-including yoga, centering prayer, and other deceptive "spiritual disciplines." This is Satan's Trojan Horse within the church, accomplishing the same goal as His Dark Materials in the world: questioning the authority and sufficiency of God's Word while looking inward to Self.

Pullman gives some insight into his own heart when a reporter asked what his personal daemon would be, if he had one: "She would probably be a jackdaw or a magpie, because those are the birds that are traditionally interested in little shiny things and go and pick them out. They don't really distinguish between a diamond ring and a bit of Kit-Kat wrapper." (Prov:16:16).

Tragically, Pullman has himself pegged-by acknowledging his own inability to distinguish the priceless wisdom of Scripture from "fool's gold." (1 Cor:2:14). His "Frankenstein" approach to spirituality (stitching together dead limbs of religion and "science falsely so-called") has breathed new life into a Daemon of hellish proportions. In creating an emaciated God, which his tale "mercifully" euthanizes, Pullman has "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Rom:1:25) and "changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things" (Rom:1:23).

Resisting comparisons to J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fiction trilogy, Pullman insists, "What I'm doing is utterly different," he says. "Tolkien would have deplored it." Though divided on the merits of The Chronicles of Narnia, the ire of many evangelicals is further raised by Pullman's candid disdain for C.S. Lewis, whom he reviles in the same breath as the whole of Christendom: "I'm trying to undermine the basis of Christian belief," says Pullman. "Mr. Lewis would think I was doing the Devil's work."