It is always a difficult task getting Christians, or anyone for that matter, to integrate a realistic (and Biblical) understanding of the human condition in a personal way. Yet this is just as crucial an apologetic task as discussing proofs of the resurrection. No doubt the diagnostic part of the equation is such a hard sell because it hits so close to home, popping the bubble of coping and delusion. Even in the short time that I have been in the ministry, I have witnessed great resistance to the concrete reality of what our identity as sinners actually means.
Illustrating the human condition can often skirt the sensibilities of a modern Christian subculture which is, on the whole, more concerned with decorum than blood atonement. Paul Zahl once showed a clip from Abel Ferrara’s film The Addiction in Apologetics class that absolutely stunned me. The Addiction is an unconventional horror movie which uses vampirism as a metaphor for addiction and the human condition. It’s also the only Christopher Walken film I know of to quote R.C. Sproul. The clip in question showed a group of vampires inviting unsuspecting people up for a party and then “spreading the addiction” in the way that only vampires do. It was a stomach-turning scene, no doubt. Even for eyes like mine that were not raised in a Christian subculture.
The interesting part of the clip (and the movie, which is on youtube in its entirety, though definitely not recommended for the faint of heart) was that the orgy of bloodletting is contrasted with a Christian street evangelist lovingly and gracefully ministering to one of the bloated and despondent vampires who had found her way outside. It is the picture of an insurmountable gap between God and man and the unmerited action of God toward a paralyzed humanity that bridges it.
I inventoried my Outer Space videos the other night and divided them into a couple of categories. First, there are movies in which the alien is pure Law and attack, utter and decisive judgment. Such as The Thing and It! The Terror from Beyond Space. Second, there are movies in which the alien is well-meaning but misunderstood, such as It Came From Outer Space and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Third, there are movies in which the alien is truly benign and dear, such as The Bellero Shield (Outer Limits) and Rod Serling’s The Gift (Twilight Zone). In the latter category, the aliens are almost always Christ-figures.
What you see in the movies is paralleled precisely in theology. All aliens are obtrusive and intruding, and fully other. They are not nice and they are not humane and they are definitely not Grace-filled. They are pure Law, and suppressive and controlling, and often terminating.
The best alien story ever written is the story of Christ’s coming to the earth. Why? Because it is truly an alien story. The gift of Grace is alien to the human condition. Grace is not Law. It does not accuse, nor does it demand, nor does it legislate, nor does it require. It sets all that aside. The best tag-line for a science-fiction move that has ever been written was written by St. Paul, when he said, “Christ is the end of the Law, for them that believe” (Romans 10:4). That is alien wisdom. It could never have come from a human hand.
We would have put in requirements, or conditions, or “tweaked” it (a truly Legal phrase), or talked about “good cop, bad cop,” or put it in our own action-consequence lingo. We could never, ever have come up with something like, “Christ is the end of the Law.” And for Christians, no less.
The cross of Christ mends the yawning chasm between God and mankind. What happy, happy news it is. I am forever grateful to Paul for showing me how truly galvanizing and other-worldly the grace of God is for sinners like me. It remains all I can see and talk about. You might even call it an addiction.