Devil: The Power of True Repentance

Posted: March 20, 2012 by Josh Kwasny in Drama, Thriller
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Although I am not sure that I can pronounce his name correctly, M. Knight Shyamalan has become one of my favorite filmmakers. The Village (2004) is part of my top 10 films of all time to be sure (yes, it is even better than The Sixth Sense). While Shyamalan’s skill as a director is noteworthy, it is his story writing that intrigues me the most. He tells some of the best stories – asking profound questions and offering interesting answers to those questions.

The highly underrated 2010 film, Devil, is one of those great stories. I must say at the outset, however, that the film is scary. While Devil does cause the heart to race at times and invoke sudden movement out of your seat, what makes it truly scary is the weight of the subject matter taken up in the movie. The film is after all about…the Devil. I know that I shouldn’t assume that everyone who may read this post believes that the Devil (or Satan) is real. Interestingly enough, Shyamalan begins his story by quoting 1 Peter 5:8, “…the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Let’s assume he is real.

I will refrain from a full recap of the film for two reasons. 1) Shyamalan’s movies are best left to be enjoyed with as little plot “pre-release” as possible. His classic “twist-endings” are better if you know nothing going in. 2) I want to keep this post as short as possible so that you have some time to see this film (remember the scary disclaimer, of course).

With that being said…

Devil is a story about repentance and forgiveness. The big question is whether there is any hope for those who deserve eternity with the Devil in Hell. The film presents the Devil as a being who occasionally takes human form in order to publicly torment those who are on their way to Hell. He makes this occasional appearance in order to make sure that people don’t forget his existence and to display his power over them. One character comments, “He always kills the last victim in front of the person who loves them most – to make cynics of them all.” The Devil wants people to be hopelessly cynical about the human condition.

That is just what Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) is – a cynic. When questioned whether he believes in the Devil, he says, “No…I don’t believe in him…people are bad enough by themselves.” As someone who recently lost his family in a hit and run accident, Bowden has every right to be cynical. People do bad things. It is that simple. As far as he is concerned, bad people deserve punishment. He is a man of justice after all.

Early in the film, Bowden is given this piece of advice, “Your ability to forgive is going to determine the course of your life more than anything else.’’ Although he is resistant to these words, as the story unfolds, he and the audience are forced to consider the power of true repentance and forgiveness. The big question = “Is their hope for the damned?”

I would love to have coffee with M. Knight. His films always include such powerful themes. I always want to know more. While I won’t give away his answer to the question above, I will make a few observations…(I would love to hear your comments too – this film provides a lot for discussion)

First, this film gives the Devil too much power. What makes Devil so scary is to witness the destructive abilities of the Evil One. While I do not want to minimize Satan’s ability to reek havoc, I want to remind you that God is in ultimate control. The biblical book of Job, helps to illustrate God’s sovereign power – even over Satan’s actions in Job’s life. We must remember that God is ultimately in charge. Satan cannot make a move without God’s permission and ultimately for God’s purposes.

Second, this film presents a false dualism – God and Satan are two equal but, opposite powers. This is simply not true. One character in the film notes, “If the Devil is real, then God must be real too.” While this makes sense, the film does not say how this is good news. The existence of God is only good if we know that he has power over the Devil. According to the Scriptures, Jesus Christ has already defeated Satan in his work on the cross and his resurrection from the dead. Hebrews 2:14-15 says that “…through death he (Jesus) might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Third, true repentance is powerful. Because of Jesus Christ there is hope for the damned! All people deserve eternity in the unpleasant company of the Devil, but the good news is that Jesus has closed the door of Hell for people who confess their sins and lean wholly on his work alone for their salvation. The reason the gospel is “good news” is that followers of Christ are enabled to freely admit their sinfulness – we need not fear condemnation! Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

According the film, people meet the Devil because they refuse to admit their sin. One character says, “They won’t see themselves as they really are…The lies that we tell ourselves introduce us to him.” This is too true. Satan wants us to think, “I’m not that bad” or “It’s not my fault I did that.” The truth is that everyone is a sinner and deserves Hell. 1 John 1:8-9 says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” True repentance brings real forgiveness!

I am grateful for films like Devil. That may sound strange, but it is true. Stories like this provide opportunities to discuss the essential questions of human life. The questions asked by writers and filmmakers like M. Knight Shyamalan are questions that the God of the Bible has answers for. What can be more essential than answering, “Is there any hope for those destined for Hell?” In Jesus Christ we can say – Yes!! Jesus is our only hope!

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Comments
  1. Hi Josh Kwasny, I have heard from a few adults that watching any movie with evil spirits or the devil in them is very unhealthy and can give the devil power in your life. What do you believe about watching movies with demons and the devil in them? Do you have any scripture that is against or for watching these movies? Thanks!

    • Josh Kwasny says:

      Hey Jeremiah. Thanks for the question. I certainly understand the caution that you have received from others. Satan and demons are real enemies – they should not be taken lightly to say the least. While I certainly don’t have a particular proof text to promote watching films in which the devil or demons are depicted, I do believe that there are biblical principles that can help to guide us in the decision.
      First, know yourself. We must always avoid searing our consciences (1 Tim 4:2) and sinning by doing something that is not out of faith (Rom 14:23). If you struggle with it – avoid it.
      Second, if merely watching a film with a demon or devil in it is that powerful, we should be careful with anything of that nature – films such as Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, books like Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis or even the stories of demonic activity in the Bible (if you take it to the absurd end, of course).
      Lastly, remember that as a child of God – in Christ Jesus – you are ultimately safe with him. Christians are “in Christ” (one of Paul’s favorite prepositional phrases) – and Christ has power of Satan and his kind. (Colossians 2:13-15, Romans 8:37-39, 1 John 4:4, etc.)
      Thanks again for the question! Hope this helps.

  2. […] Devil – I wanted to put a more recent film on here.  Plus, not mentioning a film entitled DEVIL for top horror movies seems like it’s breaking a rule somehow.  For those of you who know anything about this film, Shyamalan is attached to it (he wrote the story).  However, not only is this movie pretty scary, the theology that runs throughout is impressive.  It begins with Scripture and has biblical themes until the credits roll.  It is a violent film, but it doesn’t relish in gore like so many (less-creative) horror films.  I’ve written more about it here. […]

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