A trusted friend suggested that I take a look at this film because of the prophetic sense in which it can be helpfully viewed to imagine the future of today’s fibrillating Church.
With the establishment crumbling around us (increasingly in the hearts of the faithful Bride if not in the eyes of the harlot church), it’s good and proper that we each imagine in prayer where today’s blitzkrieg of cultural Marxism is forcing us, both as a collective whole as well as individual communities.
In our post-COVID, tumultuous world, many good people I know are in a quandary of sorts: do I stay (and help amidst the unfaithfulness) or go (and be obedient to the conscription of conscience)?
Is there an unambiguous, clarifying word from our Coming Captain?
This film is of some help with this kind of dichotomy but, ultimately, one that I found surprisingly disappointing.
It’s with the issue of quandary that I’ll briefly begin.
Until Death Do Us Part?
The portrayal of Aquila and Priscilla’s leadership of the hidden Christian community in Rome was quite helpful in imagining the future of the faithful Bride, despised and hunted by the ‘wokerati’ (or the subsequently spawned, one-world police force, for example).
But it went very wrong for me when Priscilla suddenly expresses a ‘call from God’ opposite to that of Aquila which meant that her marriage covenant with him was, in several very pragmatic senses, obsolete.
Of course, Aquila’s quiet, unquestioning acceptance of this marital divergence felt just about as ‘vogue’ as James Bond needing any type of partner let alone a black, female, utterly pointless one. (Yes, there is a reason that it wasn’t a new ‘Bond girl’ who was black rather than the new 007 agent).
Surely Aquila and Priscilla’s strength for the Church – and honour of Christ and each other – lay in their oneness of flesh, their complimentary roles of service and mission and the beauty of their physical intimacy together? It’s as though this actual reality was an antiquated extraneous idea in the film.
But What of Corinth?
Granted, Paul’s advice to marrieds in 1 Corinthians 7:29 (for those with eschatological awareness, at least) was to live as though one was not married. For the present form of this world is passing away.
But I’m not convinced that’s what I was witnessing in the storyline of this film and, as I mention again shortly, the end of the eschaton didn’t seem exactly ‘front and centre’ in the collective heart of this enclaved church in Rome.
Perhaps it was more because of the headstrong, independent portrayal of the process of Priscilla’s epiphany, (specifically as regards to her relationship with her husband, Aquila), that smacked more to me of egalitarianism than of anything else. After all, Paul’s radical command in the book of first Corinthians was specifically to husbands (in respect of their wives) and not vice-versa.
Is this pedantic? Possibly but, actually, doesn’t this type of detail matter if we are to be faithful?
Aquila and Priscilla’s character element of the film grated with me because I think it flows from our current theological smorgasbord and our deathly dearth of spiritual authority in which ‘subjectivity’ is the order of the hour. In this preeminent regard, the Body of Christ is floundering like a Roman magistrate learning of Paul’s Roman citizenship.
This central character development in the Christian community of the film was also surprising given the Catholic (see below) value on the family. Doesn’t this serve to underline that, whether relating to abortion or contraception or marriage, it’s not about being Catholic that counts with God but only ‘being kingdom’?
Bullets to Close
Despite Paul’s fantastic beard, the attention given to his suffering body and the specific detail of his being bow-legged, there are a few other related elements of the film that also grated with me and I’ll mention them in bullet points just to try and keep this blog to a reasonable length:
1. Jesus’ name was almost entirely absent. Referring to Him predominantly as Christ (even in the film’s title) felt stunted to me – ie that He was wholly transcendent rather than also powerfully immanent – and, therefore, the film felt very Catholic. (Perhaps this is best explained by the Catholic evangelistic impetus/funding from the likes of Jim Caviezel et al).
2. Communal prayer was poorly imagined. Unless I’m mistaken, community prayer only featured in one scene and that being only the recital of the Lord’s Prayer. This is an issue of omission for me rather than commission: i.e. obviously there’s nothing wrong with the Lord’s Prayer prayed verbatim, (on the contrary) but the absence of any spontaneous, fiery, powerful times of prayer felt very unrealistic to me. In terms of prayer and intercession (which also didn’t feature) I imagine the nature of the Spirit’s ‘living flame of love’ to be the main feature of the future underground church rather than liturgy, (whether biblical or otherwise).
3. No singing. (There was a comical reference to Luke’s poor singing at one point which seemed oddly incongruous to me given that Paul had literally destroyed his Philippi dungeon with Silas, such was the thunderous power of Yahweh’s inhabitation of the praise of the early church.
4. The Holy Spirit was poorly imagined. With Paul’s ‘demonstration of the Spirit’s power’ in mind, (1 Corinthians 2:4), this missing element of this film was at odds with how I read the New Testament and especially the book of Acts; especially odd because Acts is referred to in the credits! I would have loved to have seen Luke lay hands on the daughter of Felix, and exorcise a demon, rather than drain her lungs of blood.
5. Community was too political. The ‘uprising from within’ was perhaps an example of a classic Trojan horse of Chloe’s household and, in that sense, quite believable, especially for American audiences. But that seemed to be the main narrative from within the community, rather than, for instance, any sense of Jesus returning in the sky. I don’t think His return was mentioned once and the sense of yearning for Him to come (as the furnace of community rather than survival) didn’t seem to me to feature.
What Kind of Preparation?
All in all, I would recommend you read John Pollock’s biography of Paul rather than watching this movie. I sensed a distinct Catholic ‘vibe’ from the start and, in all honesty, wasn’t remotely moved to tears even once (which is my ‘normal’ personal experience/response when I discern the anointing of the Holy Spirit).
That said, the acting was excellent, the scenes/locations were very authentic and I loved the way the film’s credits described the scale of Paul’s achievements as well as the use of the word communities rather than churches. Tyndale loved congregations but, no matter, communities felt refreshing to me.
In these positive senses, I think the film was definitely a kind of prophetic glimpse into the future of the battered Bride to come but I think it imagines a reactionary, default preparation of the Church rather than one that is powerfully conceived by Spirit-led design.
We must prepare on our knees while we are afforded the luxury of time and strength to do so.
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.