f The Wittenberg Door: How the Church Failed Brad Pitt

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Commenting on Christendom, culture, history, and other oddities of life from an historic Protestant perspective.

Monday, December 01, 2014

How the Church Failed Brad Pitt

From the Wittenberg Door archives...

"She [his college girlfriend] helped me more than anyone else as far as setting off in my own direction," he explains. "It was my first year in college and I was pushing back against the religion thing. In my eyes it was a mechanism of guilt, this engrained system, used to keep the flock in servitude." Brad was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. "Guilt is the thing I find most evil about it. It's the thing I rail against the most. She helped me in defining what I believed.

"Religion works," he goes on. "I know there's comfort there, a crash pad. It's something to explain the world and tell you there is something bigger than you, and it is going to be alright in the end. It works because it's comforting. I grew up believing in it, and it worked for me in whatever my little personal high school crisis was, but it didn't last for me. I didn't understand this idea of a God who says, 'You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!' It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.

Brad Pitt in a Parade.com interview

Based on the reasons Brad Pitt gives for abandoning his Baptist roots, I think that we can surmize the following:

  • He doesn’t understand man’s plight

  • He doesn’t understand God's nature

Man’s Plight

Mr. Pitt finds guilt the most evil thing about Christianity. We can infer from his comments that he thinks his feelings of guilt are a result of his Baptist upbringing; that without that upbringing he would live a guilt-free life. But is that the case? Do those outside of the Christian community live a conscience-free existence? The answer is, unless you’re a sociopath, no (Rom. 2:14 – 15).

What Mr. Pitt should have learned in church is that people of all types of rearing experience the crises of conscience known as guilt, and the reason for this is simple: we feel guilty because we are guilty.

Scripture teaches that Adam’s sin brought spiritual death to us all (Gen. 2:16–17, 3:1–7; Rom. 5:12; Eph. 2:1–3; Col. 2:13). As a result, men are spiritually deaf, blind, and completely corrupted (Ecc. 9:3; Jer. 17:9; Rom. 8:7–8; 1 Cor. 2:14); also, men are slaves of sin (John. 8:34; Rom. 6:20; Tit. 3:3) and children of the devil (Eph. 2:1–2; 2 Tim. 2:25–26; 1 John 3:10). So how does natural man respond to the revelations God has given him such as a guilty conscience? He suppresses the truth in unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18). This is all something Mr. Pitt should have learned in church.

God’s Nature

Mr. Pitt is offended by the idea that God would require honor. I suppose his view is that any being who would have himself honored is undue that honor. An odd claim coming from a man who accepted the honor of his peers through both Golden Globe (he won one) and Academy Award nominations. I don’t’ recall him repudiating these accolades. Apparently, he is due honor, but God isn’t.

Here’s why God deserves honor:

There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory; most loving, gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.

God has all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself; and is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient, not standing in need of any creatures which He has made, nor deriving any glory from them, but only manifesting His own glory in, by, unto, and upon them. He is the alone fountain of all being, of whom, through whom, and to whom are all things; and has most sovereign dominion over them, to do by them, for them, or upon them whatsoever Himself pleases. In His sight all things are open and manifest, His knowledge is infinite, infallible, and independent upon the creature, so as nothing is to Him contingent, or uncertain. He is most holy in all His counsels, in all His works, and in all His commands. To Him is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.

Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)

Again, something he should have learned in church.

Conclusion

The reasons Mr. Pitt gives for abandoning his childhood faith show that he doesn’t understand Christianity. As mentioned, all of this should have been learned in church, but his church failed him. Not only that, his parents failed him too. But Mr. Pitt is not alone. We see a trend of children departing the faith as soon as they enter the college parking lot. So what are we as the church and as parents to do?

Catechize

To catechize a child is to instruct her in the faith using questions and answers. It’s a method that traces its history back to Scripture (Mat. 16:13, 22:42). The catechism that I use in my home is the Heidelberg Catechism. Completed by Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus in 1563, the Heidelberg Catechism offers 129 questions and answers and is divided into three parts: man’s guilt, God’s grace, and our gratitude. Here’s a sample:

Q. What is your only comfort in life and death?

A. That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me, that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must work together for my salvation. Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready henceforth to live unto Him.

The best way to inoculate your child (or yourself, for that matter) against error is by knowing the truth. Catechization is a tried and true method of learning the faith that has stood the test of time. Perhaps this could have made the difference in Brad Pitt’s life.

--The Catechizer

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