Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Book of Eli: A Review

Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) (2 Corinthians 5:6-7)

Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. (2 Corinthians 3:3)

My own DVD copy of The Book of Eli arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago. I watched it (for the third time), and several previously unnoticed nuances came into focus. One of the marks of a classic is that  every time you go back through it, you see something new (or see something old in a new perspective).


I first watched the action drama The Book of Eli at my pastor's recommendation. He told me that the Bible was the Book referred to in the title. That's not really a spoiler, because you find it out pretty early in the film.

In the story, Eli is a man with a mission. He lives in a post-apocalyptic America and owns the last extant copy of Scripture, which he protects with a sawed-off Remington 870 and a razor sharp machete.

He has carried his copy of Scripture and read it daily for 30 years as he has carried it westward in accordance with his prophetic calling. As a steward of Holy Writ, he fulfills the roles of  both prophet and warrior.

The film's major point of conflict revolves around Eli's mission vs. the ambitions of another character named Carnegie, who sees the Bible as a means to consolidate and expand power. One of the special features on my DVD relates the background info that before TEOTWAWKI, Carnegie grew up in a home where his parents fell prey to manipulative televangelists and sent off checks they could ill afford to support the glitzy lifestyle of those false teachers.

Thus, he sees the Book as a means to achieving his own goals at the expense of others. Eli, on the other hand, 
 takes the message of Scripture to heart: he walks by faith, and does more for others than for himself.

Gary North has written about the three approaches to religion:
  1. Escapist religion -- found in many evangelical churches today (probably what Marx had in mind when he called religion the opiate of the people);
  2. Power religion -- not only Islam, but also "Christian" power religionists who exploit the Escapist religion sheeple;
  3. Dominion religion -- the true message of Scripture, that God redeems men from sin and sets them to the task of bringing society and the physical realm into subjection to Christ the King.

So a major part of the action and drama depict the conflict between the demagogue who would use the Bible to enslave the people and the prophet who would set them free to exercise dominion over their own lives. As a plus, the movie has no nudity, no depicted sexual activity, and not as much foul language as many movies today.

At this point, I must mention that the film's title has deeper meaning than simply the Book that Eli carries, but to say more would involve major spoilers, so if you haven't  yet watched it, you may want to stop here.

Major Spoiler Alert !!


Near the end of the movie, after Eli loses his copy of the Bible to Carnegie, he arrives at his destination -- a museum and archive of pre-apocalyptic knowledge and wisdom. The one major work they lack is a Bible.

It is then that you discover that in thirty years of daily reading and study, Eli has committed the whole of Scripture to memory -- book, chapter and verse -- from Genesis to Revelation. He carefully and deliberately dictates it word for word to the curator of the archive.

So, on one level the Book of Eli is the copy of Scripture that he carried with him for 30 years. On another level, Eli himself is the Book, for he has committed it wholly to memory.

But Eli is also himself the Book in another sense. His life has revolved around his calling and mission, so that you see the message in his actions as well as his words. I believe it is that fundamental integrity that caused Solara to pick up his mantle and carry a copy of Scripture back to her people.

I don't know what the writers and producers had in mind when they made this movie, but I find in it the essence of what it means to be a Christian Martialist: A man with a sacrificial calling and mission who immerses his life and thought in the very words of God found in Holy Scripture.

1 comment:

The Warrior said...

GREAT review! I loved the movie, and am glad to see that you did, too. You covered everything here, so there is really nothing for me to add!