Category Archives: Movie reviews

Fatal Flaws

Last year I was invited to an evening with a filmmaker named Kevin Dunn.  He’d made a documentary about euthanasia and assisted suicide.  During the course of the evening, I discovered not only that he’s a fellow Canadian, but he’s even from Hamilton, Ontario — the place I last served as a pastor.  And here he was in far-off Tasmania, presenting his new film.  He spoke and gave some background to the film and also showed us a few clips.  At the time, in 2019, there had already been four attempts to introduce “assisted dying” laws into Tasmania — and all had failed.  However, we were warned that proponents are nothing if not persistent.  Next week, the Legislative Council of Tasmania (the Upper House) will be debating and voting on another bill, this one entitled End-of-Life (Voluntary Assisted Dying) Bill.

One of the pro-life groups I follow on Facebook is Lifechoice Tasmania.  They posted a link last week to the Fatal Flaws film, encouraging folks to watch it.  I posted a comment mentioning that I’d been to the evening with Kevin Dunn in Launceston and was thinking of maybe screening the film for our church.  One thing led to another and, together with Lifechoice Tasmania and ACL we showed the film last night for a max capacity audience.

It’s a powerful documentary.  Kevin Dunn is a story-teller.  Here he uses the power of story to share what’s happened in places like Newfoundland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and the USA (yes, I know Newfoundland is not a country).  He speaks with real people, some of whom were pressured into dying (but didn’t), some who wanted to die (and did), and the families of some who died who had no choice.  Here’s a clip:

Dunn also interviews pro-euthanasia/assisted suicide advocates and presents their side of the story.  Interestingly, even for some of them, places like the Netherlands have gone too far in allowing people to take their own lives for mental suffering or just being tired of life.

If there’s one constant thread running through Fatal Flaws, it’s that there’s always a trend downwards.  Sometimes slippery slope arguments hold little value, but in this instance there is demonstrable proof that once the first step is taken, it all goes down hill from there.  Pro-death advocates are never satisfied — they always want the boundaries to be expanded.  Here in Australia, Lyle Shelton tells the story of Dr. Philip Nitschke in his new book I Kid You Not.  The Northern Territory briefly had euthanasia legislation from 1996-1997.  At a parliamentary inquiry in Tasmania, Nitschke admitted under oath to breaking the law to kill “a socially isolated patient.”  And he was never charged.

I recommend Fatal Flaws to all readers, not just those in Tasmania.  Even if you’re in a country or region that’s already allowing this evil, you can be sure there is or there will be pressure to expand it.  In Canada, for example, there’s Bill C-7 which will permit euthanasia for people with dementia, if that person had previously been approved (more info here).  And on this love affair with death goes…

A final note:  Fatal Flaws is not a Christian documentary.  It doesn’t speak about what the Bible teaches or a Christian worldview perspective on assisted suicide/euthanasia.  Nevertheless, it provides all the needed context to inform a Christian perspective on these matters.

Fatal Flaws can be rented or purchased online here.

 


Movie Review: Spirit & Truth

The other day I mentioned Spirit & Truth as one of three must-see films.  Now you can read my full review of it over at Reformed Perspective.


Three Must-See Films

In the last while, I’ve watched three incredible films.  These films have two things in common:  they have great production qualities and they present solid biblical truth.  All three would be ideal for church leadership retreats, Bible or catechism classes, or maybe just getting together with some Christian friends on a Friday evening.

This 2017 film by Les Lanphere documents the rise of the Young, Restless, Reformed phenomenon.  But it’s not just historical — it goes beyond to the biblical roots of Reformed theology.  It’s a solid overview of some key aspects of Reformed teaching.  You can find it on Vimeo.

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This one is also by Les Lanphere.  Released last year (2019), it’s about Reformed worship.  It beautifully explains how Reformed worship is determined by adherence to Sola Scriptura.  One of the things I really like about it is the emphasis on how Reformed worship is trans-cultural.  It’s available here on Vimeo.

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Have you ever heard of the Prosperity Gospel?  Would you recognize it if someone was preaching it?  This is one of the most pernicious false teachings of our day — a deadly, gospel-perverting error.  This 2018 film exposes it, refutes it, and presents the biblical, God-glorifying gospel instead.  It’s a long film (over 2 hours), but well-worth the time.  I couldn’t stop watching.  Available on Vimeo here.  There’s also a free one hour version available here at YouTube.

 


Mockingjay and Reformed Political Theory

Mockingjay

At the moment, the third installment of the Hunger Games series continues to dominate box office sales.  Mockingjay (Part 1) continues the story of Katniss Everdeen as she struggles against the tyrannical Capitol.  I have written about the first installment before, providing the (tongue-in-cheek) “definitive Christian review.”  The latest installment provides even more food for thought.  In fact, Mockingjay provides a powerful illustration of a particular aspect of Reformed political theory.

It has to do with resistance against tyrants.  We can take John Calvin as an example of the theory in writing.  Part of the fourth book of Calvin’s Institutes is taken up with how Christians should view the state.  Calvin also lays out the responsibilities of magistrates.  Almost at the very end, he deals with the question of what should be done with tyrannical rulers.  If you have a king who is sadistic, unjust, a persecutor, and a lover of almost every evil, should a Christian just take it?  Is there no recourse for believers?  Can they revolt?  Calvin’s answer (in Institutes 4.20.31) is that there is a proper and God-honouring way to resist and overthrow tyranny, but it still involves God-given authority.  Calvin’s position is that lower magistrates not only can, but must do what they can to overthrow tyrannical higher rulers.  Says Calvin,

…I am so far from forbidding them to withstand, in accordance with their duty, the fierce licentiousness of kings, that, if they wink at kings who violently fall upon and assault the lowly common folk, I declare that their dissimulation involves nefarious perfidy, because they dishonestly betray the freedom of the people, of which they know that they have been appointed protectors by God’s ordinance.

In other words, lower magistrates are actually obliged to resist tyranny and overthrow it if necessary.

A classic illustration of this is found in the Dutch Revolt.  During the mid-sixteenth century, the Spanish were in control of what we today call the Netherlands and Belgium.  The Spanish were tyrannical to a fault.  They were brutally oppressive, especially towards Reformed believers.  However, Reformed folk did not take it passively.  There was a strong resistance movement and it was led by lower magistrates from across the Low Countries.  Men like William of Orange resisted the Spanish and made war against them.  Eventually, these efforts were successful and freedom was secured, at least in the northern part of the Low Countries.  Were the Dutch wrong to rebel against the Spanish?  No, it was not a rebellion in the sense of overthrowing authority.  Instead, it was lawfully constituted authorities leading a lawful revolt against godless tyranny.

We see the same thing happening in Mockingjay (Part 1).  President Snow and the Capitol are clearly tyrannical.  They oppress the districts and exact tribute from them (human tributes who serve for the entertainment of the Capitol).  But there is a revolt underway and it takes place under the auspices of District 13.  District 13 was thought by many to have been obliterated.  It turns out that the district still exists and has a strong internal government led by President Coin.  President Coin is leading the revolt against the Capitol.  Consequently, from a Reformed perspective, the revolt portrayed in Mockingjay is a lawful endeavour.  In fact, President Coin is doing what she is obliged to do.  It would be wrong for her not to revolt against the Capitol.  I doubt Mockingjay intends to illustrate “Calvinist resistance theory,” but it does so nonetheless, at least to a certain degree.  To illustrate it fully, the characters involved would have to commit their cause to God and seek to carry it out for his glory.  Regrettably, the world of Katniss Everdeen, even in District 13, is a godless and unbelieving society.  All there is in the world portrayed is the horizontal plane.   Therefore, the illustration only works to a point.

Tyranny is always a threat.  We would be naive if we thought that we or our descendants will never be faced with it again.  If we should come to live under the jackboot of some oppressive, tyrannical power, how should we respond?  Because of our history, Reformed believers have given extensive thought to this question and we have an answer readily at hand.  We should never passively accept tyranny, but at the same time we must never reject authority.  This is why it is crucially important for Christians to be involved in politics.  We need believing people in positions of authority, not only for the influence they bear now, but also for the leadership they can provide if and when tyranny must be resisted and overthrown.


Collision

Last week I had the opportunity to teach presuppositional apologetics to a group of 25 university and college students in British Columbia.  They were a great bunch of highly motivated, intelligent, committed young Christians.  Obviously, I had a great time and I think they did too.

I would teach a morning and an afternoon session and then in the evenings they would do something a bit different.  Mark and Jaclynn Penninga came by on Tuesday evening to speak about sexuality and college life.  Jon Dykstra came by on the Wednesday and Thursday evenings to show a couple of films and lead a discussion.  The Thursday evening film was Collision.  I’ve heard lots about it, but I’d never actually watched it.  And because of a family event elsewhere, I didn’t on Thursday night either.  But after I came back to the retreat, Jon and I got to talking.  We made a trade.  I gave him Marilynne Robinson’s Home and he gave me Collision.

I watched it last night.  Before I go on, I want to make a disclaimer.  Greg Bahnsen was arguably the best second-generation Reformed apologist.  He was probably more gifted than Van Til in terms of putting theory into words and definitely when it comes to putting theory into practice.  I’ve learned a lot from Greg Bahnsen and for a time I was even enrolled in the Master of Arts in Apologetics program at the Southern California Center for Christian Studies (where he taught).  But Bahnsen was a theonomist and I’m not.  Similarly, Douglas Wilson is a gifted apologist.  He understands and implements Reformed apologetics.  Yet he is a signatory to the Joint Federal Vision Statement.  Anything positive I might have to say about Wilson here should be not construed as support for all of his thoughts or endeavours outside of the area of apologetics.

Collision is a film documenting a series of encounters between uber-atheist (or anti-theist) Christopher Hitchens and Doug Wilson.  Both are witty, intelligent, and deft communicators.  The film takes place in different settings — a synagogue, a New York college, Westminster Seminary, and a pub.  In between settings we follow a sort of “debate” that took place on a Christian TV station.  The encounters all revolve around the question, “Is Christianity good for the world?”

One of Hitchen’s favourite strategies is to trot out God’s command to destroy the Amalekites.  Hitchens views this as patently evil.  Wilson’s response is that Hitchens has no ground to stand on when he calls something evil.  Hitchens cannot account for good and evil from within his worldview.  Wilson said on a number of occasions, “The universe doesn’t care what we do.”

Who won the debate(s)?  It depends on the grid through which you view it.  In terms of debating ability, Hitchens and Wilson were evenly matched.  Both were well-prepared.  Both are quick on their feet.  Christians would undoubtedly chalk one (or more) up for Wilson, while atheists and skeptics would probably claim an obvious victory for Hitchens.

Generally speaking, the film reinforced what I had been teaching last week.  Sometimes when I teach this material I use the Bahnsen/Stein debate to illustrate — though we usually don’t listen to the whole thing.  I’m still not sure if Collision will replace it.  At a certain point, Wilson speaks about Matthew 24 and he sketches at least a partial preterist interpretation.  He asserts that Jesus Christ returned in 70 A.D. with the destruction of Jerusalem.  I first encountered that argument in David Chilton’s Paradise Restored.  I wasn’t convinced then, and I’m still not.   He speaks about the parable of the prodigal son and tells Hitchens that it’s really about Israel wandering in exile.  Such an interpretation doesn’t do justice to the context where Jesus offended the Pharisees by eating with tax collectors and sinners.  I don’t recall any such misinterpretations of Scripture in the Bahnsen/Stein debate.

Sensitive viewers should note that the soundtrack is a mixture of metal, rap, and a bit of classical.  Also, there is some coarse language.

As a final (less serious) note, as a lifetime member of the Red Green fan club, I couldn’t but help notice the resemblance with Doug Wilson.  But I’m sure someone else has already beaten me to that observation.