SoundWitness lighthouse logo

A Christian apologetics ministry dedicated to keeping the "false" out of doctrine
The Golden Compass: Putting a Face on Evil

A Christian Review of the Book and the Movie

                                                                                                             Print/Download: PDF

Does this sound like a prescription for your children?: lying, stealing, smoking, swearing...  If so, take them to the movie The Golden Compass, and encourage them to read Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials.  While nobody would want their child to demonstrate any of these unsavory attributes, it gets worse.

Philip Pullman’s books The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass encompass the trilogy known as His Dark Materials.  The first book, The Golden Compass, has now been made into a movie.  The trilogy is widely reported as being an anti-Christian retort to C. S. Lewis’s famous series of books, The Chronicles of Narnia.

In The Golden Compass, Lyra, the main character, is described as “a half-wild, half-civilized girl.”  Lyra does have a rough exterior, but at the same time she also has an alluring nature.  We follow along as Lyra seeks to unravel the mystery surrounding the kidnapping of innocent children.  Philip Pullman’s writing style is very enticing.  His ability to paint a sublime word picture and at the same time keep the reader on the edge of his or her chair, whether child or adult, makes him a literary force to be reckoned with.

All humans have a daemon in Lyra’s mystical world, a physical animal form which accompanies them, and is a sort of cross between a soul and a spirit guide.  Your daemon, though it thinks independently from you, is a reflection of you, and can communicate telepathically with you.  One dictionary definition of daemon is “a demon,” which is a fair hint about where you’re headed in this story.  A demon is a Satanic angel, sent by Satan to deceive humans.

In Lyra’s world, and it would appear in Philip Pullman’s view of the world as well, the Church attempts to exercise tyrannical control over every aspect of life.  The clergy are, in part, behind the kidnapping of the children.  While Lyra interacts with the Church, her attitude towards it is mimicked by her attitude towards Father Heyst: “...her sly indifference and insincere repentances” (p. 45).  Her father, Lord Asriel, rejoices that his scientific discovery “...will mean the end of the Church, ...the end of all those centuries of darkness” (p. 347).  In the second and third books, this anti-Christian rhetoric is carried to greater extremes.  “God” is killed in The Amber Spyglass.

Not surprisingly, in Lyra’s world the Church does not gain truth by biblical revelation, but via “experimental theology” and “philosophical apparatus.”  Lyra is advised by the schoolmaster to “keep your own counsel” (p. 65).  No one can know the true meaning of the Bible because “the text is corrupt” (p. 328).  Truth is found by a combination of physical observation of the material world and occult experience – themes found often in our own postmodern New Age world.

A mysterious instrument called an “alethiometer” is used by Lyra to foretell future events. The schoolmaster tells Lyra that “It tells you the truth,” another instance in the story in which biblical truth is replaced by a lie.  The alethiometer has several hands that point to various symbols along the edges of the instrument which are then used to interpret what is being foretold, and is run by “elementary particles.”

Lyra uses the alethiometer by emptying her mind before the symbol sequence is manipulated and interpreted, very similar to occult eastern meditation techniques. This is Philip Pullman’s way of introducing to the reader, in a disguised form, what is actually the occult practice of divination.  Witches are also used in the story to foretell the future.  All of these themes, demons, divination, and witchcraft, are specifically forbidden by God in verses such as Deuteronomy 18:10: “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft.”

The question of original sin is also broached in His Dark Materials.  Original sin is no longer a vile corruption of our nature present at conception as the result of Adam and Eve’s sin, as the Bible teaches.  Instead, it is a physical consequence of living in the material world, which can be corrected.  Of course, if sin can be corrected, there is no longer the need for a Savior.

Every child knows the difference between right and wrong.  The gleeful lying and stealing that Lyra and her friends perpetrate are not the real threat to our kids.  Kids realize that it’s just a book or a movie.  What they may not realize is the insidious way in which Philip Pullman has replaced a Christian worldview with a Satanic worldview. The real threat lies in the underlying, often subtle, worldview that pervades the entire book.  It is a completely anti-Christian worldview.  And what is of even more import, it is not only anti-Christian, it is anti-Christ.

Jesus said that He is the way, and the truth, and the life.  “Truth” found by other means, including the means that Philip Pullman would have us use, is not truth.  It is a false truth that leads not to enlightenment, but to eternal death.

The Golden Compass is a popular movie.  The Hollywood marketing and merchandising machine is in full swing, and will continue for some time, attracting unsuspecting viewers.  The bookstores are awash in Golden Compass-related items, including trading cards, action figures, an X-Box game, calendars, and a Daemon dice game.

Ultimately, each individual, or their parents, will have to determine whether to see the film or read the books.  Christian parents are encouraged to educate themselves and discuss the issues with their children.  The movie has a huge pull on children – their friends will be seeing it.  The movie may be more benign than the book, but it is a Satanic stepping stone that naturally leads to the books.  Use discernment.  Allowing your children to read His Dark Materials without guidance catechizes them with 50+ hours of anti-Christian and occult "dark materials."  Is it worth the risk?
Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.    Proverbs 22:6

Written by Scott Diekmann

Click here for more articles on popular culture

All book quotes taken from The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, (New York: Laurel Leaf, 1995).

Scripture quotations are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.