American Gospel: Christ Alone, Film Review

In the U.S. there has arisen a particularly virulent form of false teaching—a gospel which promises cash and comfort to Christ’s followers, and in so doing bilks the poor, the needy, and the ill.

One of the great blessings to the church recently has been the emergence of quality Christian documentary filmmaking. We’ve been blessed by the fruits of the creative labors of folks like Media Gratiae and Stephen McCaskell. The work of Brandon Kimber and his Transition Studios adds to that growing library of excellent films which are educational, entertaining, and edifying. In American Gospel: Christ Alone, we are treated to the melding of excellence in craft with excellence in content.

 

I vividly remember the first time I heard someone use “abominate” as a verb. It was John Piper and he was talking about the prosperity gospel.

In the U.S. there has arisen a particularly virulent form of false teaching—a gospel which promises cash and comfort to Christ’s followers, and in so doing bilks the poor, the needy, and the ill. It’s a gospel which elevates man and deposes God. The film American Gospel: Christ Alone by Transition Studios tackles this teaching, along with several other false gospels, in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner.

One of the great blessings to the church recently has been the emergence of quality Christian documentary filmmaking. We’ve been blessed by the fruits of the creative labors of folks like Media Gratiae and Stephen McCaskell. The work of Brandon Kimber and his Transition Studios adds to that growing library of excellent films which are educational, entertaining, and edifying. In American Gospel: Christ Alone, we are treated to the melding of excellence in craft with excellence in content.

I want to share five features of American Gospel which set it apart and make it a must-watch for believers who love the precious truths of the gospel.

An Admirable Craftsmanship

This film would be laudable even if we set aside the content and just looked at it purely as a specimen of documentary filmmaking. The story is composed of interviews, archival footage, and animated graphics. And if viewers aren’t paying attention, they may not even notice that this film has no narrator stringing that content together. This is an impressive feat. But Kimber pulls it off to great effect. The craftsmanship of this documentary speaks to Kimber’s talent as a filmmaker and story-teller.

I can’t tell you what joy that brings to me. The lack of quality Christian media has long been a gaping hole in the efforts of the true church. Just this past weekend the so-called church of Scientology spent millions to air a well-produced, high-quality recruitment ad to millions of souls around the world. Yet, so much of Christian film making is shoe-string budget hack jobs with poor acting, atrocious scripts, and if we’re lucky the films will at least not say something heretical. The best we can usually hope for is a moralistic plot. Ironically, hoping for gospel truth in a well-made Christian film is usually a pipe-dream.

What is truly encouraging about this film from an artistic standpoint, therefore, is that such skilled film making is used in service of even more admirable content.

A Striking Depth

I was impressed by the theological depth of American Gospel. Even as it took aim at the worst of the worst in the health and wealth movement, Roman Catholicism, and other sub-gospels, it didn’t take the low road of mere mockery.

A film like this could have surrendered itself to easy potshots at heretical crackpots. It’s a sad feature of so many believers, who are otherwise sound theologically, that they often simply mock false teaching. Though it’s easy to laugh off the clownish Osteens of the world with their Cheshire grin, awe-shucks platitudes, and brazen money-grabs, the truth is millions are deceived by these people. And they will not be shaken from those philosophical bonds just because some Reformed guy jeered at them.

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