There comes a time in every movie reviewer’s life when he has to decide whether or not to cover a movie because doing so would give the movie way more credibility than it deserves. Most sane producers know that even a bad review is good for business because all publicity is good publicity. This is one of those moments.
The people who promoted God’s Not Dead are also promoting a documentary called Let The Lion Roar. This documentary seeks to buy its credibility by loading the film with well-known faces in Christian entertainment like Kevin Sorbo (God’s Not Dead), Stephen Baldwin (a Baldwin brother), and Brad Stine (the Christian comedian). There are lesser knowns who have graced the screen in movies you’ve seen such as Jason Burkey (October Baby), John Schneider (also October Baby), Michael Joiner (The Grace Card), Ben Davies (Courageous), and Shannen Fields (Facing the Giants). There’s a Christian novelist (Bodie Thoene). There’s a motivational speaker (Dani Johnson). And there are a couple of whackos thrown in for good measure such as Chuck Pierce (the guy who brought you’and keeps trying to bring back– adulterer and false teacher Todd Bentley) and Sid Roth (who really isn’t acting in his bit). If that’s not enough we can throw in some CCM stars: Jaci Velasquez and Jeff Owen of Tenth Avenue North. And to give it some secular draw in spite of the fact that this will never be shown in a theater, Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight).
Since this isn’t a complete listing of all of the Christian film stars and heretics who appear in this film, you might wonder how this can be a documentary. It’s like this: the narrator of this rubbish, one Derek Frank, guides us through a purported revelation that he claims to have received from the Lord. In it, he claims to have seen an ancient building with Greek columns and heard the words, Complete the Reformation. With the appropriate amount of false humility, he wonders why the Lord would call him to such a work. Not one of his charismatically endowed friends could tell him what it means (they had probably never heard of The Reformation before). The Lord hides the meaning of his dream for 25 years until he takes a trip to Geneva, Switzerland where low and behold, he stumbled upon the church where John Calvin used to hold court in the 16th century. This begins a time of study where he discovers: 1) that the Reformers did a lot of really super cool things like bring back the gospel for individuals and 2) that the Reformers were deceived because some said things that are either obviously anti-semitic or can be spun that way if you can get an actor to give the right voice inflections. Frank is going to complete the Reformation by exposing the fact that the Reformers believed in what is popularly but erroneously called Replacement Theology.
The actors come in with brief vignettes as they quote mostly unsubstantiated yet seemingly anti-Semitic quips from Reformers and early church leaders. [They also wear fake beards that are very badly done. Your mall’s Santa Claus has a better fake beard.] To be fair, Derek Frank’s book does have some incomplete citations as proof, but without publication information or page numbers, it’s hard to check the context of these quotes. Most of these sources are not original; most are quotes that come from books which appear to have an axe to grind with the Reformers and so credibility is a major issue with this documentary that does not clearly document anything.
Frank would have us believe that it is his prophetic calling to expose the belief that God has always had one covenant people of God: the Church. He would also have us believe that Israel must be given her props or else. In the marketing of this film and the accompanying book, Escaping the Great Deception, we are told that, Until you recognize the Great Deception you will never be able to completely embrace your destiny as a believer. Until you understand the Great Deception you will never be able to fully live out God’s purposes for your life. Until you expose the Great Deception you will never be entirely effective in reaching a lost world. Escaping the Great Deception is your key to success (from the blurb on the back cover of Escaping the Great Deception). In short, this is dispensationalism meets Joel Osteen’s Your Best Life Now.
This is nothing more than grandiose posturing on Frank’s part. You’ve heard this stuff before if you’ve ever been to a dispensational prophecy conference. People who see the Church in the Old Testament are anti-Semites, the Reformers did some great stuff but they also said some mean things about Jewish people, and the Holocaust is their fault. The fact that Frank tries to claim this as some kind of divine revelation and therefore makes him the spokesman for this stuff is disingenuous at best and snake oil salesmanship at worst. He’s either lying or is suffering from a narcissistic episode accompanied by hallucinations.
Dispensationalists have been saying this stuff for years and they didn’t even need a hallucination to do it. [At least on the issue of so-called Replacement Theology. We’ll leave the discussion of the origins of the rapture for another time.] The delicious irony here is that even though dispensationalists from the Dallas Theological Seminary and The Master’s Seminary stripe would cringe at the endorsement of a Chuck Pierce or Sid Roth, this is essentially what they believe.
A critique from those quarters would probably pick up on is the subtle accusation that the Reformers focused on personal salvation and not corporate salvation. While it’s not spelled out in this documentary perhaps for fear of aligning with the flak that John Hagee got for using the same thing as a basis, it’s possible that Frank believes that Israel is saved whether they believe in Jesus Christ as Messiah or not. At the very least, Frank’s position on the need for Jewish people to come to faith in Christ is not definitive.
Considering the fact that Frank submits as damning evidence the idea that Luther believed that Jews must come over to the church for salvation and that Frank writes, This statement clearly exposed Luther’s view of the Jewish people. It showed how for him the Church was no more than a Gentile bubble (page 11), he seems to contradict the entire Book of Ephesians which states that there is one new man in Christ (Eph. 2:14-22). A new man insinuates a putting away of the old. This is the error of Messianic Judaism which seeks to preserve the ceremonial laws that have been fulfilled in Christ (as per Hebrews). It is an attempt to unbiblically continue ceremonial practices that have found their fulfillment (Galatians). This is not anti-Semitic. This is New Testament teaching.
By the way, the corporateindividual false dichotomy is also a convenient way to debunk the doctrine of election. Perhaps that will be the sequel.
As to film quality this is a weird collection of 1990’s CGI graphics and creepy monologue. Frank is the narrator in this documentary where he does an unblinking, emotionally blank tour through his delusion. It comes across like something between Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock on depressants. While he rarely blinks, his eyes do follow the teleprompter as he reads his dialogue. Strangely the creepiness is appropriate considering the content. If you take the time to watch this–and you’ve been warned–you will keep watching for the same reason you cannot take your eyes off of a train wreck. As to the performances of the actors and celebrities, most of them are stilted with a few exceptions (Brad Stine’s Ambrose of Milan, Baldwin’s Jerome and Sorbo’s Calvin are pretty good).
If you really like obvious ironies, here’s one–the title of the film. It comes from Amos 3:8, The lion has roared’who will not fear? The Sovereign Lord has spoken’who can but prophesy? One of the great things about taking Scripture out of context is that it makes for really cool documentary titles. Until you look at the context and discover that the text is actually teaching what the documentary purports to be attacking. Amos 3 has a context of judgment on Israel. Consider verse 2: You only have I known of all of the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. The roaring Lion of Amos 3 is roaring at Israel for her sin. He is not roaring in defense of Israel. He is roaring as He attacks her. Think Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and the mountain lion ripping apart the deer.
In short, this film exposes what’s wrong with the newly arrived Evange-wood. If you have enough money you can buy star power to promote any message you care to foist on unsuspecting evangelicals. You can put God on trial and you can slander the Reformation. Actors need to stick to drama and let the pastors and teachers take care of teaching theology. The teachers that aren’t false prophets, anyway.