Things fall apart
The British employ subtle sophistication when making movies and series. They also don’t tie things up in a beautiful bow to resolve the plot. The recent BBC psychological thriller, 'Liar,' is no exception. There is a disturbing realism that underlies the fictional plot. It is a harrowing and gripping drama, full of suspense.
This, however, is not a review of the series. Rather, I found the story instructive as a window into human nature.
The basic plot is as follows: Laura Nielson, a high school teacher, accuses the charming and respected surgeon, Andrew Earlham, of date rape, after allegedly being drugged.
There is no compelling evidence and it becomes her word against his. Both their stories are convincing, despite very different testimonies and in the beginning, the viewer is not quite sure who to believe. Good script writing, backstories and clever filming techniques lead the viewer effectively. Manipulating the viewer is the subtle mark of a good psychological thriller.
‘How was it out there today?’
‘Same as always; perfect. Who needs Church when you’ve got this?’
This beginning dialogue, although seemingly neutral and generic, gives insight into how the rest of the series plays out and exposes the motives of the protagonists and supporting actors as to how they behave, react and respond in the way they do.
A worldview is highlighted which is the premise for the way the plot develops.
As I watched this series, often at the edge of my seat, I began to realise the truth of Solomon’s conclusion in Ecclesiastes: ‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.’
At a basic level, each character is pursuing what they believe will bring them happiness and yet the result is emptiness and destruction.
This is the consequence of a world gone terribly wrong; a world without a Biblical worldview.
Who needs Church? Who needs God? The age old lie. This leads to the inevitable pointlessness and meaningless of life.
We are all looking for what will make us happy.
The irony is that in our worldly pursuit of happiness we become so unhappy.
Blaise Pascal, the French mathematician who came to Christ at the age of 31, reflected on mans’ pursuit of happiness in this way: ‘All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.’
I would like to explore how this plays out in the lives of the main characters: Andrew Earlham, Laura Nielson and Laura’s sister, Kate, an anaesthetist, who is married with two boys, and the main breadwinner. Her husband stays home and looks after their sons.
Laura Nielson’s pursuit of happiness is via justice and revenge.
Laura goes rogue and takes matters into her own hands to prove Andrew Earlham’s guilt. Her desire for revenge is all consuming. This obsession and anger eat her alive and she takes the law into her own hands. It destroys her ability to lead a normal life. Andrew must be brought to justice, and she is prepared to die in this mission. What else has she got to lose? In her attempt to destroy Andrew Earlham, she almost destroys herself.
(I did appreciate how this series did not sentimentalise or overlook the emotional trauma and injustice of rape, but sensitively explored its dark horror and anguish in the lives of its victims and gave it the weight it deserved as a societal abuse.)
When God is absent, what is the point?
If your worldview excludes a Sovereign God, who will one day execute divine justice and call all to account, then revenge is your only solution. If your worldview does not acknowledge that God is the Righteous Judge of all the earth, you only have two alternatives: fatalistic apathy or vengeance.
Both will result in emptiness and misery. Neither will satisfy the heart longing for real justice. Both will eat you up.
Tim Keller exposes the philosophical logic: ‘The lack of belief in a God of wrath creates violence because we have to get vengeance today because justice won't come later.’
Trusting in God as the Divine Judge means you can rest. He sees everything. You can wait with a settled heart. God will repay. His name and glory are at stake.
‘The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful; the LORD takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.’ [Nahum 1:2]
‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."’ [Romans 12:19]
‘The wrath of God is his settled anger toward sin expressed in the repayment of suitable vengeance on the guilty sinner.’ [John Piper].
If you cannot, like Laura Nelson, rest in this truth, then you too will be consumed with bitter hatred and a heart set on vengeful retaliation. It will destroy you.
Andrew Earlham’s pursuit of happiness is via the distorted and depraved world of sexual immorality and cowardly control and power over women.
This became an addiction to him. One was never enough. He had to have more and more. His objectification of women was blatant and narcissistic. He seemed to have it all, yet all was not enough.
This sinful default in man has not changed since the curse in Genesis 3:16 where God said that ‘the man will rule over woman.’ This curse is the destructive struggle of self-will. Man’s default is to be harsh and want to have power over women.
Of course, when there are no restraints to this evil, the conscience becomes dulled and in Andrew Earlham we see this evolve into psychopathic behaviour which eventually destroys him and his family.
When God is absent, what is the point?
If your worldview contains no absolutes or a standard of right or wrong, then everything is relative. This will eventually result in chaos and abuse.
No moral compass results in no morality.
Under this mindset, men do not view women through the beautiful lens of their divine image bearing design. It is a Romans 1 mind-set, exchanging the truth of God for a lie and worshipping the created rather than the Creator. It is idolatry and leads to women being viewed as a means to satisfy sexual lusts.
This momentary pleasure through pornography, promiscuity or rape never delivers on its promise of the mysterious intimacy that God designed sex to be between a husband and a wife; one flesh.
Viewing women as objects and using them to satisfy physical urges results in a dark soul sickness that will ultimately lead to utter perversion and emptiness. Pursuing a woman’s body for lustful pleasure in the pursuit of happiness will never deliver trust, intimacy or joy. It will destroy.
When your worldview chooses to ignore God, exclude Him and make Him absent, things will fall apart and eventually your world will spiral out of control.
‘The Lord laughs at the wicked, for he sees that his day is coming.’ [Psalm 37:13]
Kate’s pursuit of happiness is via feminism and a career.
The subplot of Kate and her relationship with Laura, her husband and two sons is an interesting one. She seems to have it all: the guy, the home, the family, the career. There seems to be a sense of normalcy and family values, a safe and beautiful haven amidst the ugliness and messiness of Laura’s trauma. The relationship between the sisters is one of trust and protectiveness; Kate always looking out for her younger sister.
Then we discover her secret and adulterous affair with Laura’s ex-boyfriend. Kate is riddled with guilt and tries to end it, but the reason for her infidelity becomes clear: her normal family life with her faithful and supportive husband were not exciting enough. Her successful career wasn’t enough.
She needed more. Just a taste. Just a moment of supposed happiness amid her mundane, predictable life. Yet even that, she realised, did not deliver on its promise. It was not enough. It did not satisfy her longing for supposed happiness.
When her secret was found out (as secrets inevitably are want to do), that taste destroyed her marriage and her family. She realised too late that it wasn’t worth it.
Trust had been broken; trust between her and her sister and between her and her husband.
When God is absent, what is the point?
Kate has a husband who loves her and two sons who adore her.
But if your worldview contains no Biblical view of the family and marriage, as God designed it to function in society, you will become dissatisfied and never find fulfilment in the God-ordained institutions of marriage and family. Motherhood will be a burden around your neck, dragging you down, restricting you. That is what feminism peddles.
It is a woman’s default from the curse in Genesis 3:16 where God says ‘a woman’s desire will be for her husband.’ She will want to dominate him and be like him. She will suppress her innate femininity and exchange that for the lie of feminism. You can be happy without a man. You can only be happy if you are ruling over a man. You can be happy if you deny your mothering and nurturing instincts.
Going beyond the scope of God’s design for marriage and family will never ultimately satisfy; it is not designed to.
Kate realised that, but by then it was too late. She was left empty and miserable, without a husband and having to settle for seeing her boys every second weekend and on Tuesdays.
Sin will always take you further than you intended to go, keep you longer than you intended to stay and cost you more than you intended to pay.
Satan, the tempter, the Father of lies, has one goal – to destroy our souls. He lures us in with promises that look good to the eyes. He offers promises of happiness that will ultimately leave us empty and he does this by causing doubt that God’s ways are actually for our protection and our good.
‘Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.’ [1 Corinthians 10:12-14]
Solomon, the OT king given the gift of wisdom by God, after trying every worldly temptation in the pursuit of happiness and finding them all empty and meaningless, concludes like this: ‘The end of the matter is this; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.’
Those words will either instil fear and trepidation in your heart or be a means of great comfort and assurance.
It all depends on your worldview.
Does your worldview arrogantly and proudly shake its fist at God and say, ‘Who needs Church? Who needs God?’
Or does your worldview humbly and dependently acknowledge, ‘I need God’?
Does your worldview look to find happiness outside of God and His Truth, or does your worldview start at the cross, looking to Jesus, who has the words of eternal life and comes to bring abundant joy?
The difference is eternal joy and peace or eternal misery, anguish and torment.
Laura Nielson, Andrew Earlham and Kate all chose what ended in misery and destruction because God was absent from their worldview.
Their lives fell apart. They chose that.
They may well be fictional characters, but they represent society which arrogantly shakes its fist at God, ignores Him and seeks to pursue happiness apart from Him.
‘You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.’ [Psalm 16:11]