A Christmas Carol: A “Watch Along” Guide, Part 2

Posted: December 9, 2011 by John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. in Drama, Family
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We continue our “watch along” guide to A Christmas Carol today.  Use these questions and commentary to guide your family to a thoughtful viewing of this holiday classic!

Does past abuse or neglect cause present sin?  When Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, we gain a window into his upbringing.  We see him being neglected by his peers.  We hear of his abusive father.  We learn of the death of his loving sister during the birth of his nephew.  Suffice it to say, Scrooge did not have a pleasant childhood!  He was most likely severely abused and regularly unloved.  So does this give you compassion for Scrooge, and explain his character development?  A Biblical worldview acknowledges that past suffering does greatly impact our present mental, emotional, and spiritual state.  Yet, the Bible also teaches us that we are always held responsible for our own present sins, even when sinned against by others in the past.

How is greed a form of idolatry?  Contributing to his heartache, Scrooge’s wife divorced him because she was no longer the love of his life.  Somewhere along the line, Scrooge’s heart was stolen by money!  Possibly fueled by his longstanding fear and deep emptiness, Scrooge filled his life with the gold and silver that never satisfies.  This heart idolatry literally consumed Scrooge, stealing his marriage, friendships, and his own soul.  Idolatry always costs us everying in the end, as it demands our total heart worship!

Who is responsible for man’s condition?  During the visit from the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge views scenes of normal, everyday life–children playing, people going to church, and the daily contrast between abundance for some and poverty for many.  And the spirit shows him the condition of the Cratchetts, especially the crippled Tiny Tim.  Scrooge blames God (or the gods) for man’s seemingly worthless condition, questioning why people should worship a God at all.  The Ghost of Christmas Present verbalizes Dickens’ unitarian theology–don’t blame God, blame man.  “Ignorance” and “want” are man’s children, not God’s.  God is good; it’s man that brings suffering to other men.  Much like the theology of Why Bad Things Happen to Good People, we are to believe that God is impotent to stop man from hurting man.  This conception of God is a Diety that only hurts in our suffering; we humans need to just stop mistreating each other on our own.  So the solution is liberal social justice, where Christians view their primary responsibility as alleviating human suffering at the expense of the gospel!  How does this match up with a Biblical view of man’s condition, and the solution to mankind’s ills?

Is our future pre-destined?  At the end of the visit by the mute Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge asks the spirit if the vision of his future death was what “may be” or what “will be.”  This changing-of-destiny question has the theme of numerous films over the years, and it is often answered with the assertion that human beings are the masters of their own destinies.  Ebenezer Scrooge certainly longed to believe that a new future could be written!  Most modern filmmakers resist any belief in a predestined future since one of the core tenets of secular humanism in that humans are masters of their own fate!  Of course, the myth in these stories, including in A Christmas Carol, is that a divine being of some sort can accurately tell a human being his/her future, in detail.  Yet the Bible teaches that our destinies are ordained by the LORD and that no one knows his or her future.  The hope we have is in the One who holds our future!

What is the nature of man’s salvation?  The end of the movie always brings tears of joy to my eyes.  Scrooge grabs hold of his second chance at life.  He buys the largest turkey in town for the Cratchits.  He donates money to the poor.  He attends his nephew’s Christmas party.  He vastly improves Bob Cratchit’s working condition.  He becomes Tiny Tim’s benefactor.  Scrooge becomes one of the most joyful humanitarians of his time.  The changes in his life are swift, dramatic, and truly remarkable.  We all applaud and say with Tiny Tim, “God bless us, every one!”

But is this change equivalent with salvation?  Unfortunately, no.  Scrooge was “saved” by looking to himself.  We are saved only by looking to Christ.  Dickens, a professed Unitarian, proclaims the doctrine of the goodness of man who only needs to be emotinally inspired in order to change his own life.  Scrooge was definitely a better man after the appearances of the spirits, but he wasn’t a saved man.  He was now a “good” man, still lost on the path to hell!  True change only comes with true repentance–turning FROM self, TO Christ!

Merry Christmas, and to God be the glory!

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