FSE: Knowing

Yesterday, I saw Knowing, which starred Nicholas Cage.

Knowing is a science fiction movie. At its beginning, we’re in the 1950’s, and we meet an odd little girl named Lucinda, whose special idea is selected by her school. Her idea is for the school to create a time capsule, which would be opened four decades later. While the other students are putting in pictures they drew of what they think the future will be like, Lucinda puts in a page of numbers.

Four decades later, a little boy is handed Lucinda’s page of numbers, and his father, an MIT professor, learns that it details a series of disasters from the 1950’s until the end of life on earth, which is imminent. The professor gets in touch with Lucinda’s daughter and granddaughter. His son and Lucinda’s granddaughter both hear messages from strange whispering people, who give them visions of the coming destruction of earth by a solar flare. These whisperers turn out to be aliens, who are trying to get the kids off of earth. Guided by the aliens and the numbers, the two kids go to a place where a spaceship can take them away, allowing them to start life anew on another planet. We see from the other spaceships leaving the earth that these kids were not the only ones chosen to survive.

The movie puzzled me at first. Why would Lucinda need to write the numbers, if the aliens offered the kids direct guidance, making the numbers apparently superfluous? And how did the other children know the way to leave earth, since they did not have an MIT-professor father who could decode the numbers?

For the first question, I concluded that the numbers represented the aliens’ attempt to involve the professor in the whole process–of getting the kids off the planet. If the kids were just relying on visions from the aliens, then the professor probably wouldn’t have believed them, or he would have resented the aliens for trying to take away his son. But the numbers involved him in the process of gradually learning about the earth’s imminent destruction, so he was more at peace with the aliens’ agenda at the end of the movie, since it didn’t come out of the clear blue sky.

For my second question, I concluded that the aliens guided other children off of the planet in different ways. The numbers were their way to help Lucinda’s granddaughter and the professor’s son, but they could have used other means to get the other children off of earth–in a manner that respected the kids’ free will and the parents’ reluctance to be separated from their children.

This reminds me of a few things. First of all, the movie makes a big deal about determinism vs. randomness. On his blog, Roger Ebert states that the movie assumes everything that happens has been determined in the past and thus cannot be changed. For Ebert, such a notion undermines human free will, which is a key component of many theistic religions. But, in my opinion, the aliens work with human free will rather than against it. None of the human characters are robots, but they have their own thoughts, feelings, and emotions as human beings. The aliens respect humanity, which is why they resort to guiding the professor and the children to the right conclusions by giving them puzzles to work out. Similarly, even Calvinists assert that God uses means to bring the elect to Christ, meaning that (for them) it’s not just a matter of God pre-programming people towards the Christian religion. Those who believe in fate and predestination do not erase from the equation the human ability to make choices, to feel, to experiment, to have opinions–in short, to be human.

Second, I thought about James McGrath’s recent posts on Jesus’ resurrection on his blog, www.exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com. McGrath dismisses a lot of Christian apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus. Christian apologists say we know Jesus rose because of the empty tomb and the mass sightings of the risen Jesus. According to McGrath, such an argument does not coincide with the Bible. In John, when Mary sees the empty tomb, she does not conclude that Jesus rose from the dead, but rather that someone moved the body. That means that the empty tomb didn’t necessarily prove the resurrection, in the mindset of the early Christians. And Matthew’s Gospel states that some people doubted when they saw the risen Jesus. For McGrath, there were a variety of reasons that the early Christians concluded that Jesus rose from the dead. McGrath does not list them (as far as I know), but possibilities include seeing the risen Jesus and the prophecies of the Old Testament.

Similarly, in terms of the movie Knowing, the aliens use a variety of means to bring the children to the truth: the numbers, direct guidance, their connection with their family, etc. That may be how God interacts with Christians today. Sure, he gives us a book that contains his general will, and it fulfills a role similar to that of the numbers in the movie. But he also guides us through his Holy Spirit and other people (or so Christians claim).

Anyway, these are just my thoughts. See Knowing, even though my post just gave you a lot of spoilers!

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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2 Responses to FSE: Knowing

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Thanks Josiah! Have you seen the movie?


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