Glenn E. Chatfield
The Watchman’s Bagpipes
One of the problems with so many apologetics ministries is the propensity to nit-pick every little detail of someone’s teachings, or lifestyle, or productions. I have been a wee bit guilty of this myself at times and when I notice it in my older articles I delete them for that cause — or at least clean out the nit-picking part.
There is no such thing as a perfect Bible teacher, be it a pastor or layperson; everyone — and that includes me — has made some type of error sometime in their teachings. I know I have changed some of my beliefs over the years as I have done more studying of the Word or have received correction/counsel from godly men. If we nit-pick people for every thing they do or say wrongly, then we will have no one who isn’t guilty!
This is true of movies. There are no perfect movies; they all have some sort of problem, even if it is just a story line which doesn’t make sense or poor direction. Some have technical errors, some have historical or social errors, and even some theological errors. If we criticize movies for minor errors then we may as well not watch any of them! I understand that we expect higher standards for Christian movies, but these producers are also sinful humans.
Now, I’ve read too many reviews of “War Room” and decided that if I watched the movie I would just be irritated the whole time. I expected to see lots of Beth Moore, lots of contemplative prayer, lots of aberrant spiritual warfare, etc. However, my wife decided she wanted to rent the movie so she could be able to discuss it with her Bible study group. As “luck” would have it, we got called by Family Video a few days ago to tell us we won the drawing to get a new movie rent free and two weeks of 1/2 price movies (we have rented about a dozen movies there in the past 2-3 years), so we decided to get War Room and watched it last night (30 Jan). It certainly wasn’t what I expected from all the nit-picking criticism I’ve read.
Before I give you my commentary (not a “review) on the movie, let me make a few general statements about the Kendrick Brothers’ movies:
1. Every prayer is answered just as requested and in very short times (as in this movie Elizabeth prays for her husband to fail in his adultery attempt and he immediately gets sick). Nothing ever goes wrong; no one ever gets a “no” answer to their prayers. I understand this is movie-making and story-telling and that the idea is to promote the faith and not bring in any possible negatives, no downers to the story, etc, but it gets rather annoying to me to see all the perfect answers to prayer when in my own life we have been waiting for years for prayers to be answered in the affirmative, and we know many families with similar issues! I think it is a wrong-headed teaching to say God answers every prayer the way we want it answered and He doesn’t take long with it! (They almost make God into a personal genie!)
2. Some important issues in their story lines are often left unaddressed (for example the emotional adultery and other disrespectful behavior of the wife in “Fireproof”) while they focus on the main topic. This leaves some “unfinished business” which can be distracting from the point of the movie.
3. In “Courageous” they began bringing in aberrant teachings when they promoted the patriarchy ideology. While it was a very small part of the story, it opened up a problematic ideology for leading people astray.
4. The marketing leads to items for sale promoting the various ideologies in the last three movies. This strategy is just like Hollywood.
Okay, now for my commentary on the movie itself, starting with my negatives.
Right at the top of my list is their use of Beth Moore as an actress. Beth Moore is a false teacher (much worse than Priscilla Shirer), and this movie gave her such a personal promotion (albeit in only two cameo scenes) that she is bound to gather more followers.
As with the other Kendrick movies, War Room had a very contrived story to make its point. I think this movie was more contrived than the others, making it more difficult to accept as a real situation. That’s just the way I saw it.
I think the idea of going to war with prayer is aberrant, and I believe it comes from the whole aberrant spiritual warfare ideology. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we are warring with our prayers. I would really like to know where the term “prayer warriors” began — it never is found in Scripture!
The “prayer closet” teaching is really an abuse of Matthew 6:6. Jesus was not saying we needed a private room; what he was teaching was that we are not to be out “on the street corners” so as to be seen as holy and righteous and “show-offy.” Our private “inner room” could be in the middle of the house all alone, or it could be in an open field, or even in a bedroom while everyone else in the house is elsewhere. The movie made the necessity of a private “prayer closet” (“war room”) virtually indispensable.
Toward the end of the movie, when a couple was looking at Clara’s house, the pastor could feel that Clara’s closet was a “prayer closet” — he said that the prayers were “baked in.” This is superstitious nonsense; no one is able to discern where people were praying just by “feeling” something.
The continual joking about Elizabeth’s stinky feet was very, very irritating to me. The movie’s “har har” about stinky feet was, to me, at the same level as Hollywood’s use of scatology. There was absolutely no reason for that story line — or the scene with her having bad breath! It was a juvenile attempt at humor.
Clara telling the crook to put his knife down “in the name of Jesus” is totally absurd. Nowhere are we to find in the Bible that using Jesus’ name will force bad guys to be unable to harm us. I think this was a very dangerous scene, as many non-discerning people may think they can just use “in the name of Jesus” if they are ever assaulted and the assault will not happen. I think it was irresponsible for the writers to put in that scene.
The teaching of Clara was that Satan is directly responsible for all the sins and all the problems between Elizabeth and her husband. The first problem with this is that Satan is not omni-present! Oh, Satan is responsible for sin coming into the world by his temptation of Eve, and he certainly puts temptations in front of humans with the help of the demonic realm, but he isn’t the cause of our sins. James 1:14-15 says that we are tempted by our own evil desires, dragged away and enticed by them, and the desires once conceived give birth to sin.
One of the worst scenes in the movie was Elizabeth’s railing against Satan, commanding him to leave her house and yard: “I don’t know where you are devil, but I know you can hear me!” Oh, really? Satan is now omniscient? What if he was bothering someone in China at the time? Elizabeth continued, “You are done…Go back to hell where you belong!” Satan will never be “done” tempting man until he is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10). And he doesn’t live in hell! The point is that we are nowhere told to rail at Satan, and Jude 9-10 even teaches against it.
Clara has a similar scene where she says, “Devil, you just got your butt kicked.” I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but Satan got his “butt kicked” by Jesus when He rose from the dead and paid for our sins.
While the movie has Clara being super-spiritual in her prayer life, I didn’t see any hint of contemplative prayer as claimed by some of the reviews, but they did make her knowledge of things to border on the mystical.
Clara had a framed document showing all the answered prayers she’s had; and it appeared that all her prayers are answered. My question was what the purpose was for that document; was it an award to God? was it for bragging? I thought it was something silly, but sure to show up in the “Christian” book stores.
There were many other more minor issues I found irritating, but not important enough to detail.
The end of the movie had a real smell of New Apostolic Reformation/Dominionism to it, especially when 2 Chron. 7:14 flashed on the screen. It really irritates me when Christians take this passage out of context (I addressed this abuse in an article), but it is even more irritating when it is taught in a movie reaching millions of people!!!
Okay, now for the positive. Overall, I think the movie did a good job pointing to the necessity of Bible study and prayer in the lives of Christians. It also showed the necessity for parents to be available for their children and to know what is going on in their children’s lives (it would have been better if they showed Elizabeth give up her job so as to raise her child, and give up their huge mansion!). It also taught that God is active in our lives.
The best review I read about War Room is the one by Fred Butler. He isn’t as nit-picky as others and still remains quite objective with his criticism and praise, and he points out problems I agree with but don’t feel like writing about — especially about Clara!
As with Courageous, I would not recommend this movie to anyone who has little discernment skills; they could easily pick up the wrong ideologies.
As a “P.S.”, the last issue I have with the movie is the DVD version’s “special features.” There were some unbiblical statements made, as well as some Scripture twisting. I expect better than this from a group of pastors. Here are the major problems:
All through the specials there is lots of talk about “soaking” things in prayer and having issues “saturated” with prayer. These are very common charismatic phrases which really need to be put into the ash can. We don’t “soak” or “saturate” anything with prayer, and I think it is a trite analogy.
From “The Heart of War Room”:
Priscella Shirer said, of prayer, “It’s what opens up the flood gates for God to come down and be involved in our every day circumstances.” Really? Without prayer God can’t be involved in our lives? What happened to His sovereignty? And didn’t he already “come down” as Jesus?
Beth Moore said, “He has us fight, not human flesh and blood, but fight the war that is in the heavenlies. That can only happen on our knees.” Um, I don’t see from scripture where we are to fight a war in the “heavenlies.” And prayer can be done standing, sitting, laying or in any configuration.
From “The Making of War Room”:
“We had no idea that the Mitchell home [Elizabeth’s house in the movie] and everything they went through would really need somebody to pray over that home and rebuke the devil in that scene.” Oh, so a pretend rebuke of the devil in the movie scene acted as a real rebuke of the devil? Again, where are we told in Scripture to rebuke the devil?
From “From Auditioning to Acting”:
Alex Kendrick: “The Lord first gave us the plot in the summer of 2012 and I was on a speaking trip with T.C. Stallings.” Isn’t this a claim to special revelation? Couldn’t this just be from their own imaginations?
T.C. Stallings continued the discussion: “And he says, ‘And for the character, Tony Jordan, T.C., I have you in mind. That’s what… The Lord has put you on my heart.” How can Alex know that dogmatically? Alex had apparently known about T.C. and his talents which fit into the story, so why couldn’t Alex have just came up with the idea?
It’s no wonder the Kendricks like Beth Moore — they use her schtick of claiming revelations from God!
From “The Church On Its Knees”:
They claimed they could feel the Holy Spirit come into the room where they were holding prayer sessions. Just what does this feel like, and how do you know it’s the Holy Spirit?
They pray over doors, seats, entrances, exits, the sanctuary, choir loft, church sections, etc. Where is the biblical warrant for this, and what do they think they are accomplishing praying over these objects?
“There are some things that are not going to happen apart from prayer. It’s not that God can’t, it’s that God has sovereignly chosen to say, ‘If you don’t pray, I’m not going to do it.’” Where do we find this in Scripture? How can he speak for God when Scripture doesn’t say this?
Scripture abuse other than the 2 Chron. passage:
The final frame in “The Church On Its Knees” showed Mark 11:17, And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” This passage is about the TEMPLE, not about buildings where Christians assemble.
At the end of “Molly Bruno: Modern Day Miss Clara,” Revelation 3:20 was displayed. This is a commonly abuse passage. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” I have previously addressed the abuse of this passage.
Well, there you have it. I think the movie was worthwhile as a reminder to where our priorities should be, but needs some discernment to watch, even though it wasn’t as bad as I was led to believe.
Used by permission.