Like Button

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Courageous -- Not a Review

As I mentioned, my wife and I went to see the movie, Courageous. The movie spawned all sorts of thoughts. This, then, is oriented around the movie, but it isn't a review. Well, perhaps a little.

The movie had a lot to commend it, and, as I said, I would recommend it to anyone who hasn't yet seen it. If you're a Christian and a male (either a father or a potential father), I highly recommend it.

The movie is about four police officers and their families who are courageous as officers but resolve to be more courageous as fathers. The movie has its action sequences as all cop films have without the gratuitous blood-letting or foul language that no cop film requires. It is well acted and well filmed and worth the visit. I don't want to give away anything for those of you who haven't seen it, so that's about all you're going to get of the details from me.

What else did I like about the movie? Well, the first thing I'll say is that it had one of the clearest presentations of the Gospel that you'll find in any theater. It wasn't muffled or mushy. It wasn't "seeker-friendly" or coddling. It was correct. And it was necessary. As in the previous movie, Fireproof, the movie carried a message. I appreciated the fact that it wasn't "soft". It called on unbelievers to believe, but it carried a powerful message for believers. In other words, it wasn't happy with "easy believism". "Just believe and life will be good!" Nope, not here. It is a vehicle for a powerful call to godliness. I appreciated the fact that this carried a timely and necessary call for God's men to be godly men. In the popular feminized Christianity of the day, men are often left without any solid call. This was aimed directly at God's men. We need it. One other undercurrent throughout the movie that I really liked was the reminder of the Providence of God. We miss often the concept of Providence. Do you see the root word? "Provide." That is, God as Provider gives us what we need all the time. Maybe that's pleasant. Maybe it's not. Maybe we think we accomplished it. Maybe it's plain we didn't. But God is always Sovereign and always provides what we need. I caught that in this movie.

I did encounter some concerns in the movie. There was a nagging question of whether or not it was a morality play or a Gospel presentation. If you, like me, took it as a call for Christian men to live up to God's call for fathers, it wasn't a problem. If you took it without that filter, it seemed like another call for people to be nice. Here, let me put it this way. Is Christianity about being a good father (or whatever) or knowing Christ? It would be easy in this movie to get that confused. I'm left with a conundrum. The movie calls Christian men to be godly. The movie also shares the Gospel. It's easy to confuse the message. Is Christianity about the Gospel (saved by faith apart from works) and being a moral person? Is Christianity just another moral call? It could come across that way. On the other hand, Scripture repeatedly calls believers to godliness. Is it right to leave that out? I'm not entirely sure.

One of the problems I had with this film is an unfortunate necessity in the medium. I mean, if the movie was made like real life, who would watch it? No, it has to work this way. All films do. You see things going well. There is a crisis. The character(s) work through and things turn out okay. That's how a movie works. That's not how life works. In real life, a guy may lose his job and remain unemployed a long time. A woman could contract cancer and die from it. Real Christians pray and feel like God is not listening sometimes because the answer they get is silence. This is real life. It doesn't make for watchable movies. This concept, however, tends to lead us into a problem in our thinking. When you see a movie like this or hear in wonderful testimony how so-and-so prayed and God answered miraculously, you think "Isn't God wonderful?!" Yes, He is, but He doesn't always do that. And He's still wonderful. You can almost get the impression that God is our butler, a really handy Guy to have around to fix things when there's trouble. A personal servant who makes our lives better. If He doesn't, either we're not good enough (too sinful, lacking faith, something) or He has failed to meet His obligations. It's an easy step from a movie like this to a thought like that. But, as long as you're aware of it, you can avoid it.

There are those complaining about these things that I've mentioned, but with more vigor than I'm offering. I simply put them out there for your consideration. Do they properly divide between Gospel and morality? Do they rightly represent life and Christianity? Could they cause people to be confused? All these are things to think about. My bottom line is Paul's bottom line: "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice" (Phil 1:18). Go see the movie. Keep in mind the reservations. Don't conclude (as too many foolishly do today) that movies are real life. Don't get confused into thinking that Christianity is some morality religion. Don't think that God is your private helper, your personal "fix it" Guy. Pay attention to the truth, especially to the call for God's men to be God's men. It's a good movie and worth the effort. Go see it.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Great review, with some good provoking thoughts. I would say it is NOT specifically a gospel message, although it is plainly presented, but is indeed directed at Christian men to be better fathers. That's the take I had. But just as Paul noted about our assemblies, unbelievers may come in and hear the message of the Gospel.

I took my wife to see this movie the day it first played locally, and I also wrote about some concerns I had at:

Stan said...

Yes, definitely not a "Gospel movie", but a movie that includes the Gospel message. Definitely aimed at Christian men. And I am in favor of Christian men fulfilling the responsibilities that God has given ... and concerned that at the moment many are not.

Craig said...

Saw it this afternoon and thought it was good. I think the primary message was what it takes to be a Christian father. However, I think that gospel presentation was part of the story line and made sense in the context. I do think that unbelievers will see this and to clearly spell out the relationship between faith and good fatherhood (which one could argue goes beyond just Christians), puts the overall message in a larger context.

As with all their other movies, it's a little manipulative, and I got teary when I was supposed to, but overall the ministry they have seems like a pretty good thing. I too would recommend that folks go see it.

Stan said...

"I got teary when I was supposed to"

Yeah, there were a couple of "craft" points there I didn't touch on. I got teary at the proper times as well. There were some really funny parts. That kind of stuff.

Craig said...

The snake king part was pretty funny.

Stan said...

Yeah, that was great.

Craig said...

More to the point, sort of.

Isn't it enough that these folks have produced a series of movies that positively project a Christian worldview? Does there need to be more than that? I know that there might be things that we don't like about these movies, but the bottom line is that they are making inroads in an area of our culture that is hostile to Christianity and having some degree of success doing it.

I guess I come down to seeing a positive message about how to be a good father and husband, coupled with a clear presentation of the gospel seems like a good thing to me.

I don't mean to suggest that you believe otherwise, but this might be a case of overthinking.

Stan said...

Which is why I strongly recommend the movie.

But here's what I've seen. I've seen people who take what they see on the screen and assume it is real. Then they try it out. If it does not come out to them as it did on the screen, it is a failure. And that's a problem.

I remember seeing a bumper sticker years ago: "If you treat her like a thoroughbred, she won't be a nag." Treat your wife right. Good. But, the fact is that you may treat her like a queen and she may still be mean. We ought to treat our wives right ... not for the positive outcome.

We ought to be the fathers and husbands we should be ... not because "it works" like it did in the movie. I don't want people to get discouraged from doing what is right.

Craig said...

I'm with you on that. I do think that we sometimes expect too much from things like this. Both from the standpoint of expecting a movie to be more than it is as well as from people who think that life should work just like the movie.

Stan said...

In a sense my concern is actually broader than "movies like this". Due to our immersion into modern technology and the removal of thinking in favor of feeling, many, many people have forgotten that what goes on up on the screen is fiction. It may depict a true story. It may be based on a true story. But at the core, it is fiction. Still, they produced a movie, 2012, about the fictional "end of the world", and I find that an inordinate number of people are quite convinced that the world will end in 2012. They made the Harry Potter series and neither non-Christians nor Christians seemed to recognize it as fiction. (Why, oh, why did so many Christians get up in arms over fiction?)

Having apparently lost the ability to see a story, analyze it, see the messages without assuming fact, and leave off the "story" while retaining the message, movies become problematic. Movies like these with a lot of truth in them become more problematic in that regard.

Craig said...

I had the same thoughts about the Left Behind series.

I was shocked that people were getting their theology from fiction.

I do see your concern about the bigger picture. I do think that there are a number of positives that can come from this movie in particular, but as usual there are some folks who get it wrong.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think the positives from this movie far outweigh the negatives, which is why I also recommend it, and will buy it when it comes out.

Craig said...

I don't know if I'll buy it, but I'm feeling like it is really important for my (heading toward divorce) friend to see it. I think it could give him a different perspective on how his kids can be affected and hopefully a nudge away from the divorce process.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

I think it will be an important thing to have in my library for counseling. People are so video-oriented nowadays. We were able to use "Fireproof" for a couple we were counseling - the husband had that thing for porn. It really put a face on the problem for him.