Recently ABC presented The Five People as a made for TV movie. In cogitating on the book and the TV movie, it is in my mind to write a "chapter 2" of the review of The Five People I posted last week.
There is a complexity involved in presenting, in visual movie screen format, scenes from three different places, in this case, the present on earth, Eddie's present in heaven after his death, and the past which focused mostly, but not exclusively, on Eddie's past. A real physical wooden door in Eddie's past opens onto a scene in heaven... Effective if you've read the book and know the story. I'll never know if I would have been able to follow the movie's story line if I had not read the book first.
As a made for TV movie, it was done as well as any, given the nature of the subject matter. The movie stuck pretty close to the book as much or more then any movie ever does. But I'm not so concerned about reviewing the cinematic technology and quality of the ABC Special as such.
In "Chapter 1" of this review, I commented on the shared values Christians could connect with in The Five People. I qualified that by acknowledging that Mitch Albom was writing from a background in the Judeo-Christian tradition, though not from an Evangelical Christian perspective. In that sense, Albom is in the tradition of Frank Capra and It's A Wonderful Life. We enjoy our annual December viewing of It's A Wonderful Life,and we'll always remember James Stewart as "George Bailey". But as the video tape is rewinding after Clarence gets his wings, we know it is apocryphal.
Where is God in stories like It's A wonderful Life and The Five People? What kind of God is He in these stories?
All the time we see Eddie in heaven, he never actually stands before and meets God. At one point he asks, "Does God even know I'm here?" To which the answer is "Yes". But God Himself is always in the background, distant and unseen.
Then there are the five different parts of "heaven" where he meets each of the five people. The Blue man finds "heaven" at Ruby Pier where he was happiest in life. So it is each of the five are in a heaven that is heaven to them... And happy and content... Again I ask the question, where is God?
It is a Biblical truth that the chief end of each and every human being is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever. Ultimate enjoyment and contentment is found in the Creator, not in the things created. It is true that in the New Heavens and New Earth there will be those created things that we will enjoy and delight in. (See Heaven Is A Place On Earth by Mike Wittmer.) But our greatest joy and our greatest delight will be in the Creator and Giver of those gifts.
It is at this point that stories like It's A Wonderful Life and The Five People depart from a Biblical view of heaven. In the Biblical view God is personally interested in and involved in the lives of His creatures. In Jesus Christ, it's not angels who come to earth to help out the George Baileys of the world, it is Emmanuel Himself... God with us.... And that is the true story of Christmas...
~ The Billy Goat ~
PS: .. I know I have not even got to the soteriological issues regarding how salvation is pictured in these stories... That part you should be able to figure out for yourself... (John 3:16)