Bruce Almighty: So, You Want God’s Job?
|By: Dr. Ted Baehr; ©2003|
|This week Universal Pictures released a movie, directed by Tom Shadyac, reportedly a professing Christian, in which Bruce Nolan, a frustrated TV reporter gets to use God’s power for a few weeks. The movie records his use of the power, and the lessons he apparently learned from the experience. We are presenting two reviews of the movie, with two rather different conclusions regarding it.|
BRUCE ALMIGHTY: So, You Want God’s Job?
Pagan worldview with a moral message and elements portraying a few of God’s characteristics as well as elements confusing the nature of God, and elements portraying many of man’s sinful, ignorant, humorous ways, as well as many positive and negative religious references and symbolic biblical portrayals such as golden calf, parting of the Red Sea, references to biblical passages, etc.; relatively strong language with about 18 obscenities, one or two strong profanities, about 10 light profanities, bathroom humor, and several obscene gestures; violence includes portrayal of (Clint Eastwood’s) gun, revenge on a bad gang by having a monkey coming from the ringleader’s rear (though not shown); implied fornication and comic hero uses supernatural powers to arouse his live-in girlfriend; back side of photo portrays subtle outline of naked woman; alcohol use; one portrayal of van filled with marijuana; and, sacrilegious railing at God, rude violation of the laws of physics suggesting, misuse of the Hebrew name for God, and immoral acceptance of co-habitation before marriage.
Suppose that for a moment that God is not omnipresent, but an anthropomorphic deity who looked down from heaven and saw that many of His beloved created ones were not attending church, but rather getting their inspiration from the movies. Suppose that this deity decided to use the silver screen to relay some important aspects of his character. How might he choose to do it? Through a comedy with big-name worldly actors? Might he possibly choose to use a movie with some of the rough elements to which the world can relate? The movie Bruce Almighty appears to have such a perspective.
Starring Jim Carrey, Jennifer Anniston and Morgan Freeman, Bruce Almighty is the story of a young man, Bruce, who is frustrated with life and angry with God for not fixing things. He is living with his girlfriend, Grace (Jennifer Anniston), and working as a second-rate anchorman for a television network. He covers the local events that no one else wants while he watches his co-worker continue to get promoted. Though TV audiences love him and look forward to the zany humor he puts into every story, Bruce lives his life in constant frustration. He not only hates his job and rival co-worker, he hates the traffic, his car and the silly little projects his girlfriend wants him to do, like scrapbooks.
Bruce curses and fumes that he just has no luck and no good breaks in life. He tells Grace that God is ignoring him, that God is like a mean kid holding a magnifying glass over an ant, burning off his tentacles and laughing. “And, I’m not OK with it!” Bruce rails. “I’m not OK with this mediocre life! God could fix my life, but he doesn’t!”
One day Grace gives Bruce some prayer beads, which he hangs on his rearview mirror. After a particularly frustrating day at work, when he gets passed over for another promotion, Bruce picks up the beads and cries out to God. “OK, God,” he pleads, “I need a miracle. Show me a sign! I’m desperate, Lord. Reach down into my life and…” CRASH! After swerving to avoid a truck laden with every type of sign imaginable, Bruce crashes his car into a wall. He’s not really hurt, but he jumps out of the car to rail at God some more. He hurls the prayer beads into the water and screams, “OK, then. Smite me, you Mighty Smiter! You’re not doing your job!”
Instantly Bruce’s beeper goes off, and he sees a number he doesn’t recognize. After it continues to go off, he finally answers, and a recorded voice invites him to interview for a great job. The next week, he goes to the address given and finds himself on the first floor of the Omni Presents Co. He talks to a janitor, played by Morgan Freeman, who suddenly reappears on the 7th floor—dressed in white. He is screwing in an extremely bright light bulb, and he asks Bruce if it’s too much light. Bruce says it’s OK. The janitor replies, “Most people don’t like the light because they live their lives in the dark.” After chatting awhile, he finally tells Bruce that He is God and proves it in a fun, humorous way. He tells Bruce that He has heard his complaints and would like to offer him the job of God for a while. He says, “When you walk out of this building, you will have all my powers.” He cautions him to remember two rules: 1) He can’t tell anyone He’s god; and, 2) He cannot interfere with free will.
Terrified at first, Bruce quickly becomes delighted. He proceeds to perform such miracles as the parting of his tomato soup, the rustling up of a mighty wind that causes a woman’s dress to blow up high, the terrifying of a street gang that’s been harassing an old man (he causes a monkey to come out of the ringleader’s rear end, but this is not explicitly shown), the increasing of his girlfriend’s breast size, using his supernatural powers to make her strongly sexually aroused, the public humiliation of his co-worker who got the promotion, and the finding of the body of mobster Jimmy Hoffa, followed by great public acclaim for the finder—Bruce himself! Bruce is even dubbed “Mr. Exclusive,” and the TV station erects a billboard in his honor.
Yes, all is going well for Bruce Almighty. It’s a life of non-stop power and pleasure feeding his narcissism; he starts hearing something in his head. What could those confusing noises be? When Bruce is able to calm his mind, he hears, “Now I lay me down to sleep…” “Dear Lord God, my son’s in trouble…” “Father, I need you…” It’s prayers! Hundreds of thousands of prayers from people all over his town! What does one do with these? Bruce tries creating a computerized system to answer all the prayers, but it’s impossible. They just keep coming, faster and faster! Bruce decides to give everyone what he or she wants. Thousands win the lottery, but this soon leads to a revolt because each winner gets only $17.
Needing a break, Bruce attends a wild party in his honor. A terrible misunderstanding leads to Grace breaking up with Bruce. The two go off alone. Later, a song plays the lyrics, “There’s a God-shaped hole in all of us.” Devastated, Bruce makes one last appeal to God. “Lord, I surrender to your will,” he cries with outstretched arms. Can Bruce make some powerful decisions in order to right the cosmic wrongs he’s created or is it too late?
A few moviegoers will find Bruce Almighty to be a fun movie that demonstrates aspects of the nature of a theistic deity. God is shown to have humor (He even says “Alrighty then!”—a humorous nod to one of Carey’s other films), grace, power, and a clever ability to create perfect scenarios for his beloved, but ignorant creation to acquire character through relationship. The movie has awesome songs throughout it, including, “Are you ready for a miracle?” It accurately portrays that all believers must surrender to God, and it extols creationism. (“If you think this day was good, imagine what I can do in seven!”)
The movie shows these powerful truths, however, through a very unscrubbed framework. There are roughly 18 mild obscenities, 11 profanities (including one or two taking Jesus’ name in vain), a handful of body humor references, several rude, obscene hand gestures, the backside of a photo of a naked woman, and many, many instances of railing at God, almost to a sacrilegious degree.
There are many points of theology, many of which reflect the perspectives of other non-Christian and pagan religions and do not cohere with Christianity or the Bible, as well as points which are merely heretical. The deity in the movie has few of God’s attributes and none of his awesome sovereign nature, for as the Bible says, “It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31 (NIV))
The deity in the movie says that he is going on vacation which he clearly does not do since he is monitoring Bruce the whole time and could not do if he was the God of the Bible who is omnipresent as well as omnipotent and omniscient. Furthermore, the deity in the movie plays a joke on Bruce, and Bruce as god resembles the god of mischief who possessed him in the movie The Mask more than the God of the Bible. In fact, he takes revenge on several people in vile ways when he has the powers of god, and his mean-spirited vengeance is never fully rebuked in the movie, although he does change his attitude because he wants Grace to love him.
Compounding the theological problems, toward the end of the movie, the deity calls humans to make their own miracles and chastises people for looking up to him and not “becoming the miracle” themselves, in contrast to the Bible call to us to always look up to our redeemer and savior.
Another point of dubious theology is the idea that God can give His powers to humans and the notion of “free will” in the movie goes beyond the Pelegian and Arminian heresies to directly conflict with the sovereignty of God. Of course, human beings derive talents, gifts and fruit from God, such as the gift of love, or the gift, sometimes, of wisdom, and we are created in the image of God, although we all bear the broken chromosome of Adam’s sin and all of us have fallen short of the glory of God.
Finally, the Biblical God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow and the Creator of a world of order. In the movie, Bruce rudely moves the Moon and the stars and other astronomical bodies with minor consequences, thus violating the laws of physics.
Bruce repents and is saved apart from any acceptance of Jesus Christ (whose name he uses for a curse word several times). If this is possible, then Jesus Christ did not need to die on the cross for our sins and his death would, as Paul notes, mock the very idea of a good God.
In fact, God has come in the flesh—Jesus Christ—who is fully God and fully man. Therefore, God incarnate looks like who he is, Jesus Christ, with the marks of the crucifixion in his hands, feet and side. Jesus dismissed those who asked for the Bruce Almighty type miracle, saying that they had already rejected the many signs that God had sent them.
Still, the movie makes its main point that God’s ways are higher than our ways. In that sense, Bruce Almighty might remind many people of a modern watered down re-telling of the Book of Job in the Bible.
Because of the movie’s objectionable content, however, Bruce Almighty is not a movie for Christians. Instead, it’s a movie for a select few of the lost and frustrated masses who are desperately searching to know the love of the One True God. By the true God’s sovereign grace, those in such a state may find something Bruce Almighty to set them on a better, more spiritually correct path. Thus, perhaps, Bruce Almighty will serve as one more gritty but divine lantern directing audiences to search out the true Almighty, and His Son, Jesus Christ—if there is someone there to witness to them!