“Mission Impossible,” the “Entity,” and the battle for our world

“Mission Impossible,” the “Entity,” and the battle for our world July 17, 2023

My wife and I saw Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One over the weekend and I understand why one of its actors called it “the biggest action movie of all time.” Without giving away the plot, I can tell you that Ethan Hunt’s enemy this time is the “Entity,” which is essentially Artificial Intelligence on steroids. One reviewer described it as “omnipresent, near-omniscient, and almost intangible, yet it has the potential to send the earth back to the Stone Age.”

Upon reflection, it occurred to me that the movie parallels the real world in a way that is urgently relevant for every Christian, whether we see the film or not.

“Fight the good fight of the faith”

The Entity is defined by three characteristics above all. Let’s see if they remind us of another entity we face today.

First, the Entity possesses limited omniscience and omnipotence. It can be anywhere the digital world exists and thus threatens to control the entire planet. Similarly, the Bible calls Satan “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4) and states that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).

Second, the Entity is deceptive in the extreme, using digital means to mislead its adversaries. Similarly, “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14) and “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Third, the Entity is humanity’s greatest enemy, threatening the destruction of life as we know it.  Similarly, Satan “comes only to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10, my emphasis). Every temptation we face, no matter how alluring at the time, is intended to lead to murder, death, and destruction.

In response, you and I are called to “fight the good fight of the faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). How do we do this?

One: Recognize that there is a fight and you are in it.

A mass shooting in Georgia killed four people Saturday morning, following the deadliest six months of mass killings recorded in the US since at least 2006. Americans’ reported mental health is at a new low, in large part because of the damaging effects of social media. The fentanyl overdose death rate nearly quadrupled from 2016 to 2021.

Scripture is clear: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). These “forces of evil” seeking to “steal and kill and destroy” are on the rampage today.

Two: Fight this war with humility and compassion.

Our cultural opponents are not our enemies. My friend John Stonestreet is right: ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims.

This fact applies to religious leaders as well. When they endorse LGBTQ ideology, abortion, and other unbiblical immorality, this warning applies: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule at their direction; my people love to have it so, but what will you do when the end comes?” (Jeremiah 5:30–31).

However, we are called to respond to our cultural opponents with humility that admits we are also sinners (Romans 3:23) and compassion that prays for God to give them “the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him” (Ephesians 1:17).

Three: Seek the only power that can defeat our enemy.

You and I cannot defeat Satan in our strength, but Satan cannot defeat our Father (1 Corinthians 10:13) working in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 10:38; Romans 15:13). This is why we must begin every day by being “filled” and controlled by the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). And why we must “set your minds on things that are above” all through the day (Colossians 3:2).

To this end, let’s close with some remarkable reflections by St. Bonaventure (1221–74). In The Journey of the Mind to God, he wrote:

We must suspend all the operations of the mind and we must transform the peak of our affections, directing them to God alone. This is a sacred mystical experience. It cannot be comprehended by anyone unless he surrenders himself to it; nor can he surrender himself to it unless he longs for it; nor can he long for it unless the Holy Spirit, whom Christ sent into the world, should come and inflame his innermost soul. . . .

If you ask how such things can occur, seek the answer in God’s grace, not in doctrine; in the longing of the will, not in the understanding; in the sighs of prayer, not in research; seek the bridegroom not the teacher; God and not man; darkness not daylight; and look not to the light but rather to the raging fire that carries the soul to God with intense fervor and glowing love. The fire is God, and the furnace is in Jerusalem, fired by Christ in the ardor of his loving passion. . . .

Let us die, then, and enter into the darkness, silencing our anxieties, our passions and all the fantasies of our imagination. Let us pass over with the crucified Christ from this world to the Father, so that, when the Father has shown himself to us, we can say with Philip: “It is enough.” We may hear with Paul: “My grace is sufficient for you”; and we can rejoice with David, saying, “My flesh and my heart fail me, but God is the strength of my heart and my heritage forever. Blessed be the Lord forever, and let all the people say: Amen.”

And amen.

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