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Animated, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Jungle Beat - fun for the kids that will have the adults laughing too

Family / Animated 537 min RATING: 10/10 I'm always on the hunt for films or shows my kids will enjoy that I'll enjoy too. There aren't many that fit that bill, but Jungle Beat sure does. This is comic genius at its best! The videos are all 5-minute stand-alone pieces featuring one jungle creature. Our favorite is probably the giraffe, or the turtle, but the bee, monkey and hedgehog are popular too. While the videos do have sound, they remind me of the very best silent film comedies from Buster Keaton, and Charlie Chaplin, because they are entirely dialogue-free (after all, animals don't talk, right?) so all the humor is physical. Let me give you an idea of some of the scenarios: What's a poor turtle to do when it gets an itch, but its shell won't let it scratch? Maybe it should just slip off its shell? But like a pair of tight pants, his shell comes off easily, but doesn't go back on nearly so quickly. This leads to some hi-speed hijinks when the turtle has to surf on his shell to evade an eagle that wants to eat the now-exposed turtle. What's a poor firefly to do when it wants to catch some sleep, but its own light is keeping it awake? What's a poor giraffe to do when he accidentally head-butts the moon and knocks it to the ground, where it breaks to pieces? Each of the stories has a creative set-up, and all come with a happy ending. I don't know if Jungle Beat's creators are Christian, but I suspect so, because they've gone to great lengths to make sure this is family-friendly. I really can't say enough good things about this series. It is so very clever, and other than a few moments of peril, which might have our two-year-old a little nervous, it is entirely safe. And for the perfect finishing touch, they've even included coloring sheets at their website: www.junglebeat.tv. Two thumbs very enthusiastically up – I give this a 10 out of 10! So far there are three seasons, with each season made up of a dozen or so short videos. Each season's videos have been combined into full one-hour-long compilations which you can find below. And if that isn't enough, you can find two seasons of the Munki and Trunk series – focused on Jungle Beat's two most popular characters – just below. That's almost nine hours of animated fun! The only caution I will mention is that these do include commercials, and while YouTube generally keeps kids' show commercials tame, nowadays you just don't know what they'll show. So even with these very G-rated videos, parental supervision is a must in case of PG-rated commercials. Americans with Amazon Prime can skip the commercials by watching Jungle Beat Season 1+2 here and Monki and Trunk Season 1 here. Canadians with Amazon Prime can do the same by clicking here and here. I'll also add that these are a lot more fun in short 10 or 15-minute chunks than they are watching a whole hour's worth at a time. So gather round the family – you are in for a treat! JUNGLE BEAT SEASON ONE (65 minutes) SEASON TWO (66 minutes) SEASON THREE (60 minutes) MUNKI AND TRUNK SEASON ONE (79 minutes) SEASON TWO (80 minutes) SEASON THREE (80 minutes) SEASON FOUR (81 minutes) THE EXPLORERS PART ONE (14 minutes) PART TWO (12 minutes) This review was first published on ReelConservative.com...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Curious George: Royal Monkey

Animated / Children's 2019 / 86 minutes RATING: 7/10 In this homage to The Prince and the Pauper, our monkey friend George accidentally switches places with his simian look-alike Philippe, the kingdom of Simiana's "royal monkey." While the two could be twins, they couldn't act more different: George is all fun-loving and childish irresponsibility, and Philippe is reliable and downright somber. This is the fourth Curious George feature film (though there is no number, the events take place right after Curious George 3) but it's second only to the original in charm. The one criticism I'd have is pacing. It is a bit slower than some of the other films, so even as my kids absolutely loved it, I would have enjoyed seeing George get himself into a few more tight spots. However, even a relatively calm George is a very fun George, making this one that the whole family, young and old, will be sure to enjoy. As they often explain in the also charming TV series, George is a monkey so sometimes he does things we shouldn't. That's a good way of letting kids know they better not do what George does, but our youngest will still sometimes get quite stressed at George's antics because she understands that, well, if she were in George's shoes, what he's doing would be quite naughty! So I appreciated how in this film the writers managed to so arranged things that the trouble George gets into isn't his fault (at least for the most part). While watching TV, George spots a commercial for a new theme park called "Castleland" where every guest is "treated like royalty" and the man in the yellow hat tells George that if he's good, he'll arrange for a visit. So when, after the monkey mix-up, George ends up with the Simiana royal family, he isn't surprised that people start treating him like royalty. And he isn't at all naughty going off with this other family, because he thinks this is the visit that the man in the yellow hat had arranged. If you know the Prince and the Pauper then you might be thrown just a bit by the one-sidedness of the lessons learned here. George teaches the royal family to be less uptight, and the man in the yellow hat teaches Phillipe to be less uptight too. Was there a lesson for George to learn? If there was, our monkey friend missed it. Oh well. I guess that just means there'll have to be a Curious George 5. I'm looking forward to it. For a preview of the film's first ten minutes, check out the video below. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

2081: Everyone will finally be equal

Drama 2009 / 25 minutes RATING: 8/10 “The year is 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren’t only equal before God and the law you see; they were equal every which way. Nobody was smarter than anybody else. Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else…" In 2081 a “golden age of equality” has been ushered in by the “Handicapper General” whose job is to assess everyone’s abilities and, if they have any advantages, to then assigns them “handicaps” to take them away. In the film’s opening scene we meet George who, being a little stronger than most, is sunk down in his easy chair by the heavy weights he’s been assigned to sap his strength. He’s also outfitted with earphones that hit him with piercing sounds to make it impossible for him to use his higher than average IQ. Meanwhile, his wife Hazel sits comfortably on the couch, knitting. She hasn't been outfitted with any handicaps because she's been deemed to have no advantages. So they are equal. But is it an equality we want to have? Hazel and George are now just as fast, just as strong, and just as able to do math as one another. But this is an equality of the lowest common denominator. To bring this equality George's gifts had to be diminished until he was at Hazel's level. And for the government to bring about this type of equality, it had to treat them quite differently: Hazel is free, while George is in chains. Surely this isn't what we mean by equality, is it? There must be some other, better sort? While the film doesn't really direct us to the equality that is worth pursuing, the Bible does. In passages like Leviticus 19:15, Ex. 23:3, 1 Timothy 5:21, and James 2:8-9 we're pointed to a type of equality that involve treating all alike, not favoring the less advantaged over the rich, or the rich over the poor. Instead of endorsing 2081's equality of outcomes, God tells us to extend an equality of treatment. 2081 is so short I don't want to give any more of the plot away. But if you're looking for a great conversation starter, this is a fantastic film to watch and discuss, though be sure to do so with a Bible in hand. You can watch the trailer below, and to watch 2081 for free, follow this link (you do need to sign up to their email list, but they won't spam you, and you can always unsubscribe). Questions to consider In 2081 equality is said to have been achieved. But has it really? Are Hazel and George and Harrison equal to the Handicapper General? Can you think of any historical examples where governments brought a form of equality to the masses, that they didn't want to share in themselves? Does the Bible support an equality of outcomes or an equality of treatment (aka. an equality of opportunity)? See Leviticus 19:15, Ex. 23:3, 1 Timothy 5:21, and James 2:8-9. How is Hazel’s situation improved by George being handicapped? Why would she hate it if he removed his handicaps? How does Ex. 20:17 apply here? Is income inequality (2 Chronicles 1:12; Ex. 20:17) something that God calls on Christians to fight? Is poverty (Prov. 19:17)? What was Harrison Bergeron hoping to accomplish? If no one remembers his speech then did he die for anything? If we take an unsuccessful stand for what is right why could that still be worth doing? In what way is our measure of success different than that of the world's? In 2081 the government controls every aspect of people's lives. Why do governments grow? Who is it, that's asking them to do more? What are the dangers of governments that get too big? (1 Samuel 8:10-22) ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution, Watch for free

Scarred Earth (The Grand Canyon)

This half-hour video is divided into two parts. The opening 15-minute are an investigation into how the Grand Canyon was, and was not formed. Presenter Eric Hovind notes that while evolutionary explanations don't fit well with the facts, the evidence does line up with the biblical account: that this massive scar on the planet Earth had to have been formed during the events of the worldwide Flood described in Genesis 6-8. While the first half of the film will be interesting to both Christians and open-minded non-Christians, the second half of the film is aimed at specifically the unbeliever. It is a Gospel presentation where Hovind, in interviews done with visitors to the Grand Canyon, explains how we are all sinful and in need of a savior. He then shares how God has provided that Savior in Jesus Christ, who takes our deserved punishment on Himself. This approach – taking a topic as a leap off point to sharing the Gospel – is inspired by the work of Ray Comfort, who has done something similar with abortion, homosexuality, and even bananas. For a more in-depth look at the Grand Canyon from a 6-day creationist perspective, see Chapter 18 "When and How Did the Grand Canyon Form?" (which can be read for free here) from The New Answers Book 3: Over 35 Questions on Creation/Evolution and the Bible. One important point the chapter makes that doesn't come out in this video is that while a creationist explanation lines up well with the evidence, and better than a millions-of-years-timescale, that doesn't mean creationists have it all figured out. And since we don't want to overstate our case, it's important to acknowledge we have our own unanswered questions. To watch the video without signing up to Eric Hovind's email list, simply hit the "No thanks" button. But if you liked his 3D film Genesis: Paradise Lost (which we review here) you may want to pass along your name and email. Grand Canyon Movie from Creation Today on Vimeo....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

Illustrated lecture 49 or 85 min; 2015/2012 RATING: 7/10 While this is little more than a powerpoint lecture, it was, for years, among Answers In Genesis’s top-selling DVDs. Since then the original 1-hour lecture has been expanded, split into two lectures, and remains every bit as popular. Why? The strength of this presentation is in its subject matter: the beginnings of human life. A Christian looking at their newborn might call the child a “little miracle” but Dr. Menton reveals the insufficiency of this description. There isn’t just one miracle involved in the conception and birth of a child – numerous miracles are involved at every stage, even before conception occurs. Fearfully and Wonderfully Made isn’t specifically a pro-life presentation, but by outlining the miracle of life, Dr. David Menton makes clear the waste and destruction involved in abortion. We have every reason to praise God because we are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and wonderful are His works (Ps. 139:14)! I will note this is not going to excite children. This is a lecture and takes some concentration to follow. But any adult who gives it 15 minutes will want to stay for the rest of it, and will be sharing this link with all their friends! You can buy an extended, two-lecture version of this talk at AnswersInGenesis.org here either on DVD or via download. Answers in Genesis has also made the two lectures available for free viewing here. And you can watch a shorter 49-minute version of the talk below that Menton gave at the Lutherans for Life National Conference back in 2015. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Science - Creation/Evolution

Evolution's Achilles' Heels

Documentary 2014 / 96 minutes Rating: 10/10 I’ve watched this at least 5 times now, and many sections many more times than that. This is the best, most succinct, most content-dense, anti-evolution presentation I’ve ever seen. That said, my first go-through didn’t leave me all that impressed. I was watching it while doing some paperwork, not giving it my full attention, and what I saw just seemed to be a bunch of interviews, lots of talking heads. It didn’t seem all that interesting. But when I gave it another go and actually paid attention…. Whoah! What the folks at Creation Ministries International have done here is, in one hour-and-a-half presentation, boiled down all their very best arguments into the shortest possible form. That’s why I’ve watched it so many times already – I had to keep stopping, rewinding, and then listening to sections again because so much of what these interviewees say in just a sentence or two is something that others have written articles and even whole books on. For example, here’s a line from Dr. Donald Batten: “The survival of the fittest does not explain the arrival of the fittest.” At first listen, this struck me as a great turn of a phrase, and it certainly is. But let’s hit the pause button and just think about all that’s being said here in just this one line. Survival of the fittest (AKA natural selection) is supposed to explain how species adapt and change: those with advantageous mutations will prosper, while those without will eventually die off. But survival of the fittest is a selective process – it picks the best out of the group. How then, does it work before there is a group to pick the best and brightest from? Natural selection is a key mechanism for evolution, but it doesn’t offer any explanation for how animals come to be in the first place! This one, short, ever so quotable line, points out a gigantic problem with evolutionary theory! In addition to Dr. Batten, the documentary features 8 other PhD scientists, and together they highlight, as the title puts it, Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. They cover a wide range of problems, grouped under categories like the Fossil Record, Genetics, Natural Selection, Cosmology and Radiometric Dating. I really can’t praise it highly enough: from beginning to end this is brilliant, and as good an introduction to the problems with Evolutionary theory as you will ever find. If an evolutionist friend was willing to watch one video of my choosing, this is definitely the one I would pick. And if you like this video, be sure to track down the book of the same name which, while also concise, has the space to dig even deeper. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

Babies are murdered here

Documentary 2014 / 54 minutes Rating: 8/10 This must-see is first and foremost an encouragement for anyone sitting on the sidelines to get active and start saving the unborn. Where the film gets controversial is in the producers' argument that we must name the sin that is going on behind clinic doors. They want Christians to start using stark, clear terms, like "murder" and "murderer" to clearly and accurately identify these shameful deeds. As one commentator in the film explains early on: We want to go into these neighborhoods – if we go into these neighborhoods – and whisper and invite and plead. And what we need to be doing is shaming this behavior. We need to be showing people what's going on... Friends I've spoken to who are actively involved in pro-life activism have questioned whether using the word "murderer" will shame women, or simply make pro-lifers look hateful, condemning and graceless. That's a good question, and good reason to watch this film. The men and women we see witnessing are carrying large signs that read "Babies are Murdered Here" but there isn't a hint of self-righteousness about them. They are clear, and generally pretty winsome too; truth is being coupled with grace. I find their approach comparable to pro-lifers who make use of large graphic pictures and pair that with soft-spoken words. There are many other ways we can present the Truth, so we don't have to use the words "murderer" or "murderer." But the film makes a convincing case that we must not shy away from these words, or deny their accuracy. According to the conventional pro-life presentation, abortionists are murderers, and the mothers are victims. That's a lie we have to stop repeating. It's a lie that obscures the crime these women are setting out to do. As RC Sproul Jr. explains: It is, perhaps, the most heinous crime I can imagine. It is the most "against nature thing" I can imagine, for a woman who has been gifted by God and called by God to nurture and protect her children to instead turn around and murder that child. It is not just an ordinary murder. When we commit an ordinary murder the other person can fight back. When we commit an ordinary murder it's notthe very fruit of our own bodies. It is a wicked, wicked, vile thing and we need to say so... without diminishing the depth and the scope and the power of the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We need to be clear about the crime we hope to prevent. We want to save these mothers from becoming murderers. We want to save those who have already become murderers. This is why they need the Gospel. And this is why we need to be there sharing it with them. You can watch Babies are Murdered Here for free below or at BabiesAreMurderedHere.com. Since this film was released in 2014, one of the commentators interviewed, RC Sproul Jr., had to resign from his position at Ligonier Ministries, related to two public sins. However, the points he makes in the film stand on their own....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

180: from pro-choice to pro-life in minutes

Documentary 2011, 33 minutes Rating: 7/10 The trailer for 180 showed people being interviewed on the street declaring their support for “a woman’s right to choose.” But then each of these interactions was fast-forwarded – anywhere from 30 seconds to a few minutes - to the conclusion of the interview where each of these same people then declare they have changed their mind and are now pro-life. Wow! So what prompted this sudden and dramatic switch? In the 33-minute documentary interviewer Ray Comfort makes use of an illuminating comparison to the Holocaust and follows it up this clarifying question: “It’s okay to kill a baby in the womb when… ?” What Comfort is doing is confronting people with the incoherence of their own views. Though our culture is becoming more and more calloused to evil, most still don’t believe it is okay to kill human beings...and yet they make an exception in the case of abortion. When Comfort asks them to explain what circumstances make it permissible to kill a baby, each of his interviewees is brought short. They don't want to say we can kill a human being simply because they might grow up poor. Or because they are unwanted. Or because they are inconvenient. Their conscience convicts them with the knowledge that these are not good reasons to murder someone. By asking his pointed question Comfort makes them realize that they have never really thought through the issue of abortion before. The documentary does have some graphic content – specifically pictures of Holocaust victims, and aborted children – so it is not appropriate viewing for the very young. For the rest of us, this is a fantastic film that can inspire us to clarify the abortion issue for the many millions who are pro-choice only because they are confused. To date, it's been viewed by over 5 million. You can watch it below, or by visiting 180movie.com. In 2019 Comfort and his team released a sequel, 7 Reasons in which they address 7 of the more common justifications for abortion. You can also watch it for free, right here. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Riot and The Dance

Documentary 2018 / 83 minutes Rating: 8/10 Biologist Gordon Wilson is excited about God's creation, and it's catching! In The Riot and the Dance, Wilson explores locations both exotic and familiar, showing us how amazingly the Lord has made his creatures in his awesome world. Nature films are most often spoiled by the Darwinian approach of their makers; we're accustomed to using the "pause" button while we remind our children and ourselves that it's God who made all the beauty we are watching, not random chance. How refreshing to hear Scripture quoted, and God's creative hand praised, in these beautifully filmed scenes. Wilson starts in ponds near his home in the northwestern US, finding the familiar in water striders dancing across the water's surface, and the less familiar in giant water bugs. He pauses in Montana for bison, in Manitoba for a snake den, and in California for comical but dangerous elephant seals. He dives across gravel paths in the Sonoran desert of Mexico, catching snakes and lizards to bring their beauty right up to the camera, and ends his world tour in Sri Lanka, marveling at elephants and water buffalo. Wilson believes Christians can and should find out more about the Creator by exploring what he made. "If we wanted to study someone like Michelangelo, we would want to study all his works, his art. The way you get to know God, you study everything He wrote, and made, His living creation, His creatures. They are not only paintings but sculptures!" Wilson does not ignore the brokenness of creation: "Life is not a basket of kittens... and there's all this death, and predator-prey relationships, and parasite hosts. But even in the midst of a fallen creation, the glories of God are still very present. Man needs redemption, and so does creation." Thus he includes some brief moments of gore – as a water buffalo is devoured by warthog and other scavengers – though there are not a lot. There is much to commend in this beautiful film. Give this one a viewing; you'll find yourself ready to dive into that field or pond, eager to explore your own corner of God's handiwork. Americans with Amazon Prime will be able to watch this there. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

I can only imagine

Drama 2018 / 110 minutes Rating: 8/10 This is the life story of MercyMe singer Bart Millard, or, more specifically, it's the story of what drove him to write what might be the most popular Christian song of the modern era, I Can Only Imagine. It begins with 12-year-old Bart in 1985, listening to ELO tunes on his Sony Walkman, and crafting a cardboard Star Wars fighter helmet. He's a creative dreamer, but his home life is a nightmare. When he gets home that evening his father burns his helmet, and when Bart heads to bed early his Walkman only partially drowns out his parents' yelling. So is this a story about a man succeeding despite a difficult childhood? It's more than that. The focus isn't as much on Bart's transformation from troubled kid to successful singer, as it is about God transforming his abusive father. As Bart tells Amy Grant: "My dad was a monster. I mean that's the only word for it. And I saw God transform him from a man I hated into the man I wanted to become. Into my best friend....I guess I didn't realize God could do that. And so I wrote this song." That's the central story, and added in the mix is the sweet but certainly not simple story of Bart and his childhood sweetheart. Cautions Millard's father is abusive, both physically, which we mostly don't see, and verbally, which we do. While the violence takes place primarily off-screen there are a few brief moments that are scary because the viewer has no reason to presume they are going to be just brief. One example: Millard's father breaks a plate over his head. It's shocking; however, it doesn't escalate. There's nothing here that would scare an adult, but these early scenes of Millard's family life are one reason this film, despite its PG rating, is not appropriate for children. Another reason? Not only is Millard's father abusive, his mother abandons him. Abuse and abandonment aren't thoughts we want our children worrying about. Conclusion This is a remarkable film and a good part of it is J. Michael Finley, a good actor, and an absolutely fantastic singer whose version of I Can Only Imagine got me looking for the film's soundtrack. But every movie has a message, and it's the moral of this story that makes it so special. In Romans 8 the apostle Paul tells us that God works all things out for the good of those who love Him. But so often we have to take that on faith. When a loved one gets cancer, or we lose our job, we're left wondering, "How is God going to turn this to good?" In Millard's story we get a glimpse, almost a look behind the scenes, to see how God can do it and is doing it. We still don't know how He's going to work it all out in our own lives, but this glimpse helps us imagine. While the film is quite true to Millard's story, some dramatic license has been taken in the climactic singing scene. If, after watching the film, you want to know how it really happened, click here and here. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

Minuscule: Valley of the Lost Ants

Animated / Family 2014 / 89 minutes Rating: 7/10 In this utterly unique film, a lost ladybug teams up with a colony of black ants to fight off a horde of red ants who want their sugar stash. A couple of things set this film apart. First, it seamlessly meshes animation and gorgeous nature footage, with the overall look more like a Planet Earth episode than a kid's cartoon. Another unique element is the lack of dialogue – other than  20 seconds of scene-setting narration, no one speaks. Or, rather, when they speak, it is only in Antish and Ladybuguese (I had the English subtitles on, but shucks, no translation was provided). Our kids had to decipher the storyline from strictly physical cues which had them paying very close attention. It also meant that their Dad had to occasionally "narrate" the action to help them figure out what was going on. Cautions This is G-rated film, free of any language, sexuality, or violence concerns (there is a big battle scene but no injuries are shown, and the rest of the "violence" is of the slapstick variety). But while the action was muted compared to many an animated film, Miniscule's brilliant use of sound and music really amplifies the tension. If you have younger viewers – maybe 9 and under - you can help them through these sections by either turning down the sound (minimizing the music's impact) or, by doing what we did. While we were still early in the film, we ended up showing our girls the last ten minutes of the film so they could know that it all turned out alright. They still sometimes forgot so we'd have to remind them, but each reminder helped a lot. Their response reminded my wife of how when we as adults have our own tense moments, we're also comforted by knowing a happy ending awaits – that's one reason why God has "given away the ending." It might also help youngsters to know that the only actual bad guys in the film are the red ants and, briefly, a large fish. Any other seemingly villainous sorts turn out to be friends. Finally, the music also adds impact to the Ladybug's wistful recollections of his lost family. Early in the film, as a young bug, he gets separated from his parents and siblings, and in two brief recollections afterward our 6-year-old was in tears feeling bad for him. Conclusion This is film kids will appreciate for the story and mom and dad can enjoy for its beauty and the brilliant way it tells a story without words. I've spent a lot of space warning about how some particularly sensitive or very young children will find the tension troubling, but overall this is quite the gentle movie. Our family really enjoyed it, even with the tense moments. Americans who subscribe to Amazon Prime can watch it for free. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Sexuality, Watch for free

How do you like me now? When a child, parent, spouse, or sibling says they're gay

Documentary 2016 / 88 minutes RATING: 7/10 The powerful, aggressive, LGBTQ lobby has been very successful in its efforts to normalize the homosexual lifestyle in our society. In our Reformed circles we read and hear about these efforts, but for most of us homosexuality is still an issue “out there,” that’s not all that relevant to us or anyone we know. We associate the gay lifestyle with gay bars and the many annual pride parades that take place around the country. So we know, for example, that the city of Toronto hosts one of the largest gay pride parades in the world, and that on a day in early July it is best to avoid the downtown core of Toronto if you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of what’s happening there. That’s easily done, which is why, for most of us, homosexuality is far removed from our daily lives. We’d also like to keep it that way, preferring to avoid the confrontation. This avoidance approach can work for a time…right up until your child, or one of your siblings, or a parent, or a close friend comes to you and says, “I’m gay.” What he’s been going through All of a sudden your world changes. Now homosexuality is right here – in your face, in your life. You can’t avoid this issue any longer. What do you say? How do you react? What do you actually know about this? It’s all very confusing. You love this person deeply, but how do you deal with this? One of the problems that can easily frustrate the conversation is that this is an all-of-a-sudden experience for you. The same is not true for the other person. By the time he1 is ready to tell you “I’m gay,” he has already struggled with many conflicting emotions and questions, and has come to some answers for himself. But you are just at the very beginning of this process. If this is someone from our Reformed churches, then it is likely he has quietly wrestled with same-sex attraction for quite a while already, feeling desperately confused and insecure. He will have tried to ignore or deny the feelings he knows he is not supposed to give in to, and tried to resist attractions he does not want to have. It is such a lonely journey. The fear of rejection is strong. He may think he knows how his family, his friends and the church community are going to respond, because he’s heard the casually disparaging remarks they’ve sometimes made about homosexuals. How to begin When he’s ready to share the outcome of his struggle, he may well follow his declaration with a question: “How do you like me now?” But this is just one of the questions running through your head. There are so many unknowns, and you want to know more. Where can you search for answers? Which books? What articles? And who can you talk to about this? Are there others in our churches who have gone through this before? Or are you the only ones? Your child (or sibling, or parent, or friend) has already gone through his struggles, and he may already be settled in his thinking. He might tell you, “I am finally ready to accept myself as I am.” He has come to conclusions that he is (more or less) okay with: “I am gay. This is who I am. I know what you think and feel, but I expect you to accept this.” That is a rough conversation starter. How should you respond? The worst thing you can say at that moment is something like, “Oh, don’t worry too much, dear. We can fix this. We will find you a good Christian counsellor who can help you to get out of this.” Don’t worry? This approach isn’t comforting, but dismissive – he has been worrying about these confusing emotions for years now! Start the conversation this way and it may end quickly – “You just don’t get it, mom.” A better beginning would be to give him a big hug. Hold him tight, tell him you love him, and that you will always love him. Yes – you will have to make clear that you do not agree with his sinful choices. But there is a time for everything, and right then and there, it is a time for long, tight hugs. Homosexuality is a temptation in the Church too It will never be easy when a person you love dearly tells you, “I am gay.” But I’m convinced that in the Church we are well past the time that we can comfortably ignore this topic, or think that a one-line wholesale condemnation is enough. The LGBTQ community has become mainstream in virtually all aspects of our culture. It’s everywhere today – in arts and entertainment, politics, sports, education, business, commercials, the media2 and even in some churches. This prominent visibility all around us is going to have an impact on us as well, on our families, and our young people. And those who struggle with same-sex attraction will feel the pressure from this permissive culture more and more, and at an ever younger age. So there is an urgent need to talk with one another about homosexuality. How can we help each other? How can we educate ourselves to have those conversations? We could go to Google. Type in some keywords and do a search: it's easy enough. But, without any guidance, this is not the most helpful way, and can easily leave you overwhelmed and confused. It is too much for this review article to analyze relevant Bible passages, like Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:21-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-11. Though many do dispute it, it really is beyond dispute that nowhere in the Bible is anything positive to said about same-sex relations.3 But how exactly can we explain to our son or daughter that, while we disapprove of their choices, we continue to love them? And, how do we then put our words into practice? A great resource One good source for answers to these questions can be found with the documentary How Do You Like Me Now? The subtitle introduces the content: “When a child, parent, spouse or sibling says they’re gay.” This film includes a number of interviews with parents, spouses, siblings, and children of someone who has declared themselves gay. The cover of the DVD says that Joe Dallas leads the discussion. But this is not a “discussion” in the sense of a debate, and I think that is a good thing. A debate would distract from the impact of the testimonies of the interviewees. Dallas does act as discussion leader in the background. He appears between the interviews and provides the connecting lines as he summarizes and comments on what is being said in each interview. Some might wonder about the lack of any homosexuals being interviewed – wouldn’t it be good to hear from them about their struggles, and about their experiences with their families and their church communities? Yes, we do need to hear their voices too. It is crucial that we listen to them in our families and our churches, and that we do so carefully and lovingly. Thankfully there is also material out there that can help us to do so.4 But here the focus is on the family and friends who are impacted when someone says, “I am gay.” It is good and helpful for us to hear about the role of their Christian faith as these parents, and others, struggle to come to grips with the homosexuality of a loved one. If you have gone through this yourself, you will be able to relate to the experiences and emotions these parents, siblings, spouses and children are sharing: the initial shock, the confusion and pain, and often the utter helplessness or even the tendency to blame oneself: What did I miss? Did we do something wrong?’ The documentary's purpose is to help friends and family find a way forward. As someone said, “I wish we would have had the opportunity to watch this earlier, before we had our own struggles with one of our children.” Now, when you interview a significant number of people you are going to get a variety of responses. Reactions are, of course, very personal. This means different viewers will find different interviews stronger and more compelling than others. That only makes sense. And it certainly doesn’t take away from the value of watching this. On the contrary! What connects these testimonies is that they come from the hearts of people who have struggled to understand their straying loved one. This leads to some moving moments, which is understandable when you are asked to talk about someone who is so close to you and whom you love so deeply. A father or mother, a brother or sister, a husband or wife, a son or daughter will all have their own, unique relationship with the person who comes out as gay or lesbian. And thus each one will seek the best way to deal with this in his or her life. But though they all have very different things to say, all express their enduring love for their same-sex attracted family member or friend. No false guarantees A few of the interviewees suggest that there must be a link between the homosexuality of their loved one and traumatic experiences in his youth, like sexual abuse or growing up in a dysfunctional family. But this suggestion does not dominate the conversation, and it is not the message of the film. I am grateful for this, because I believe we should be careful here. Perhaps traumatic childhood experiences may have led some to feel same-sex attraction and self-identify as gay or lesbian. But it is not a given. And one can definitely not turn it around and conclude that every gay or lesbian must have had a horrible youth. We should keep something similar in mind when it comes to the view that proper counseling and professional therapy can change someone’s sexual orientation. Joe Dallas, the discussion leader in the background, whose comments connect the interviews, is actively involved in what is called “reparative therapy” or Christian “conversion therapy.” He is also the author of a number of books on this topic. But again – although there are hints – this opinion does not dominate the discourse at all, and it is definitely not the message of the documentary. And here, too, I am grateful for this because I believe we should be careful here. Is it possible for someone’s same-sex attraction to completely change and disappear? Yes, it has happened. Can proper counseling and professional therapy help to bring about change? Possibly. God’s children know that God can work miracles – He can do things we do not expect or find hard to imagine. But there are also reports that “reparative therapy” is often ineffective. Despite much counseling, and intense prayer, many Christians do not feel any lessening in their same-sex attraction. Several of the people that are interviewed emphasize how important it is to repent from sinful and harmful choices, and to turn to Jesus Christ. However, such repentance does not come with a promise or guarantee that feelings of same-sex attraction will then disappear. That’s why I appreciate that the film does not really get involved in this discussion. The most important thing Much more important than a change in sexual attraction is a turning to Jesus Christ as Saviour, so that our true identity is more and more in Him alone. Then it is no longer my sexuality, or whatever else, that determines my self-identification. Then Jesus Christ alone rules my life. He determines who I am, what my priorities are, and what my choices ought to be. He determines what I am to do with my life, which includes my sexual life. This is true not only for the homosexual but also for the heterosexual. It is true for each and every one of us. One of the best parts of the DVD is a special feature: an interview with Stephen Arterburn. Arterburn is the founder of New Life Ministries, a host of counseling talk shows on radio and TV, a public speaker, and the author of a number of books on (among other topics) sexual issues, such as Every Man’s Battle. In the interview on this DVD he shares the story of his brother, who lived the gay lifestyle. At some point Stephen says to him, “I don’t agree with what you do, but I love you without judging who you are.” This is basically the whole message of this DVD in one sentence: reject someone’s choice for the homosexual lifestyle, but make it very clear that you do not deny the way he feels, or the same-sex attraction he experiences, and that these things do not stop you from loving him. Later on his brother turned to Christ and broke with the gay life. But this repentance did not change his brother’s homosexual feelings. He continued to struggle with same-sex attraction, but regretted the bad choices he made, and now wants to warn others about the destructive consequences of living the gay life. Conclusion To sum it all up, in these interviews we meet a good number of people. They are all different, of course, and so are their circumstances. That’s why you can expect that some viewers will relate more to one person or one scenario than to another. This also means that you will not get answers to all the questions you may be struggling with. But that should not stop anyone. The whole DVD is worth watching for everyone. And don’t hesitate to include your young teens. It may make a good conversation starter between you and your 10 or 12 years old. You might think that he is too young for this. But remember: the LGBTQ groups don’t think he is too young for their propaganda! I recommend this film and DVD as a helpful tool for those who are having their own struggles with a child, a sibling, a spouse or a parent who has come out to tell that she is a lesbian. Actually… I hope that it will also end up in the hands of people, also young people, who have not (or not yet….) experienced the issues this documentary deals with. Watch it before you are confronted with this in your own family, or among your friends, or in your church. For one day you probably will be. You can order the DVD at Christianbooks.com here. End notes 1 Throughout this article I will use the pronoun “he” in place of “he or she.” It makes for tiresome reading to see constantly he/she or herself/himself. But it is good to remember that this issue affect males and females alike. 2 Recently a Reformed Christian was elected as MPP for the Conservatives in Ontario. When the journalists came out, one would expect them to ask this rookie MPP a range of questions to find out where he stands on the political issues of the day. However, never mind the great variety of topics parliamentarians are supposed to be busy with, the most important question was apparently: “Do you believe that homosexuality is a sin?” It was asked time and again, and made all the newspaper headlines. 3 For reliable study material about homosexuality and the Bible, see the website of Dr. Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of NT at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, www.robgagnon.net. See also: DeYoung, Kevin, What does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality, Wheaton. Illinois: Crossway, 2015. 4 Recommended reading: Butterfield, Rosaria Champagne, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Pittsburgh, Pa: Crown & Covenant Publications, 2012, and Hill, Wesley, Washed and Waiting, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Rev. Jan DeGelder is the minister emeritus for the Flamborough Canadian Reformed Church. This review first appeared in 2017....

Drama, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Audacity: Love can't stay silent

Drama 50 minutes / 2015 Rating: 8/10 I once thought that the main flaw with so many Christian movies was that they were sermons disguised as dramas. I’ve recently realized that the actual problem wasn’t that they were sermons but that they were bad sermons… and paired with bad acting and worse writing. In Audacity Executive Producer Ray Comfort has done something different. This is still a message movie – it’s for Christians about why we need to, and how we can, spread the Gospel to homosexuals – but it's one in which pretty good writing and adequate acting have been paired with an absolutely fantastic sermon. The end result is something every Christian needs to see. The story begins in a typical office setting. When attractive Diana aggressively challenges bike messenger Peter to defend his biblical beliefs about gay marriage he heads to the Internet to do research. How can he present the truth winsomely? Fortunately, Peter finds YouTube videos from street evangelist Ray Comfort in which homosexuals are interviewed and challenged, and yet seem to appreciate the exchange. How does Comfort pull it off? By focusing on what we all – heterosexual and homosexual – have in common: our sinful tendency towards sexual lust. Just that quick, Comfort shows that the tendencies we are born with can’t be our guide to what is right or wrong. His is an inclusive approach. He doesn’t approach homosexuals as someone above or better than them, but rather as someone in a similar situation, also in need of a Savior. And he explains that because he believes the Bible to be true, if he loves his homosexual neighbors then he has to speak up. In total Comfort’s witnessing videos amount to about 15 minutes in this 50-minute production, but they are the crux around which the whole film revolves. In the dramatic sections we get to see how “everyman” Peter ends up putting into practice what he has learned. It’s believable enough that most viewers will be able to imagine themselves in Peter’s shoes and learn right along with him what it means to speak the truth in love. We can’t stay silent. We need to share what Jesus has done for us, and what he can do for homosexuals too. To learn how to do it well, consider gathering a few friends together to watch and discuss Audacity. It’s available for free viewing online at www.audacitymovie.com (and the DVD can be had for $5 there) or you can click on the video below. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Long Goodbye: The Kara Tippetts Story

Documentary 88 min / 2019 Rating: 10/10 "I feel like I'm a little girl at a party whose Dad is asking her to leave early, And I'm throwing a fit. I'm not afraid of dying. I just don't want to go." – Kara Tippetts ***** Kara Tippetts started Mundane Faithfulness intending it to be a "mommy blog" that would encourage moms to just love their littles and be there every day for them. But it became something very different when the young mother of four and pastor's wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The blog went viral as Kara, bluntly and beautifully, explained her treatments, shared her doubts, and showed how their family was trying to treasure every moment. In posts that were read by tens of thousands, she explained: "I want to be able to share this story that suffering isn't a mistake, and it isn't the absence of God's goodness...because He's present in pain." In Psalm 90 the psalmist pleas with the Lord, "teach us to number our days" (Ps. 90:12) and with her diagnosis, Kara was confronted with a truth the rest of us most often evade: that our days are numbered. She showed us what we should all do: find joy in the moments where they can be found. "Cancer was this gift that exposed to us what is important and what is valuable. Parenting with kindness. Loving your husband. Living well." Then, over the course of the next two years as it became increasingly clear that a cure wasn't likely, Kara showed the world what it looks like to die to God's glory. I gave this the highest rating I could because everyone should see it, and would be greatly benefited by it. Not only will Kara's story remind us to number our days, she teaches us to really think through what our purpose is. The only caution I would offer is that I can't quite imagine what sort of viewing party would work best, as there are just so many scenes here that will have everyone bawling. It's the mix of brokenness, beauty, truth, and God's goodness that'll ensure no one in the room has a dry eye, so if you don't like bawling in public, you won't want to watch this with friends. But you do want to watch it with friends because it will prompt some fantastic discussions about what really matters. So maybe the best approach is to gather a group, turn the lights down low, distribute Kleenex boxes generously, and know that your tear-stained face won't stand out from anyone else's in the group. "The Long Goodbye" can be purchased on DVD or streamed online for a few bucks at innumerable places around the Internet. Kara has also written a The Hardest Peace which I review here. After you've seen the film, you may want to check out this speech by Nate Wilson that makes the same points Kara does, but from a very different direction. Jon Dykstra also blogs on films at ReelConservative.com. ...

Drama, Movie Reviews

Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Drama / Christian 98 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand's 2010best-selling biography of Louis Zamperini was so good two movies have been based on it. The 2014 adaptation was a major motion picture that made more than $100 million. It was titled, simply, Unbroken. It focused on Zamperini's World War II heroics, and his career as an Olympian. That film shared how he survived getting shot down, and how he spent 47 days on a raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean only to be rescued by the Japanese. They then imprisoned him in a camp staffed by sadistic guards who tortured him for the rest of the war. What was missing from this Hollywood production was Zamperini's conversion, which gets only a passing mention right as the credits roll. Director Angelina Jolie didn't see it as a significant part of his life. But for Christians who've read his biography, Zamperini's conversion is the obvious climax to his story. The Hollywood production was only half the story, with the best part still untold. In Unbroken: Path to Redemption we get that second half. While this is a sequel of sorts, picking up where the other left off, it stands up well on its own too. The focus here is on what happened after the war when Zamperini returned home, got married, and had to wrestle with nightmares, despair, unemployment, marital troubles, and alcohol addiction. Maybe this is why the first film stopped where it did: Hollywood didn't know what to do with an unbreakable man who gets shattered. But this Christian production does. While the special effects aren't at the level of a major motion picture, the acting is very good. And what makes this the superior adaptation is that it gives God his due. How was Louis able to survive it all? Only because God was there, every step of the way, protecting, pursuing, and forgiving. Some Christian critics have noted Path to Redemption doesn't go far enough into Zamperini's brokenness and as a result, mutes some of what God does for him. That's a fair critique, and I think some of my appreciation for this film is because, having read the book, I was already fully aware of that aspect. So this might be a better film when viewed as a follow-up to the book, rather than as a replacement for it. CAUTIONS There are a few cautions to share. First, Louis has some nightmares about his Japanese torturer. While these scenes aren't gory, they are intense and would scare children under 10 (and maybe some over 10). During another nightmare, Louis imagines that in his sleep he's mistaken his wife for a prison guard and has been choking her. It's all just a dream, but we get a glimpse of it. Also, one scene takes place on the beach with everyone in beach attire, but these are 1940s era bathing suits, so it isn't risqué. Finally, if you're watching this with teens, you might want to mention that this is not a how-to on dating, as it shows a good Christian lass letting herself be unequally yoked to the lapsed Catholic Louis. CONCLUSION This is the film we wanted to see in the first place, telling the full story of the broken man made whole. If you enjoyed the book you'll love this film. And if you saw the Hollywood production then you really need to watch Path to Redemption to get the rest of the story. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Pursuit

Documentary 77 minutes / 2019 RATING: 7/10 "From 1970 until today the percentage of people living at starvations door has decreased by 80%. Two billion people have been pulled out of starvation-level poverty. What did that!?! What did that? That was my vision quest, to figure out what did that." – Arthur Brooks The Pursuit is the story of one man's search for the best way to lift the world's poorest out of their poverty. And what the former French-horn player and current globe-trotting economics professor Arthur Brooks discovered is that it's the free market that did this, that lifted literally billions out of extreme poverty. Brooks makes for an interesting guide for this journey. In passing he identifies himself as a Catholic only to, moments later, start sharing Buddhist wisdom. He takes us to the words of the Apostle Paul, but soon after takes us to the home of the Dali Lama. So why would a Buddhist/Catholic former French horn player make a good guide for Christians interested in learning about economics, and the benefits of the free market? It's because, as much as he might differ from us in big ways and small, his case for free trade is built on principles that line right up with Scripture. He doesn't quote it, but his foundation is the Second Greatest Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40) – Brooks is clearly motivated by a love for his neighbor. That same command is often used as a justification for socialism – if we care for our neighbor, why wouldn't we use the State's taxing power to help the poor? But Brooks responds with a very practical, Prov. 27:14 type, counter-argument: good intentions are not enough. He does that by taking us to a coal mining town in America, where the mine has been shut down, to show that however well-intentioned the socialist government programs might be, they don't help in the long run. He also takes us to the slums of India to visit some of the world's poorest. The desperately poor still remain, but Hindol Sengupta, editor-at-large for Fortune India, estimates that if not for market reforms initiated in India three decades ago, 300 million more Indians would still be impoverished. Socialism didn't help – this improvement came about by allowing people the freedom to make choices, sell their own labor and goods, and make the most of whatever (even if they were limited) opportunities that might come their way. This came about via capitalism's free markets and free enterprise, not socialism's compulsion and restriction. So Brook's argument is simple then: if we believe good results are more important than good intentions, we should support the economic system that actually helps the poor. And that's capitalism. ONE CAUTION I'd highly recommend The Pursuit, but it does require a little discernment on Christians' part. We need to remember that despite Brooks quoting Scripture – sometimes quite insightfully – his is not a strictly biblical perspective. So, for example, he makes this good point in citing 1 Tim 6:10: " putting yourself always ahead of other people. I often reflect on the verse in the New Testament that's most often misquoted: 'Money is the root of all evil.' "That's a misquote of the Apostle Paul. Here's the real Scripture: "For the love of money is the root of all evil." This really illuminates the problem of materialism. It's the not the  existence of material things. It's not the abundance around us. That's great! The problem is, not the money, it's the love of money. It's not the stuff. The stuff isn't the problem. It is the attachment to the stuff." This is an important point, but it goes askew when Brooks immediately pairs it with the Buddhist philosophy of detachment. Buddhists are right that money makes for a lousy idol and can't possibly satisfy us, but the answer isn't simply detachment. The proper corrective to false worship isn't merely to stop it; we need to start worshipping the one true God. This is where the film falls short. It is excellent in highlighting problems with socialism, and envy, and covetousness, and hard-heartedness. And The Pursuit even directs us to an economic system that will help many materially. But when it comes to what matters most – Who do you serve? – Brooks is stuck on the Second Greatest Commandment and doesn't bring us to the First: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:35-40). CONCLUSION At a time when 4 in 10 Americans believe socialism is a good thing, and many Christians think it the compassionate approach, there is a need for a film like this, that makes the very practical case against socialism that it isn't actually caring because it doesn't actually work. That message and a charming host make The Pursuit both an important film and a pleasure to watch. The Pursuit is playing in limited engagements across North America (to find locations check here) and can also be rented via the iTunes stores here. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

How to Answer the Fool

85 min / 2013 RATING 8/10 Some Christians will try to provide atheists with reasons for why they should believe in the Bible, and for why they should believe in God. In How To Answer The Fool, Sye Ten Bruggencate teaches us to skip past this, to start with the Bible, and to instead present to the unbeliever the fact that it is only by acknowledging God, and the Bible as his Word, that the world makes any sense. Or to borrow from a C.S. Lewis analogy In Weight of Glory, this is believing in the Bible for the same sort of reason we believe in the Sun. It's not because we see it but because by it we can see everything else. This beginning-with-the-Bible defense of our faith is called “presuppositional apologetics.” Presuppositions are the things we assume as true at the beginning of an argument. Both Christians and atheists have presuppositions, but the point Ten Bruggencate makes in this film is that only ours make sense. He focuses on the issue of reason here, showing that while atheists will assume the existence of reason and logic (it is one of their presuppositions) they really have no basis in their worldview to believe in their reasoning – why would we expect a randomly generated universe be a rational one, and why would we assume that any beings in such a universe would be rational, and their logic trustworthy? He makes his case so well that the university students he's interacting with give up on reason, and start to argue that they actually know nothing. That's a logical enough conclusion based on the atheist/evolutionary worldview they continue to cling to, but even they get how comical it is to hear a person paying thousands of dollars a year to attend an institute of higher learning deny that they can know or learn anything. Eye-opening scenes like this one make this a must-see film for absolutely every Christian. And, thankfully, you can do so for free! Fool vs. Collision There is another notable presuppositional apologetics film, made just a few years before Fool, and it's worth comparing the two. Both are fantastic, but they each have their particular strengths. In Collision, Pastor Douglas Wilson takes on atheist Christopher Hitchens, and rather than reason, Wilson focuses his attention on the atheist's inability to account for morality. In taking on one of the biggest, baddest atheists of our time, and doing so with a smile and a wink, Wilson demonstrates apologetics at its most winsome. That winsomeness, if not altogether missing in How to Answer the Fool, is at least in shorter supply. That said, How to Answer the Fool is the more instructive film, because it explains for the viewer the philosophy, or the underpinnings, of presuppositional apologetics – it gives us more insight into the why behind how Sye is guiding conversations. Conclusion So watch the Fool to figure out what presuppositional apologetics is all about, and then follow-up with Collision to see it winsomely demonstrated....

Drama, Movie Reviews

Gosnell: the trial of America's biggest serial killer

Drama 2018 / 93 minutes RATING: 8/10 "Are you going to be the first prosecutor in American history to charge an abortion doctor with murder?" **** There are some great lines in Gosnell. But it was a film I almost didn't watch. I knew it was the true-life story of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortionist who in 2013 was convicted of killing three babies after they were born. I'd thought it an important story to get out into the public eye, so a few years ago I'd been one of the 30,000 who'd contributed more than $2 million to its Indiegogo campaign. But now, with the DVD in hand, I found myself thinking, "I'm already pro-life so do I really need to sit through a 90-minute film detailing the horrors of abortion?" I'm glad I did, for two reasons. First, the film wasn't the unrelentingly depressing drama I had expected. This felt more like a Law and Order episode, with a mystery that needs solving, and dedicated men and women trying to deliver whatever justice they can. There were some talented people involved in the production, from director Nick Pearcey, who also stars as the defense attorney, to the Daily Wire's Andrew Klaven who had a hand in writing the script. There's no clear star in this ensemble cast, but it might be Dean Cain (Lois and Clark) who is his regular personable self in the role of Detective James Wood, the man who first uncovered what was going on behind the closed doors of Gosnell's clinic. Second, the film is a much better pro-life tool than I ever expected. Gosnell killed thousands so this could have been as hard to watch as Schindler's List (Schindler is in everyone's top 100 list, but has anyone watched it twice?). But by hiding almost all of the gore, and by keeping a quick pace, not lingering in the clinic too long, audiences aren't confronted with the full horror of what Dr. Gosnell did. That makes this a film that can be shared with the undecided; if they can handle network TV, then there's nothing here that'll be too graphic for them. Now, there is a method behind the muted visuals. A gory film would have undecideds walking out or staying away. But the producers didn't intend to pull any punches – they've just been clever enough to lay out their argument in a way that'll be the most likely to reach and sway their intended audience. When Gosnell was being tried, both the prosecutor and the mainstream media emphasized that the case wasn’t about abortion – this was about the murder of already born babies. But in his defense, Gosnell’s attorney shows that what Gosnell did to these babies after birth was not significantly different from what other abortionists were – with the law’s blessing – doing to babies before birth. His reasoning was sound, even if it wasn't enough to get his client off. And seeing an abortion defender make the case that killing an unborn baby differs not a whit from killing a newborn baby is an argument that is sure to hit viewers right between the eyes. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Irreplaceable – What is family?

Documentary 104 min / 2015 RATING: 8/10 Everyone knows something is wrong with the family these days. But what? For this Focus on the Family production, Tim Sisarich traveled all over the world to answer this question. He spoke to experts, interviewed prisoners, ordinary parents, and many others, and shared his own story as he searched for an answer. Irreplaceable, the resulting documentary, starts with the basic question, “What is family?” From Eric Metaxas to Nancy Pearcey, from John Stonestreet to Michael Medved, respected experts are given the floor. They discuss: the importance of family from ancient Greek times to today the hollowness and pressures of the hook-up culture the good news about marriage, and how hope and a few simple tools can transform bad marriages, the importance of parenthood, how children are treated as objects and commodities worldwide and the incalculable influence of fathers Speaking of fathers, it turns out that there is a common denominator among troubled youth. Most high school dropouts, pregnant teen moms, homeless children, youth suicides, and youth in prison come from fatherless homes. At this point in the film, Tim Sisarich stops focusing on experts and turn to stories, his own first of all, and then those of others. Sisarich, himself a father of five, speaks sadly of seeing so very many disturbing examples of fatherhood that his only response was to say, “I don’t know where to put that.” But he keeps on searching for answers, speaking to convicts, to parents of a Down’s syndrome child, to a foster parent of many, and to those who have been prodigals. Irreplaceable is both fact-filled and compelling, with a straightforward moral to this story: if we devalue sex, we will devalue marriage, and if we devalue marriage we will devalue the role of parents, and if we devalue the parenting role, we will devalue children. It is easy to look at the world and see the devastation such attitudes have caused. As we watch the movie, however, we realize that there is no call to point fingers at others; we, too, fall far short of God’s plan for our families and ourselves. In realizing this we, with Sisarich, can turn to our heavenly Father, remembering the gospel. He will certainly forgive us when we return to Him, whether we have sinned like the prodigal son in going astray, or sinned in not showing love and forgiveness to those who have sinned against us. Anyone interested in understanding the family, our culture, and how to make an impact will appreciate this documentary and the accompanying panel discussion. For example, the panel discussion points out how lost most people feel. There is a huge opportunity, we are told, for the church to work out, practically, what it means to love God, each other, and society so that people will say, “Ah, they really care about me! Can I have some of that?” There is one noteworthy caution: because of the subject matter and some images in the section on the hookup culture, Irreplaceable is recommended for age 15 and older. Although there are a few uncomfortable viewing moments, it is good for adults to understand what today’s young people are up against and for young people to realize, from research as well as God’s Word, how hollow an ungodly lifestyle really feels. There are other DVDs that share this name, so the best way to find may be to search for “Focus on the Family Irreplaceable.” Annie Kate Aarnouste reviews many other movies, and books, and homeschool curriculum options, at her blog Tea Time with Annie Kate. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

I Survived "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"

Documentary 78 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Aug 3, 2019 UPDATE: This past month Josh Harris used his Instagram account to announce he was rejecting God, separating from his wife, and endorsing the LGBTQ+ lifestyle. The review below is of a documentary he made last year, while still a professing Christian, in which he took a critical look at the book that first made him famous, "I Kissed Dating Goodbye." While the film's director, Jessica Van Der Wyngaard, is also critical of his book, she is worried that, in light of Harris's apostasy, Christians will now think it dangerous or wrong to ask hard questions, lest doing so lead to the same sort of turning away from God. But as she shared in an email sent to the film's many Kickstarter backers: "This wasn’t the case for me, the rest of the crew, the film's interviewees, or numerous people we spoke to for 'I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye.' It is possible to ask hard questions about sexuality, relationships, God’s morality, church culture, marriage, and not lead to the same conclusion as Josh." So, even as the principal figure is now working actively against God, this documentary remains a useful and helpful resource. ***** Twenty-one years ago the then 21-year-old Joshua Harris struck a nerve with his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. It was written for Christian young people by a Christian young person, on a topic that every young person was interested in – how to find that special someone. It sold more than 1.2 million copies and was a big part of a purity movement within the Church that helped shape the way a generation of Christians thought about sex, dating, and looking for a spouse. Fast forward to today, and in a just-released documentary the now 42-year-old author revisits his book and meets Christians who were impacted by it, for good, but also for ill. With a title like I Survived "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" it's no surprise that the documentary presents a rather negative overall assessment of the book. Early on Harris's wife Shannon puts it this way: I think it was a good book, and a well-intentioned book...well, I don't know that I can say it was a good book. But it was a well-intentioned book. So why watch a documentary about a seemingly-not-so-good 20-year-old book? Because the film is about much more than a single book. It tackles the Purity Movement overall, and more specifically, what it got wrong. Of course, the Purity Movement got a lot right – hey, they want young people to abstain from sex until marriage, and that's even in the Bible! But it's because the Purity Movement seems so obviously good, that the unveiling of their errors is so instructive. As Spurgeon once noted, discernment isn't the ability to tell right from wrong, but rather to tell right from almost right. The Purity Movement is almost right – if we weren't worried about grammar Nazis we might say they are so very, nearly, almost right. So if we can learn to spot their mistakes, then we'll be able to apply that lesson to most any other well-intentioned, but similarly misguided Christian movement. THE BOOK AND HOW IT'S MISREMEMBERED While I love the documentary, my one big criticism would be that it isn't fair to the book. If you just watched the documentary and hadn't ever read I Kissed Dating Goodbye you would think it was completely against dating, and all about courtship. But after rereading it this week I would describe it as a strong condemnation of dating as it was commonly being done in the Church. Harris was against the recreational dating that had guys and girls paired up quickly, intensely, and most often briefly, with the focus on pleasure or prestige, and no thought spent on how to honor God through dating. He was cautioning against teenagers experiencing too much too soon: too much physical intimacy, too much emotional intimacy, paired with too much immaturity – selfish and uncommitted kids pressuring each other to go further and further. Harris was speaking against turning girlfriends and boyfriends and dating and sex into idols that push God out of His proper place as first and foremost in our hearts. But in taking a stand against an Archie Andrews-type of dating, was Harris pushing the courtship model? Well, there's courtship and then there's courtship. Under one definition, courtship would require a man to first ask a woman's father before he could take her out on a first date. But a broader definition would define courtship as dating done with the specific intent of seeking a marriage partner – dating that isn't done just for fun – and conducted with some level of parental involvement/supervision. In I Kissed Dating Goodbye Harris does encourage more parental involvement, and also intentional, marriage-focussed dating. But the book spends far more space highlighting all that's wrong with modern dating than it spends prescribing a cure. And when it does come to presenting the alternative, Harris is more about general and often clearly biblical principles, than any specific outworking of those principles. He argues at one point: The Bible doesn't provide a one-size-fits-all program for moving from friendship to marriage. Our lives are too different, our circumstances too unique, and our God too creative to have only one formula for romance. While a lot of what he says does align with a courtship model, Harris simply wasn't pushing that model as hard as his critics in the documentary make it seem. THE PURITY MOVEMENT'S FALSE GODS In the documentary, the book serves as the leap-off point for a look at the Purity Movement. It turns out it wasn't just reckless, immature kids who were turning sex into an idol. Strangely enough, the Purity Movement was doing it too. I Survived "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" begins with Harris traveling to Washington DC, where he recalls a 1994 conference he attended there with 25,000 other young Christians. A part of the conference was a "True Love Waits" rally. With rubber mallets in hand, young people staked more than 200,000 True Love Waits commitment cards into the lawn of the Washington Mall. These commitment cards read: Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship. As good as that sounds, there's a hint here of the Purity Movement's big mistake. It comes down to one question: Who, or what, is the god here? Calvin noted it is in man's nature to perpetually be manufacturing one new idol after another – we continually put this god and that in God's place. So in this pledge who or what is the "god"? Is it God? No. He's only one of several this commitment is being made to. But this commitment is being made in service to a very specific desired outcome: the securing of true love. That's the "god" here. In a conversation with Christine Gardner, author of Making Chastity Sexy, Harris discusses how the Purity Movement sold abstinence, not so much as a way to please God, but as the way to secure the very best sort of sex. There's truth to what they were saying: studies have shown that on average married people enjoy sex more than sexually active unmarried people - married sex is best. But while "great married sex" can be a reason to stay abstinent, there's a problem when it becomes the reason. The Purity Movement lost its way when it started placing something – even fantastic married sex – ahead of God. FALSE GODS AND FALSE GUILT In setting up a variety of false gods, the Purity Movement also caused people a lot of false guilt. As my wife put it, false guilt happens when we sin against, not God, but the idols we've made. These idols of our own making are often entirely unforgiving. Consider the idol some have made out of maintaining their virginity. Serving this god, they've been told, is the way they can secure the spouse of their dreams (false gods always offer some version of the prosperity doctrine – serve your god in just the way it asks, and you can force it to give you just what you ask). But what of the boy or girl who has lost their virginity? What offering can be given, what forgiveness can be had from this god? You can't become a virgin again. No wonder then, that the followers of this god feel unrelenting guilt – where no forgiveness can be had, guilt remains. Isn't it amazing that we keep setting up these false gods? They bring us only misery and guilt, while the one true God offers us real forgiveness....and we don't have to earn it! CONCLUSION Of course, false gods and false guilt aren't limited to the Purity Movement: money, career advancement, exercise goals, new year's resolutions, the spotless home, the perfectly behaved child – all of them can become idols of our own making. That, then, is what makes this is a must-see documentary. The discernment it fosters is desperately needed in every sphere of life. More could be said: the film also explores legalism, and critiques how Christians will often treat certain books as if they were on par with the Bible itself. And while I have a far greater appreciation for I Kissed Dating Goodbye than the author seems to at this point – the film concludes by noting that Harris and the publisher have agreed to stop publishing I Kissed Dating Goodbye – I'd agree there are some notable flaws....but nothing that would keep me from sharing and discussing it with my own daughters. And I'll be just as enthused to share this film with them, knowing it will be a springboard to all sorts of great conversations. I Survived "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" can watch below for free. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews, Remembrance Day

Sgt. Stubby: an unlikely hero

Animated / Family 2018 / 84 minutes Rating: 8/10 I read a review by a parent who arrived at the movie theater with his four-year-old and picked this film based solely on the smiling ever-so-cute doggie he saw on the movie poster. One problem: while this is about a charming, incredibly clever dog named Stubby, it's also about life in the trenches of World War I. And that's not 4-year-old material. Why, oh why, don't more people read movie reviews! But, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the end of the "Great War" this is a movie that many a ten-year-old and up will enjoy and should watch. It's based on the true story of Sgt. Stubby, the most decorated dog in American history. The story begins with the homeless dog attaching himself to a unit readying itself to be shipped overseas. First, he charms his way into the heart of one Private Robert Conroy, the main two-legged character in the film. Then, one by one, from the lowest private to the general in charge, he wins over everyone. Well, not everyone. Some folks just aren't dog people, and Private Elmer Olsen just doesn't understand what's so special about Stubby. When the unit heads overseas, Stubby manages to sneak aboard the ship, and he too is heading to the fight. From this point onward there's one perilous scene after another, but to make it appropriate for (nearly) the whole family, the filmmakers decided to make this an entirely bloodless film. Even as bullets are whizzing, no one gets shot. German bombardments send both soldiers and dirt flying, but the soldiers get dug out and emerge both unbruised and unbloodied. While parents will appreciate the nonexistent blood and gore, by muting the violence and death the film ran the risk of also muting the sacrifice that these soldiers made. But as the film draws to a close there is one death - to a secondary character - that drives home, even to the younger audiences, what these men risked and what they lost. Without giving it all away, I'll note that the death happens off screen and we don't even see the body. It is the soldier's absence that is noted – while his friends are looking for him after the last big battle, Stubby brings them his helmet. That'll get some kids crying, and even moisten the eye of many an adult. But it is necessary. And it is done with great care and restraint. As you'd expect with an energetic pooch as its star, there is a lot of fun in the film. Kids are sure to enjoy Stubby training along with his fellow soldiers, getting chased by the cook, and winning over the Colonel after Conroy teaches his little buddy how to salute. In another treat, Gérard Depardieu makes an appearance as a large, wise French soldier, who along with Conroy and Stubby is tasked to spy out German positions. These "three musketeers" become fast friends, saving each others' lives. Cautions There are only a couple of concerns, including a little bit of language. The worst of it includes one character saying "What the devil?" and another exclaiming "I'll be darned." There is also just one bit of "naughty" comedy as the drill sergeant lectures his men on they should imitate the never-complaining, always-ready-to-roll Stubby but he makes this speech just as Stubby decides to lick his nether regions. That gets a laugh out of the sergeant and his men as they are presented with proof-positive that Stubby has some traits that aren't worthy of imitation. The big caution would concern the near constant peril. This is not a film for four-year-olds. But most ten-year-olds will be sure to enjoy it. Conclusion This was such a pleasure to discover. Before this, I couldn't have imagined a war film that would be appropriate for the very young and yet still be a treat for their parents. This would be a great one to watch with the family for Remembrance Day, Memorial Day, or Anzac Day. You can find out more about the film at its website: StubbyMovie.com. ...

Animated, Movie Reviews

The Boxcar Children: Surprise Island

Animated / Children 82 minutes / 2018 RATING: 6 out of 10 My kids loved this - we rented it for two nights, and they asked to watch it twice. So why give it just a 6 rating? Because what makes it attractive to gentle, easily scared, children is also what makes it a below average film: there is no conflict. Summer vacation has arrived, and Grandfather Alden wants to take his four grandchildren to an island their family owns. He leaves them there, and with the exception of a couple minutes when the children are trapped in a cave just as the tide comes in, this is an entirely calm film. Grandfather Alden leaves them on the island alone, but the only other "danger" they have to deal with is a leaky roof. This is a sequel to the slightly better 2013 film The Boxcar Children. Both movies are based on the beloved 150+ book series originated by Gertrude Chandler Warner way back in 1924. According to the bonus features on this DVD, Warner set out to make a story for Grade 1 and 2 students that would use the 100 most important words for them to learn. I found that rather telling – it makes the books out to be more about learning vocabulary than presenting kids with a rip-roaring adventure. And if that was her intent, she has succeeded. CAUTIONS The only caution I can think to include is that the movies make no mention of God (Heaven comes up once, but not God) and on such a beautiful island, where it would be hard not to break into song and shout His praises, this is a glaring absence (kids might not notice God's absence, but mom and dad can bring it up). In the series a brief reference to evolution pops up in every second or third book, and that, along with God's absence in the books and films, makes me suspect that author Gertrude Warner was probably not a Christian. CONCLUSION So far I'm not exactly singing the praises of the book series, or this, the latest film based on them. So why recommend the movie at all? Because younger kids, particularly those who are familiar with the Boxcar Children already, will absolutely love it. My critique of the book and this movie is not that there is anything wrong with them; it's only that there is nothing remarkable about them. The acting is okay, the animation is middling, and the story, from a parental perspective, is on the boring side. But on the other hand, there are no language, violence, sexuality, or other concerns. And young children, up to maybe 8 or 9 years old, will enjoy the familiar characters and the cozy comfy safety of this no-conflict story. It is a nice safe film for your family movie night. Kids should learn to endure story tension – their own life's story will not be free of it – but when they are young a small dose of fluff every now and again won't hurt.  Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Beyond Is Genesis History?

Documentary 2017 / 400 minutes In Del Tackett’s 2017 documentary Is Genesis History? he interviewed PhD-holding scientists with various areas of expertise, all of them happy to share why their field of study backed a literal understanding of the first few chapters of Genesis. It was among the best creationist documentaries ever made, and it left viewers wanting more. We wanted more with geologists Steve Austin and Andrew Snelling, and more with paleontologist Kurt Wise, and more with the many other experts consulted. So that’s what Tackett’s given us. In Beyond Is Genesis History? Tackett shares 20 interviews – all of them 18 to 21 minutes – with six of the experts he consulted for the feature documentary. I loved the documentary, but I thought, at 400 minutes, this follow-up was too much of a good thing, and I gave it a pass. But then my dad saw it, loved it, bought me a copy and told me I really needed to see this. And boy was he right! This isn’t something you’ll watch straight through – anything more than an interview or two at a time is going to be intellectual overload – but it is spectacular! Much more than talking heads, this is heartfelt, concise, deep discussion! Anyone who enjoyed Is Genesis History? will be sure to love this too. Check out the trailer below, and for a dozen clips from the documentary, click here. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Calvinist

Documentary 89 minutes / 2017 RATING: 8/10 Calvinist is the story of a generation of young men and women who went searching for answers and found them in Reformed theology. I found this a fascinating film because what they discovered is what I've always had as my birthright. I grew up in a Reformed home, attended a Reformed church, and went to a Reformed school, and it was the same for most of my friends and family. What was so very fun about Calvinist was the opportunity to see through new eyes the knowledge of God that I was taking for granted. The "young, restless, and Reformed" were a product of the late 90s and early 2000s – they had questions, and the Internet gave them access to all sorts of answers. When they googled "How do I know if I'm saved?" or "How do I know the Bible is true?" the best answers they found were by Reformed theologians like R.C. Sproul, John Piper, John MacArther, and more. So this documentary serves at least three purposes: It is a history of how God steered this questioning generation towards just what they needed to know Him better. Calvinist also shares many of the answers these seekers were after. Producer Les Lanphere went to today's biggest name Reformers and and hit them with some of the biggest questions. So, in addition to learning recent history, the audience learns timeless biblical truths. The film also introduces us to a host of solidly Reformed teachers. In addition to Sproul, Piper and MacArther, Lanphere talks to: Michael Horton Tim Challies Robert Godfrey Joel Beeke Paul Washer James White Carl Trueman Jeff Durbin ...and many more That's an impressive and long list; Lanphere has put in the time and effort to make this a very special film. That extra effort also comes out in all the slick transitions and special effects – this looks good! One fun bit is running gag of sorts. Lanphere used 80s-era computer game style graphics to animate and illustrate some points. So, for example, when discussing Roman Catholicism's "faith plus works" position, we see what looks like an old arcade game, and scroll through some possible "fighters" including John Calvin and John Knox, until the selection stops on Martin Luther. An interesting tangent that's briefly explored is the impact Reformed Rap had on these young seekers. I watched this with a group of 20-somethings who had never heard of Shai Linne and they were amused and maybe even a little shocked that "Rap" could be paired up with "Reformed." But is it really so surprising that a medium which gives primacy to the word would be a great one for communicating the deepest truths about God? CAUTIONS While all the Reformed teachers we're introduced to are quite conservative, they do have some differences among them that aren't ever discussed. The most notable concerns baptism – there's a roughly 50/50 divide among the speakers, with half believing in credo-baptism (Piper, MacArthur, Durbin, White, Challies) and the other half, infant-baptism (Sproul, Horton, Trueman, Beeke, Godfrey). Other differences also exist, so while a discerning student can learn much from these men, discernment is indeed needed. CONCLUSION I've shared this film with two different sets of friends and everyone has really enjoyed it. This will be a hit with anyone 18 and up who has an interest in Reformed Theology. It probably won't convince a non-Reformed friend all on its own, but it will probably give the two of you a lot to talk about and explore further. If you use it for a group movie night, consider having an ice cream and brownie break at maybe the one hour mark. There's just so much packed in here that a break is needed to allow folks to think through and discuss what they've been seeing and hearing. You can check out the trailer below, and further down you can see two YouTube videos that are featured prominently in the film because of the impact they had on the young, restless and Reformed generation. Happy viewing! ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Genesis: Paradise Lost (part 1)

Documentary 109 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 There have been some very good Genesis-related resources coming out in the last few years and this is another. The intent with this one is to provide a visually stunning introduction to creation science. It's going over the basics, but along with the expected talking heads laying out Creationism 101, there are impressive computer animations of the goings on for every day in the Creation Week. There's even a 3D version of the film that, on a big-screen TV, makes this quite the immersive experience! So who should see this? The target audience is Christians and interested unbelievers who want to learn what creationists believe about the opening chapters of Scripture. There is a lot packed in here – perhaps too much because the sheer volume of material only allows the producers to cover topics in big and broad ways. They simply don't have the time to offer any sort of nuanced evolutionary counters to their own points. A CAUTION Now, that's fine; it just means this isn't a film to give to the hardened critic. It also means there is one danger Christians have to watch for: anyone new to creationism, after seeing the film, might be left with the impression that there are no compelling arguments, and no evidence of any kind, for evolution. That would be a dangerous sort of naïveté. While that's an important caution, this is a fantastic film. There is so much to love here, starting with the narrator Voddie Baucham – if you've ever heard this Reformed pastor and professor speak you'll know he's just perfect for this role. Fun guests include Ken Ham and Ray Comfort. The professors include some familiar names like Dr. Georgia Purdom, Dr. David Menton, and Dr. John Baumgardner. The topics covered include: an answer to the distant starlight problem fossils on the top of mountains carbon-dating intricate complexity reasons to believe the universe is young the Law of Biogenesis finding soft tissue in dinosaur bones (said to be millions of years old) the pepper moth fallacy the many human "missing links" how if natural selection can explain the survival of the fittest, it doesn't explain the arrival of the fittest and much, much more! CONCLUSION One of the film's strengths is the sheer width and breadth that it covers. However, there is just so much information! I was already familiar with most of what was presented and I still found it on the overwhelming side. But, as faults go, that's a wonderful one to have – it only means this is an excellent candidate for repeated viewings, and that this is a video to buy, not just rent. The other strength is all the computer animations. If they aren't perfectly life-like, they are perfectly gorgeous. The Creation Week had been rendered with respect: God is never depicted, and naked Adam and Eve are only shown at extreme distance, or only in parts (their feet, or hands, or faces). Of course depicting the Creation Week visually is going to involve a lot of imaginative interpretation to fill in all the missing details; these folks have done so with the tact and care. So, again, who should see this? I think the many talking heads means that Genesis: Paradise Lost isn't for children – it would probably have to be older teens and up. But for anyone who's interested in learning about our origins, and about how we should understand the opening chapters of the Bible, this is going to be a treat! A version of this review first appeared on ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Incredible Creatures That Define Design

Documentary 62 min / 2011 Rating: 7/10 The folks who brought us the 3-film series Incredible Creatures That Defy Evolution are back, and with a fun new twist on the incredible design we can find in God's creation. This time they are looking into the field of biomimicry – this involves engineers applying the innovations and creativity they find in the natural world to help them solve challenges they face in the civilized world. So, for example, a fan manufacturer looking to make a more powerful, but quieter, model decided to look into the way that an owl can travel quickly but silently through the air. The closer they looked at the design of its wings, the more they found there was to learn and imitate! Other examples of brilliant design in creation that the documentary explores include: sticky burrs spirals found everywhere in nature the glue used by mussels the aerodynamics of the box fish and the strange way that butterflies can give off such beautiful colors even though some have no pigment in their wings. In one instance after another, even as engineers use Nature as their inspiration, they're forced to admit that their best efforts can't match the genius they find there. CAUTIONS Unlike the Incredible Creations The Defy Evolution series, in this film God is never given the credit that is His due. Instead, this is more like an Intelligent Design presentation, in which the genius found in creation is celebrated, without any specific mention made of Who that Genius is. The only other caution concerns a scene in the section on mussel glue. Here we see a brief enactment of a man having a heart attack at a restaurant. He then presumably receives care using glue, rather than stitches. It's not all that shocking, but more so than anything else in the film, and might alarm some small children. CONCLUSION This is one for that will most intrigue the science geeks among us. I think families with older kids – maybe 12 and up – could enjoy this together, particularly if they have watched documentaries together before. But it does require some knowledge to fully appreciate what's being explained – younger children simply won't know enough about aerodynamics, or about how loud fans can be, or what pigmentation is, to really appreciate how "Nature" – God! – has done it all so much better than even our best and brightest can do (even after being given an example to imitate). This is reprinted with permission from ReelConservative.com. Incredible Creatures That DEFINE Design - Trailer from Exploration Films on Vimeo....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

DNA BATTLES: Were Adam & Eve historical?

Documentary 59 minutes / 2018 RATING: 7/10 In 2011 the Christian evolutionary group Biologos made a splash with widely published views that questioned whether Adam and Eve were historical. This documentary is a rebuttal. It tackles primarily the scientific front but also touches the theological front too, addressing their claims that Christians have to accommodate our views to the “reality” of evolution. While the theologians share answers to objections you may have heard before, the seven consulted scientists are sharing quite recent developments in biology that now show how certain evolutionary assumptions have been proven untrue (like Junk DNA). This is a great documentary, with books worth of material condensed into a one-hour presentation. But it isn’t going to be for everyone – you’ll need to remember some of your high school science to really be able to follow along. But for any viewer interested in the subject matter, this is going to be fascinating and worth multiple viewings. What this most reminded me of was Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels, the very best creationist documentary I’ve seen. DNA Battles doesn’t quite rise to that level, but anyone who enjoyed Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels will certainly appreciate this one too. Jon Dykstra blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Revolutionary: Michael Behe and the mystery of the molecular machines

Documentary 60 minutes / 2016 RATING; 7/10 Revolutionary is a fantastic documentary about what a quiet professor did to get Darwinian evolutionists very, very upset with him. Now, Michael Behe is not a creationist – he seems to believe in an old earth and that some sort of evolution may well have occurred. So why would Darwinians be so very disturbed by him? Because Behe doesn't believe the world came about by chance. While studying the human cell he realized the microscopic machines within it are so intricate and complex it's inconceivable they could have come about via only random mutation and natural selection. The cell's outboard motor and "irreducible complexity" While Behe is the subject of this documentary, the real "star" of the show is one of those "micro-machines" that so fascinated him: the bacterial flagellum motor. As the documentary's narration explains: Perhaps the most amazing propulsion system on our entire planet is one that exists in bacteria. It is called the flagellum, a miniature propellor driven by a motor with many distinct mechanical parts, each made of proteins. The flagellum's motor resembles a human-designed rotary engine. It has a universal joint, bushings, a stator, and a rotor. It has a drive shaft and even its own clutch and braking system. In some bacteria the flagellum motor has been clocked at a 100,000 revolutions per minute. The motor is bi-directional and can shift from forward to reverse almost instantaneously. Some scientists suggest it operates at near-100% energy efficiency. All of this is done on a microscopic scale that is hard to imagine. The diameter of the flagellum motor is no more than 5 millionths of a centimeter. In his book, Darwin's Black Box, Behe argued that Darwinian evolution could not account for micro-machines like this because Darwin required all complex living things to have evolved through a step-by-step process from simpler lifeforms. Behe couldn't see how these micro-machines could have developed in stages. They were, as he put it, "irreducibly complex" – take one piece out, and they don't simply function less efficiently, but instead seize functioning at all. The flagellum motor is astonishing, and yet it's only one of many "molecular machines" scientists have discovered in the last several decades, all of them operating with a single cell. Some of the others include: "energy-producing turbines, information-copying machines, and even robotic walking motors." (The title of Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box, is a reference to how, when Darwin presented his theory,  he didn't know how incredibly complex the inner workings of the cell were – they were only a "black box" to him. Would Darwin have ever suggested his theory if he'd had an inkling of how complex even the simplest life really is?) The documentary shows that since Behe first poised the problem of "irreducible complexity" many have tried to address it, but with no real success. Cautions The ID movement is sometimes caricatured as being creationism in disguise. But it is made up of a very diverse group of scientists. There are Christians, cultists and atheists too, and while it seems most believe in an ancient earth, there are also 6-day creationists. What unites the ID movement is the shared belief that the evidence shows there must have been intelligence – an Intelligent Designer – behind the formation of the universe. But because they are trying to avoid being labelled as a religious movement they won't name the "Intelligent Designer." This is the ID movement's greatest flaw: in this refusal they are not giving God the glory that is His due! Since the "good guys" in this film hold to a wide variety of views on the age of the Earth, Who made it, and to what extent He made use of evolution, this is not a film for the undiscerning. Conclusion That said, this is an important and well-made documentary. Revolutionary shows how Behe became one of the fathers of the Intelligent Design (ID), and in documenting his history, they also provide a overview of ID movement itself. That's the best reason to see this film – to get a good introduction to a movement that questions unguided, Darwinian evolution, on scientific grounds. In just one hour it traces the impact Behe has had on the Darwinian debate since his pivotal book, Darwin's Black Box, was published two decades ago. There's a lot packed in here, and it is well worth repeated viewings. While Revolutionary is important and has some wonderful computer animations of the inner workings of the cell, it is not for everyone. Since the central figure is a mild-mannered sort, it just isn't going to grab the attention of children or other casual viewers. However, for anyone interested in the sciences and the origins debate, it is a must-see! And – bonus! – it is now available to be viewed online for free! (See below) https://youtu.be/7ToSEAj2V0s...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Is Genesis History?

Is Genesis History? Documentary 100 min / 2017 We live and breathe and move in an atmosphere that is full of assumptions. We assume that what we see is how things have always been. And our friends and colleagues at work assume that scientists have disproved the Bible. And even if we know better, we hear so often that the earth is the product of millions and billions of years of slow erosion and evolution, those assumptions can impact us too – we can begin to wonder, "Is it crazy to believe that this planet is only 6,000 years old, that God made all of this in just six days?" Is Genesis History? is a film that can help to quell those voices of doubt, the voices that ask, "Did God really say?"  Like thoughtful Christian apologetics, this movie can give us confidence that it is logical and entirely defensible for a modern person to fully believe that God's Word describes historical events and real people. Narrator Del Tackett opens the documentary showing a series of beautiful rock formations and deep canyons, and wonders aloud how many years these magnificent sites took to develop. We might assume thousands or even millions. But no – he reveals that the landscape around him was formed in just a few months, after the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980! This is a powerful illustration of just how our observations are colored by our pre-conceptions Throughout the film Tackett speaks with various PhD-holding scientists about their areas of expertise, and often in the midst of beautiful scenery. These passionate and articulate scholars contrast two major competing views of history: the conventional view that all we see around us developed over billions of years, and the Biblical view that points to a young earth in which God acted directly and with incredible power to create and form the world. Many of these experts point to the great Flood that covered the whole earth as an explanation for the geological formations we can observe in the Grand Canyon for example, and for the way that fossils appear intact and often in groups and herds. The massive power of the waters below, bursting forth, and the windows of heaven opening, caused enormous changes to the earth, killing most life. The flood was universal and catastrophic and awesome in its destructive power, and its effects can be seen all over the world still today – if you have eyes to see it! The format of Is Genesis History? consisting of questions and answers filmed in interesting locations, with helpful illustrations, makes it easy to understand and engaging. It probably won't keep the attention of younger children, but middle school students on up to senior citizens will enjoy and benefit from this film. I can see this movie being beneficial for our young people's societies, and the producers have made available free study and discussion material at their website www.IsGenesisHistory.com. This is a great film that encourages us to view the Bible as accurate history, and is a timely reminder that God's Word is true yesterday, today and tomorrow. You can find it on Netflix, Amazon Video, and DVD. Further discussion Other reviews Tim Challies Douglas Wilson WORLD magazine Paul Nelson controversy One of the interviewees in the film, Paul Nelson, while a 6-day creationist, is also a major figure in the Intelligent Design movement. He didn't like how he came out in the film, and explains why here. Del Tackett, film narrator and producer, responds here. Todd Wood, another interviewee, also has some thoughts here. Biologos and response Biologos is a group that seeks to promote an evolutionary worldview in Christian circles. They didn't like the film, and posted a critique here. Creation Ministries responded here....

Drama, Movie Reviews

The Case for Christ

Drama 112 minutes / 2017 RATING: 7/10 On a Saturday morning in May, I found myself in an unusual place: seated in the Hoyts cinema, awaiting the start of a film Now I must say I never bought into the argument that movies could not be compatible with Christian life. It seemed to me that it depended on what sort of film was being screened. Having said that, I am thankful that, when it came to movies and theaters, I grew up with a sense of restraint. After all, wholesome cinematic presentations are few and far between, and the movie industry has been responsible for much social change that just doesn’t accord with God’s Word and God’s law. That’s why when it came to my own children I told them: “Don’t decide to go to the cinema and then see what’s on offer. Rather, if there’s something that you are confident about that it is wholesome, then make the decision to see it.” I reflected on those discussions – ones with my own children, and others with my parents when I was a youth – as I quietly waited for The Case for Christ to begin. A reluctant convert The Case for Christ is based on a book by the same name, telling the true story of a man, Lee Strobel, his wife and family, who lived and worked in the city of Chicago in the 1980s. The Strobels were a happy family, consisting of a Dad, a Mum, a daughter, and in the course of the film, a son was born to them. Early in the story whilst out at dinner, the daughter almost chokes to death on a large sweet; it’s the resolute intervention of a black Christian woman that saves the child’s life. Lee’s wife, Leslie, maintains contact with the lady who saved her child’s life and is inspired by the woman’s faith in Jesus Christ. In time Leslie, too, becomes a Christian, much to the chagrin of her atheist husband. As a journalist committed to the ideal of exposing the truth, Lee decides that the only way to convince his wife that she is throwing her life away is to disprove the fundamental tenets of Christianity. A colleague at work puts him on the right track and astutely suggests that he start by researching the resurrection of Christ. Armed with this information, Lee sets out to disprove this central teaching of Christianity. He consults colleagues and friends first, then he turns to theologians and historians, psychologists, and eventually a medical doctor. The more he looks, and the deeper he goes, the more he finds to support the resurrection of Christ, rather than disprove it. The frustration that accompanies this voyage of discovery is interesting and instructive to behold. In the end Lee admits, “OK God, you win!” and it is this that turns him to God in true repentance for his obstinate refusal to accept what was staring him in the face for so long. Authentic because it is true I couldn’t help but enjoy the story. It was honest, it was real, it was moving and it was genuine, maybe because it had really happened. It was wholesome too. I appreciated the search revolving around the resurrection of Christ. It resonated beautifully with what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:13-14: But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. I was impressed by the truth uncovered by the research, and by the excellent profound insights afforded by the different characters in the film. These days it’s hard to find movies where the language is not marred by blasphemy and where there is not some sexual overtone; it was wonderful to watch something where this did not – at least not that I noticed – feature. I also enjoyed the literary qualities of the film. The characters were real and the story was compelling. A second, parallel story, running through the film – Lee’s investigation into the shooting of a cop – provides some excellent symbolism in relation to Lee’s spiritual journey. When Lee stands at the side of the hospital bed of the innocent victim of a miscarriage of justice and apologizes for not seeing what should have been obvious, the man mutters in response, “You didn’t see it because you didn’t want to see.” That was a poignant moment. Some nits that could be picked A Reformed critic might argue that the expression used in the film about “inviting Jesus into your life” is an Arminian sentiment, and I would be hard pressed to argue against that. Unless, of course, we see it as an expression of the believer’s response to the work of the Holy Spirit, causing and working faith in Jesus Christ. It can also be argued that faith shouldn’t be dependent on outside proofs (doesn’t God’s Word testify to its own authenticity?) and that the way to faith Lee Strobel pursues seems to elevate the authority of archeology and experts above the Bible. There’s truth in that criticism too. But from what we can learn about Lee Strobel, subsequent to the events in the film, it is clear that however his faith began, it has grown to a deep and caring connection with his God. This is a true story, so even if the producers intend it as an account of what we should do, we can choose instead to enjoy it as a record of what God did do. Still, I couldn’t help but appreciate that in an age where evidence and reason are so central, the facts of the Bible will stand up to rigorous scrutiny; even the rationalist, who might shrink back from a way of faith, is left without excuse. Summing up about the Case for Christ, I feel comfortable recommending it. With us in the theatre were families with younger children, some teenage youth and a smattering of older people, and it really had appeal for all. Two cynics I’m not sure why, but my mind couldn’t help but compare Strobel’s story to another that I had read about, some years before, one that filled me with deep sorrow and wonder. In an interview with Nederlands Dagblad, the ninety year old Harry Kuitert, emeritus professor of systematic theology from the Free University of Amsterdam, stated: I have sought God, but I have not found him. Harry Kuitert’s story sees him seeking the evidence that God is real, that God gives sense and meaning to life, and that there is life after death, but slowly and surely he comes to the conclusion that none of it stacks up and none of it is true. Nederlands Dagblad quotes Kuitert in the interview as saying: You cannot conclude that there is a God. … He exists only in your head, he is the product of your thoughts, and outside of your head he doesn’t exist. … Every believer makes his own religion. That’s doesn’t make it true. You believe because you choose to, maybe because you need to or because you are afraid, or lonely. If you read the different biographies of Harry Kuitert, you can’t help but stand amazed that a man who started out as being a minister of the Word and later a professor in theology slowly but surely lets go of the foundational tenets of the Christian faith. Throughout his life he reveled in different aspects of theology, but his book titles tell the story of a diminishing faith. In 1989 he wrote a book titled, The Universally Doubted Christian Faith, a title that served as a parody to what we often confess in church in relation to the Apostles’ Creed, “our undoubted Christian faith.” In 2000 he wrote a book called About Religion, about which Nederlands Dagblad said: Till now, for Kuitert God had still been the force or the person behind people’s searching and speaking. In this book, however, God has become the product of man’s imagination. Unabashed Kuitert writes: “I am finished with God as a person, as a being that exists in himself and for himself and that can be invoked through prayer.” And then, in 2014, he wrote The Church, a Construction Mistake, about which he stated: “Why doesn’t it honestly proclaim that it’s all made up?” Speaking about Kuitert, Nederlands Dagblad reported: In the Christian part of the Netherlands Kuitert became a phenomenon: Harry Kuitert, who peeled away the layers of faith, one after the other, until there was nothing left. Here then is the tale of two cynics (with apologies to Charles Dickens), one who started out refusing to believe but who was confounded by the evidence, and the other who believed and lost his faith because he couldn’t find the evidence that it could be true. You have to wonder how come. Is this just the outworking of God’s election? No doubt that’s part of the story, but it just won’t do to stop there. For mixed in with God’s election is also our human responsibility and ownership of the truth. What else got in the way of Kuitert? Was it intellectual arrogance, was it human pride – maybe even unwittingly – getting in the way of truth? I wished he could meet the liberated and innocent convict in the hospital who muttered to Strobel, “You didn’t see it because you didn’t want to see it.” May God’s Spirit as yet rip away the self-imposed spiritual blindfold that leaves him an empty and lonely cynic. ***** EDITOR'S NOTE: If The Case for Christ film inspires you to track down more by Lee Strobel, it’s important to understand that Strobel is not Reformed. That doesn’t come up much in The Case for Christ, because the topic is one all Christians believe – Calvinists and Arminians agree that Christ rose. But in The Case for Faith Strobel turns his investigative skills to the topic of faith, and the result is a book that could have been called The Arminian Case for Faith. In it he repeatedly rejects the Reformed understanding and presents a specifically Arminian answer to questions. So while the film could be a nice evening’s entertainment for you and your family, Strobel shouldn’t be a go-to resource for matters of faith and doctrine. ...

Animated, Family, Movie Reviews

The Peanuts Movie

Animated 88 min/2015 RATING: 8/10 The comic strip Peanuts was always a little hit and miss for me. I liked Linus and Snoopy and PigPen and Marcie, but found it downright depressing when once again Lucy would get good ol' Charlie Brown to fall for her disappearing football trick. That’s why the film was so much better than expected: it has all of the strip's funny, minus the melancholy. Charlie Brown has his misfortunes, but he also has good friends – including a far more loyal version of Snoopy – to help pick him back up and push him to keep on trying. Cautions are minor, but parents might want to note that Charlie Brown is silly to obsess about a girl he has never even talked to. At one point he offers up what might be a one-line prayer, and if so his “Don’t I deserve a break?” plea shows that Charles is no Calvinist. Highlights include how (SPOILER ALERT) when the often lonely Charles has to choose between popularity and honesty, he doesn’t even hesitate before doing the right thing. This boy is a man of character. Our whole family enjoyed this, from two on up. A Charlie Brown who doesn't have to wait 50 years for a little happiness is a wonderful improvement on the original! ...