In the October and November 2016 issues of The Berean Call newsletter, a thesis was presented based upon Scripture and an observation of what has been taking place in the world and Christendom. It is simply this: the coming worldwide religion of the Antichrist is rooted in and will establish itself as mysticism. Definitions of mysticism include: belief that one may attain a direct knowledge of and a final union with God or some Supreme Deity (personal or impersonal) through subjective experiences, altered states of consciousness, meditation, feelings, and occult manifestations. It is the turning from objective reality (reason, true science, facts) to metaphysical assumptions and speculations. Mysticism is believed to be the pathway to the spiritual realm that ultimately controls the physical universe. This article is a review of the latest global promotion of mysticism in the movie Dr. Strange.
Before I became a biblical Christian—one who was graciously saved by putting my faith in the sacrificial death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the full payment for all my sins—I was a Hollywood screenwriter. One of the things I learned in my time at 20th Century-Fox studios and with independent productions was that as a screenwriter my primary objective was entertainment. The formula was hardly complex: the more entertaining the movie, the bigger the box office success. There are many other things that may go into a movie: for example, a message, a teaching, or a political, religious, or philosophical slant. But to the degree that any of those things detract from the entertainment value, they can put financial success in harm’s way. That is a major reason why the majority of theatrical movies fail at the box office.
On the other hand, the movie medium is the most effective vehicle for promoting specific beliefs in the world today, and that potential is not lost on the screenwriter. For example, there are three movies that have had enormous success by featuring a religious teaching and yet lost no enthusiasts because the films were highly entertaining. Star Wars introduced the Force as a spiritual energy field that connects all living things. Director George Lucas wanted to “awaken a certain kind of spirituality in young audiences, suggesting a belief in God without endorsing any specific religion” (The Mythology of Star Wars [2000 documentary]). The ongoing theme of controlling the power of the Force produced occult manifestations throughout the Star Wars episodes such as telepathy and using the mind to manipulate matter. From the late 1970s on, children have been inculcated with “May the Force be with you,” and Yoda’s instruction to Luke Skywalker for manipulating the Force: “Luke, trust your feelings.” Entertaining? Yes. Spiritually seductive? Yes. Antithetical to Scripture? Totally.
In 2009, Avatar (a Hindu term for an incarnated spirit or god) at one point surpassed Star Wars at the box office, becoming the highest grossing film in history. As Star Wars is to Eastern mystical occultism, the movie Avatar is to the largest non-centralized and non-structured religion in the world: shamanism. Shamanism is practiced throughout the globe, from Siberia to the Solomon Islands, from Africa to the Far East. Yet the fact that it functions identically among people groups who have never been in contact with one another confirms that the shaman’s guidance comes from a nonhuman (i.e., spiritual) source. Avatar portrays a litany of anti-biblical beliefs, albeit in a highly entertaining way: through reincarnation, the worship of nature and nature spirits, Gaia as supreme deity, Hinduism, goddess worship, panentheism, the connection of humans and nature, the purity of those closest to nature, and spirit/soul travel. Writer/director James Cameron loaded his film with Hindu nuances (e.g., the blue skin of the Na’vi, akin to the gods Krishna and Rama) and declared that he “tried to make a film that would touch people’s spirituality across the broad spectrum” (The Times of India, retrieved March 20, 2010).
Both Star Wars and Avatar teach various aspects of mysticism indirectly through their focus on the Force and shamanism respectively, but Dr. Strange (the latest of the Marvel super heroes to come to the big screen) is a narrative that specifically and clearly explains mysticism as the story unfolds. A surgeon at the top of his profession loses the use of his hands due to a horrific car crash. Nothing scientifically attempted is able to restore his surgical skills. Dr. Strange, therefore, having lost all but a fleck of hope, journeys to Katmandu. His huge ego, wrapped in a materialist mindset, sets the stage for Mysticism Apologetics 101. There he is led to the “Ancient One,” a sorceress who dismantles his zealous disbelief in nonphysical reality.
Dr. Strange: “I do not believe in fairy tales about chakras or energy.… There is no such thing as spirit. We are made of matter and nothing more.” Brushing his ignorance aside, the sorceress pushes him into experiences and makes pronouncements that have no correlation outside of a mystical worldview. Dr. Strange (and the audience) are taught that “At the root of existence, mind and matter meet. Both shape reality.” Yet we learn quickly that the mystical realm is far more powerful than physical matter, and we follow the path of Dr. Strange, the former hardcore materialist, as he develops into the “Supreme Sorcerer,” supposedly drawing only upon the “good side” of mystical power.
Like the other Marvel movies, Dr. Strange is highly amusing, well written and directed, includes humor, dazzling special effects, and very likeable characters. That’s the good news for the ticket purchaser: you get your entertainment-money’s worth. That good news however is bad news for biblical Christians, those who are aware that the chief mystical ingredients of the Antichrist’s worldwide religion are spreading like wildfire, and who are grieved over the multitude of souls who are deceived in the process. Those ingredients include sorcery (Acts:8:9-11; Revelation:9:21; 18:23; 21:8; 22:15), lying signs and wonders (2 Thessalonians:2:9-10; Revelation:16:13-14), and a supreme sorcerer-to-come who is empowered by Satan himself (Revelation:13:11-14). Jesus warned that these things would take place just prior to His return (Matthew 24).
Among those who profess to be Christians, confusion is further induced by a myriad of attempts to spin anti-biblical movies as Christian, including the Harry Potter series, which offers pure, unadulterated instructions in witchcraft. Christianity Today, a professing Christian journal that has been fostering the apostasy in copious ways for years, provides an obvious example of sanctifying mysticism in its review of Dr. Strange (https://goo.gl/e9Ytyx). Understanding, therefore, that what is taking place is actually a fulfillment of prophecy that will continue its course until Jesus returns, what is a biblical believer to do? We need to know what the Bible declares about the days ahead, and we must pray that the Lord will give us the opportunity to point out these things to people who don’t know what the Scriptures teach, including the lost, professing “Christians,” and sincere but uninformed believers.