Bourne Again

Michael Metzger

Box office and Bible.
If friends won’t try the Bible, take them to see The Bourne Ultimatum instead. In fact, watch the entire Bourne trilogy. It takes us right back to the Bible. While Bourne’s story might not look like our day-to-day life, his life does look a lot like the Bible’s age-to-age
story. Connecting the box office to the biblical story – or the world to the Word – can be as easy as reading what two film critics have written about the Bourne trilogy.

The Bourne Identity asks the existential question (“Who am I?”) according to film critic Manohla Dargis (formerly at the Los Angeles Times). He says the second film, The Bourne Supremacy was moral – “What did I do wrong?” The third installment, The Bourne Ultimatum, is redemptive according to David Denby of The New Yorker. It addresses “How can I escape what I am?”2 These three questions are addressed and answered in the first three chapters of the “four-chapter” gospel.

For thousands of years, the gospel was a “four-chapter” story enshrined in such early documents as the Nicene Creed (325AD), the Athanasian Creed (4th century) and the Apostle’s Creed (8th century revision of the Old Roman Creed of the 3rd century). It was the story behind every story – captured in four chapters: (1) Creation – addressing the existential question “Who am I?” and how life ought to be, (2) the Fall – addressing “What did I do wrong?” to make the world the way it is today, (3) Redemption – addressing “How can I escape what I am?” and make things better and (4) the Restoration – “Where will I end up?” (For those of us who have seen Bourne Ultimatum, we were left wondering, “Where will Jason Bourne end up?”)

Jason Bourne may seem larger than life, but his story actually reflects an even bigger story. “The Bible tells a story that is the story, the story of which our human life is a part,” wrote Lesslie Newbigin. “It is not that stories are part of human life, but that human life is part of a story.”2 When we see these patterns in cinema reflected in Scripture, the seeming gap between “the world” and the Word of God shrinks.

This is what the renowned British journalist G.K. Chesterton discovered. For many years he believed there was no connection between “the world and the Christian tradition” – they were “two parts of two machines.” Then he began to see that every story he covered actually fit inside a larger story – that only the Word could explain the world:

When once these two parts of the two machines had come together, one after another, all the other parts fitted and fell in with an eerie exactitude. I could hear bolt after bolt over all the machinery falling into its place with a kind of click of relief. Having got one part right, all the other parts were repeating that rectitude, as clock after clock strikes noon. Instinct after instinct was answered by doctrine after doctrine.3

Chesterton went on to become a prolific writer and defender of the gospel because he saw that human life is part of a story. When Ted Leonsis, principal owner of the NHL Washington Capitals and president of America Online returned to the helm of the company after several years of exile, he described his life story this way: “In the great American drama there are three acts. First, you and your company come out of nowhere and surprise everyone. Second, the hero falls very publicly. The third act is all about redemption and comeback. At any one time in your life and career, you will be one of those acts.”4 It sounds like his story reflects a bigger story.

Seeing a bigger story sometimes requires eyeglasses.

Over 50 years ago, theaters introduced 3-D glasses to help moviegoers see more dimensions of a movie. The “four-chapter” gospel can serve as 3-D glasses (or 4-D glasses???), enhancing our ability to see the connection between cinema and Scripture, or Sunday and Monday. This way, if friends won’t try the Bible, we can take them to see Bourne again. The series takes us right back to the Bible.

1 David Denby, “War Wounds,” The New Yorker, August 6, 2007, p.76
2 Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret: An Introduction to the Theology of Mission (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, Revised Edition, 1995), p.82
3 G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (San Francisco: Ignatius, Reprint, 1995), p.84-85
4 Thomas Heath, “The Leonsis Story: Act 3,” Washington Post, April 9, 2003


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