There is an apologetic technique coined by Francis Schaefer called Taking the Roof Off. It essentially allows a bad argument to be carried out to its full conclusion so that its implicit absurdity can be seen. Once the roof is off and the argument is exposed as a loser, the proponent then stands exposed. He can either change his view or be content to continue to defend a losing proposition. This technique is tried out every single day on social media, in formal debates and by brave evangelists willing to engage strangers in public forums.
But there are limitations to tete-a-tete debates, mainly that both people come in with hardened positions and an unwillingness to change. The same may be true of the audience, although a future digital audience may have more open minds. So if the point can be made without such a debate, either in fiction or non-fiction that is endorsed by the holder of the false argument, that’s ideal. Because in that instance, an opponent isn’t used to take the roof off; the argument fails on its own merits. Likewise, if the argument is successful, it has added strength because it makes the case on its own merits, not simply on debate points or rhetoric.
Now, what I have observed, and this is quite obvious to anyone who is looking, is that Postmodernism has taken over the liberal mainline churches. Time and again, I have heard that since scriptural texts have multiple meanings, there is no possibility that the scriptures teach clearly on anything. This is simply a Postmodern approach which says that the author’s intended meaning is irrelevant. Because, in fact, the texts have multiple meanings and the modern reader can ascribe the meaning they want, and the author’s original intent can just be ignored.
Now, I am hardly the first to demonstrate that this kind of reasoning never gets off the ground because if the modern critics are right, then their own audiences have no good reason to believe them either! To put it simply, if it is all up for grabs, nothing means anything.
That gets me to the documentary Room 237. Yes, I know I’m several years late to this review, but Netflix has made expediency less critical. If you’ve never heard of the film, the premise is simple: five experts weigh in on what they believe Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining to really be about. One suggests that it is Kubrick trying to communicate the struggle he went through when he faked the video footage for the moon landings. (Seriously, that’s a real theory.) One suggests that it’s all about the conquest of Native Americans. Other theories are less memorable.
The film itself became quite tedious after a while because it dawns on the viewer that the views expressed are contradictory with one another. In other words, all five of these interpretations cannot be right because they contradict one another. Or, The Shining is a film that is about 5 hugely significant themes all at the same time, all expressed through a movie with about four characters. The viewer also realizes that the loudest voice is the one that is not expressed: Kubrick’s! Indeed, what the film is about from Kubrick’s point-of-view (much less Stephen King’s, although I know they had a falling out) is never shared because it is assumed there is actually some secret, never-before-revealed meaning in the film. Indeed, at the beginning of the film (and on the film’s website) you can read the following disclaimer: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS DOCUMENTARY FILM ARE SOLELY THOSE OF THE COMMENTATORS IN IT AND DO NOT REFLECT THE VIEWS OF STANLEY KUBRICK OR THE SHINING FILMMAKERS. (All caps original.)
The smoking gun, though, is that about 2/3 of the way into the film, one of the commentators reflects that the great benefit of Post-modernism is that art can have meaning beyond what the author intended. That is classic literary deconstructionism. Nothing new, to be sure. My point is that when such deconstruction is actually applied in living color, you quickly realize how vacuous and tedious it is.
Ultimately, nothing is gained from watching the film. The filmmaker’s perspective is ignored and these five commentators feel they have the right to interpret the film how they want, even if Kubrick himself would not have agreed. And since they disagree with Kubrick, and Kubrick is not represented, you have a perfect waste of time on your hands.
Admittedly, the film is complex and mysterious. Kubrick left it up to the viewer to decide what it might finally be about. Perhaps we should criticize Postmodern filmmakers as well. But he is the artist and the film is his art. It seems that however we interpret the film, we should allow Kubrick’s word on the subject to speak the loudest or we should just shut up.
But instead of lecturing against Post-modernism, everyone should see Room 237 and see it in action. And then tell me if it works. For if the experts have the right to interpret Kubrick’s work and ignore the point-of-view he sets forth, don’t we have the right to do the same with them? And then, doesn’t the entire enterprise fall apart?
The exact same thing happens in the church. Scholars believe they have the right to find new meaning in ancient texts, even if it would be news to the original author. In believing they have such a right, they give license to all who would read their works to ignore their scholarship, for it has no inherent meaning either. Youth directors and pastors, were it not for its R-rating, should use Room 237 as a primer for all that is wrong – and indeed self-defeating – about Post-modern deconstruction.