In the '80's I came across the book Peace Child  written by Don Richardson, a missionary in Papua New Guinea. He, with a young family in tow, sought to introduce the gospel to an isolated tribe that had never heard of Christ or Christianity. Cannibalism had been one of their practices. Their various villages were often at war with one another. They were also known for cruel deception in order to murder unsuspecting men from another village. Though these indigenous people were respectful (and curious) of this missionary and his family, hardly anyone came to faith as the gospel was shared with them. The missionary was frustrated.
But then he observed their custom known as the "peace child." After bloodshed and warring with each other for a period of time, two villages could establish peace with one another by each village giving to the other, one of their infant sons – not to be killed, but as a living sacrifice. A father, with pain and tears, would take a son (sometimes his only son) and offer the other village this peace child, while the mother lapsed into despair. The other village would do the same. As long as the sons lived, the peace could continue. This became a picture and tool used by Richardson to help the gospel register, make sense, hit home. A conversion flood resulted. He called this (along with several other customs within the tribe) a "redemption analogy." 
So the question naturally arises, where, if anywhere, can we find redemption analogies today, especially in an increasingly post-Christian culture? One answer is fiction available to us, past and present, including fairy tales, myths, great novels, and movies. How does this work, especially from a biblical and confessional Lutheran perspective (which is where I come from)? 
As human beings there are several things we cannot not do; things inherent to being human that are rarely, if ever, found among other creatures of God. We do these things naturally, even though fallen. We experience anger and joy, awe and disgust. We make moral and aesthetic judgments. We pursue higher, spiritual, righteous, and eternal things; we recognize and affirm them. We create and invent for self or others. We seek peace and pursue it. We conclude things to be good or bad, true or false, right or wrong, beautiful or ugly, virtuous or evil. We value and pursue what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and praiseworthy. We are profoundly moved by tragic loss, acts of heroism, and sacrificial love.
This is not to say our judgments, reasoning, experiences, feelings, and inventions are necessarily in accord with reality, truth, and God. They may or may not be. The point is, we do them (like no other creature). We cannot help it. And these things are no respecter of religion or worldview; they are universal.
The reason all humans do these is because we, apart from all others, are created in the image of God.  All those things mentioned above are what God has done and is doing. We connect with all other creatures horizontally in that we are created (and therefore finite and greatly limited). But we have this vertical connection with God — made in his image. In the words of Ecclesiastes, "God has put eternity in their hearts." (3:11).
Here is how this relates to fiction and movies. No matter who we are — regardless of our worldview or religion, whether we believe in the Triune God or are atheists — when we read certain poems, fairy tales, novels, or watch a movie, there is something about many of them that tugs at the heart. We can become gripped by them, even to the point of reading or watching them over and over, sacrificing time and money to do so. We may attribute that to the quality of writing or production or acting, but the deeper and higher things — the image of God within us — are the primary draw.
What great novel or movie does not include true love, romance, epic battles, something worth living for and dying for, the triumph of good over evil, the lie exposed and truth winning out, justice restored, evil punished, the innocent vindicated, the marriage finally occurring, the family restored, the nation saved, the downtrodden or the neglected raised up, the oppressed delivered, freedom won (at a great cost), faithfulness enduring and rewarded, the rightful and noble king crowned, the beautiful and distressed damsel saved by her true love, the prince and princess living happily ever after, victory snatched out of the jaws of defeat and even death, a life sacrificed so other lives are saved?
Everyone's favorite movie or novel has one or more of these themes. I am suggesting these are connected to the image of God within, and that most fall into the category of redemption analogies in some way or another.
I am not saying all these novels and movies have a happy ending. But they are at least expressing that the good, right, beautiful, true, and lovely ought to prevail. That is a given.
Not all will agree on every movie or novel, but I would bet my next paycheck there is significant consensus on the ability of many films to "tug on" and "grip" the heart for the reasons stated above. They stir up a sense of the eternity within. Consider movies  such as Braveheart, Pride and Prejudice, Mary Poppins, To Kill a Mockingbird, It's a Wonderful Life, or The Sound of Music. Or the great attraction of Marvel and Star War movies (or offshoots such as Mandalorian). Romcoms are not merely funny romances but can bring tears to our eyes as they too touch upon deeper truths: The Princess Bride, The Man from Snowy River, You've Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping, Sleepless in Seattle, The Legend of Zorro. And don't forget movies like The Rookie, Parent Trap, and Rudy. Animated films have followings (even among adults) for the same reason: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, The Emperor's New Groove, Toy Story. You can even see the appeal to the image of God in Napoleon Dynamite where those who are despised or losers — Napoleon, Pedro, Kip, Deb, and even Uncle Rico — all win in the end in a wonderful and touching way, even while we laugh and say, "This is crazy!" They draw us in. They point us toward beauty, love, truth, sacrifice, justice, victory, and a happily ever after. They have a connection to the redemption.
This concept is brought out in a striking conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis when Lewis was still an atheist. Both Lewis and Tolkien were gripped by myths and fairytales. Lewis loved them, treasured their idealism, and felt them deep within. But at the time he considered them to be nothing more than fiction. They were beautiful stories, but worthless in the end. Myths and fairytales, he said, "are lies breathed through silver."
Tolkien responded by saying no! He contended that they point to an underlying reality, and somehow reflect Christ. Lewis insisted that Tolkien had bought into the grand myth — the lie of Christianity. "I wash my hands of the whole nonsense," he said. To which Tolkien replied (to paraphrase), "You act as if Jesus Christ is one of many myths, but this one is the true myth. This is the one that makes sense of all the others. It is the one to which all the others point. Everything that moves and grips us in all the others that we love is there in this one; everything the heart desires."
It was this conversation regarding fiction that was instrumental in the conversion of Lewis. Tolkien made use of redemption analogies.
By the way, this image of God within (which no one can truly rid himself of) explains why Hollywood, known for some of the most detestable and anti-Christian productions, can still point to spiritual and eternal truths. It also explains why the hard-core materialist cannot live consistently with his belief that there are no absolute truths. 
But there are clear biblical limits to such fictions and movies. There are two doctrines in particular that act as curbs to keep us within bounds as we think about and use movies in the service of evangelism. One is the doctrine of sinful depravity. In the words of the Small Catechism, "I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him." Sin runs deep. We are dead in our trespasses and sins. Neither our mind nor our imagination effect conversion. The other doctrine is grace alone. Again, the Small Catechism: "But the Holy Spirit has called me by the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith…" (emphasis added).
Here is how another Lutheran confession applies these biblical teachings:
Therefore, before the conversion of the human being there are only two efficient causes, the Holy Spirit and God's Word as the instrument of the Holy Spirit, through which he effects conversion; the human creature must hear this Word but cannot believe or accept it on the basis of its own powers but only through the grace and action of God the Holy Spirit. 
Redemption analogies are not the gospel. They are analogies. The gospel alone is the power of God for salvation. The gospel is specifically about who Christ is, what he has done, resulting in the forgiveness of all sins of all people. Unless that message is there, any and all redemption analogies are useless and powerless. It is only when this gospel message is connected to redemption analogies that they can play a role in true evangelism and conversion.
And yet, these redemption analogies found in fiction, myths, novels, and movies can be the very tool that can be used to point to and explain the gospel to our neighbor, the gospel which can bring about faith in Christ.
In other words, evangelism is not really evangelism if we simply have our unbelieving neighbor watch a movie that clearly has embedded within it a redemption analogy. He needs to see his sin (he needs to hear the Law) and needs to see and hear about Christ on the cross and resurrected for him and his sins. That's the way it works.
Now some may ask, "Then why use movies and novels at all? Why not just read the Bible to him"
Paul's answer is that we need to "be all things to all people." We approach them where they are at. And where all people are at — what they all have in common — is this longing for the eternal. They all have the image of God within that makes them yearn for a peace that surpasses all understanding, even while they rebel and reject the God who alone has established that peace.
To cite a different but analogous situation: An unbelieving man falls madly in love with a Christian woman. As the relationship develops, they discuss spiritual matters and faith in Christ. He eventually believes and they get married. When asked why he became a Christian, he says, "Because of my wonderful wife." We would not say to him, "No, you are a Christian because of the message of Christ, the gospel." The point is, both are true. But God used this man's deep love for her to point to the powerful gospel — the essential cause of faith.
The same is true with redemption analogies within films. They can tug at and grip the heart, just like that Christian woman. But they cannot stand alone, for they find fulfilment only in Christ.
I believe we ought to use films in this way much more than we do. While recognizing man's fallen nature and the power of the Word of God, we can use them with wise recklessness! One never knows when the ultimate Peace Child might finally be realized.
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 1974, Regal Books.
 In 1981 he wrote another book, Eternity in Their Hearts, in which he explains other redemption analogies throughout history in various cultures (Regal Books).
 Several presentations in previous GOWM conferences have touched on this: "How Christian Was That Movie?" (T. Kuster), "Superhero Films — Unlikely Sources of Truth" (D. Locklair), "Eyes to See — Jesus in Film" (J. Wampfler).
 Over the years I have distinguished between a narrow and broad definition of the image of God. The narrow — that which all humans (except One) have totally lost — refers to the original and perfect righteousness Adam and Eve had before the fall. The broad definition is what I am using here: those characteristics and abilities that set us apart from all other creatures and we still retain, though they are marred by sin, shells of what they had been, and can or will be used in the service man's sinful nature.
 These movies are from a list of my personal favorites. Excuse me if none of yours are not mentioned. I perhaps have not seen them.
 For a description of this conversation, see the lecture by Tim Keller, "C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on the Power of Fiction."
 In her book Finding Truth (2015, David C. Cook), Nancy Pearcey quotes a number of materialistic atheists who demonstrate this. For example, Prof. Rodney Brooks from MIT: "[W]hen I look at my children, I can, when I force myself ... see that they are machines." He goes on to say, "That is not how I treat them. I interact with them on an entirely different level. They have my unconditional love, the furthest one might be able to get from rational analysis." He honestly concludes, "I maintain two sets of inconsistent beliefs." (p. 164).
 Epitome to the Formula of Concord, Article II. The Book of Concord, Kolb/Wengert, eds. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000) 494.
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