The Dark Materials debate: life, God, the universe


Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, caused controversy by praising the National Theatre’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials - a work that has been interpreted by some as anti-Christian. The two men met at the theatre on Monday to discuss the meaning of religion in art and literature -and its enduring relevance to the education of our children. This is the record of their conversation…

 **Dr Rowan Williams:** I suppose one of the     questions I would like to hear more about from Philip is what has     happened to Jesus in the church in this world [of His Dark     Materials], because one of the interesting things for me in the     model of the church in the plays and the books, is it's a     church, as it were, without redemption.

It’s entirely about control. And although I know that’s how a lot of people do see the church, you won’t be surprised to know that that’s not exactly how I see it. Chance would be a fine thing! There is also the other question which I raised last week about the fascinating figure of The Authority in the books and the plays, who is God for all practical purposes in lots of people’s eyes, but yet, of course, is not the Creator. So those are of course the kinds of differences that I am intrigued by here.

**Philip Pullman: **Well, to answer the question about Jesus first, no, he doesn’t figure in the teaching of the church, as I described the church in the story. I think he’s mentioned once, in the context of this notion of wisdom that works secretly and quietly, not in the great courts and palaces of the earth, but among ordinary people and so on. And there are some teachers who have embodied this quality, but whose teaching has perhaps been perverted or twisted or turned, and been used in a fashion that they themselves didn’t either desire or expect or could see happening…


The Golden Compass is a box-office disappointment. People are staying home in droves from a “holiday” movie that is so far from holy. But that’s fine, in May we have Narnia II: Prince Caspian to look forward to.


that’s great, but the OP question was about an adaptation in theatre of the books, not about the recent movie based on the books, and about the “anti-theology” of the books in general, and article cited interview A of Canterbury and author of the most popular children’s books in England after HP. That a Christian prelate could find something to praise in this dark atheistic dismal world view expressed by this author is astounding and IMO terrifying. God help the Anglicans with leadership like that. Still don’t know what point OP is making since he offers no comment for discussion. I read the books, the bleakest and rankest children’s books I have every seen even in the sometimes dark area of fantasy, and the third book is kiddie soft porn IMO. If the publishers, reviewers and those who give awards for writing consider these worthwhile childrens “literature” it is an indictment of the entire industry.


Cool. I didn’t know Narnia II: Prince Caspian was coming out soon. :slight_smile:


:smiley: I thought the books were a nice bit of candy.

The second book allowed the author’s personal idiocy to bleed through to a point of rolling my eyes as I read it, but for the most part it was interesting to read such superstitious and imaginary twists to Creation, Adam and Eve and the Authority.

All that being said, I would never let a child read it as even if the story itself is exciting with kids on an adventure, the moral overtones are too slight and nicely scented. :smiley:


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