War for the Planet of the Apes: A Simian Re-Telling of Exodus Story?

The Planet of the Apes saga-in-sequeldom continues to suit Russell Moore well. During the weekend release of the War for the Planet of the Apes he tweeted that the movie is “a simian re-telling of the Exodus story.”

The tweet by the president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (the public-policy arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) expands on a lesson he gave several years ago to his students that three of the movies, including the 1968 original “are about the intersection of eschatology with contemporary fears.”

Eschatology is the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind.

“In the 1968 version, the era is worried about nuclear holocaust, as the U.S. and the Soviet Union are engaged in a high-stakes Cold War,” Moore wrote in his piece, The Planet of the Apes and Christian Eschatology. “By the remake in 2001, society’s fears focus on the more imperceptible threats of domestic and international terrorism, and of the loss of society from within. The 2011 film focuses on the fear of a future in which our technological prowess and our good intentions turn on us.

“All three present a dystopian future in which our worst apprehensions are realized. That’s an eschatology, and a dark one.”

Moore admits that the same point could be made with “virtually every film and art genre.” He writes, “In the background or in the foreground, there’s a purpose, a goal, that’s either hopeful or tragic. Even in the realm of romantic dramas, there’s either a utopian goal (the ‘happily ever after’) or a dystopian end (the tragedy of love lost). But, whatever the genre, we have to live in light of the future.”

He makes the case that churches are often fearful to talk much about eschatology “to keep from indulging in those speculative end-times enthusiasts we’ve all encountered.” He compares eschatology and discipleship in the church as “kind of like sex education in the home.”

“Just because you don’t talk about sex with your kids doesn’t mean they will grow up ignorant of sex. It means they’ll hear about sex from somewhere else,” he stated.

“Just because you don’t preach and teach about the Christian vision of the future, that doesn’t mean your church is void of eschatology. It means your church is picking up an eschatology from somewhere else, sometimes from the local cineplex,” he concluded. “A Christian vision of the future proves the dystopian movies to be right, in some sense. There’s a fire being kindled somewhere, and not even the Statue of Liberty can withstand it. But, after that, there’s the kind of new creation that makes everything new.”

Moore isn’t alone in making biblical comparisons or referencing the Bible in discussion about the movie.

War for the Planet of the Apes - Russell Moore

War for the Planet of the Apes – 20th Century Fox

Film critic Alissa Wilkinson argues that War for the Planet of the Apes is “a better Biblical epic than most recent Biblical epics.”

“That the movie evokes a Biblical epic so successfully is significant all on its own,” she writes. “Though the form flourished in Hollywood’s Golden Age — when a studio might be willing to spend enormous amounts of money on lavish productions that nearly bankrupted the studio — a more recent wave of Bible movies that popped up a decade after the runaway success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ haven’t been quite as successful.”

Apes comparison: Where is the lie?

Rapper Lecrae, who’s had great success in bridging Christian and secular worldviews, replied to Moore’s first tweet on the movie, “Where is the lie? All facts.” Moore appeared a bit confused and tweeted: “Which lie?”

However, Camilo Buchanan replied, “This was a colloquialism Dr. Moore. Lecrae is saying what you said is very true, lacking lies.”

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