Life's busy, read it when you're ready!

Create a free account to save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.

Browse thousands of RP articles

Articles, news, and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians.

Get Articles Delivered!

Articles, news,and reviews with a Biblical perspective to inform, equip, and encourage Christians delivered direct to your inbox!

Create an Account

Save articles for later, keep track of past articles you’ve read, and receive exclusive access to all RP resources.


Advertising



Most Recent



The Rest


Economics, Movie Reviews

Wait till it's free

Documentary 2014 / 82 minutes Rating: 9/10 Why would Canadians be interested in watching a Scotsman take a look at the American healthcare system? Because this examination, of how capitalism and socialism impact healthcare costs, is very relevant for us too. The film’s director and producer, Colin Gunn, is Presbyterian and consequently a capitalist. If that seems an abrupt connection, then consider that we Reformed folks know that the heart of man is wicked. So we are well aware that if an economic system needs men to be angels, laboring for no personal benefit, then that is an unworkable economic system. So we know better than to be socialists. But for some reason, we don’t seem to think that holds true for healthcare. This comes out most strongly when Canadians, even the Reformed ones, start talking about healthcare with their American cousins. Then we seem to be quite proud of the socialistic nature of our healthcare system, which “costs us nothing, and is free for everyone.” But, of course, that isn’t really so. It certainly isn’t free – the costs are simply not seen, paid out in taxes, so that Canadians have very little idea of how much their healthcare really does cost. And that everyone is covered doesn’t distinguish it all that much from American healthcare, where everyone can get emergency care, and where more and more of the population is covered by the government-run Medicare. As Gunn points out, the American system is almost as socialistic as the Canadian. Gunn’s main argument is that a good dose of capitalism would be good for what ails the American system. His most telling observation was that in the American system no one knows what the costs will be beforehand. There is no public pricing chart, and so no way of comparing what one hospital might charge versus another. And without an awareness of how much things might costs, there is only a pretense of competition. You won't have innovation if you don't have competition so if we want to reform healthcare, this might be the first place we need to start: make all the prices public! I highly recommend this documentary – it is a brilliant argument by a Christian filmmaker who has perfected his craft. The content is superb: Gunn has assembled an impressive cast of experts from around the world to make his case. And the presentation is even better: there are fun little animated bits, and great narration, and a wonderful story arc – this is packaged up nicely, and tied up at the end with a bow. Who should see this? Anyone who thinks socialism is the answer to our healthcare needs. You can watch the trailer below, and watch the rent the full film by clicking on the "$4.95" link in the trailer below. The Wait Till It's Free YouTube site has a lot of extras that are also worth checking out. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Dragons or Dinosaurs? Creation or Evolution?

Documentary 84 minutes / 2010 Rating: 7 / 10 The Chinese lunar calendar cycle includes twelve animals, eleven of which are quite familiar to us: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. The twelfth, however, is a mythical beast that no one has ever seen: dragon. But could we be wrong? Could the ancient Chinese be giving us a clue that dragons were once more than myth? Could they have been just as real as all the other animals in this calendar? Dragons or Dinosaurs? argues, quite convincingly, that the dragon legends present in cultures around the world are actually describing dinosaurs. The dragons are described as large, scaled, reptilian animals that can sometimes fly, breathe fire, swim or eat people whole. These are descriptions that match up well with various dinosaurs that have been discovered: the flying Pterodactyl, the massive Sauropods, or the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex. And we don’t have to rely on legends alone. Pictures of very dinosaur-like creatures can be found on pottery thousands of years old. Primitive paintings on cave walls, and detailed reliefs sculpted onto the walls of ancient temples, have been discovered that seem to indicate the artists were personally acquainted with dinosaurs. Ancient historians, and some not so ancient ones too, present us with more to consider. We can read historical accounts of dragon-encounters that seem likely to have involved dinosaurs. DARWIN VS. DRAGONS That these dragons may have been dinosaurs is not a conclusion evolutionists are willing to entertain. According to their version of events, man and dinosaur could not have lived together at the same time; they were separated by at least 60 million years. Thus the point of this presentation: these dragon myths, historical accounts, and ancient artwork are a compelling argument against the evolutionary account. As the Bible explains, God created everything over the course of just 6 days, so men and dragons (or, rather, dinosaurs) did live at the same time! This is a professionally produced, entertaining production. It gives a solid overview of the evidence, providing viewers with an idea of how very much there is. CAUTIONS The only caution concerns the DVD's special features. They include a 28-minute mini-documentary called The Faith... behind the Science, which is awkwardly interrupted midway through with a 6-minute ad for Cloud Ten’s other films, including premillennial dramas like the Left Behind series. This jarring and quite annoying insertion ruins this mini-documentary, which would have otherwise been an interesting bonus to the main feature. CONCLUSION So skip the special features and this will be a fun film for families with older children – those with the required attention span for an 84-minute feature. And it is an absolute must-see for anyone who grew up devouring every book they could find about dragons or dinosaurs. There is also a book of the same title that may be of interest (especially since some copies include a copy of the documentary on DVD). ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Indoctrination: Public Schools and the Decline of Christianity in America

Documentary 102 minutes; 2011 Rating 9/10 Two interviews with public school teacher Sarah Laverdiere serve as stunning bookends for Colin Gunn's investigation into the anti-Christian roots of public education. LaVerdiere is a Christian who has a hard time reconciling her job with her faith - she doesn't know if she should be making parents feel good about sending their children to a public school. At about the 26-minute mark LaVerdiere is asked, "How long would your career last, if were to start teaching Scripture from the front of the classroom?" Laughing, she answers, "I'd probably be out of here that day! Those were prophetic words. An hour further into Indoctrination we meet her again. Since her first interview, LaVerdiere had decided that she could not remain silent about God in the classroom, so she'd offered her resignation. She was initially supposed to teach another two weeks, but after she wrote a letter, at her principal's request, explaining her decision, she was asked to resign immediately. What was in her letter? LaVerdiere noted that she could not continue to teach where Christianity was not welcome, and where homosexuals, radical environmentalists and atheists were encouraged to pervert the minds of the students. When the principal saw her letter LaVerdiere was asked to resign that same day. And she was escorted out of the school like a criminal: "I did return to the elementary school that day. And the principal supervised me as I cleaned out my classroom. They has the students go on a back playground and they had me go around a different way than I normally do so that the students could not see me while they were on the playground... when all I had done was tell my students I was leaving because I was a Christian." That, in a nutshell, summarizes the state of public education in America: it is at war with Christianity. There is much more in this documentary. The narrative for the film is the Gunn family's trip, in a big yellow school bus, across America. They travel from place to place visiting educational experts and Reformed theologians, and uncover the radically anti-Christian roots of public education. It is no accident that God is now unwelcome in the classroom. As Gunn shows, for many of the most pivotal figures in educational history, that was the plan from the beginning. In addition to the specifically Reformed influence in this film, another attractive feature is the filmmaker and narrator, Colin Gunn. His Scottish accent is charming and I can't imagine a more pleasant voice to listen to as the dire and dour state of public education is explained. Then add in clever animated illustrations and engaging interviewees, and this is as enjoyable as it is educational. While the focus here is on the US public system, Indoctrination is highly relevant to Canadians as well, as this is an exploration of the public education philosophy that pervades schools on both sides of the border. To sum up, this is not only a great production it is a very important one too! You can watch the first 30 minutes below, or stream the full 102-minute film for just $2.50 US at Vimeo here. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

CitizenFour

Documentary 113 minutes / 2014 RATING 7/10 In 2013 Edward Snowden let the world know that their emails, phone calls, text messages, and everything they were doing online, was being tracked by the US government and, oftentimes, with the help of their local government. This was the surveillance of private citizens who had committed no crime, and for whom no search warrant had been granted. And even as this surveillance was being done, the leadership of the National Security Agency (NSA) told the US Congress that no, they were not spying on Americans. Were they lying? Well, it all depends on what they meant by "not spying." As the documentary recounts, in May of 2013, Snowden fled to Hong Kong with a computer full of classified NSA documents that proved this surveillance was going on. He showed some of them to journalist Glenn Greenwald and to the director of this documentary, Laura Poitras. It was only after they helped the story go public that the NSA then admitted they were recording and collecting all sorts of data on US citizens. But they insisted that while they had it, they weren't actually looking through it. The NSA said they were collecting and storing citizens' information so that it would be available should they ever want to take a peek at it, which, they assured the public, would only happen after they got permission from a judge. In other words, collecting everyone's data wasn't spying on them because, according to the NSA, they weren't looking at it...yet. Snowden was celebrated by many as a whistleblower – that's how he thinks of himself – but condemned by others as a traitor. This film has some amazing strengths, the biggest being that Poitras was right there in his Hong Kong hotel room to capture Snowden's determination and anxiety as he became front-page news the world over. But it has a notable weakness: you have to be a detective to figure out, from what's shown, why anyone would think Snowden a traitor. One key scene that gives a hint as to why occurs in a newspaper office where an editor and reporters are debating what of the information Snowden gave them is safe to release to the public. In other words, Snowden gave out classified materials that were dangerous to US interests, and he left it up to a bunch of journalists to decide what was and wasn't safe to release to the public. That's crazy! But whatever we think of Snowden, it's clear we should be upset with the US government. Now, it is hard to find a clear biblical basis for a right to privacy, so on that front it may be hard to condemn what they have been doing. But it takes no effort at all to find a warning about government intrusion (1 Samuel 8:10-19). We also know men are not angels, and so it is best not to entrust them with tools that can only be used properly by angels. It's naive to think the very same government group that lied in the first place about collecting our information can be trusted not to look through this information without a warrant. Even if they do go the legal route, Snowden noted that whenever the NSA goes to a judge to ask to look through someone's data the judge always grants approval. So that is no check on abuse at all. One of the more common Christian responses to the government surveillance states is to wonder why, if we've done nothing wrong, we should make a fuss about the government watching everything we say and do? That's a question best answered with another: have you ever done anything that might, if seen in the wrong light, seem wrong? Harvey Silverglate makes the case that the average ordinary American citizen arguably commits Three Felonies A Day inadvertently, due simply to the sheer tonnage of laws on the books. So we're already in a situation in which the government can, if it wishes, convict any one of us. Do we really want to entrust them with a permanent record of all our activities? And if they insist that this is no big thing, then Douglas Wilson has a proposal predicated on the biblical notion that the government should only subject others to what they would gladly subject themselves (Matt. 7:12): "I have a proposal. We need a law that says that there will be no surveillance of the American people that has not first been test-driven for five years at the Capitol building and its environs. You tell us the drink is not poisoned, so you drink it. Sweeps of phone records, busting into emails, targeted review of IRS records, tracking of movements through security gates, and surveillance drones overhead. All such records gathered will be open to Freedom of Information Requests, and will be provided to primary challengers free of charge, and with no names redacted. Why do I want to do such a thing? National security, ma’am." CAUTIONS CitizenFour is rated R for language, and that is primarily for the use of the f-word which pops up a dozen or so times. But there are two instances of God's name being used in vain. Reformed Perspective doesn't normally recommend films that take God's name in vain. In fact, we earnestly avoid doing so. When it comes to violence and sexual content in a film, we know that there can be depictions that fall "in bounds" – we aren't concerned with couples hugging or with heroes punching out villains. But there is seldom any excuse for taking God's name in vain. You want viewers to know your character stubbed his toe? Have him say "Ouch!" Does the protagonist need to express frustration? Then have him say his dialogue with some volume. But there is no need to use God's name as an expletive. So why the exception in this case? Because this is not entertainment. While this documentary would be better if it didn't include these two instances, the information found here is information we need to know. For mere entertainment's sake there is no need to tolerate blasphemy. But when we are watching something for education's sake, then we may have good reasons to sit through some sinful depictions, including those of blasphemy and violence. We shouldn't watch footage of violent protests and war carnage to be entertained, but it can be important to do so to be informed. And to understand what our government is up to in the area of surveillance, there is really nothing comparable to CitizenFour. So, for education's sake, this is still worth watching. One last caution: a brief kiss is shown between reporter Glenn Greenwald and his homosexual partner. CONCLUSION At movie's end, Snowden and Glenn Greenwald are in the same room, sitting side by side, but making use of a pad of paper to carry on parts of their discussion.  Why? Because it's the only way they can be sure the government isn't listening. This is a film everyone should see to learn about our governments' surveillance capabilities – as citizens the only way we can rein in government abuses is if we understand what they are. This is also a move to be shared and discussed. To help you carry on that discussion I've included a couple of links to helpful articles that look at Snowden and the NSA from a Christian perspective. Can Whistle-Blowing be Biblically Justified? To a Chair in the Basement You can watch the trailer below, buy it on DVD anywhere, and stream it on various online platforms (Americans can watch it on YouTube for free with ads here). ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

Flight: the Genius of Birds

Documentary 63 minutes, 2013 Rating: 9/10 I watched this with my three-year-old daughter and we had the exact same reaction: “Wow!” Flight takes a look at the design of birds and focuses particularly on hummingbirds, starlings, and arctic terns. All three have their wow moments: the hummingbird with how its tongue works the starlings with how thousands of them can come together in giant, flexing living clouds – this was awesome! the arctic terns in how they can migrate from one end of the planet to the other every year I decided not to include the trailer with this one, because it somehow manages to make this remarkable film look almost boring (if you really want to see it, you can find the trailer here). That just isn't so – this is amazing, a documentary you will watch again and again! So, instead I've included a clip from the film about the wonder of the starling clouds. While the hour-long film did tax the interest of my daughter – about half way through she returned to her Lego – the next day she was asking to see the rest of it. The impressive computer graphics, and the continuous close-up, slow-motion, and wide-angle shots make this a visual feast. It is intended for adults, but suitable for, and enthralling for, children too – unlike some nature documentaries, this has no violence; no predator and prey shots, so it really is child-friendly. I really can’t imagine anyone not loving this. The thesis of Flight is that the intricacies involved in birds’ ability to fly gives evidence of a Designer. But the producers don’t specifically name the Designer; they don’t specifically give God the credit He is due. But what the producers don’t do, viewers are sure to – you can’t watch this without praising God! This review first appeared on ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

The Narnia Code

Documentary 59 minutes/ 2009 RATING: 8/10 The Da Vinci Code and The Bible Code had me close to swearing off anything with the word “code” in the title, but this documentary made me glad I held off. It is based on a book of the same name that argues C.S. Lewis modeled the seven books of his Narnia series on the seven planets of the medieval cosmology. It is an argument that has intrigued and convinced many Lewis scholars. There seems good reason to believe the Lewis did add this extra layer of meaning and artistry to the books, and that, in a bit of patient playfulness, he was content to never make mention of it, leaving it for someone – as it turned out, a certain Michael Ward – to discover 50 years later. For a detailed look at the theory itself, viewers will need to go to the Bonus section of the DVD. The main feature focuses more on the discovery of the planetary connection, the excitement it caused, and why so many people today still get excited by what this man wrote. This is, admittedly, a documentary that will excite only a very particular audience: Narnia lovers who are equally fascinated by the tales' author. But for them, well, this brilliantly executed BBC production will have these folk scurrying off excitedly to their bookshelves and paging, once again, through these old favorites! You can see the trailer below and learn more about the book and documentary at PlanetNarnia.com. ...

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

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. ...

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 watch the "How Do You Like Me Now?" for free online at the top of this page, or by clicking here. Endnotes 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 affects 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....

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. ...

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. ...

Articles, Movie Reviews

5 fantastic and free documentaries

The Fool – the true "banana man" story (1 hour) This is the true story of how evangelist Ray Comfort was mocked and ridiculed by atheists the world over for a silly joke he made that fell flat. But even as Ray was brought low, God was using Ray's humiliation: these same atheists started inviting Ray onto their shows, podcasts, and stages and they let him say anything he wanted. So he used these forums to share the Gospel with hundreds and even thousands of atheists at a time. Some atheists even took Ray's books and read through them on their YouTube channels, all in an attempt to mock him. But the end result was they themselves read out a Gospel presentation to their listeners. As Ray asks, "Who but God could take atheists and not only have them listen to the Gospel, but have them proclaim it?" Human Zoos (1 hour) Are we made in the very Image of God? Evolutionists say no, and Human Zoos explores some of the implications of their beastly thinking. The Programming of Life 2: Earth (1/2 hour) Our planet is incredibly fine-tuned for life, and yet amazingly robust in its provision for that life. This film explores how unlikely it is that the Earth would just happen to have everything that we need in exactly the proportions we need. This is a fantastic sequel to Programming for Life which explored just how impossible it would have been for life to have come about by chance. You can watch that one for free too, right here. The cautions I would add are that the scientists consulted run the gamut from six-day creationist to intelligent design proponent to theistic evolutionist, and there seems a sort of "scientism" at work here (Science as the sole arbitrator of truth). That said, the overall argument they make – that the evidence shows that the Earth is uniquely and clearly designed for life – is one we can endorse wholeheartedly. The Bible vs. the Book of Mormon (1 hour) This team talked to archeologists and others to ask, is the Book of Mormon comparable to the Bible? City of Bees (1/2 hour) This is an oldie but goodie about how amazing the bee and its hive really are. This is science seen through Christian eyes, and it is just as fascinating today as it was when it first came out way back in 1962. Be sure to watch it with the kids! ...

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

CONNECT: Real help for parenting kids in a social media world

Documentary 70 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Connect offers “real help for parenting kids in a social media world” and the host, Kirk Cameron, starts things off by scaring parents with the story of a boy who was Internet-stalked by a “grown adult man.” The dad intervened in time… but it was a close thing. I watched this with 30-or-so other parents and this opener certainly grabbed our attention. But now, what can we do to protect our kids? Cameron makes clear, it isn’t just the creeps that we need to watch out for. We need to teach our children to see through a number of lies that social media fosters, including: “I deserve to be happy all the time” and “I am the center of the universe.” Our children need to know God is the center of the universe, and instant gratification is not only not a right, but not even healthy. More important: parents need to correct their own addiction to social media, and then get actively involved in their children’s lives. We are all busy, but we cannot be, as one of the experts put it, “mentally-absent parents.” There was a fantastic discussion starter for all the parents and teens who attended our viewing. One caution: there is some topic matter – about pornography addiction and suicide – that is not appropriate for the very young. It can be rented via online streaming, or purchased via DVD here. Americans with Amazon Prime can watch it here. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

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. You can watch the trailer for I Survived "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" below and watch the whole film for free here. Jon Dykstra also blogs on movies at ReelConservative.com. ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews

GOODBYE HOLLAND: The destruction of Dutch Jewry

Documentary 90 minutes / 2004 RATING: 8/10 I grew up reading Piet Prins’ Scout books and Anne DeVries’ Journey Through the Night, learning about the courage of the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I also heard stories about how my grandparents and my friends’ grandparents hid Jews from the Nazis. So it with shock that I learned three-quarters of the Jews in the Netherlands didn’t make it through the War alive. This was not the story as I had understood it! But it turns out that the heroes I read and heard about growing up were the exceptions, not the rule. That courage was so rare overall, but more common among our Reformed relatives, says something about the love they had for God. They were willing to risk their lives because they knew that whether they lived or died, they were the Lord’s (Roman 14:8). However there were not many like them. Along with Anne Frank, more than 100,000 Dutch Jews were deported to concentration camps, and they were often rounded up by Dutch policemen, whose work was overseen by Dutch officials, and they were shipped off on trains run by Dutch engineers. The Dutch weren’t merely silent; many were among the Germans’ most helpful allies. It wasn’t simply apathy; it was betrayal. That’s the point that director Willy Lindwer makes in this documentary. A son of one of the few Jewish survivors, he set out to discover why the Dutch allowed the Holocaust to happen in their country. He interviews both those who had the courage to help, and those who felt they had no other option but to go along with what the Germans were demanding. It is with this second group, those who went along, that some of the most compelling discussions happen. This film was made in 2004, so six decades has passed since the War’s end, and yet some had still not learned anything from it. One 70-something-year-old described his wartime boss as a “righteous man” – this same boss had been a police chief who rounded up thousands of Jews for the Germans. Though about half the film is subtitled (because the interviewees are speaking Dutch) it’s conversations like this that make the film so gripping. Evil men are supposed to look like Hitler, or Saddam – raving, shouting maniacs. But this man looks like your grandpa. LEST WE FORGET The Remembrance Day phrase “Lest we forget” speaks to how we must learn from the past. The value in this film – the reason it is a must-see – is precisely because the evil it uncovers is not at all dissimilar from the sort we see today. Long before orders were given to deport Dutch Jews, they were excluded from government jobs. Then they were kicked out of public schools, and a few months later they were ordered to publicly identify themselves by sewing a Star of David on their coats. It continued step by step. Why didn’t more of the Dutch resist? Maybe it was because each step, on its own, didn’t seem quite so objectionable. When the Dutch restaurant owners were told they had to exclude Jews or risk having their businesses shuttered, how did these businessmen think through their decision? Perhaps they thought, “I have to feed my family. And surely the Jews can…just buy their food at the grocery store, right?” So the Voor Joden Verboden (“For Jews Forbidden”) signs went up. Today we also face a step-by-step mounting pressure to conform to evil. Abortion is the biggest evil of our time, of course. But remember Melissa and Aaron Klein, the Oregon couple who were asked to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple? They were fined $135,000 for refusing. So the message the government sent was that Christians bakers can either bake the cake or lose their business. They can spend a few hours making a cake – just flour, sugar, eggs, and some icing – or lose the business that it took them years and piles of money to build. It’s no coincidence that so much pressure was brought to bear on something quite inconsequential – a $135,000 fine for not baking a cake that the same-sex couple could have easily purchased at any number of other bakeries. But the Devil wants to present the first compromise like it’s the only logical course to pursue. BEST TIME TO SPEAK IS NOW We can ask, as one of the film’s interviewees does, why didn’t someone just throw sand in the engine of one of those Nazi’s transport trains? It wouldn’t have taken much to slow down the Jewish deportation if only someone had being willing to sabotage the trains. But the film also acknowledges the fears that drove many to inaction and collaboration. The Jews weren’t the only ones being shipped away to concentration camps – if you helped them, you risked being deported along with them. And yet…there was a time when action wouldn’t have been so costly. There was a time when speaking out might have, yes, cost someone their job, but it wouldn’t have cost them their life. And we can only wonder what might have happened if more had spoken up then. Could the Germans have killed nearly so many if there had been a loud early voice arguing against Dutch collaboration? What we must never forget, then, is that we shouldn’t delay in speaking up for what is right. We need to resist now, because if we wait, the pressure to stay silent and to go along will only increase. We need to speak now, because it is easier to turn things around before we’re heading full speed in the wrong direction. Speaking up doesn’t guarantee success, but it is obedient. It does bring God glory. And because God has chosen to work through us, we never know what changes God might effect through us, if we’re willing to act in obedience. We can shake our heads at the state of our culture, or we can ask, like Paul, how can the world respond to God’s Truth if we’ve never shared it with them (Romans 10:14)? There are so very many reasons to speak now. CAUTIONS The only caution to consider in this film is a perspective it offers on Jewish orphans being adopted by Christian couples. There were more than a thousand Dutch Jewish orphans at war’s end, and a well-meaning Christian group wanted to ensure they all went to Christian homes. They wanted to save these children’s souls, and planned to use adoption as a conversion tool. What this overlooks is that God places us with parents, and He has also gives our larger families a role in raising us too. So should a child’s parents die, then it is because we are Christians and respect the God-given role of the family, that we would arrange for a Jewish child to go their closest relatives, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever it might be. But the director pushes for more than that. He thinks that a Jewish orphan, one with no relatives to adopt her, should still be sent to a Jewish family. But this elevates ethnic ties to the level of family ties. And that is giving ethnicity a status it doesn’t deserve – God doesn’t say we have to stay with people who look and act like us. CONCLUSION One hundred thousand Jews were deported from the Netherlands. It is a shocking figure. It took three years and 93 trains loads to take them all to Germany. And very few did anything to help them. One hundred thousand is also the number of unborn children killed each year in Canada. What are we doing to stand up to the great evil of our time? One place to start might be watching this film together with your family, or in a high school history class, and discussing the place of courage, fear, and apathy in our day-to-day conversations and interactions with the world. Many of our Christian grandparents didn't see the matter of hiding Jews as a question to be weighed and considered - they simply did it because they knew God wanted them to love their neighbors (Mark 12:31). And they were comfortable with placing their families, their fortunes, and their lives in His hands. We have the very same faithful God. Do we have the very same faith in Him? "Goodbye Holland" can be borrowed from many libraries, and US Amazon Prime members can view it for free here. 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

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....

Family, Movie Reviews

Two DVD series teach Science the way kids love to learn it . . . and from a six-day perspective

When it comes to science, some of the most compelling material for kids will have scattered evolutionary references throughout. More importantly, secular texts don't give the Creator his due, and are lacking when it comes to awe. I suspect that's because it's hard to express awe and not direct it upward – awe expressed is worship. So when a scientists won't acknowledge the sheer Genius at work behind the wonders around him (and instead credits it all to thoughtless evolution) that's going to cut into his bubbling appreciation. So what a treat it was to find two DVD science series that are not only Christian, but compelling. And both are crafted from a biblical perspective that acknowledges God made it all in just six days: Biology 101 is intended for teens and up but parents will love it too. Meanwhile Newtons' Workshop is aimed at the younger set, Kindergarten up to maybe Grade 6, but the whole family can enjoy it together. BIOLOGY 101 Curriculum / Documentary 2012 / 277 minutes RATING: 9/10 Wes Olson's Biology 101 DVD series proceeds from a young-earth 6-day-creation perspective, but this high-school curriculum resource isn't so much a specifically creationist resource as a solidly biblical one. What I mean by that is that Olson only rarely specifically mentions creationism and evolution, but he's always talking about how great God is. That awe shows up in all he says. But while the term "creationism" is seldomly heard, a literal understanding of the Bible is integrated throughout this series. For example, in talking about genetics Olson throws in the quick comment that there are only three people who have not come about by the combination of their parents' DNA: Adam, made from the earth, Eve, made from Adam, and Jesus, made from Mary's DNA and the Holy Spirit. The creationist perspective also comes out in how this look into earth's various lifeforms is broken up. Olson has ordered the segments by what day in the creation week that the organism was made. So, we start with plants on the third day, then look at aquatic and avian creatures which were made on the fifth day, and so on. It looks good Production values are solid throughout. There are piles of pictures and film clips of the creatures being discusses, and Olson, as narrator, has a delightfully dry wit. This is evidenced in the many short extra bits of information he includes, such as this: "Ostriches are the largest birds, standing over eight feet talk, and the fastest two legged runner, sprinting nearly 45 miles per hour. Roadrunners, on the other hand, have a top speed of only 17 mils per hour, chasing lizards and snakes. Coyotes have a top speed of nearly 30 miles per hour, almost twice the speed of a road runner. Just in case you were wondering." And sometimes it is the extra bits of trivia that serve to make his points more memorable. In talking about recessive and dominant genes he noted how dark hair was dominant over light, and, "...incredibly the gene for having 6 fingers on one hand is dominant over the gene for having only five fingers on one hand, but practically everybody carries two copies of the five-fingered gene, which is why you almost never see someone who has six fingers on one hand." Six fingers is dominant? I'm going to remember that. And in remembering it, I'm going to remember the difference between recessive and dominant genes. Contents This is meant as a high school biology course. However, it is only 4 and a half hours long, and while it comes with a 118 page textbook (on pdf, stored on one of the DVDs) it is less comprehensive than a high school biology course would need to be. So this would make a wonderful foundation for a course, but other materials would be needed to supplement it. The 9 episodes vary in length from as short as 15 minutes to as long as 44 minutes. DISK 1 1. Introduction: Defining life and an explanation of organism classification systems 2. Plants DISK 2 3. Aquatic creatures 4 Avian creatures DISK 3 5. Land animals 6. More land animals 7. Mankind 8. More on Mankind DISK 4 9. A brief history of the study of biology, the origins of genetics, and the moral questions involved in remaking our own genome Audience The course material is for ages 15 and up, but the content is appropriate for all ages. This focus on all-ages appropriateness does mean the discussion of our reproduction system is done in the broadest of strokes. We learn about how children are a combination of their mom's and dad's genes but no mention is made of exactly how those genes get mixed. I'd highly recommend this to any Christian high school science teacher – whether they use it in whole or part, there's sure to be lots of it they will want to show their classes. It would also be an excellent supplement for any Christian child attending a secular high school; this is the perspective they'd be missing. Families with an interest in this subject matter will also find this worth buying. I should note that while I gave this an 9 rating, that was for how it rates as an an educational resource – I can't think of any better. But from a solely entertainment focus, this would only score a 7. If you want to learn biology, this a wonderful method. If you want to be entertained, there are more entertaining films out there. You can find out more at the Biology 101 site and check out the 14 minute first segment and introduction down below. The 4-DVD Biology 101 set is $70 US on the website, but seems to be cheaper at Christianbooks.com and Amazon.com. Chemistry 101 is even better Wes Olson has also produced a Physics 101 series and a Chemistry 101 series. I haven't seen the Physics 101, but have had a chance to look at the Chemistry 101 series. I thought it was even better. Olson's approach to teaching chemistry is to lay it out as it was discovered – we go through it historically, learning about one discovery after another. I was rather surprised about how much of our knowledge of chemistry has only been discovered in the last 150 years. This historical approach is brilliant and fascinating. I watched this one simply because I couldn't stop. But at 11 hours long it is a little over twice the material of the Biology 101 series....so I'm not done it yet.   NEWTONS' WORKSHOP Children's TV series 1997 / 226 minutes Rating: 7/10 That stars of this children's "edutainment" show are most certainly Grandma and Grandpa Newton, who have more spare time and are quirkier than any grandparents you know. Over the course of this 8-episode series, this set of seniors is ready to help any time their grandkids have a question or a problem. What kind of help? Well, in Episode 1, when granddaughter Trisha and her friend Megan decide to do a science project on "world building" Grandpa Newton just happens to have a workshop full of mechanical models that show how wondrously God has designed this planet. And in Episode 4, when an astronaut's visit to her school has Trisha curious about space, Grandpa helps puts the solar system in perspective by creating a scale model in which the Sun is the size of a beachball, and Earth is almost a soccer field away. It's fast-paced, funny, and has my 4 to 8-year-old daughters' attention even after repeated viewings. This is a conservative Christian perspective on science, put out by the (generally Calvinist) Moody Bible Institute. And, while I'm not up for quite as many viewings as my kids, these are entertaining enough that I don't mind seeing the repeats now and again. Cautions That said, I did have a caution to share. In Episode 8, "The Pollution Solution," Grandma and Grandpa tackle the problem of pollution, and while most of this episode is sensible and helpful, there is a dash of confusion and a spoonful of tokenism mixed in. It begins with Dad calling a family meeting about the way everyone is wasting water. But he misrepresents the problem: he make it seem like long showers can contribute to drought, but a shower's water heads down pipes that will eventually return it right back to the lake or river it came from. Long showers can be wasteful, but they aren't contributing to any drought – what's going down the drain, never to be seen again, is mom and dad's money, paying for water and heat that isn't needed. The tokenism comes in when Tim and Trisha end up having a trash contest to see who can generate the least amount of trash over a week. What isn't addressed is that recycling costs money – it takes resources too – so recycling isn't always the responsible choice. We see a similar sort of tokenism when the Newtons briefly address global warming. This episode was made 20 years ago so, compared to anything today, the doom and gloom is a lot less pronounced. But we do get fed today's typical non-solutions: Tim and Trisha suggest global warming can be addressed by "walking on short errands, or riding your bike, or carpooling to work." Sounds good, and you'll hear suggestions like that made today too. But it misrepresents the radical nature of the changes global warming proponents are really after. It isn't a matter of more bikes, but fewer children. Now, if the show's producers had heard that sort of argument 20 years ago I think they might have seen through it. They'd know from the Bible that children are a blessing to be embraced, so when the world says the opposite – that they are a curse to be avoided – that gives Christians reason to be skeptical. That said, Grandpa Newton has some good things to say in this episode too, and I think it can be watched to some benefit so long as mom and dad are there to talk their kids through it. But if you aren't buying this as a package set, then DVD #4 might be worth giving a miss. Conclusion So who would like this best? While the producers recommend this for 7-12, I'd lower that on both sides by about 2 years. This is best suited for 5-10, although Mom or Dad can enjoy it too. Overall this is just a fun, clean, biblically-based, science lesson wrapped up as family TV series. It entertained our family and educated them too - not a bad combination! You can pick it up at Christianbooks.com or Amazon.ca. Both of these reviews first appeared on Reel Conservative.   ...

1 2 3 4