Pastor Kevin Sanders

"He must increase, but I must decrease." -John 3:30

Movie Review: The Golden Compass (one Christian’s Perspective)

Yes, I went and watched it to see what all the fuss is about. I’m sure most of you know that The Golden Compass was written by Philip Pullman, an atheist. His books reflect his anti-God agenda and his desire to undermine the Christian message. I appreciate the vigilance of those who have pointed this out. Having said this, I get concerned that some are becoming alarmists.


Let me give you a quick synopsis of the movie. This story takes place in a mystical world where people’s souls/spirits live on the outside of their bodies. Their spirits take the form of animals and are called “demons.” A dark empire known as the “Magisterium” controls the world and will stop at nothing to oppress the truth. This includes knowledge of “dust,” a magical element which people are forbidden to even discuss. The magesterium also kidnaps children and attempts to “cure” them of any connection with dust.

Maybe you’ve already guessed it, but the magisterium represents the church and dust is a symbol for sin.

The Movie’s “Message”

The anti-Christian message was apparently toned down for the movie–I’m not even sure I would have picked up on it if I hadn’t heard about it beforehand. Not all of the movie’s messages are negative: bravery, friendship, redemption, and fighting against oppression are some of the story’s noble points. The Golden Compass really comes across as just another fantasy film, and I don’t think it is necessarily harmful to allow children to watch it. I would, however, recommend you talk to them about a few of the terms that Pullman uses:

Authority: While authority can be abused, talk to your children about the need to live under God’s authority. Remind them that God’s authority does indeed protect us.

Demons: Teach your children the scriptural meaning of demons. They are not cute little animals that perch on one’s shoulder.

Heretic: Explain what this word really means so that your children will know they are not heroes.

The primary danger of this movie is that it will generate more interested in Pullman’s books (which the movies are based on). There you will find an anti-God message that hasn’t been “watered down” for the big screen. Another danger is that the next movie will be more blatantly anti-Christian–Pullman has supposedly vowed that sequels will more closely resemble the books. I’m skeptical about this, because I think a blatantly anti-God film just won’t do well in the box office (especially one that is aimed at children).

A Mediocre Movie

In terms of its entertainment value, I’d rate The Golden Compass as average. Many of the movie critics (from agree with me on this. It is a unique story and has some pretty good special effects, but I just didn’t find it especially compelling (this one can definitely wait for video). The movie’s only real bright spot was the polar bear—he was a neat character and a lot of fun to watch in action. I was just waiting for him to open a bottle of Coke and wish us a Merry Christmas.

Other Christians’ Perspectives:

Albert Mohler has written a much more detailed analysis on Pullman’s work. You can read it here.

You can also go to the Christian Post and find several articles about this movie.

Chrisianity Today: Fear Not the Compass


  1. cinema is powerful. especially now that you can watch a movie on video anytime. it is my sincere desire that people get actually turned off by pullman’s novels. it’s up to us truth-keepers to show its folly. i’d probably watch the movie just to see the polar bear (and robert de niro?).

  2. Two comments:

    1. I agree with your concern that some are becoming alarmists. I have watched the church go through its call to arms with Walt Disney and Harry Potter. In the end, it only promotes the very thing they were trying to squelch, distracts us from the greater purpose of the Gospel and service, and makes us look like a very out of touch, irrelevant sect.

    2. Having said all that, I won’t be watching the movie. If I had kids, I wouldn’t let them watch it. For me, it really is a matter of principle. The principle is not based on Pullman’s atheistic point of view. I think atheists are able to recognize goodness and contribute art that promotes virtue.

    The problem is Pullman’s rather evangelistic fervor. He is to atheism in fiction what Lewis was to Christianity.

    Knowing the womb this story was birthed from, knowing the offense it is to God, and knowing the damage Pullman intended to inflict on the faith of children, I just cannot bring myself to have anything to do with the film.

    So, I agree that we should not get on any bandwagons or form any picket lines. But I also think people should really think about what their entertainment choices are saying to Jesus.

    I wouldn’t read books or watch movies by authors or directors who were in the habit of publicly calling my wife a whore. That would be an insult to her.

    By the same token, I personally wish to have nothing to do with stories designed to blaspheme God and cause “little ones to stumble,” regardless of how much Hollywood has sterilized it for the benefit of my ticket purchase.


  3. That is a valid point, Jason, and I would respect someone who avoided the film for that reason.

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