Son of a Son of a Sinner

Thoughts of a Christian…2000 years too late

The Dark Knight: A Theological Review

Agent of Chaos

To preface this theological review of The Dark Knight, I think Christians tend to fall into opposite errors with respect to popular, secular culture. On the one hand, it is treated with paranoid suspicion or outright hostility by its detractors as a realm entirely controlled by Satan and his minions. On the other, it is wrongly treated as a suitable source for sermons and doctrine along with, or, in the worst cases, in lieu of, the Scriptures. I tend to take the middle road. Popular culture has its place, and its fruits can be enjoyed by Christians in their liberty with thanksgiving. Music, art, and storytelling in any medium can be entertaining, thought provoking, and even God-honoring. He created all things good. Beauty and truth can be creatively expressed even by those who are unregenerate. If one believes that God is sovereign, this should come as no surprise. Likewise, if enjoyment of such fair replaces our Christian duties of discipleship (Bible study, prayer, church attendance, good works, et al) they should be plucked out of our lives and cast from us as Christ commands. My goal with this review is to analyze some of the overarching themes (the nature of man, law, providence, morality, faith) raised in the film by looking at some of the crucial scenes. Caution: there are some spoilers.

I was reading an article where Christopher Nolan was describing his favorite scene in TDK: the interrogation scene between Batman and The Joker, hero vs. villain, good vs. evil. He said it was the hinge on which the whole movie turned. Or, to put it in terms the theologically Reformed can understand, it is the film’s doctrine of justification. In it, The Joker presents his own brand of chaotic nihilism. He spoke of the goodness (or lack thereof) of Gotham’s citizens,

“Their morals, their ‘code,’ it’s all a bad joke; dropped at the first sign of trouble. They’re only as good as the world allows them to be. When the chips are down, these, uh, ‘civilized people’: they’ll eat each other. You see, I’m not a monster, I’m just ahead of the curve.”

When one grounds all hope and all authority in mankind, one must certainly reach The Joker’s bleak conclusions. If the law was conjured up within the mind of man, it is a bad joke. It is moral pretension. It has no ultimate power or intrinsic authority. However, the Scriptures declare that the moral law, the ultimate standard of goodness and purity, finds its origin in God. It is the product of the Ultimate Judge and is binding on all men. It is the bedrock for the laws of the state, itself instituted by God to bear the sword, to protect the innocent, and to punish the guilty. Civilization is a gift of God. It certainly is a means by which He restrains the evil of men.

Sadly, The Joker’s anthropology is more Biblical than that of many professing Christians. Man is NOT basically good. We are basically corrupt. Every aspect of our being is tainted and deformed by sin to one degree or another. This is often called total depravity, though a more apt term I’ve heard applied to it is radical corruption. We are not as evil as we could be, but there is not one aspect of our beings that is left unaffected by sin. Apart from God’s grace, we would indeed “eat each other.” So, too often, we see ourselves as “better” than the serial killers, the rapists, and the deviants of society. Horizontally, we may be better than The Jokers of the world. Vertically, however, we are all sinners deserving of God’s just condemnation. In comparison to God’s holy standard, we are all lawbreakers and criminals. We are the scum of the earth. That is why faith in Christ alone is so important. It is through faith in Christ, itself a gift from God, that Christ’s perfect righteousness is imputed to us. This allows us to stand before God blameless. For as Christ gives us His righteousness, so too did He take upon Himself our sin. He became sin and was crushed by God’s wrath that we might be saved from the Judgment. In terms of sin, we are all “monsters.” Despite this, God in His loving mercy still chose to save us.

The Joker continues to expound his twisted worldview in the hospital scene with Harvey Dent:

“I’m not a schemer. I like to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things really are…You were a schemer. You had plans, and look where that gotcha.”

A quick point, I know it wasn’t the script writer’s intention, but there is a droplet of truth here. We are all schemers. We are going to attend college here, we are going to do this, we are going to marry when we’re this age, have this many kids, live here, travel here, do this, do that, ad nauseam. God is the one who often shows “how pathetic our attempts to control things really are.” He alone is sovereign. While we should plan diligently, we must not do so assuming that we have the final say. God has measured our days. We shouldn’t delude ourselves into thinking that we can plan the time and the means by which we will come to God for our eternal destiny. The Scriptures declare that today is the day of salvation, now is the time to believe. Likewise Christ is the only way by which we may gain both acceptance by God and entrance into His heaven. Walking an aisle, signing a card, saying a prayer, getting baptized, taking communion, joining a church, singing a hymn, doing good deeds, and “living a good life” won’t save the first soul from hell. Only God-given faith in Christ can accomplish such a feat.

The Joker goes on:

“See, I’ve noticed something. Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan,’ even if the plan is horrifying. If I told the press that tomorrow like a gangbanger would get shot, or a truck load of soldiers would be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all ‘part of the plan.’ But if I say that one little old mayor will die, then everyone loses their minds! Introduce a little anarchy; upset the established order and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.”

Hear we see the philosophical conclusion of an atheistic worldview, or at least a worldview with a non-Biblical god. The Bible declares that God is dread sovereign over the entire universe. He has the hairs on our heads numbered; he knows when a sparrow falls to the ground dead. We may see mayhem erupt in riots, wars, and other violence, but God remains in total control of every atom in Creation. Though God is not the author of sin and evil, He still may use these things to accomplish His purposes. We need look no further than the Cross for evidence of this. The Crucifixion of Jesus was the most evil act ever perpetrated by the hand of man. Pure innocence was executed. Jesus was murdered. By killing Jesus, His accusers and executioners committed cold-blooded murder in the first degree. However, out of this murderous act, God brought salvation. What men meant for evil, God meant for good.

However, while The Joker is the antagonist of the film, the film’s hero has a faulty worldview as well. So do the other ‘good’ characters. In her letter to Bruce, Rachel, lets him know that she has chosen to marry Harvey. She also says something worth examining:

“If you lose your faith in me, please, don’t lose your faith in people.”

Now, this seems like a kind letter that seeks to “let Bruce off easy,” but the final statement is truly foolish. We must not put ultimate faith in people, starting with ourselves. We are people of deceitful hearts and unclean lips. It is in Christ alone in whom we must place our faith if we hope to endure all trials and tribulations.

The end of the film has Batman delivering an interesting last line:

“Sometimes the truth isn’t good enough. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded. Sometimes people deserve more.”

Gordon and Batman had “bet it all” on Harvey Dent. The Joker told Batman that he had brought Gotham’s “White Knight” down to “our level.” If people were to know the crimes of Two-Face, then they would lose hope in what Gordon and Batman stood for, or so the protagonists assumed.

That is the overarching flaw of the film’s outlook on human existence. If man is the measure of all things; if God is not given his proper place, then The Joker will ultimately have the last laugh. If we put our faith in our government, our military, our wealth, our health, our family, our spouse, our children, our own moral performance, our heritage, or ourselves we will be eternally disillusioned. All these things, though good, cannot provide ultimate satisfaction or security. Only God can do that. Truth, Biblical Truth, is always good enough. People do not need to have their faith rewarded if that faith’s object is anything but the Living Triune God. Such faith should be torn down and exposed for what it is: a lie. The faith of Christians is the only faith that will bring reward. Not because of the faith itself but because of whom that faith is in: Jesus. We may not deserve Jesus, but He is the “something more” we all desperately need.

One scene from which I do draw inspiration in my Christian walk is the scene in the Bat Bunker before Bruce decides to turn himself in:

-Bruce: People are dying, Alfred. What would you have me do?

-Alfred: Endure, Master Wayne. Take it. They’ll hate you for it, but that’s the point of Batman. He can make the choice no one else will make, the right choice.

Many Christians, like me, who struggle with assurance and sin would benefit if we would take to heart the numerous Biblical passages that tell us to persevere in the faith. Knowing that our salvation is a free gift and that we are free from both the dominion and condemnation of sin, what will we now do? Turn ourselves back over to the world, the flesh, and the devil? God forbid! The world may hate us for it, but we must take it.

Let us press on to the goal keeping our eyes fixed on the Cross. Let us endure.

In conclusion, I loved The Dark Knight. It is a cinematic masterpiece. It raises the right questions that most movies shy away from even if it doesn’t offer the right answers.

"Endure, Master Wayne..."

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3 Comments»

  bob wrote @

not an overall bad review – just my 2cents
the overall thematic elements and insight – simply put its a man , albeit a man with massive wealth and skills to back him up that fights over what can be best ascribed as insanity and evil run amok – the joker isn’t literally evil he’s beyond the concept to something else entirely – evil .. is robbing and beatin a granny on the side of the road , evil is actually prolly beneath the joker — the joker is on a completely different playing field of bad guy – the same can be said for the batman – he’s as human as joker, he’s a knight , he is a protector – he is what they need him to be he goes wherein the laws wouldn’t allow a lawman to go , to do what the keepers of the law wouldn’t allow – he treads a very thin line of right and wrong. but again he’s not playing in the rules that the average person has an idea of.
but i grant you’re right its a fantastic movie experience and a fantastic insight into the roles of good and evil and more.

——————————————————-
— in regards of your view of humanity are seemingly very dark and dimly lit not to say you’re dim but that your perspective doesnt see the light cast by humanity without dogmatic / religious indoctrination.
the christianic god is a moody one – for the fist half of your history he/it is a tyrannical parent figure bent and ready to smite and eradicate humanity off the face of the planet for the smallest of mis-steps then he/it goes on an acid multiple personality trip to being a hippie all loving all caring eternal joy and love deity
– really needs to set a particular mind set.
— instead of seeing the darkness that some cast upon the world and the evils and horrors man is capable we need to grow beyond it – to grow up as a SPECIES to work together as a unified whole – something never before tried without forced conquest – if PEOPLE were to Be the CHANGE they wanted to see in the world it would be astounding the changes that would be seen
— i can’t bite the religious doctrines i wont disparage yours , i grew up a long time ago realizing that the bible and the history was something that was written by PRIMITIVE MEN in their attempts to understand the world at hand and to give POWER to MEN and for me -there are HISTORICAL events that are REAL EVENTS but overall its mostly fiction and manipulated fiction at that, washed , cleaned and redrawn a few times over to get the masses to absorb into it and to line the pockets of a few. i grant its not from all but from some .
all religions are the same , a deity proclaims themselves to be the supreme and to worship another is heresy and wrong and will cause you to experience a negative afterlife
blah, blah insert a variety of parables that are wide open to interpretation and insight to further indoctrinate you into its hold.

here’s a thought and a scary one – some people have a spot in their brain that responds to the concept of “GOD” not just the christianic god but just “GOD” as a concept – an omnipresent entity that has a interest in their lives – sounds a lil manipulative and violating of the whole free will thing — buttt it sounds like a brilliant control mechanism for an intelligent species to use to keep slave labor/experiment stock in line
– immaculate conception….–… fancy advanced invitro-fertilization ..with a genetically modded human …

which sounds more likely in LOGICAL SENSE beyond the emotional biasness
– a supernatural force creates existence
-a supernatural otherworldly being makes only 1 species intelligent and in its own image??
(cause its lonely)
– a con-flux of events occur that allows life to propagate
– natural selection allowed humans to become something more than just an animal if just barely
(we’re still fairly beastial as a species (i mean that in terms of character and behavior not private off set sexual practices)
— if there were/was interference which is more likely ; an intangible non-corporeal entity making humans cause its bored and lonely — or an intelligent species that needs a slave labor force, or just wants to see if they could create a new species or even a whole new biosphere system – just because they want to see what will happen??

i say , throw it all away and lets start with a clean slate – killing a person for different beliefs bad , and respect your elders;parents especially —
and lets try to reach for the stars as the human collective – working together for a peaceful goal to expand the knowledge and reach of humanity as a whole – just because we’re curious ; not for a military purpose or for a purpose to spread any particular message in any sense (if they inquire that’s their deal)

  sosborne09 wrote @

Hi, Bob. Thanks for stopping by my humble little blog and adding your thoughts. We don’t get many visitors ‘round these parts! You clearly put much thought into your comment, so I hope I can respond in kind. I will respond point by point.

-In regards to my views of humanity (as theologians may refer to it, anthropology), I grant that I paint a bleak picture. Of course, the Scriptures paint a pretty bleak picture as well. Fallen in sin, man is alienated from the true God. Now, I agree it may sound as if I believe man is incapable of performing any good at all. That is simply not true. If it sounds that way, it is only because so many in America today think that the very idea of sin, wrong, evil, and guilt are outdated naïve concepts of our “superstitious” forebears. I must confess a tendency for overcorrection (I apologize; overcorrection is just as wrong as an opposite error). Man, to be sure, is capable of great civil good: helping a neighbor, loving a spouse, giving to the poor, caring for a child, and even giving ones life for a friend (which the Bible declares as the greatest love one can express). However, when compared to the absolute perfection demanded by God, we all fall far short. Many Christians often hyperbolically say that we are no better than Hitler. A more thoughtful response is necessary. We are far closer to Hitler morally than we are to Jesus, would be a better way to phrase it. On a horizontal (human) level, there are shades of gray: you and I are angels when compared to Nero, Stalin, and Hitler. On a vertical (divine) level, things are black and white. God is perfect, and man, made in His image, was capable of perfection. However, Adam sinned and plunged all mankind into sin, severing our peaceful communion with God. That does not mean every person is as bad as he/she could be, but that no part of our humanity is unaffected by our sin nature. Our mind, emotions, and wills are all, to one degree or another, fallen and stained by sin. My bleak view of humanity is not because I hate humanity or find individuals worthless (God certainly doesn’t), but because I am aware of the greatness with which humanity has fallen from our original state of perfection. Our current situation by comparison is one of misery. C.S. Lewis put it like this: you think if God is angry at us that He is unloving. If our loved one (spouse, friend, parent, child, etc.) is engaged in dangerous or self-destructive behavior, do we not get angry with them out of love for them? If we wished to pat them on the back and encourage them on their path to personal destruction, would that be more loving? God is no different; in fact, He is far more loving and patient that most of us far. We call down hellfire on people who cut us off in traffic! Meanwhile, God (who is perfect and holy) endures day after day of our own moral failings always offering us forgiveness and peace in Christ (I will touch on this in greater detail below).
-As far as the view of God as severe tyrant of the Old Testament and flower child of the New: that view is a construct largely of modern popular culture (an offshoot of a discredited Greek/Gnostic idea of dualism that was a popular error in early church history). The “Buddy Christ” as presented in Kevin Smith’s Dogma film exemplifies the tendency of our culture to make Jesus whatever we want Him to be to validate our own views. Even Christians (sinners themselves) engage in such subtle forms of mental and emotional idolatry. Our hearts are idol factories that always take the Truth of who God is and twist it to our liking. We may not bow down to statues, but how often do we give some opinion about God that sounds like, “I THINK God is like…” How do justify our opinion? What if someone disagrees? Who is right? We would laugh someone to scorn if they said something like, “I think that I can jump off a mountain and fly,” or, “I think two plus two equals five.” We believe in objective truth in these minor matters, yet we think the omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the Universe can be limited and confined by our mere opinion and tastes? Back to my main point: God showed much love and patience in the Old Testament as well as the New. Likewise, Jesus, always one to take mercy on the least of humanity, talked more about hell than any other person in the Bible. God is ultimately defined by His holiness (divine perfection): this means that His loving-kindness and wrath/righteous anger coexist without contradiction in His Being. You seem to want to squeeze God into a man-shaped box that you can fully grasp. The best theologians of the Christian tradition drew from Scripture a hard and fast rule: the finite (you and me) cannot comprehend the infinite (God). His ways are not our ways. Who are we, mere creatures, able to talk back to God and demand answers He has not seen fit to reveal. He revealed Himself through history (ancient Israel), through inspired Word (Bible), and in person (Jesus). Jesus lived the perfect life you and I could not, yet was like us in every aspect of our humanity (except sin). This made Him worthy as our substitute. While we deserve God’s just punishment for our sin, Jesus, Himself innocent and blameless, took upon Himself our punishment on the Cross. Because of His perfection, death could not hold Him and He rose again on the third day as prophesied in the Old Testament. It is by faith in Christ that we are forgiven and reconciled to God. He took upon Himself our sin, and in return, He offers His righteousness as a free gift that is attained through faith. This is the glorious exchange and promise of Christianity: sinful man reconciled to God, by God.
-I must retire for the night, but I intend to engage your point further, Bob. Thanks again for your comment, and I pray that God would open your heart by His Holy Spirit and reveal the Truth of the Good News of the Risen Christ.

  bob wrote @

I do apologize for my lacking of such detailed and polished posting. I must say you write with a lot of conviction and polished writing etiquette that is hard to find.
In general not to say that “i gave up” on spirituality , more like I’m tired of the all the negativity associated with religion in and of itself that humans in general taint it with. Overall it seems and feels if by observation that the religion becomes who has a bigger “wang’ fight (ask O. B laden ~refference southpark).

Granted there are different types of associations to higher planes of existence however like you noted on the humorous twist with “buddy christ” in DOGMA , Christianity and the whole “one god” faith from the start has always been manipulated in such a manner as to attract and bring in new followers. This is nothing new most the rituals and events that america and other christianic cultures celebrate are more likely of pagan traditions that was absorbed by the christians.

“If it sounds that way, it is only because so many in America today think that the very idea of sin, wrong, evil, and guilt are outdated naïve concepts of our “superstitious” forebears.”

A excellent quote sir, and most likely i classify as one of those americans ~ it’s surprisingly hard to find more civil minded individuals. In rebuttal though I happen to live in a bible belt that is riddled with “god fearing” southerner’s. To be honest to listen to them speak about god and bible and damnation it borders on hearing nails on a chalk board type dribble.
The people i’ve been exposed to and though some are very good friends , follow Christianity out of the very simple fear of being damned to hell. They won’t admit it and will find ways to completely rationalize why they follow is more than just the fear of damnation and their arguments and reasonings are surprisingly weak that im surprised they can accept it.

However it should be noted that this is a general basis of all ideologies, that theres a positive a negative – no middle ground and like i’ve stated ways to reinforce the idea’s(parables / fears ect).
I do think that people only follow a religion out of fear and even in some cases ignorance, i.e rednecks / white supremacists/ racists/ cult leaders and dictatorial leaders. This is not to say exclusive to them but that it seems they make up the majority that some story book made up 2000 yrs ago makes one section of the species superior or better than another.Though To me is more strange and more alien a concept to me than the thought bigfoot showing up at the white house to say he wants to rule the world(a utterly ridiculous concept).

Your argument has the entirety of it based on what amounts to me as a work of fiction that generally speaking can be compared to “Star trek” or anne rice’s “the vampire chronicles” and a plethora of other fictional works the reason i argue this is that though the literature and the t.v show are pure works of fiction in the most literal of sense they include a mixture of mentioning real historical events – star trek mentions WWI/WWII ; the civil rights movement; and other historical notes. anne rice references various real names and events and locations of the medieval and Renaissance worlds. Star trek is a perfect reference in that it even includes a doctrine of right and wrong ala 10 commandments I.e the prime directive ~ though to note is more a scientifically reasoned one with only a pinch of morality applied. Christianity has had a brilliant marketing campaigned and succedded in making the world for the majority a patriarchal(male dominated) society base. Whose chief figure head isnt even historically accurately depicted (since he’d most likely be an arabic descent). i personally would be more intrigued by this figure if he werent so removed from the human condition in some aspects to believe a person (with a missing 15 something year history) never got busy with anyone.. is … rather laughable not to mention his mother and “step-father” lol.

i can respect and even admire your devotion to a faith “its not what faith you are , but that you have faith” ~ muse ; dogma (not exact but it works). However to my mind to hold on to an ancient ideological system that has been exploited/mutilated / and could be argued that it makes women and depending on the ones reading it seeing themselves as some sorta superior being seems very foolish if not “primitive”. This topic is very difficult to debate because though we’re being very civil we seem to be polar opposites in mindset viewpoints.

Rather than see humans as something banished for a “sin” as a fallen people/species (note not race).

I’d rather see us as champions , our species has crawled from the primordial soup mix , and in both a long and short time achieved more than anything else on the planet though i grant most of the achievements have been at the expense of the planet herself we’re now at a point and though we’ve been capable for while to repair the more serious damage. we’re still
1. top of the food chain save for selective stupidity
2. makers of true Art in both a written language form and pictorial form.
3. have managed to successfully leave the womb of earth to visit a stellar neighbor the moon and even mars and shortly soon in person too (for mars)
preconceptions of racial superiority or gender superiority -people that pity party whine ~ how can god let bad things happen to good people ? ~
(is a whole different topic there)
i cannot say i wish it were criminalized for each person is by all means entitled to have their own opinions and shouldn’t be punished for it.
but i do wish people would use more critical thinking skills in their processing of religious ideologies.

its hard to word out the simple perspective that i can only sum as – “I wish my species (humans to be specific) could just grow up…” to quote your bible “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
i feel that religion is outdated and though i do have a idea or though of “enlightenment” i would strive for it in a manner different from christian ideas which even though im free to do so its hard to do in a world ruled by superstitious and more often than naught superstitious cowards.

i can’t describe how it feels when i hear people rabble on about god this and god that , or make a commentary about god thats a cover for their own ego (it hurts me in my head and heart even more when the person is actually fairly intelligent in scientific or historical knowledge and or capable critical thinking skills)
~ i.e award ceremonies “thank you god and jesus for this award ” -thats a serious wtf for me – got an ego much? im sure god had his well something directed so that you’d win an oscar for best female lead for showing your rack while children are starving in africa or a single mother works 2 jobs just to bring her family to a just shy poverty level or when children are being maimed and murdered… …
or the idolization of america being the greatest nation on the earth…? who said that? have they seen the hungry/ the poor / the beyond moronically stupid? — c’mon our previous “religious” president wanted “abstinence only” programs for schools another wtf moment(makes you want to smack your own forehead) / our culture effectively pays the less than intellectually gifted to breed (yes its breeding not just having kids) and they feast off the system. — note this is not to say that they should pay just the proven intellectuals to breed.
the point being is that its another element of people not seeing the big picture ~ romans thought themselves to be the grandest culture of world.. we’re just getting started by comparison – look what happened to them.

i want people to look around the world and realize that money and borders dont really matter civilizations and ideologies rise and fall surely as the sun does rise and set and that we must work together without any resentment that our ancestors concocted for power to do whatever we want to set our minds to.
whether its to find actual CURES for diseases , or design the most outlandish meta-tech we’ve never had before (i.e ironman armor – actual healing technologies not just patch fix bandage jobs ) or furthering scientific knowledge – to me the grandest one is to explorer space to further the scientific understand ing of the galaxy and cosmos.

we are but bacteria on a grain of sand in ocean so massive most dont realize. i am actually annoyed at the fact that im limited by the primitive technologies here that im unable to freely *without loosing something
the earth as a whole or even the local galaxy , we’re stuck .. for now on the only little blue ball in this sector … we have no means to escape if a cataclysm were to occur or to just leave to explore places far from here or find if we have stellar neighbors..


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