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American Gospel: Christ Crucified

Documentary
2019 / 176 minutes
Rating: 9/10

In the early 1600’s, our forefathers assembled at Dordrecht to clearly correct the errors of the Remonstrants, publishing the Canons of Dort in a confession that has proved of great value to the Lord’s people ever since.

Today Satan still loves to mislead and harass the Church so can we correct current errors effectively through our more modern means of podcasts, websites, and films? Transition Studios is trying to do so by producing a series of documentaries. American Gospel: Christ Crucified is their second installment, and focuses on postmodern and progressive theologians and teachers who have led millions astray.

This three-hour episode features long interviews with Bart Campolo (son of evangelist Tony Campolo), and Tony Jones (author of A Better Atonement), and briefer quotes from The Shack author William Paul Young and Todd White, among others. These men all use human logic to attack doctrines they find troubling, such as the atoning work of Christ. Campolo in particular lashes out at the idea of a wrathful God whose justice requires the punishment of sin: “I’m not interested in serving a God like that. That’s not a God worthy of my worship. I’m just not interested.” Another traditional view that these teachers believe needs to be changed is that homosexuality is a sin. Speaking of gay marriage, Tony Jones states that “the Bible’s wrong about this one. The message of the church has evolved.” Even the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is cast into doubt as the false teachers go further and further astray from the Gospel.

To combat these progressive teachers and their errors, producer Brandon Kimber interviews an impressive assemblage of teachers and ministers from the Reformed and Presbyterian traditions, including Voddie Baucham, Alistair Begg, Kevin DeYoung, Michael Horton, John MacArthur, and John Piper, as well as other teachers from the broader Christian community.

These theologians lean on the Bible, patiently explaining what could be complex doctrine using simple terms. Time after time, they quote God’s Word to correct the logic of men railing against clear and simple teaching.

Ultimately, these false teachers do not want to believe what the Bible clearly teaches. Bart Campolo in the end reveals that he is now an atheist: he just could not believe that the God of the Bible is real. What starts as a questioning of some parts of God’s Word, and an attempt to harmonize with modern views and human logic, inevitably leads to doubt about all of Scripture.

The question remains: what is the most effective way to combat heresy? Can movies and podcasts proclaiming truth be as effective as written creeds and confessions? Alistair Begg wisely summarizes one possible answer: “The Bible is so helpful to us.  If we would just read it!” In the 21st century, all of us have access to the Word of God right at our fingertips at all times. We would do well to lean on it for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

In addition to the Bible, we in the Reformed churches have our precious confessions that have dealt with almost all of these issues before! We can easily recognize the lie when we are confident of and familiar with the truth. I consider this film another encouragement for Christians to read our Bibles regularly, and to not neglect the great gift we have been given in our trustworthy confessions.

American Gospel: Christ Crucified is available on various streaming services, and directly from Transition Studios at AmericanGospel.com. where you can also download a free 100+ pages study guide. You can watch a 17-minute clip from the film below. Highly recommended!


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Documentary, Movie Reviews

American Gospel: Christ alone

Documentary 2018 / 139 minutes RATING: 8/10 In one of the documentary's many memorable moments Costi Hinn, the nephew of televangelist and faith healer Benny Hinn, describes how, while working for his uncle, they would stay in $20,000-a-night luxury suites, fly in private jets, and eat in the very best restaurants. His uncle was not ashamed of this lifestyle since he preached that God wanted his people to be wealthy. But the extravagant lifestyle did start to wear on Costi Hinn: "Another hotel that sticks out in my mind is called the Grand Resort... it's in Greece and ironically, it's set on the Aegean Sea. I had my own suite, my own pool and there I stood every day looking out over the Aegean Sea. If you know your Bible at all, Paul sailed the Aegean Sea on many missionary journeys. And so here I am, a Word of Faith/Prosperity kid looking out where Paul was shipwrecked, where he went through literally chaos and hell on earth, just to get the gospel out to people, and now I am staying at 5-star hotels..." He began to recognize the contrast between the "God wants you to be rich" message he was spreading, and the message of Jesus, who prepared his disciples to be hated and persecuted (John 15:18, 2 Tim 3:12) but that they could endure it all knowing they had Christ. American Gospel: Christ Alone is about the many churches that have replaced Christ with what we hope to get Him to do for us. In this alternative gospel, Jesus isn't the gift; instead what is on offer is the American Dream: if we love God enough, and give enough to Him (via gifts to the right preachers), then He'll give us the nice car, the beautiful wife, and the big house with the picket fence all around. Why should you watch? That's a lie that most Reformed folk aren't falling for, or at least, not straight on. So why should we watch this documentary? One reason might be to help others. If you know any Christian friends tuning in to preachers like Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, Joel Osteen, Todd White, and Benny Hinn, then this would be a great film to watch together. It exposes their health-and-wealth, name-it-and-claim-it, prosperity gospel for the sham that it is. Another reason is to better understand how, even in solid, orthodox Reformed churches, we can still buy into a prosperity-lite counterfeit. The version we adopt might be masked by other names, like "the Protestant work ethic." It isn't preached off our pulpits, but it is in amongst the pews. The hardworking sort that we are, our heart may start to feel some sense of entitlement. We'd never say out loud that God owes us anything, but if we did right by our family, helped at the Church and school, and put in the hours at the office then...shouldn't God want to reward us? And with that comes the pressure to keep up appearances. If hard work is supposed to earn you anything, then if you aren't successful, there must be something wrong with you, right? The end result of this train of thought is that works are done, not out of gratitude for what God has already done for us, but out of fear of what others might think. As one of the interviewees noted: "You can grow up in a church, hear a gospel about freedom, and still work your tail off trying to maintain the image that you're are a good person." So yes, we can also benefit from this false gospel take-down. Powerful insight Some of the most impactful interviews are the ordinary Christians. We meet Katherine Berger, who has had one medical issue after another but is happier today than when she was healthy because she now knows the true Jesus. It also doesn't hurt that there are some really insightful Christian leaders interviewed. Some of the recognizable names include: Jackie Hill-Perry Matt Chandler Ray Comfort Nabeel Qureshi Phil Johnson John MacArthur Michael Horton John Piper R. Scott Clark Steven J. Lawson Paul Washer Their responses are stitched together so seamlessly the film doesn't even have a narrator – a minor detail, but it highlights just how well-produced it is. If all I have is Jesus... Ultimately what makes American Gospel worth watching is what it teaches us about Christ. It tells us about a God so good that should we lose everything else – our health, our home, money, and family too – and we have Jesus, then we have more than we could ever imagine. The full film can be rented or bought online at their website here. But if you want to try before you buy, you can watch a 40-minute excerpt for free below. ...


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