What does “heaven” mean to the secular? In The Atlantic, Emma Green considers the question by looking at the new film 90 Minutes of Heaven. The film, she observes, depicts a heaven “palatable to a secular audience.” As you might imagine, this has its problems:

The heaven of 90 Minutes is not secular in the sense that it’s totally unconnected from God and religion. But it is secular in that it transforms a theologically specific concept into something totally general, an afterlife destination open to all.

Why depict heaven absent its core theology? Lead actor Hayden Christensen, for his part, says that, while he ordinarily leans towards darker material, “Half of the appeal in this story is that you feel like you’re showing the triumph of the human spirit.” Heaven: the triumph of the human spirit… Really?

But this is fitting with a rising interest in our culture: themes of faith and Biblical stories are striking a chord, though perhaps only in a generic sense. And 90 Minutes of Heaven illustrates the growing phenomenon: “This is a movie made for a culture that is attached to and admires the hope of faith. But it isn’t a film of conviction, one that embraces the teeth of theology alongside the nice parts.” While Green doesn’t moralize her observation, it is nonetheless insightful. Now, perhaps more than ever, believers should recognize the importance of embracing the whole of their faith – theological teeth included – in order to clarify to the world what it truly means to believe in Jesus Christ. Anything less just serves to blur the lines.

Image Credit: Massmo Relsig