If you found out you (and everyone else) were going to die tomorrow, what would you do? What would you think? Where would you put your faith? Eve Franklin delves into the depths of the “real world” struggles of faith versus science and the purpose and meaning of life while exploring the apocalyptic movie Knowing.
In our opinion Knowing is not suitable for children. It contains language and drinking, as well as intense and suspenseful scenes, creepy music, and scary scenes with fire and death, so please pay attention to the PG13 rating.
Be sure to check out Plugged In for a family-friendly Christian movie review.
The beautiful, but at times creepy, soundtrack by Marco Beltrami really made Knowing a powerful movie.
Prophecy, especially apocalyptic prophecy, is the entire basis of Knowing. From the protagonist John, who comes to believe that he’s given a list of predictions for a reason, to Diana, who has been told the day she is going to die and would rather not have known, the movie presents predictive prophecies as being possible because the future is predetermined contrary to random. The biblical position on prophecy as a gift of the Spirit is mentioned in passing when John calls to talk to his father, who is a pastor. The scripture referred to in that conversation is 1 Corinthians 12.
Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. 1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (ESV)
Knowing gets it wrong, however, because the only source of true prophecy is God through the Holy Spirit—as is stated in the 1 Corinthians passage (the text of which is not giving in the dialogue).
The writers of Knowing, while obviously not adverse to tipping their hat to the Christian view of prophecy, actually present another source for the prophetic information—aliens—or in this case, whisperers.
John and Caleb have early discussion about life on other planets, which opens the door for this explanation. However, while they name convincing stats in the movie dialogue, the research on exoplanets is actually a bit discouraging for this point of view. It turns out earth might be even more special than we think.
Knowing makes a makes a few allusions to the prophetic book of Ezekiel in the Bible. If you were to take Ezekiels encounter with the four living creatures and the wheel with in a wheel in the first chapter of that book as a close encounter, you might envision something like what is shown near the end of the movie. Certainly the whisperers in Knowing have some passing resemblance to some of the descriptions given in Ezekiel chapter 1.
As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. creators of the movie seem to believe that ancient portents may have been visitations of extraterrestrials rather than deities. Ezekiel [1:13]
The idea that ancient peoples had close encounters with and gained technology from aliens is an idea that has been popularized for some time. An author in the middle of the 20th century, Erich von Daniken Chariots of the Gods?, popularized the idea of aliens seeding life and technology on earth and actually referred to the encounter in Ezekiel 1 as an alien encounter. This view does not work, however, because in context, the revelations in Ezekiel are obviously from God. This view also doesn’t take into account that ancient peoples were far more intelligent that evolution believers give them credit for. There’s no need to postulate advanced aliens when ancient man was perfectly capable of creating the great wonders of our ancient world without help.
Insight not in the podcast: Will it just be our solar system that meets judgment or will God create a whole new universe for us to dwell in. Knowing implies aliens will take a chosen few to a new world. And if the prophetic vision of Knowing is supposed to accurately fulfill the apocalyptic prophecies of the Bible, then it’s interesting that the end of the world is actually only a “local” catastrophe which destroys life on earth. Scripture seems to indicate that the end of the world will literally be the end of not just our planet, but the entire universe.
For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. Isaiah [65:17]
But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. 2 Peter [3:13]
Faith versus Science
Science doesn’t have a good explanation for the “coincidences” of existence, it can only describe it. That’s why philosophy and religion are necessary fellows to science. Science describes it, faith puts it into the realm of understanding. Without that faith, there is no explanation that can fill the void between what we can see and what that means to us personally. John’s explanation is that stuff just happens (paraphrased due to the bad language), but he obviously is not comforted by his own conclusions.
Avoiding the answers and comfort that faith can provide does not help one deal with the questions of life. In fact, it adds to the depression and conflict that makes life difficult.
The ultimate trump to every scientific explanation is that we cannot control it. Such things can only leave us searching for meaning in a universe that defies explanation without faith. When such things happen, the only comfort comes from accepting that we have an all knowing and all powerful God who controls it all. We may not be in control, but He is.
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
to whom belong wisdom and might.
He changes times and seasons;
he removes kings and sets up kings;
he gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding;
he reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what is in the darkness,
and the light dwells with him. Daniel [2:20]–22
Purpose and meaning
At the beginning of Knowing, John gives the agnostic approach to the afterlife, “I can’t be sure, but you can believe if it helps you deal with death.”
With the prophecy in hand, however, John begins to feel purpose, but then loses it when he understands that he can do nothing to prevent what is happening. Was there meaning and purpose after all? “Let go, and let God.”
John lost faith when wife died, and had no purpose until he received the prophecy, while Diana’s life purpose is tied up in the safety of her daughter. At the time I was watching Knowing, I was also listening to a series of sermons on the idols of the heart that I highly recommend.
Ecclesiastes [12:13]-19 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.
What do you tell children?
John attempts to shield his son Caleb from the disasters and catastrophes going on around them by keeping him from watching the news and refusing to answer his questions. He also makes a promise to be with Caleb forever, even though at the time, he himself does not believe in forever.
How much do you shield your children from what’s going on in the world?
Do you make promises to your children that you know you can’t keep?
Knowing presents a couple of different ways of facing death. Diana’s approach represent denial. She knows that everyone has to die, but she’d prefer not knowing when her time is up, and she doesn’t want to have to think about it.
John’s father, on the other side of the spectrum, is prepared to die and has confidence that there’s something more and that he’s ready. It appears that John has that view at the end.
The director’s view basically boils down to “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This view is presented in the Bible, but no necessarily as the model to emulate.
And I commend joy, for man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be joyful, for this will go with him in his toil through the days of his life that God has given him under the sun. Ecclesiastes [8:15]
And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” Luke [12:15]-21
Bat versus firearm
Though I do not mention it in the podcast, one of the scenes that struck me particularly as funny was where John runs out of the house, chasing after one of the allusive whisperers and assaults a tree with a baseball bat. “Do you want some of this?” he shouts. I had to question how effective such a threat could be? Of course, soon after, you see him retrieving a revolver which he proceeds to point at a whisperer in a later scene—in vain, since the whisperer yells light at him and blinds him. The gun is actually never fired in the movie, but it did bring out that a gun is probably a more effective defense than a baseball bat.
Did you see that?
Daniel J. Lewis from the ONCE podcast gives us a thought about whether we are born evil or made evil, and whether we can have a role in our redemption based on the “Once Upon a Time” TV series.
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