The Question of God Revisited

By Timothy R Butler | Posted at 12:18 AM

Well, I finished the four hour PBS special The Question of God with Dr. Armand Nicholi, which follows the lives of two very bright, but very different men: Dr. Sigmund Freud and Clive Staples (C.S.) Lewis. The biographical sections and the debates between Freud and Lewis are well done, complete with photos, interviews and reenactments with actors who bear an uncanny resemblance to the two historical figures.

The panel of “smart people” that was assembled to discuss the segments was wanting, however. Dr. Frederick Lee did a pretty good job of representing the orthodox believer, although he was stumped on a few issues that I thought he probably should have been able to answer. One other gentleman representing the believing side seems to be a bit too into seeing faith as adjusting “power dynamics,” and the two women on the theist's side both seemed to be mystics, albeit of a Christian flavor (despite the one rejecting miracles and the other rejecting the existence of the devil as a component of dualism). The skeptics were represented by only three men, but they seemed to be more on Dr. Lee's level than the other believers were.

They could have, and probably should have, left the panel out. On the other hand, it strikes me that one could make an excellent small group or Sunday School class out of the Freud/Lewis segments. They make great conversation starters, and obviously, given the panel, they were divided up in a way meant to encourage discussion. Dr. Armand Nicholi's lead in questions were good starting points as well.

On a merely aesthetic point, the two part series was done in a very slick fashion. It “felt” well done, rather than the cheap, cheesy feel that goes with many religion-focused documentaries. I just saw one with Houston Smith the other day, and I think the video technicians must have taken the day off when they produced it. Good production might not save a doomed piece, but it does allow a good piece to thrive by avoiding distracting the viewer with annoying camera angles, bad sound and so on.

As a whole, I liked the series, and I think I'll recommend that my church library purchase a new copy (we are presently working on getting some DVDs as we phase out VHS tapes). The series could have been vastly improved had the panelists been better, but as it stands it was still probably the most thoughtful discussion of the “Question of God” to hit the airwaves in a long time. Lewis would probably be quite pleased.

Rating: ***+

Tags: Faith

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