A Filmmaker, a Pastor, and an Apologist walk into a restaurant…
I wish this was the start of a bad joke. It’s not.
Marcus Pittman and I joined Jon Speed to preview the soon to be released film A Matter of Faith showing at a restaurant in Syracuse, New York.
If you were waiting for this third review to perhaps be the positive one, I am going to disappoint you.
I do not doubt the sincerity of producer Rich Cristiano, as I could hear it in his voice during the post viewing conference call. So sincere did he come across that I could not bring myself to voice my concerns during the call. Sincerely making a bad film does not make the film good or the message right, though.
Already critics of the previous two reviews have suggested that as long as the message is sound it doesn’t really matter how it is delivered. I suspect that those people would change their views if their mailman started carrying their letters in a doggie-doo bag.
Was it that bad? Five minutes in I was looking around for something I’d rather be doing. Since I couldn’t find any knitting needles to shove into my eyes, I kept watching.
Don’t get me wrong, I sincerely considered the kinder, gentler approach to this review, but apparently I can’t help but write this way when I feel like I’ve been punched in my soul.
There were a few times during the film that through my palmed face I could see Marcus looking over at me (taking pictures, as that is what Marcus does). What Jon and Marcus won’t know until reading this review is that my face palms were largely intended to conceal actual tears. The tears were not so much for the horrible depiction of Christianity in the film, but for the others in the room who were actually celebrating it – not noticing that anything was wrong – and for the many more who won’t either.
The father in the film, who I actually thought was the best of the main actors, called his daughter at the university he had recently sent her off to and asked her if she had found a church yet. The fact that she had not is not the problem. The fact that he had to ask is. What Christian father sends his daughter off to a university where 1. He does not know if there is a good church, and 2. Has not already set is daughter up with that church?
On her first visit home the father discovers (through a means I don’t wish to spoil–as if it would be possible to spoil this film), that his daughter has not been reading her Bible. His first avenue of recourse is not to examine what went wrong in her upbringing, but to find out what she’s being taught at the university that is causing her to neglect her Bible reading. There was exactly zero indication that this woman’s parents were terrible Christian parents, or that she had a terrible Christian upbringing.
There is a statistic often shared at Christian conferences that upwards of 80% of professing Christians abandon the faith after just one year at college. I remember asking one speaker who shared this statistic why he thought this was the case, and he echoed the sentiment offered in the film: “Because of what they are being taught in school.” He was wrong. 1 John 2:19 tells us that “if they had been of us, they would have continued with us.” The reason Christian students leave the faith after one year of college is quite simply because they were never Christians.
As Christians the ultimate authority of our reasoning is God. Let’s face it, if we don’t start with God, there are some things that we believe that would be absurd. We believe in a Book that says a donkey talked, that an axe head floated, that a man who was dead for three days came back to life. Why do we believe these things? Because God told us in His Word that they happened!
Here’s the question: How can you reason out of the position that God is the ultimate authority of our reasoning? “Oh, I used to believe those things, but this professor made me question them.” “I reasoned my way out of those antiquated beliefs!”
One CANNOT reason out of the position that God is the ultimate authority of our reasoning. Reasoning out of the position that God is the ultimate authority of our reasoning to the position that He is not is merely an indication that He never was.
What do Christians do with things that we have difficulty comprehending? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5,6).
When the student in this film was doubting her faith, that was an indication that she may never have been saved. What was the answer? Not “Lean on the Lord,” no, “Let’s see what evidence is causing her to reason her way out of her belief.”
You might say “oh, that Sye is a presupper, he’s just saying these things because he is against evidence!” No. I love evidence. Why? BECAUSE I am a Christian! It just grieves me that Christians think that questions of belief are about evidence. People who saw the miracles of Christ crucified Him. Yes, some who saw the risen Lord worshiped Him, but then came three of the most shocking words in Scripture “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Here are people who actually saw the risen Lord and doubted, and this film seeks to draw doubting Christians back with a debate with a professor. A professor who, I might add, is nothing like any atheist I have ever debated. Perhaps the producer of this film has never debated any atheists, but there is simply no excuse for those some who have endorsed this film to suggest that what happened at this debate in any way resembles reality.
That the debate was not at all plausible should have prepared me for the big reveal at the end of the film. It didn’t. I grant that it is the most shocking reveal I have ever experienced in any film, not because of what it was but because they actually did it. There were no tears behind that face-palm.
Unlike my fellow reviewers, I am not going to suggest that you do not see this film. I understand that cleanses can be good for the body. Just please PLEASE tell the world why your colon is now pristine.
How To Answer the Fool. Available on Vimeo for Rent or Instant Download.
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I know that this movie can open up the conversation.
The reviews, like yours, prove that.
No movie, will ever finish the story, presentation, conversation...that you and I are suppose to finish or continue.
I live down the street from a Church fellowship, and on one particular Saturday they had an outreach to the youth in the neighborhood...it was in their newsletter. They showed back to back Batman 1, 2, 3...
The saddest thing is that some people will defend Batman and Hollywood and some of the most unGodly movies, saying something about art and using the talents of God and having a form of the salvation message. Balderdash but...
Fine, use it...and go preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
When Jesus came...He didn't raise the bar...He revealed the bar. Then He cleared the bar and made a Way for us to be brought into right standing by His sacrifice.
And for those who know Him...He destroyed the bar!
I have seen the film and had no adverse effects on my colon. I really don't understand what you mean by that comment; maybe I am missing your potty humor. Could you explain what you mean by that.
The father failed in many ways. That is the point: Don't be like him, but learn from his mistakes. I have had conversations with many parents who have that attitude about sending their kids off without a sound church to attend. They have a wrong focus, and I seek to pastorally direct them to consider the spiritual shepherding needs over the academic. He recognized his error (at least in part) and sought his pastor for counsel. The fact that she was buying into the professors ideas is what made it clear that she was not a believer and she had not owned her faith, but had been riding on the coat tails of her parents. I hope to use that very point to challenge the students I love to examine themselves to see if they are in the faith.
taking every frame captive.
while you notice the many areas that Christians, Christian parents, Christian students (wanting to go into secular college) are shown so we can use this to teach what areas are in need of addressing.
1. Pastors--talk about this stuff
2. Parents--talk about this stuff
3. Students--know about this stuff
4. Christians--know about, talk about, and live this stuff
What is the stuff?....The Word of God and when you run into the world...know the Truth of God's Word and stand on His Truth.
The Bible is full of accounts of sinners...sinning... and God's Grace being offered, received, or rejected.
I know some people want God's people always being shown as the winner.
That is what God's wisdom requries and offers....and Christians...He commands.
"When the student in this film was doubting her faith, that was an indication that she may never have been saved. What was the answer? Not “Lean on the Lord,” no, “Let’s see what evidence is causing her to reason her way out of her belief.”"
I must have seen it from a different perspective since her conversation with the young man focused on submitting to Christ and the following scene showed her, Bible in hand, considering the truths she had been taught all her life.
@Roger Patterson So the whole debate thing was a mistake of the father? Is that what you got from the movie? Not the people who were watching with us, they loved the debate.
And regarding the 80% of Christian kids leave the faith comment. I agree with you. I always found it a stunning act of God's mercy that He is still granting 20% salvation when there are "few that find it."
Good post, brother. I find your review to be more gentle and compassionate than you seem to think people will believe. Hopefully, that's some encouragement.