27 thoughts on “The Golden Compass

  1. Am I worried about this new book infiltrating the brains of my three little ones?

    Not really.

    Here is what I am more concerned with:

    1. I am more concerned with the subtle, soul crushing attacks of materialism in our culture that leads my kids at the ages of 5 and 3 to already tell me almost daily what possessions they want to acquire.

    2. I am more concerned with the ease and comfort that we live in that may anesthetize them to a need for the gospel.

    3. I am more concerned with the reality that they are daily exposed to a Dad that loves them desperately yet regularly falls short of perfection. I pray they will learn to look to Jesus when I fail them.

    They might see this movie once and forget it but these are the things my kids are exposed to daily! This movie will come and go just like The DaVinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ did but the cultural air they breathe is not going away anytime soon. I would be more concerned about this than The Golden Compass. Don’t get too worked up about this one people. We have bigger fish to fry spiritually speaking.


  2. Thanks for this, Zach. Love your blog, btw.

    I’m not sure we need to abandon one concern to maintain others. Why not be aware of them all?

    The atheism now being directed towards children is part of a larger climate of vocal atheism beginning to grow in our country. I don’t take GC as an isolated movie, but part of a growing chorus of public atheism that should be noted and especially by parents. “Life without God” is a dense fog of cultural smog our children breathe daily.


  3. I too am concerned about your 3 points mentioned Zach, especially point #3. Lord have mercy! And still on top of that, The Golden Compass won’t be viewed by mine – knowing what I now know about this movie from various reviews I couldn’t bring myself to subject my kids to that. Blessings, Alexander

  4. Yeah, I hear what you guys are saying. I think I am just reacting against the alarmist tendency that I see in some Christian circles embodied in the mail I get from Christian political groups that basically tells me that Hillary Clinton wants to eat my children. I am certainly not voting for Hillary, but come on.

    Here is more of what I wrote on my blog in terms of why I said what I did:

    “I get the impression from the Bible that Satan’s strategy is rarely a full-frontal attack such as this. He is a twister (“Did God really say?”) not a debater. He lives in the shadows and I believe subtlety is usually his method”.

    I think we have to wonder if we do more harm than good by bring all this attention to it. I’m not sure what the answer on that one is, but I still do think that some of the issues raised above should be more of a priority in terms of the battles we fight. I need to fight my own sin as I lead my family and in our culture with it unprecedented wealth (in light of Jesus’ warnings about wealth) these are the areas that I feel should receive the majority of my attention when it comes to my kids.

    Again, is it bad to speak out against this movie? – no. But I just don’t think this one is a front burner issue.

    I’m not sure that “life without God” is a dense fog of smog that our kids breathe in. I could be wrong. I can only speak for my kids (5, 3 and 6 months) but I communicate to them almost everyday that life is lived in light of the cross and the love of God. I don’t feel that atheism is knocking on their door at all (other than the unbelief that might be in their young hearts). These other issues that I have raised obviously are based on what I observe in them.

    Again, it’s a matter of emphasis and I am just pushing Christians to really think hard about what is most important to give our time and energy to when it comes to our parenting. Holding the picket sign outside of the movie theater probably shouldn’t be high on the priority list in my view, but if you want to that’s cool.

    Thanks for the constructive feedback!

  5. Your points are well taken, Zach. Thank you for the discussion. I appreciate it when blog comments provide a place for gracious but helpful disagreements between believers. So thank you!

    I would say there is positive and constructive use for this movie. I’m not shielding my kids from this film. We’ve watched the trailer (with the sound pounding) at least 20 times with my kids. They love it. And I think the cinemetography is great. But it’s given me an opportunity to share with my son why I’m concerned with the movie’s message.

    My posting of this information — especially with the trailer embedded — hopefully models for other Christian parents how they can USE these films to teach children critical thinking skills for the glory of God. To shield them from it would be useless and would miss great value.

    To show the trailer and teach them (I pray) has built a new level of discernment in their hearts. Does this make sense, Zach? I apologize if the way I posted this was abrupt and reminded you of other political knee-jerk reactions against the film. I’m all for the film … as a means to teaching my kids the subtle craftiness of atheistic influences.



  6. I agree with your take. Sounds great to me. I am basically just thinking out loud on this one. Seems like there could be a whole range of approaches to dealing with this.

    I think I get a bit over sensitive when I sense militancy in Christians. I didn’t sense that from you or this post, but when I initially read about the release of this movie and the response to it by Christians some of those red flags went up. I am greatly concerned with how Christians are perceived in the public square and I think we often times do more harm than good when we have an angry, militant, chest-pounding response to what Jesus promised we would get…trials and persecutions.

    I dig this blog too… Thanks for the continued careful thinking.

  7. The only real concern I have right now after seeing the trailer here (and this is the first trailer I’ve seen) is that they made London and the technology way too fancy. I mean, come on. If you read the novel, you certainly don’t come away with a sense of technological advancement to the degree depicted here. I felt a lot more late 1800s-early 1900s. It’s too bright and shiny and polished, and the novel is very dirty.

    Yes, I’m deliberately trying to move away from the taint Pullman has cast over his novels. I have to distract myself somehow. I just finished re-reading The Golden Compass after a few years’ absence and I’m just appalled at how much the story has completely been turned upside down.

  8. Zach! Thank you, brother, for this discussion. My respect for you has grown tenfold!

    Hello Stephen! Thanks for stopping in! Sounds like you have read Pullman for a while. What do you think of his books?



  9. Well, I personally find the His Dark Materials trilogy to be quite frankly one of the most brilliant works of fiction I have ever read. Pullman put himself right up there with the giants of sci-fi/fantasy with this trilogy. Granted, he’s no Tolkien or Frank Herbert, but he approaches their level quite closely.

    If Pullman had not said a word about his books, we’d have just enjoyed the novels and moved on. I really do believe that. And I say that knowing that the “anti-Church, anti-God” bent in the novels are extremely strong. It would take someone seminary trained at most or a layman very well-read or “church trained” to detect all the subtle digs at Christianity that are made alongside the more blatant ones.

    Some people say he’s only after the Catholics; after reading it the second time I can tell you he’s an equal opportunity bigot. I mean, come on, he goes so far as to make John Calvin a Pope and makes several very subtle digs at the notion of predestination/providence and the struggle between sovereignty and human responsibility in the first novel alone.

    But I don’t think these books are really worth the energy some believers are putting into it. Just teach your kids to be discerning, read with them, answer their questions, make the novel a teaching moment, and use the novel evangelistically to others.

    Beyond that, enjoy the movie! ;-)

  10. I am not an alarmist but I do find that there is probably more danger lurking in the book series than some may want to admit. I have found that it is that which is veiled that is probably more dangerous than that which is blatantly obvious. While it may take a trained theologian, as it was said in one comment, to find the anti God sentiment it is those veiled sentiments that can infiltrate the mind. We may easily turn away from blatant attacks on God but when they are veiled in some form of allegory or such they are much more dangerous.

    One other argument I often heard from those as seeing it OK to read books that others see as questionable is that they are well written. When did being well written become a standard by which we base what we let enter our minds? I fully understand that for some they may have no problem reading books such as this series but the issue is that may not be as true for others and should we put forth approval for something that may hinder others spiritual growth.

    Now all that said I have not read this series and in all likelihood will not. The content while, a good reason for me to not read these books, is not the reason. The true reason is that with time needed to read scripture and other much more worthwhile books what time is left to read questionable material, no matter how well it is written. Time is precious and with so much to read out there of a God glorifying nature why would I take the time to read that which is admittedly, by those that see it as OK to read, not honoring of God.

    At the end of the day we have to answer not to posters like myself or other bloggers but to God and that is how I would try and gauge what I read.

  11. For one of the best scholarly essays on Pullman, see “The Republic of Heaven” by Alan Jacobs, in his fine book, *Shaming the Devil: Essays in Truthtelling*.

    Pax Christi.

  12. Tony K,

    I don’t recall saying it was okay to read these books because they were “well-written.” There are lots of well-written books out there that are also spiritual garbage, yet we don’t have the mass e-mails, sermons from the pulpit, blogs, and protests against them. Why? What makes Pullman so special? He’s just another atheistic bigot; he just happens to have written a very popular fantasy trilogy. Why are we wasting our time vilifying His Dark Materials when we could, as I said, be using it as a teaching and evangelistic moment?

    Furthermore, why would we allow ourselves to be unprepared to defend the faith to our children, other children, or even other adults where this series is concerned? That’s a lot like trying to defend against Open Theism having never read anything by an open theist.

    I’m reminded of something Albert Mohler said about his doctoral theology classes, which went something along these lines, roughly recalled: while he would never recommend Barth to someone sitting in the pew, he requires his doctoral students to read Barth. If they are going to engage the ideas of the day, they will need to have familiarity with those who hold them.

    By the same token, I wouln’t recommend the His Dark Materials trilogy to anyone under the age of 14, especially if they were not believers nor getting solid biblical instruction in their church. But if I expected the teenagers I ministered to at one point to be able to engage their peers with the Gospel, I’d pray they were reading stuff like Pullman and coming with their questions.

    While stuff of a “God-glorifying nature” is quite commendable and indeed it would be ideal to read nothing else; what good is that if we can’t allow the Gospel to speak to the “less desirable” because we are too worried about theological poison? Especially when such poison cannot harm a mature believer? And even more so when a mature believer is the only antidote to the poison? I fail to see how that glorifies God.

    I would hope that, if I had never read this series previously, I had the conviction to pick this trilogy up, read it, thank God for the brilliant talent that is Philip Pullman, and then shine the purifying light of Scripture on what he has written.

  13. One more thing: I should have said “a mature believer has the only antidote to the poison.”

    And to make that a bit more clear: we’re usually the only ones who can administer that antidote.

  14. Stephen:

    I did not say you said it was OK to read these books because they are well written but as you mentioned the quality of writing it reminded me of reasons people give for reading various books.

    My point is more to why do we insist that we read the literature of the culture to be able to interact with the culture? I read little of the cultural literature that is out there yet I understand much of what is going on in my sphere of influence. The point I was making is that if we take time to read books that the culture provides were does one find the time to read that which God may be more pleased with.

    While we as believers do have the Holy Spirit it is a mistake to think that things of the world cannot hinder, or poison, our walk with God. Christians can be influenced by the world so why play with that which is poison. Yes we do have the antidote to the things of this world but we do not need to partake of what the world offers to be able to administer the antidote. We can reach those around us without partaking of their wares if we truly know what we believe and know what God says about the issues that face us daily.

  15. if we take time to read books that the culture provides were does one find the time to read that which God may be more pleased with

    This statement breaks down at its most basic level. A mature Christian is not going to be spending the majority of his or her time reading the latest bestsellers, watching the latest movies, and taping the latest hot tv shows. A mature Christian is going to be spending the majority of his or her time with Scripture and material “which God may be more pleased with.”

    Furthermore, a mature Christian is spending that time not only in personal growth and edification, but in preparation to fulfill the Great Commission. Part of fulfilling our mandate involves allowing the Gospel to be the solution to the culture, not having a “bunker” mentality towards what the world offers.

    The bunker mentality says: “No His Dark Materials, no Harry Potter, no Star Wars; we’re only going to read Scripture and other ‘Christian’ books.”

    A Great Commission mentality, on the other hand, is like Paul talking to the Greeks; one is able to use the culture as a reference point on which one can shine the illuminating light of the Gospel.

    And with a mentality like this — that is, Gospel-saturated and culture-engaging — no poison can counteract the antidote we are bringing. The Gospel gets to do what it was designed to do, namely to be preached and lived out by believers, to the glory of God.

  16. First of all Tony I truly enjoy your thoughts and the wisdom God has given you.

    I have to respond here as one who has never been fond of any literature not pertaining to life or my walk with God. I have to agree with Tony K. To read anything not pertaining to scripture or scripture itself is to me an opportunity lost to spend time with God. Not to say that God cannot be learned or discussed within other literature, however, it is not the true pollen we can get from scripture. Calvin points out, if God is One, and His honor rests within Himself alone, then other displays of His glory are dangerous. I would have to point out that I believe this is applicable to scripture and other literature. I believe the only information relative to God’s glory is that of the Bible and any other display of literature not prtraying the truth is dangerous. JMO

  17. As a last thought or should I say thoughts:

    To not read what may be considered less than God glorifying literature does not mean one is taking a “bunker mentality”. The point I was trying to get across was that most people that I know have little time to read scripture so why would I ask them to read something that is not going to build them up and may actually hinder them. Also, if one is simply observant to the world around them they will see enough to interact as God desires them to interact. I work 50+ hours a week in the world as an engineer and know plenty about the culture and do not have to take time to read the cultures books to get this information.

    Second, if one is not ready to read this “other literature” that does not mean they do not have a “Great Commission mentality” as one does not necessitate the other. I have heard the example of Paul quite often but other than Paul in Athens we do not see the other disciples delving into the culture to be able to spread the Gospel. Even when it comes to Paul we know that he has knowledge of the culture, from his interaction with the Greeks, but it may be taking a leap to simply say that he was well read in the literature of the day. He may have been but that is simply conjecture. I can know phrases and lines from popular culture simply by hearing them in my work place but that does not mean I spend time in this area.

    So the bottom line is that my point from the beginning was that whether one reads this literature or not is between them and God but myself I find it difficult to find a mandate in scripture for me to tell people they should read it. The truth is more often than not I would advise that time could be used in a wiser fashion. I truly believe that too few Christians really know that they believe and since that is the case they should spend more time learning what they believe rather than what they do not believe so as to be prepared to participate in the Great Commission. This would seem to better develop Christians who can live out the Gospel on a daily basis and convey the true Gospel message the dying world around them needs to hear .

  18. Tony K, you and I are a lot closer in thought than it may have seemed at first, with this most recent comment of yours. I think I am seeing where we are disconnecting a bit. I’m speaking of mature Christians when I talk about reading these things, not those who are “not ready to read this” nor those who don’t really know what they believe.

    Notice that most of the alarmism is directed at exactly this group of people. Then a curious “lemming” effect takes place in which one’s spiritual growth and discernment is questioned if you don’t buy into the hysteria. I’m sorry, but it is ridiculous to assert that simply because one interacts with a piece of literature or entertainment such as The Golden Compass, one is wasting time better spent with Scripture or other “Godly” writings.

    Now, if you wanted to apply that to the less secure in their faith, as you seem to be doing, we’ve got no argument. These folks need to stay miles away from this stuff until they’ve grown up. But that does not make such practice normative.

    Or are believers like Tim Challies really wasting their time reading all this “non-Christian” stuff when they could be steeping themselves in Scripture?

  19. Well,

    Quite frankly, the Reformers and the Puritans would simply not understand this kind of talk.

    Do you want to find Christian men who greedily devour pagan writings? Look to Calvin and the Puritans. Sure, Calvin refers to the vices of the pagans, but they are “splendid vices”, aren’t they? And the writings of the pagans are like poisons, says Perkins, but eminently useful if used correctly. Who refers more to the pagans than Thomas Watson, and as authorities too!

    When I look at the ocean, I am stunned by God’s majesty. When I look at the mind of Plato, I exult in God’s glory. When I read Shakespeare, I can see God’s handiwork. Creation declares the glory of God. We rob God of his glory when we refuse to recognize it, even as it shimmers in his fallen creation.

    It is pride, and can be a form of gnosticism, to affirm that we can learn nothing from the pagans.

  20. “I’m sorry, but it is ridiculous to assert that simply because one interacts with a piece of literature or entertainment such as The Golden Compass, one is wasting time better spent with Scripture or other “Godly” writings.”

    Somehow I feel God would take offense to anyone insisting there is “other literature” worth spending time with, other than His own Word.

    I am in no means trying to hastily condemn someones feelings about “other literature” and it’s importance to there “learning about God”. However, I often here this argument from those who are illiterate with God’s Word. I have seen many lives destroyed and seperated from God because the Bible was not there Sword but some other magazine, movie or worldy literature.

    I hope I have been fair but to the point.

  21. I don’t think we can judge what is right or wrong about this issue for fellow believers. “1 Cor. 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

    For some it may be right that they only read the Word of God, and this may be for a season – I have been in that season for the last year or so. I just lost interest in other books. And I have been richly blessed by this time.

    For others, or at other times, it may be that reading other literature will tug at our hearts as it is used by the Holy Spirit. I have certainly experienced that as well.

    So let us gently encourage each other to grow in the grace of our Lord, and be slow to judge what others are “eating” at present.

    Blessings on you all.


  22. Forgive me if my following comments are brash; I am young and passionate.

    I thoroughly enjoy this discussion; it is great to build each other up ‘as iron sharpens iron’. Although I will not be seeing the movie, (primarily to economical concerns — $18 for a movie in the cinema is a bit steep) I do agree with Zach, Stephen, Tom, et al., when they say it can be profitable for mature, discerning Christians. Now the Scriptures give us the proper lens (bias) to view the world. (Institutes 1.6.1). Though God only gives saving grace to the elect, he has given common grace to all. We see in Genesis that the sons of Cain developed bronze-craft and black-smithery, and advanced music and agriculture (4.20-21). Much of what we know of engineering, mathematics, science and technology was discovered or invented by pagans. I am currently typing on a machine that was probably not designed to give glory to God. (Actually, I really don’t know that much about Steve Jobs.)

    But should one say that is confined to practical applications and the arts are in a different spheres. Daniel while in Babylon familiarised himself with the literature and art of the culture (which was far more overtly pagan than most of our current culture’s works [which is not to deny its insidiousness]) (1.17). Paul on the Areopagus, uses the statue for the unknown god as a springboard for his sermon and quotes Epimenides of Crete and Araths as speaking truthfully! (Ac 17.23,28) And as I recall the author of Hebrews uses a Greek rhetorical style in the opening of his book.

    While the Holy Spirit through the Holy Writ is the only source of saving grace, it does not follow and is indeed contradicted by Scripture that other literature is devoid of knowledge or goodness (Mt 5.45). Now is it good to read Scripture? Absolutely! we should be steeped in the Word that if we are cut we ‘bleed Bibline’ (Spurgeon of Bunyan). But it can also be profitable (let each examine himself to discern the profit) to read good literature or listen to good music, or watch good theatre and cinema, or play good games from non-Christians. God has given common grace in some measure to all, and we dare not despise God’s grace in any form. That which makes worldly art good is that it reflects God, by definition. (Or alternately, it truly shows us humanity [and a true view of ourselves leads us to the true view of God [Institutes 1.1.1 ff]). Some elements illuming total depravity, redemption, hope, virtue, etc. will be present in all good art explicitly Christian or non. Even of the trilogy His Dark Materials, Bruner and Ware say on the back cover of their book Shedding Light on His Dark Materials‘They also uncover spiritual themes within the books, which, like shafts of light, break through an otherwise gloomy universe—despite Pullman’s best efforts to keep them out. In the end, the authors argue that Pullman offers an unwitting tribute to the God he intended to discredit.’ Now, not having read the books I cannot verify the statement, but it is a rather interesting blurb.

    All truth is God’s truth, and while reading pagan literature may not be for everyone, let us not despise truth or the grace of God.


  23. It amazes me that many of these posts by Christians are taking this so lightly. Yes, I could use it as a tool to teach my kids, but the problem is that many of the parents that will be taking their kids to see this, won’t be using as a tool to teach against atheism. They’ll just be seeing it for the pure entertainment value, and the morals and messages will seep into their precious childen’s minds and more importantly spirit. There is an imprint on our spirits of those things that we are learning about as spiritual as we grow from children to adults. This is why something like this movie can be dangerous. It becomes a part of what they learn about spiritual things and that can’t be good. Let’s not allow the author to bring to truth what he has proclaimed he wants to do and that’s to teach children to hate God basically. Jesus was not happy with the moneychangers and I don’t believe he would want us to sit back and just watch an atheist glorify atheism and not stand up to it. I love God and I want children in America to also. May God bless you all.

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