Movie Review: Calvinist

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Our church held a viewing party the weekend before Reformation Day and we watched the popular Calvinist documentary that was released this year for Reformation 500. I had anticipated a type of corny, Christian cinematography, but this movie was a delightful surprise. Spoiler Alert: If you’d like to be completely surprised by the contents of the documentary, then you may want to skip this post. I may not be spoiling any plot twists, but I do give a general overview of the documentary.

The movie discusses a wide away of topics as it pertains to Calvinism. It attempts to give a definition of Calvinism, its place in history, and its influence upon the world and Christianity. The movie discusses the following: the Recent trends of Evangelicalism; the Emerging Church; the Reformed Resurgence; the Historical Descriptions of the Reformation; and Luther and Calvin. It also goes through every doctrine of TULIP; the “Cage Stage” of Calvinists; the Recent Pioneers of Calvinism; John Piper; Christian Hip Hop; Race and Calvinism; the Rise and Fall of Mark Driscoll; and Confessionalism.

Positives: Overall, I do believe that it was done well by Les Lanphere. A good variety of Calvinistic theologians and Christians were interviewed. I was worried certain people would not be acknowledged as “Reformed,” but that was not the case. This did a great job recognizing the pioneers and the catalysts of the Resurgence in America, despite their imperfections. There was no hint of Reformed arrogance. If anything, the movie poked fun at it. Furthermore, the movie connected with the lay person very well, as it was engaging, humorous, and interesting. More than just a boring history lecture,  it was a documentary that truly highlighted the Reformation and its place in church history. And I appreciated that it did not shy away from some of the weaknesses and struggles of the Calvinistic community and some of the people’s mistakes in history.

The illustrations and analogies were appealing to millennials. Maybe one too many video game references, but the point was well illustrated regardless, and there were others as well. The documentary was filled with the key passages of Scripture that the doctrines of grace stand upon, which was helpful for those who doubt the biblical validity of Calvinism. A skeptic would have a hard time refuting it biblically after watching this documentary.

There was good clarity on what Calvinism is and what it is not. The documentary chose its words well, especially in how it decided to define Calvinism and explain what Calvinism does not believe. It was a concise summary of certain historical events that were accurately represented.

Critiques: I have very few critiques of the movie. Knowing that this is a documentary and not everything could be included, it is difficult to find something wrong with it. If I had to comment, I would question the choice to highlight some people above others. Some preachers and proponents had more of a spotlight than others, and I wonder what merited their screen time over others in the movement. The tone of the documentary leaned towards the silly side, but it was tolerable and made it more engaging.

Recommendation: I highly recommend all Christians (Arminian or Calvinistic) to watch it. If you have members in your church struggling with the doctrines of grace, this is a great one for lay people. It is done in such a way that the everyday person can understand the relevance and biblical grounding for Calvinism. I encourage young and old to watch this documentary.

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