Intentional Truth in “Prometheus”

By: Tom Westerholm

Several years ago, when archaeologists claimed to have made a discovery that brought the physical resurrection of Christ into question, Christians were forced to take an uncomfortable look at a part of our faith that we had always taken for granted. We had always assumed that Christ’s death and resurrection had taken place in a physical way, but this discovery, though not yet proven to be true, made us rethink what we had always assumed.

The move “Prometheus” offers us a similar existential question, and here, internet police, is this: *SPOILER ALERT*

I won’t discuss the plot in-depth. Suffice to say that “Prometheus,” named after the ship on which the crew travels, is very intense, very visual, and really worth seeing in theaters. The fact that the explorers are exploring the unknown makes the viewer feel as tense as if they were experiencing this horrifying new world for the first time themselves.

One of the characters is Elizabeth Shaw, a young archaeologist who helped make a discovery that seems to point mankind’s creation away from both Christianity and Darwinism. They have found that humans were created by “Engineers,” beings who were worshipped by the ancient Mayans, Egyptians, and other civilizations.

Despite this discovery, a flashback into Shaw’s past reveals that her father was a Christian. Her mother had passed away, and young Shaw asked her father where her mother had gone. “It has a variety of names,” Shaw’s father said. “Heaven, paradise…” Shaw asks her father how he knows. “It’s what I choose to believe,” he responds. Adult Shaw continues to wear her father’s cross necklace on the Prometheus.

In the beginning, Shaw is made to look like an outlier: one last believer among a sea of scientists who obviously know better than she does. When the crew discovers that the Engineers are real, her boyfriend Holloway asks her if it is difficult for her now that they have disproved the existence of God. Shaw looks at him and says “Who created them [the Engineers]?” At the time, we are expected to roll our eyes at her unconditional faith. But as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that Shaw is actually one of the film’s two main protagonists (along with the cyborg David), making us question whether director Ridley Scott wants us to see her as irrational. At the end, Shaw rather symbolically demands her cross necklace back from David the cyborg, who has taken it from her, and rather than going back to Earth, she chooses to go searching for why the Engineers have decided to eliminate the human race. She hasn’t given up looking for answers to her questions. She isn’t ready to stop searching.

A few weeks ago, Haley wrote an excellent post about the accidental truths contained within “The Avengers.” I don’t think Ridley Scott did anything accidentally in “Prometheus.” Watching as Christians, “Prometheus” makes us confront the uncomfortable question of scientific discovery. No logical Christian (but many illogical ones) will tell you that you should ignore what science discovers, relying solely on what the Bible says. But it does seem possible that science may, eventually, present a problem with Christianity to which we can’t see a solution. In this event, we should take our cues from Elizabeth Shaw. Never stop believing, never stop looking for answers to our questions.

Never stop searching.

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