The danger of ‘Deadpool’ and the more satisfying way

February 16, 2016

Obviously, all comic-book, super-hero movies create a fiction. That’s the point.

Good normally triumphs over evil on a grand stage as the super-hero’s and the villain’s powers are pitted against each other.  

But previous PG-13 rated super-hero movies, such as Iron Man, Spiderman and Captain America, were fictions that most teenagers and even families could appropriately entertain and enjoy.

That is why there is an appeal and an intrigue for young men, indeed men in general, to move beyond the tamer super-heroes to a hero (should we call him that?) like Deadpool, who doesn’t push past, but shreds the moral envelope.

After all, a hero who laces his language with profanity, raunchily enjoys the sexual bestowments of his brazen benefactress (even Ryan Reynolds thought there was too much sex in the film), and is able to define his own rules in fighting “evil,” is a dark fiction many men crave.

Men who would probably be ashamed of verbalizing such fantasies are showing up big at the box office for this new movie. Deadpool grossed over 135 million on its opening weekend, smashing its competition. Its success is already drawing the eyes of Hollywood producers, meaning there will be probably be more films like it.

I agree with Phillip Holmes that watching Deadpool or other sexually explicit and crude films like it is not only morally wrong, but poses devastating moral consequences for the men and women who see them.

The church must decry Deadpool as the toxic danger that it is, and we also must present a more compelling vision—a vision for the less-traveled path to the kingdom of Christ. A vision of how men are to act. A vision for how they are to treat women. A vision for the beauty of sex in marriage. A vision of Christ himself.

The kingdom of Christ offers more

Jesus compared the kingdom of Christ to a treasure that a man found in a field and then sold everything he had to buy that field (Matt. 13:44). The point of the parable is that the joy in obtaining the kingdom infinitely surpasses every wealth or pleasure we could contrive of in this life.

This includes every illicit fantasy, power-play or exotic experience a Hollywood director could conceivably imagine.

The big takeaway is that there is a much better well from which we can drink than what we are offered in smutty movies like Deadpool. There is a much better outlet for the desires of our hearts than staring into the slough of filth, draped with roses.

At the heart of the kingdom of God is Jesus himself. And only Jesus can satisfy the thirsts of our souls (John 6:22-59). These other pursuits, not only morally degrading, fail to satisfy our souls.

Toward a Christ-like honoring of women

The hope of the gospel of the kingdom is not only that we would inherit Christ himself, but that we would be transformed to be like him.

Paul in Romans 8:29 declares, “For those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son.” The hope of Christianity is not only a relationship with Jesus, but the promise of the transformation of our entire being into the very image of Jesus.

This means that Christian men, rather than objectifying women on the screen, should become men who value all women as beautiful image-bearers of God (Gen. 1:27). Jesus clearly delineated the way men should treasure women, by hoisting the standard of purity beyond the superficial, to a new standard of the heart.

“Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt. 5:27).

Christ’s intention is for men to value all women as image-bearers of God, and Christian women especially as fellow heirs of Christ (1 Pet. 3:7).

There is no room for a hypocritical chink in the armor; no margin to voice allegiance to Christ and then attempt to justify slipping into a theater to see a movie like Deadpool.

In fact, we are to flee from seeing debasing scenes like these. Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell” (Matt. 5:29).

Fleeing temptation for the salvation of our souls

Speaking of fleeing, while reading through Genesis, I was recently reminded of the necessity to flee from evil. Joseph encountered a temptation not unlike a Hollywood fantasy many men would crave to see, much more experience (Gen. 39).

Joseph’s boss was out of town, and his wife, pampered and powerful, implores Joseph to sleep with her.

This has all the making of a lustful fantasy, which would sell big at the box office: A female authority figure demanding sex from an inferior male. Many men in that situation would cowardly oblige.

But Joseph resists, not because the offer was not enticing, but because he does not want to “sin against God” (Gen. 39:9). He desires a future kingdom, and not the fleeting pleasures of illicit sex which would be wicked before God.

But the temptation doesn’t end there. She makes repeated advances by asking him to sit next to her or to lie down with her. Again, many would cave under such pressure.

Finally, in frustration, she literally seizes hold of him, ordering him to sleep with her (Gen. 39:12). Now Joseph is faced with a decision: flee at the peril to his very life, or give in to her advances—after all she is superior to him and commanding him to do it.

Joseph flees from her, leaving his robe in her hands, because he seeks the city which is to come, the very kingdom of Christ, more than illicit pleasure (Heb. 13:14).

A perilous crossroads

The church is standing at a perilous crossroads. We can either take the broad road, which leads to destruction and embark on the path which lifts up vulgarity and sexual promiscuity, or we can take the narrow path, the path of righteousness (Matt. 7:12-14).

The path of righteousness seeks the kingdom of Christ and will accept nothing less. The path of righteousness demands that we view women as image-bearers of their Creator and not as twisted fantasy fulfillers. The path of righteousness commends sex as good and beautiful within the covenant of marriage. The path of righteousness extols purity.

At the end of the day, movies like Deadpool, enticing as they are to the modern man, end in one place: death.

Therefore, we must reject such fantasies and like Joseph, seek the city which is to come. We must honor women, and most importantly seek after the kingdom, and even Christ, himself.

Editors’ note: Join Kevin DeYoung, John Piper, Alistair Begg, Albert Mohler, Ligon Duncan, Darrin Patrick, Matt Carter, and many others at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’s Together for the Gospel pre-conference, “The Beauty of Complementarity” (April 11–12). Main sessions are on Monday and Tuesday, with a special women’s micro-conference on Tuesday morning. Register right now and get a free copy of Albert Mohler’s We Cannot Be Silent.

Grant Castleberry

Grant Castleberry is the Executive Director of CBMW. At Texas A&M University, Castleberry served in the school’s most prestigious elected position as Junior Yell Leader and then Head Yell Leader his senior year (2005-2007). As an officer in the Marine Corps, he served for two years overseas as an Air Traffic … Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24