Disclaimer: I have not seen the actual film because I believe it would be wrong of me to do so. All of my information comes from plot synopses, summaries, trailers, director interviews, podcasts, and articles. This does not inhibit my ability to comment on the dangers of this film any more than a doctor’s lack of experience with heroin disqualifies him from analyzing it’s health risks.
So if you’re reading this and are not sure what “The Witch” is, it’s a horror film by an atheist director named Robert Eggers. It’s about a family of Puritans in the early 1600’s living in New England who are all tempted, tormented, and eventually killed or converted to Satanism by a witch working directly for Satan himself, who also happens to be the family’s pet goat. Yeah, I know, spoilers. Hate me for that all you want, but I don’t care. I’m “spoiling” it, and writing this article, for your own good. But really spoilers are a problem dealt with in entertainment, and are only a problem if they prevent people being entertained, or “spoil” the fun. And if you are seeking entertainment or fun from this film then let me implore you to reconsider and read the rest of the article. If we are being completely honest here, I can still hardly believe this is even a topic for discussion. It never occurred to me that Christian would be defending this movie, but they are. So sadly, we must address it. The arguments that follow are in no particular order, and for the most part do not really depend on one another.
Jesus has no power or effective presence in this film. No amount of prayers are effective. The counter-point to this has been something to the tune of, “Well Christians die from persecution in the middle east and other places despite their prayers, so that’s accurate!” No. Demonic possession and evil satanic spiritual forces are much more serious than physical persecution by other humans, and as such the Bible is very clear about the difference in spiritual warfare verses Christian warfare. We are not promised deliverance from physical persecution. But the Bible is full of examples of the power of God over and against spiritual persecution in the physical realm. When Jesus said “My kingdom is not of this world, if it were, my servants would fight” implies that heaven does fight when it comes to areas of God’s true kingdom, which includes the hearts of His saints.
When Paul writes, “The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, on the contrary they have divine power to demolish strongholds” he is saying that though we do not fight with any physical weapons, and are not promised any physical victories, we fight spiritual battles with spiritual weapons that have the Spiritual power equivalent of a nuclear bomb. When Paul also writes that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places,” he clarifies that our real battle is there. And we fight that real battle with real power. James writes that “if you resist the Devil, he will flee from you.” Luke tells of the disciples rejoicing that the Demons are in subjection to them at the name of Jesus. Even the demons that the Apostles could not cast out immediately we said by Jesus to be vulnerable to prayer and fasting. This does not fit with a film in which a boy (which the story would lead you to believe is a Christian) is possessed by a demon, brought back to his house where his family prays over him, and then cries out to Christ himself, only to be “delivered” by death. Is death deliverance for a Christian? of course. But that was not the kind of decisive victory of demonic power which Scripture says results from crying out to the Lord in repentance.
Some Christians have said that the film makes the point that evil should not even be played with, or at least that a Christian can draw that lesson out of it. But the film’s very existence is a contradiction of that concept. It’s a movie – something made for entertainment – about Satanic things. “Things done for the purpose of entertainment” is a very good definition of the word “play,” or the phrase “to play with,” and “Satanic” is a pretty decent synonym for “evil.”
The film was written by an atheist. Meaning his intent in producing it was born from a completely sinful heart. So finding redemptive content is dependent upon the consumer, and can only be done for the purpose of trying to justify the action for a Christian. Whether or not it is justifiable is something we will tackle in a moment, but it should be noted that to begin with this does not place it in a good context. The director is not a Christian, therefore the portrayals of Christians will inevitably be jaded. Now the argument could be made that there might very well be good Christians in the director’s mind, the story just isn’t about those Christians, but that’s a long shot. Even an atheist’s best perception of a Christian is flawed because they do not share our worldview, and the Bible says our wisdom and faith is foolishness to them. But anyway, this story isn’t about those Christians, and doesn’t make allowance for those Christians. it’s just a film with characters labeled “Christians.” And the majority of the unbelieving population will see the film as a condemnation of Christianity, and they will see the legalistic, hypocritical, and fearful people an think “Yup, that’s about right.” because it fits with everything the culture says about Christianity right now, and more importantly it fits with everything the unregenerate heart wants to think about Christians. That’s why the Satanic Temple endorsed this film, and why we, as Christians, should not.
A proper understanding of evil necessitates good, and vice versa. Philosophically, the two always co-exist, at least in this world, in the sense that light and darkness always co-exist. But finding an inverse implication of good from evil does not mean the evil is somehow good for leading you there, and subsequently to be tolerated. It is a gift of the Spirit that we can discern good out of evil like that, but it does not mean that we should pursue evil for the resulting good, anymore than we should continue sinning that grace may abound. For “what fellowship has light with darkness?” While, philosophically speaking, good and evil might be fairly inseparable, in practice Christians are called to be very separate from evil. The goal, in fact, being complete separation.
When I mentioned it to him, my father (a licensed professional counselor) made the point that the human mind can discern between good and evil in the content we take in and filter much of it out, but the brain itself does not do that so well. It simply takes in all stimuli and reacts to it. This is why fear or lust is experienced when a person is exposed to things of that nature even though the mind can know there is nothing to fear, or that lust is wrong. The only holy fear is one of God. The Bible doesn’t tell us to fear evil itself, it tells us to fear the wrath of God on it. We are told to fear the consequences of evil which are carried out by a just God, but when it comes to evil itself we are told to reject it, to cast it off, to be innocent of it, and to have nothing to do with it. But “We are given a spirit not of fear, but of power” over evil. So willingly subjecting yourself to a things designed to breed fear of the evil thing itself for the sake of entertainment is unwise at best.
“If you want to be relevant, say, for prostitutes, don’t watch a movie with a lot of tumbles in a brothel. Immerse yourself in the gospel, which is tailor-made for prostitutes; then watch Jesus deal with them in the Bible; then go find a prostitute and talk to her. Listen to her, not the movie. Being entertained by sin does not increase compassion for sinners.” – John Piper
Any moral lesson that could possibly be learned from this movie could be better learned form Scriptural teaching. Of course, the same could be said of anything, but this does not mean we should never watch anything and only read our Bibles, because there’s nothing wrong with entertainment in and of itself. What it does mean is that the intake of entertainment that contains sinful content is completely unnecessary for the purpose of learning about evil, and therefore that fact can never outweigh the dangers or consequences of willingly subjecting yourself to potentially harmful content. In other words, “It’s worth the bad stuff because I can/need to learn good stuff” doesn’t work. In reality, Scripture equips us better for dealing with evil than anything else ever could.
“We should not be entertained by the sins for which Christ died.” As Christians, sin should grieve us. Deeply, at that. It should not be a source for entertainment. To say the least, a story of a puritan family who tormented and tempted by Satan, and then are all either violently killed or brought into a coven of Satan-worshipping witches is not something we should be willingly subjecting ourselves to for the purpose of entertainment. There should be not enjoyment taken out of something like that. I don’t care if you “like being scared by horror movies.” A Godly sorrow over sin leaves no room for thrill seeking with this type of content.
- “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8. (The implication being not to think of things which do not fit into those categories.)
- “I will ponder the way that is blameless. Oh when will you come to me? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. A perverse heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil.” Psalm 101:2-4
- “What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment? Lascivious songs, books, pictures, dancings, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleanness, either in ourselves or others.” – Westminster Larger Catechism
There are plenty of things in this movie which, satantic themes aside, do not line up with Scriptural commands to purity.
Paying money to support this movie and increase it’s financial success sends a message to hollywood that movies along this theme will sell tickets. Just say we got lucky and this movie was a justifiable take on demonic possession and witchcraft (which it isn’t). Of the next few dozen that attempt to capitalize on the same success, few, if any, very few would be so *hypothetically* redemptive.
On a recent episode of the podcast, “Popcorn Theology,” the host, Richard, made a reference to one of the final lines Satan has in the movie, where he asks the only surviving daughter, “Do you wish to live deliciously?” Implying that if she will surrender herself to him, he will provide her with all of the earthly pleasures her previous family and faith were unable to supply her with. Richard made the comment that he felt in himself that desire to “live deliciously” welling up. Of course, being a solid Christian who I’m sure loves Christ dearly, he was quick to realize that temptation and stifle it. So I’m not picking on him here. But the point is, there is legitimate temptation to be found in this movie. Whether it’s the temptation to lust, to fear, to view Satan as more powerful than he is, to view Christ as week, or to view sin as delicious, it’s there. Sure it might be easy to spot for those who are more theologically astute, but even so, we are told to flee temptation, not to turn to it in small, theoretically manageable doses, for entertainment.
So in conclusion, if you are a Christian and considering watching this movie, I implore you to consider otherwise. If you are a Christian advocating this movie, I would humbly ask, on the basis of Scripture and Scriptural reasoning, that you stop. And if you think I’m just making way too big of a deal out of this, that’s OK. The Holy Spirit is the only person I’m worried about offending or grieving (Eph. 4:30). And it is my conviction that watching this movie would do that.