Today (Friday, October 19, 2012) Kevin Miller’s documentary “Hellbound?” opens for one week in several cities across Canada’s verdant prairie including Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg. (For more information on theatres and showtimes click here: http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/canada-openings-for-this-friday/)
Even better, tomorrow Kevin Miller (the esteemed director himself) will be coming to Edmonton and attending the 7 PM screening at the Cineplex in South Edmonton. And even better than better, yours truly will be hosting a Q&A with aforementioned esteemed director following the screening. Needless to say, it will be a gala event and the Christian cinematic event of the season.
I haven’t seen the film myself, but from what I’ve heard it is a provocative look at the doctrine of hell in theology and popular culture which engages with a variety of talking heads from Mark Driscoll to William Paul Young. And wholly apart from the quality of the film (which I will assess in a post-game review following the screening) I am thankful to Mr. Miller for offering an outlet for the important theological conversations that we need to be having about these topics. The fact is that there is a conspiracy of silence in many churches on the topic of hell. Every year I survey my theology students with this question: “When was the last time you heard a sermon on the doctrine of hell?” Consistently I will get between 1 and 2 students out of a class of about twenty saying that they can remember hearing a sermon on hell. And given the memorable nature of sermons on hell one suspects that the rest have not forgotten sermons on hell but rather haven’t heard them.
This is jaw-droppingly extraordinary. Whatever you understand hell to be, Jesus talked about it a lot, he warned against it, he described it in stomach churning detail. And not just Jesus. It is a common theme throughout the New Testament straight on to Revelation 20. What do you do with those texts? That is, apart from simply ignoring them?
Mr. Miller’s film is finally placing that conversation center-stage in a cinematic setting (as Rob Bell’s book did last year in a literary one). And for that I’m grateful. I would encourage all those who are able to attend a screening of “Hellbound?” to do so to support the filmmaker and his craft. The cinema is full of enough films that are hellish to sit through (I’m looking at you Michael Bay. Your “Transformers” atrocities present the cinematic equivalent of weeping and gnashing of teeth for urbane movie goers.) Now we have a film actually on hell which promises to be a thought-provoking catalyst for important and overdue conversations.