To paraphrase Terry Mattingly: the film is the novel of the 21st century.
And if this is so, then we should rejoice, because philosopher Nathan Jacobs has made a novel in light that speaks with those who respond “none” when asked about religion. His motion picture Becoming Truly Human listens, tells a story, and responds.
People, not profit, motivate the film. The story is a thing where by Jacobs hopes to capture the conscience of the confused.
Movie making, secular and Christian, is often a form of graft: much money spent, no story. This film is the opposite: efficient use of funds, great story. Jacobs has done what many have pitched: he has answered those who say God is not there or that He is silent.
There is a challenge at the heart of saying you are “none” and it is the question of whether nature is all there is, was, or ever will be. What more is there to life? What if there is more to being human than being a computer made out of meat? What if there is something deeper to my love life than my selfish genes looking to make it to the next generation?
If so, then to be fully human, one cannot be a “none” about religion.
When I was a boy there was an “atheist” and “Christian” scam where the local pastor would “debate” some national atheist, while both split the take. Sometimes the two opponents had more in common than the yokels who came to the debate: they were in it for the money while the local Christians and atheists cared about truth. Christian and secular groups still have such scam artists, but Nathan Jacobs is not one of them.He has done the hard work of a secular philosophy degree. He listens and dialogs, letting the argument take him where it leads.
He suspects that to be fully human is to be more than we “are” and becoming what we should be. This is not a merely a matter of argument. We must be reasonable, but not merely reasonable. We are not (as Spock discovered!) mere logic machines. Our experience of the good, truth, and beauty is more than what can be captured in data. Humans are more than machines.
We are animals with souls created in the image of God.
And the God in whose image we are created is capable of sublime beauty. It is not that nature cannot show us beauty . . . it is that beauty that natures shows us is not merely natural! There are ideas with the matter and both matter to people.
The ideas are real and if an idea is real, then there is more to the cosmos than matter and energy. There is mindful motion as well as mere “natural” motion.
So Nathan Jacobs has told this story by allowing those who disagree to speak and those who have seen more to tell their stories. Here is a deep reality: one can be blind to color, but those who see color are not wrong to see it. Those who look at the universe and see only black and white can still see beauty, but not all the beauty there is, was, or could be.
When the light of this film flickers on the screen at The Saint Constantine School, we will see a case that one can be more than an animal: one can be fully human. We will see a novel, an attempt at the Brothers Karamazov for the 21st century.