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Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century (Cultural Exegesis) Paperback – August 1, 2008

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Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century (Cultural Exegesis) + Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue (Engaging Culture) + Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment
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Product Details

  • Series: Cultural Exegesis
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Academic (August 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801035929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801035920
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #495,415 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

Reel Revelation

In Into the Dark, respected film expert Craig Detweiler examines forty-five twenty-first-century films that resonate theologically--from The Lord of the Rings trilogy to Little Miss Sunshine--offering groundbreaking insight into their scriptural connections and theological applications. Detweiler uses the IMDb, the wildly popular Internet Movie Database, to select today's most influential contemporary films. He dissects the theology of everyday life, exploring the work of the Spirit of God in creation and redemption to discuss "general revelation" through cinema and sometimes unlikely filmmakers. Into the Dark opens up lively discussion topics, including anthropology, the problem of evil, sin, interconnectivity, postmodern relationships, ethics, fantasy, and communities in crisis.

"Craig Detweiler is right when he says that film is a source of divine revelation. Into the Dark takes readers on a journey to discover how God is helping us understand our true identity, community, and divine history within popular culture. No Christian scholar, student, or film buff should be without this book."--David Bruce, webmaster, Hollywood Jesus

"Soak a brain in billions of digital bytes of filmic splendor and an equal amount of dynamic theology, awaken it to the 'sudden and miraculous grace' available at the intersection of faith and film, and you've got Craig Detweiler's tour de force. A brilliant, timely, and useful piece of work from the only brain that could have produced it!"--Dick Staub, author, The Culturally Savvy Christian and Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters, and host of The Kindling's Muse

"Craig Detweiler provides a refreshingly open-minded engagement with Hollywood, insisting on an integrative approach to general revelation wherein the cinematic 'good, true, and beautiful' are broadly defined and broadly discovered. It is uncommon to hear Christians speak of mass entertainment as 'a form of Mass, a common grace,' as Detweiler does, but such a perspective is sorely needed and appropriately provocative."--Brett McCracken, film critic for Christianity Today and Relevant

About the Author

Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He previously served as codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. Detweiler has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his social documentary, Purple State of Mind (, debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR and is the coauthor of A Matrix of Meanings.

More About the Author

Dr. Craig Detweiler directs the Center for Entertainment, Media and Culture at Pepperdine University. He's a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Davidson College and earned an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California's acclaimed film school. His newest book is iGods: How Technology Shapes Our Spiritual and Social Lives. Detweiler also edited the first book on theology and video games, Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Game with God. His previous book, Into the Dark, searches for the sacred amidst the top-ranked films on the Internet Movie Database.

Craig's cultural commentary has appeared on ABC's Nightline, CNN, Fox News, Al Jazeera, NPR, and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. As a filmmaker, his documentaries build bridges across cultures from the comedic Purple State of Mind to (un)Common Sounds: Peace Through Music. He blogs as 'Doc Hollywood' for and is @craigdetweiler on Twitter.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bryce VanKooten on November 5, 2008
Format: Paperback
I wish I could summon the spirit of the late Don LaFontaine here - it would come across much more powerful, of course - but I cannot. In a world where required reading often means required time and nothing less, it's a rarity that we're able to dig through the junk to find the jewels. Into the Dark gives you nugget after nugget of the finest film gold. From Memento to Donnie Darko -- 45 of IMDb's top 250 - and page by page, movie by movie, it's a perfectly paced walk through the best aspects of cinema. Detweiler stays the course to provide a trustworthy guide and an altogether insightful interpretation, all the while providing theological insight along the way. It's like watching the movies all over again, with a different set of eyes. A little deeper, a little smarter, a little slower wins the race.

Into the Dark is the journey of films through some of the darkest hours in order to show the brightest of grace. The chapters poignantly scribe the picture of a holistic faith seen in contrast with a dynamic culture. To speak personally, the book acted as an awakening towards the movies I could not reconcile. It was my own journey through the theater in hopes of finding others - Evangelicals even - sitting next to me, ready to commence The Great Discussion with two ears, one mouth and an eternal sense of grace in sight.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By olingerstories on May 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm sorry to be so critical, but Derweiller's insights in his INTO THE DARK fall short on both the theological and artistic levels. If you want to consider the intersect of faith and the movies, read top line critics Pauline Kael (I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES, FOR KEEPS) or Stephen Hunter (NOW PLAYING AT THE VALENCIA). Hunter, for instance, argues perceptively that Quentin Tarentino defines sin solely as being boring. Kael, for her part, might have dubiously preached treating films for their emotional effect rather than their structure or intellectual content. But, at least she could explain why she held her stance when she was hostile to the spirituality of a film like TENDER MERCIES. I had no sense of Derweiller ever having that ability with the films chosen. The appeal apparently is that he is writing from a "Christian" perspective. But, just like poor "Christian rock," this is poor Christian movie reviewing trying to read the spiritual out of something creational. You would be much better off reading Hunter, Ebert, Denby, Lane, and other noted movie critics to get at the philosophical heart of a movie.

I know this is a very hard review, and I wanted to like the book, but it was nearly unreadable.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Fung on March 22, 2009
Format: Paperback
It has taken me time to slowly digest the writings of Craig Detweiler's text, "Into the Dark." There is so much wisdom and years of life experiences that emanate from these pages that I can only address concepts that engage my own personal experiences. Like Detweiler, my personal film experiences as a youngster were about escapism and entertainment. I loved going to the movies. I remember being dropped off at the movie theater by my dad and seeing a triple James Bond feature with Doug Smith, my 7th grade friend, and still wanting more after the movie ended. I used my imagination and a world of make believe as a form of escapism. I can recall spending hours in the bathroom and my bedroom fantasizing that I was Bruce Lee beating up the bad guys with my Kung Fu moves.

I found Paul Schrader's description of the formation of a canon as a story very fascinating: "To understand the canon is to understand its narrative. Art is a narrative. Life is a narrative. The universe is a narrative. To understand the universe is to understand its history. Each and every thing is part of a story -- beginning, middle, and end." The thing that resonates in my heart as an artist is how to lead the viewer to the divine story, as referred by Jurgen Moltmann. How can I ask the right questions so the viewer is prompted to reflect and somehow have a general revelation from God? Moltmann said, "Critic Jonathan Rosenbaum acknowledged the power and importance of a film canon as an educational tool. It should start arguments about the art of cinema, causing us to reflect on what matters and why." As an educator and pastor, I am always seeking ways to have my students dig deeper and ask important and meaningful questions.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By John Winterson Richards on February 25, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Christians need to get back into the mainstream media if they are to avoid locking themselves up in a cultural ghetto. Instead of focussing on producing Christian films and television shows that are seen only by other Christians, they need to consider how Christian values can be communicated to mass audiences, in accordance with Jesus' command to preach to the whole world. Dr Detweiler shows how this can be done by illustrating how Christian themes are already found in recent blockbusters. In doing so, he also shows that Christian values are far more deeply entrenched in our culture - even in the very secular culture of Hollywood - than most people realise. Christians can build on this if they can get into the media. Of course, the great danger for Christians engaging with the secular mainstream is that they may be tempted to compromise too much. If any criticism can be levelled at this book, it is that Dr Detweiler lays himself open to that danger: an admirer of Jurgen Moltmann, he is perhaps too inclined to compromise in his theology and his politics, and also perhaps too eager to see Christian themes in films where there are none. That said, he deserves great credit for taking the first steps in the right direction; other Christians should follow.
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