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“I have hidden your Word in my heart,” Psalm 119:11

The above quote gives us the leitmotif of the movie, The Book of Eli. Eli is the messenger of God, who carries the Logos in his “heart” and represents the last hope of mankind. As the movie opens mankind has engaged in what the Stoics referred to as “apostrophe,” a turning away from the ground engendered by the “event,” leaving man in a condition where the tension toward the divine ground no longer exists. The Stoics described the intrinsic condition of man either in the state of order and disorder, as predicated on categories of “turning away” or “turning toward” the ground. While we are fascinated by Carnegie and the performance rendered by Gary Oldham, particularly noting his libidinous longing to achieve the status of the New Christ while portraying the constant problem found in the transfiguration of history, it is Eli who rejects the Hegelian notion existing in the modern state of alienation, which ironically, is the condition that will distort the “modern” viewer’s comprehension of the film, e.g. many people have rejected the truth of the Logos, embraced the perversion of self-salvation, and exist as being seeking the “truth of history.”

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I can not convince myself to reveal Eli’s “weakness,” you must see the film for yourself. Suffice it to say he exists because God wills it. And Eli, in the manner of any number of both Old and New Testament figures accepts the fact that he has been chosen by God and consequently has submitted his will to God’s will. For thirty years he has moved ever westward and his faith in his God has been sufficient. He is not an evangelist, his purpose is not to call people to God. He is the last copy of the Word of God that sustains man and the world and creation, and if man is to exist, then the Logos must be saved. There is no stratification of his call to God and the Gospel; he is not an ‘apostle’, rather he is the prophet (messenger), the wanderer in “desolation row” and his focus is singular; he knows exactly what he is, there is no question of identity or responsibility. Eli must be read as a man who lives in the pneumatic order of existence, he dwells in the Parousia of the Christ. And, here we must note the powerful performance of Denzel Washington who portrays the man of God, the servant, who knows the true self even as the horizon of order is collapsing into violence, debauchery, and ignorance. For Eli, there is no question of mortality and immortality, he does not fear death. For Eli, as for all men, death is life. Denzel Washington has related how the screen play was altered during the filming. One example he cites, and he says that it just came to him (insight, pneumatic illumination??), was the scene where Carnegie has just gut shot Eli and places his face just a few inches from Eli’s and says, “Pray for me.” The question then, is this a demonic remark, a mocking of God’s order as Rimwell intimates, or an acknowledgement of the tension in existential order moving toward a condition of being beyond, an attempt by Carnegie, who inherently knows he exists in a state of sin and for whatever reason can not recognize the Christ, yet seeks some way to obtain safe passage into the state of aphtharsia (imperishing)?

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-having a form of godliness but denying its power. Having nothing to do with him.” 2 Timothy 3: 1-5

The movie portrays the above condition. Man finds himself in reduced circumstances. The consciousness of the eschatological expectation, the ordering force of human existence, has been extinguished. Yet, in this condition where the myth is dead, God has not rejected man. He still allows Eli, the protector-champion of the Logos, who is shrouded in a mysticism that exists in concert with the theophany of the Christ and is grounded in the existential experience, to endure the salvific journey.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1: 1-3

Dr. (Edith) Stein writes in her magnum opus, Finite and Eternal Being , “Either as a charismatic gift of grace or as an eternal reward in the life of glory the soul may obtain a share in the sovereign ruling power of Christ. The division between the soul being (i.e., the body-bound being) and the spiritual being (i.e., the God-centered being) of the human soul is found in the soul’s very essence or nature. This is why the Word of God may rightfully be called more penetrating that a “double-edged sword,” for it “extends even to the division of the soul and the spirit.”” Eli, in willfully surrendering his will to the will of God receives the Logos itself. The soul of Christ, Dr. Stein writes “ . . . has full command over its plenitude of life, even in making this plenitude efficaciously actual in other souls.” Denzel Washington understands that Eli is the servant of the Lord, the bearer of the Word, and that it is the word that “sustains” creation. Washington’s spiritual maturity is what makes this film what it is, nothing less than art conceived as an act of worship.

More on: Film, Eschatology

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