Friday, June 3, 2011

A Divine and Sinless Christ: The Last Temptation of Christ


If a snake said to me, “look at my breasts, do you recognize them,” I’d put myself in a straightjacket. This is just one of many provocative, albeit controversial, moments in the novel turned film, The Last Temptation of Christ. The story deals with two primary theological questions (though there were others): Was Jesus without sin and what is the nature of Christ (is he God)? The film depicts Jesus as a sinful being and waivers back and forth with his Godhood.

In the film, the “last temptation,” if you will, thwarts the cross event – death and resurrection – and the justification (salvation) of the human race. Compared to that, the other temptations in the film (sexual encounters, lying, retribution, and so on) are just playful mockery of the divine essence of Jesus Christ. As the story goes, Jesus sinned, by being deceived out of fulfilling the resurrection. One could infer, he did not have the power of God in him and that is why the Archangel of Satan was able to trick him.

Truthfully, the deception of Jesus Christ is quite a claim and one ought to ask, how does a Christian respond to The Last Temptation of Christ? First, it is important to remember that the film is fiction. Second, learn to laugh at the controversially-erotic content of the film – you might be entertained by the absurdity. Third, don’t be afraid to allow films, like this one, to make you think over challenging questions.

As for the primary theological questions raised in the film, Paul talks about the sin nature, in conjunction with Jesus, in 2 Corinthians 5 (it is found elsewhere too) and says Christ was without sin. And, for the divine characteristic of Christ, John 10:22-30 emphatically declares that Christ, the Son, and God, the Father, are one. Finally, the cross event – death and resurrection of the Messiah – is the most important event in human history and its salvific effect cannot be thwarted.

4 comments:

  1. I feel you may have missed the point of the film.

    Think of it like the early church councils... like the pendulum swing from Nicene to Chalcedon. I think the film is merely playing with the humanity of Christ and how Christ's temptation was to be normal.
    The scene where he has a family with Mary and what not is a dream... he realizes that this truly was his last temptation and that that his destiny was the cross.
    I dunno, I guess I didn't see all the major controversy, haha.

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  2. Lol @ Lance, anything's possible. I actually really enjoyed the film because it was pondering whether Jesus' temptation was normal. I figured the scene you referred to was either a dream or it was one of those bits where all the events happened and then he was brought back to the cross because that was his purpose. As for the controversy, I gave it that credit because I know a lot of people would feel that way, but I personally have no issue with the film; it was just a good medium for me to address the questions I did.

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  3. I believe Christ sinned, before he was called to be God. I believe he was tempted. Why not?

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  4. Jesus was always God (John 1) and just because he was without sin (2 Cor. 5) doesn't mean he wasn't tempted by sin. Furthermore, he may very well have been confused that his purpose was to be the Messiah before the events of Transfiguration (Mark 9.2-8). If you don't want to take my word for it or want to trust the passages of scripture I've cited; I conferred with a trusted scholarly theologian and friend (who writes the blog in my "Blogs Worth Reading" column).

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