RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes
RATING: PG (some intense action, mild language and a scene of sensuality)
MOVIE DESCRIPTION: Dr. Ellie Arroway has dedicated her life to search for life in other parts of the universe. Losing her parents at an early age made her look for a way to narrow the distance between the known and the unknown. Her early attempts were through a home-based radio which she used to communicate with people outside of her town. As an adult, she sought grants and other support to fund her scientific projects. Through these grants she rented radio time on huge radio telescopes to listen for non-random frequencies, which she expected to be produced by other intelligent life-forms elsewhere. However, many times the funding became a problem as her supporters expected quick and useful results. These supporters saw her vision as being more science fiction than true science. Nevertheless she never gave up on her dream. She was finally given funding when she expressed her deepest wishes and dreams by openly speaking her mind. Eventually she and her team did find non-random radio signals. These were later interpreted and decoded, providing them with information and blueprints to be used to construct a transportation machine to travel through space. There is a high level of controversy regarding who gets to go. Ellie's goal is to travel using that machine and thus fulfill her dream of exploring the universe.
Jodie Foster as Dr. Eleanor (Ellie) Arroway
Matthew McConaughe as Palmer Joss
John Hurt as S. R. Hadden
James Woods as Michael Kitz
Tom Skerritt as David Drumlin
David Morse as Ted Arroway
William Fichtner as Kent Clark
Rob Lowe as Richard Rank
Angela Bassett as Rachel Constantine
Note to Facilitator before getting started: Some young adults will have seen this movie in theaters, others will not. Decide whether you want to show the video as part of this session, as a prior separate session, or rely on people's memory to recall. Please be aware that there are copyright infringement laws that prohibit the showing of pre-recorded videocassettes available from retail or rental stores in public settings without a license to do so. To inquire about an umbrella license, please call 1-800-462-8855.
Invite people to:
- Introduce themselves
- Use the following questions as discussion starters
- Have you ever had a quiet time when you had a chance to reflect on how big the universe is? What does the universe tell you about God?
- Are you familiar with the symbol for infinity? (() Is it appropriate to use this symbol for God?
- Do you think there is life in other planets? Why or why not?
- Discuss further:
- Why do you think God made the universe so large?
- Do you agree with the phrase: "If it's just us, it's an awful waste of space"?
- In the movie Contact Ellie was asked why the message was not in English. Her reply was that math was a better language because it is the language of the universe. Do you think it is God's language? Did God create math?
II. Select the theme(s) around which you want to focus the discussion.
Use the following discussion questions and related scripture passages. Feel free to add your own!
THEME 1: Faith
- Facilitate a discussion using these or your own questions:
- Have you ever had complete confidence in something you could not prove? Why?
- How are science and Christianity similar or different in their interpretation of reality? Are they mutually exclusive?
- Our culture today believes that any claim of truth without substantial proof is simply a hypothesis. Comment on that.
- Dr. Ellie Arroway refused to believe anything she could not prove with empirical evidence. How did her thinking change by the end of the film? Why was she able to so fully trust her experience, even when she did not have any evidence?
- Write a definition for the word faith and share it with the group.
- Based on your definition of faith, in what do you have faith?
- Read Hebrews 11:1-2
- How would you use these verses to explain to Ellie what it means to have faith in the existence of God?
- In spite of Ellie's resistance to having faith, how is her own dream a step of faith in itself, according to this passage?
- The Bible is full of promises. To benefit from these promises it is necessary to trust that they are true. Make a list of some promises you remember from the Bible. How can you take a step of faith and live them out? For example: I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
- When given the blueprint to construct the ship, the team takes a step of faith, trusting that it will work and serve its purpose. How does this story compare to that of Noah's? (Read Genesis 6:13-22)
- Noah is also mentioned in Hebrews 11. How was he an example of faith?
- This passage gives us examples of people who acted by faith. What are the differences and similarities from the examples that this passage gives us (3-40)?
- How can your faith in God help you understand scientific information? How does the understanding in Hebrews 11 of what faith is help you make sense of the world around you?
THEME 2: God's Existence
- Facilitate a discussion using these or your own questions:
- Dr. Arroway wonders: "What if science simply revealed that he (God) never existed in the first place?" How would you answer her if you had to respond to this statement?
- As long as we base all our beliefs on the scientific method, there will be no room for God. How is God evident in those things which science cannot explain?
- How can science point to God's existence? What makes you say that?
- Respond to the following statement made by Ellie: "So what's more likely: that an all powerful God created the universe and then decided not to give any proof of his existence OR that he simply doesn't exist at all and then we created him so that we wouldn't have to feel so small and alone?" What do you think of Palmer's response in asking her to prove that she loved her father?
- Read 1 Peter 1:3-12
- According to verse 8, how can you be sure of God's existence in your life?
- According to this passage, what is the basis for our belief that God exists and that God's son Jesus died to save us?
- Ellie knew her experience was real, even when she had no way of proving it. How real is your relationship with God to you? Are you willing stand by what you believe, even when those around you have trouble believing it? What is the cost? Why is it worth it?
III. Closing and Prayer
- Give everyone the opportunity to complete the following sentence and answer the question that follows:
- Some things that test my faith are....
- If you had a conversation with an atheist scientist, what would you use to defend your faith and the existence of God? Make a list of arguments the scientist might have and how you could respond to these.
- For the next week plan to spend a few minutes at the end of each day reflecting on how you experienced God that day.
- Close in prayer
- Carlos I. Garcia, a young adult himself, has completed his studies for his Master of Divinity degree from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania. He is serves as a pastoral intern at Upper Merion Baptist Church, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He also shares leadership for the church’s new contemporary worship team. Carlos is pursuing his Masters in Business Administration at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania.
- Maria Ramirez, a young adult, is a teacher at Delaware County Christian School, Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. She is pursuing a masters degree in Counseling at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania. Maria has served as an outreach coordinator for a young adult group for the past two years.
Movie Time Editor: Jeffrey D. Jones, Former Partner in Discipleship Ministries, Educational Ministries, American Baptist Churches USA.
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