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  • The Golden Compass

    By Rob Bowman

    The Golden Compass is the first of three books by Philip Pullman known as His Dark Materials; the other two books are called The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. New Line Cinema produced a film version of The Golden Compass on December 7, 2007.

    His Dark Materials is of concern to Christians because it is a series of children's books with an overtly anti-Christian perspective, reflecting the fact that the author is a declared atheist. The story line focuses on a twelve-year-old girl named Lyra from a parallel universe in which the souls of human beings consist of "daemons" that take the form of animals. The Church is a totalitarian religious organization run by the magisterium, which seeks to suppress free will and the quest for knowledge. Lyra discovers that the Magisterium is plotting to separate the daemons of children from their persons. Her adventures eventually lead to the discovery that the Church's God, called the Authority, is not the Creator he claimed to be, and that Christianity is false.

    Christian reactions to The Golden Compass have ranged from efforts to find Christian values implicit in it, despite the author's atheism, to efforts to boycott the film because of its anti-Christian (and arguably more overtly anti-Catholic) themes. Reviewers have also noted that the heroine of the books, Lyra, constantly engages in deception. Some critics have also noted that although Pullman is an atheist, the books draw heavily on occult folk lore as fantasy elements in the stories.

    We recommend two books for a Chrsitian response to Pullman's books:

    Bruner, Kurt, and Jim Ware. Shedding Light on His Dark Materials: Exploring Hidden Spiritual Themes in Philip Pullman's Popular Series. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House—SaltRiver, 2007.

    Watkins, Tony. Dark Matter: Shedding Light on Philip Pullman's Trilogy His Dark Materials. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2004.

    The following online resources (found outside of this web site) provide introductory responses to The Golden Compass:

    Heimbach, Daniel R. "The Sweet Deception of'Compass.'" Baptist Press, Dec. 6, 2007.

    Mohler, Al. "The Golden Compass—A Briefing for Concerned Christians."

    On Mission, "Forming a Christian Response to The Golden Compass."