A Cinematic Monument to the Unknown God

3028515599.jpgIf, in the words of Ecclesiastes, “God has set eternity in the hearts of men”, then God has set the plot of rescue on the hearts of men as well. Since exile from the Garden, we have been looking  for God’s promised rescue. Stories of rescue/salvation have been humanity’s universal favorites, because God wanted us to be ready to recognize and embrace His Savior when He appears.

So deep is our sense of being cast in a great plot of rescue, that we sense, we know rescue even when it seems to others that we have freed ourselves.

This is the great idea behind Werner Herzog’s film Rescue Dawn. The offical press release announces “based on the true story of the courageous POW escapee Dieter Dengler, the film once again takes [director Werner] Herzog on an intense adventuire into the dark of human peril….”

The film is almost a visualization of Jesus parable of Matthew 12:22-37: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.”

Jesus spoke of the spiritual warfare between the two ages and Kingdoms – the Present Evil Age and the Age to Come, the realm of Satan and the Kingdom of God.  The parable announces Christ’s battle plan – defeat the Strong Man (Satan), so that the prisoners in dark human peril (you and I) may be free. And that is what He did.

With the same battle plan, Lieutenant Dieter Dengler lands and immediately sets about planning to defeat the strong men keeping him and his fellow prisoners captive. And defeat them he does: the prisoners are set free.

Throughout the movie Dengler speaks to God only casually in passing, and then only about the weather and his need for help. And when Dengler is free, and  given the opportunity to speak some encouraging words, he doesn’t provide a sentimental moral or bromide summing up his faith. His actions did his speaking.

However, in real life, Lietutenant Dengler acknowledged the “unknown god” Saint Paul introduced to the Athenians in Acts 17.
“People say it was a miracle,” he said in a 1979 interview. “I came out because I was meant to come out. I cannot say it was my doing. It’s beyond strength to do something like that. Something, someone has to help you.”

That something, someone is the Lord. His love is so total, that His grace and mercy are poured out on all men at all times, deserving or undeserving, acknowledging or denying God.

So great is our God that a man like Dieter can know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has been rescued, even as others hail him for his escape.

As the song goes, “To God be the glory, great things He has done.” Whether we know his name or not.

Rescue Dawn is a cinematic memorial to St. Paul’s unknown God, God the great Deliverer.

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