A Better Place to Go to Hell From

(or Why I Didn’t Like Evan Almighty)

As I type these words, I'm watching Evan Almighty on a plane trip from Denver to Charlotte. I really don't like this movie. Not only is it pretty low on the laugh-o-meter (unless you find animal poop jokes hilarious), but it's got some pretty lame, even dangerous, theology.

Now before you accuse me of being some Christian killjoy, you have got to understand that I love humor. I use a lot of it myself … probably too much. I actually considered going into comedy when I was in my early twenties. I thought that stand up could be a great way to communicate the gospel. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that a preaching comic would just be irritating. Meanwhile a funny preacher was much more unexpected, maybe even a pleasant surprise.

I love funny people, funny skits and funny movies. From Monty Python to Brian Regan, good humor goes a long way with me.

When Bruce Almighty, the original God-appears-to-man funny movie, came out to theaters I didn't want to see it but, on the recommendation of a friend, finally succumbed. I have to admit that I was won over by Bruce Almighty's core messages (that we would screw up being God and that having every prayer request answered with a "yes" is not a good thing.) And it was a pretty funny movie to boot!

So you've got to realize that I was really rooting for Evan Almighty to be good. But, alas, I was disappointed. Here's why:

1. The movie paints the picture of an eco-obsessed god.

I'm sorry but Morgan gets a small "g" from me in his groovy meets godly depiction of the divine. This cool cat god is much more concerned about the environmental condition of the planet than the spiritual condition of humanity.

Don't get me wrong. I am convinced that Christians have a moral mandate to take care of and steward the earth. Genesis 1 makes this crystal clear. Wasting resources and destroying creation are unacceptable to the stewardship mandate given to all humans by God himself in the first chapter of his bestselling book (and it didn't cost him 100 million dollars to produce his literary masterpiece!) But the bigger, deeper "change the world" message in the Bible is for believers in Christ to spread the good news that salvation is found in Father God not Mother Earth.

Jesus didn't say, "Go into all the world and recycle." He said, "Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations." Before you pick up a non-Styrofoam cup to throw at me, let me make something perfectly clear: this little article of mine is not an anti-environmental statement. Unless you're really uncoordinated, you can share the gospel message and pick up your trash at the same time! We have a responsibility to take care of the planet. But we must refuse to preach a temporal, one-sided message that saves the trees but send the lumberjacks to hell.

We can be eco-friendly without being eco-obsessed. There's a big difference between worshipping the Creator by taking care of his creation and worshipping the Creation.

Here's how the Apostle Paul puts it in Romans 1:21-25

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

2. This movie sideswipes the seriousness of the original Genesis 6 flood account.

Here was the reason that the real God says the real flood destroyed the earth the first time:

The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, 'I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth—men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air—for I am grieved that I have made them.' But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. This is the account of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God…. Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. So make yourself an ark… Genesis 6:5-14

Forget rampant sexual depravity, perversion, hedonism and homosexuality; it was trying to pass a bill in Congress that would allow the development of homes on protected land that brought God's divine wrath in the politically correct Evan Almighty. By the way, if you live in a house, apartment or condo of any size, your dwelling place is taking the place of a tree or two or twenty, unless of course you live in a tree house. Shame on you and on me too. How dare we live and breathe and dwell on the planet God made for us!

What ticks off Evan Almighty's super eco-god? Not the personal sins of humanity but home builders! Again, I'm not saying that those who use and abuse his creation do not raise God's ire. I am saying that, time and time again throughout the Scriptures, from Old Testament to New, it's the personal sins of everyday people that cause God's foot to stomp down and burst the grapes of wrath into a flood of judgment.

When the E.A. god is talking to Evan's wife in a restaurant, he shares his view of the original flood in the Genesis account. He says that he viewed the biblical account as a love story, all the animals together side by side with Noah's family on a global boat ride of love in this floating minivan of maximum affection. Monkey, mouse, mongoose and man all living together in perfect harmony.

And all God's children said, "Kumbayah, my Lord. Kumbayah!"

The problem is that the original "love story" destroyed the entire earth. All the animals (minus a few from each species), all humanity (minus Noah and his family) and all the environment (minus the water on the planet) was completely destroyed, wiped out…gone. I'm sure the people outside the ark clamoring for higher ground as the flood waters got higher and higher didn't view this deluge as a lovefest or a comedy, but a disaster of, well, Biblical proportions.

3. The movie itself was not all that funny.

Maybe some of the one hundred million dollar budget could have been better spent on making the movie funnier instead of the truly special special effects.

While I'm thankful that Hollywood is trying to cater to Christians (shout out to The Passion of the Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia) I kind of felt taken advantage of with this particular movie. Just because you use some elements of a biblical story doesn't make the movie biblical. I thought this one managed to stay decidedly unbiblical while remaining comically bland at the same time.

Were there any elements of this movie that I enjoyed? I liked the fact that it was a literal flood (not just symbolic.) I liked the fact that God was depicted as the Creator of the universe. I really liked the whole "spend time with your family" and "do random acts of kindness" messages. But that was about it.

Not too long ago I was interviewed by Austrian/German television for a documentary. These filmmakers put a camera in my face after I preached at a Creation Festival East and asked me to spend a few minutes answering their questions. I gladly said yes (this is always the point when our PR department at Dare 2 Share starts to get nervous.)

They asked me what I thought of the evangelicals who were putting a priority on creation care and waging war against global warming. I made it clear that on one hand I strongly believed in stewarding creation and that all human beings have a God-given mandate to take care of this great gift that God has entrusted us with called planet Earth. I then said, "On the other hand, God didn't put us on this earth just to make it a better place to go to hell from." They got their sound bite right there.

Maybe you really liked Evan Almighty when you watched it. That's fine. Different strokes for different folks, especially in flood waters. But consider the messages being preached and the picture of God being portrayed in this movie. Measure it by the Biblical description of the true and living God of the Bible and it's not even close.

Or maybe I'm just all wet.

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Greg Stier is the President and Founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries in Arvada, Colo., where he works with youth leaders and students, equipping them to be effective in sharing the gospel. With experience as a senior teaching pastor and in youth ministry for almost 20 years, Greg has a reputation of knowing and relating to today's teens. He is widely viewed as an authority and expert teen spirituality. He is known for motivating, mobilizing and equipping teens for positive change. For more information on Dare 2 Share Ministries, and the SURVIVE 07/08 conference tour, please visit www.dare2share.org.