For: warped theology, language and brief nudity
Raiders of the Lost Ark is a movie with several little good things going on, and one really big bad thing. Unfortunately, while the little things (adventure, humor, fight scenes and Indy’s iconic character) may be fairly entertaining, for both Christian and unbelieving viewers the one irreparable downfall (presenting falsehoods about God as accurate and exciting) slides Indiana Jones into the wrong side of the line between acceptable and unacceptable.
Raiders of the Lost Ark meets reality on two historical facts about the ark of the covenant: that there really was such an item, and that it really was lost. Beyond that, the movie’s representation of the ark’s story and power is split between the unbiblical and the somewhat antibiblical, resulting in a skewed representation of God.
Raiders of the Lost Ark turns the ark of the covenant into a great mystery with inherent power, contrary to what scripture says about it. The movie makes the audacious claim that “the Bible speaks of the ark leveling mountains and laying waste to entire regions,” when no statement or historical event even remotely like that appears anywhere in the Bible. Characters claim that the army that possessed the ark, “a source of unspeakable power,” was and would be “invincible,” confusing the ark with God himself1 and either ignoring or lying about the passages in scripture that argue the complete opposite. Even the idea that the ark is guaranteed to demonstrate power is unbiblical2.
The ark is incorrectly treated more like a pagan or extraterrestrial mystery than like the actual article as described in scripture. The movie includes the zany and unbiblical claims that the ark is “not of this earth,”3 that “no one knows its secrets,”4 and that “it is something that was not meant to be disturbed.”5
Raiders of the Lost Ark also perpetuates a wrong concept of God, the holy, and redemptive history. Biblically, the ark (and all of the other implements used to mediate between God and man under the Old Testament) are now powerless, because they are purposeless. Because the mediatory ceremonies, articles and offices were merely shadows that have been replaced by the person and work of Christ, presenting the ark of the (old) covenant as still having power would be equivalent to Raiders of the Lost Ark presenting animal sacrifices or the Levitical high priest as still mediating between us and God.
God’s holy power is depicted in the movie as skeletal ghost women in swarm, streaming out of the open ark and zapping the bad guys with flames and electrical charges.
In Raiders of the Lost Ark, characters may capture the ark for their own ends and even touch it6, without ill effect. It is only those who look at the skeletal ghost women coming out of the ark who are punished.
A bad guy’s enthusiastic claim that the ark is “a transmitter… a radio for speaking to God” is backwards. Biblically, the speaker at ark-related meetings was God, and he spoke from above the ark, not through it.7
Miscellaneous other false statements about the ark include a story about Moses placing the broken tables of the law in the ark (while in real life Moses placed the new, whole tables in the ark)8, and the claim that the ark has been lost since several hundred years before the last scriptural reference to its presence in Jerusalem9.
As an aside, Indiana Jones is said to be “an expert on the occult”, and apparently many of his archaeological investigations are attempts to locate, remove and put on display pagan idols, which is, no matter what their monetary or historical value, somewhere on the unwise/abomination spectrum.10
Jones is pursued in one scene by dozens of men who are entirely nude from behind (and mostly nude in front).
Jones’ personal home decor includes a painting of naked women.
1 Attributing the power of God to a wooden box is a form of idolatry, and is logically tantamount to referring to a telephone as the “source” of someone’s voice.
2 See 1 Samuel 4:3-11, for instance. The ark was a meeting place between God and his people, and it manifested God’s power only because it symbolized God’s presence, and everyone in scripture who viewed the ark properly considered its power merely representative, not inherent.
3 Exodus 25:10-18 The ark was holy, but it was made of ordinary materials, by men, with real, physical, earthly things put inside it.
4 The ark had no particular secret. The Lord was not especially mysterious in giving Moses information about the ark, what it contained, its purpose, its power, or the related protocol. See Exodus 25:10-22, for example.
5 From the creation of the ark until the building of the temple, God commanded the ark to be “disturbed” many, many times.
6 1 Samuel 5, 2 Samuel 6:3-7
7 Exodus 25:22, Leviticus 16:2
8 Deuteronomy 10:1-2
9 1 Chronicles 35:3
10 Deuteronomy 7:25