Last night, I went to see the movie “Interview with God,” which is centered on the life of Paul Asher, a young Christian journalist who begins to question his faith after spending time in war-torn Afghanistan. Paul receives an invitation to engage in three 30-minute interviews with God. Intrigued, Paul accepts. (Warning: Spoiler Alert)
The production of the movie is well done. The visual quality and acting are excellent. The witty and complex dialogue between God and Paul serves as the main thrust of the movie, with Paul’s crisis of faith and crumbling marriage serving as the backdrop.
The movie does a wonderful job of exposing the reality of an individual’s wrestling with God and his personal faith. Paul’s marriage is falling apart and his prayers, from his perspective, seem to go unanswered. While parts of the movie are thought provoking and could serve as good conversation-starters, in the end, it is not particularly profound and leaves the viewers with more questions than answers. However, based on an interview conducted by Christian Post with Harrison Powell, co-producer, perhaps that is the movie’s primary intent.
Powell says, “I hope people will leave realizing that God loves them, and because of that, there is no question that is off-limits or question that He can’t handle or that in the asking, could ever change His love for us. I want people to feel empowered to share and discuss the tough questions in life.”
As a Bible teacher, I could not help but shake my head at some points throughout the movie. For example, when God concedes that perhaps He was “too harsh” during Old Testament times, the hair on the back of my neck curled. Does it honor God to present Him as second-guessing Himself? No. I understand the aim is to soften our idea about God, but is this biblical? – is it even wise? I would argue that it is quite dangerous. God, in His grace, has given us His Word. This needs to be our standard as to Who God is, not our feelings, which are unreliable and severely uninformed in comparison with God’s infinite wisdom.
There is also a discussion about free will and God’s will. God quips with Paul by responding, “if everyone attempted to do everything according to my will, nothing would get done.” God then goes on to describe a person paralyzed as to whether to brush their teeth vertically or horizontally. Again, I recognize the producers’ intent, but for someone unfamiliar with Scripture, this could lead down a wrong path by downplaying the importance of God’s will, which directly relates to His holiness. When Jesus taught us to pray, He begins by acknowledging God’s holiness. It is through this lens that we are to embrace the rest of the prayer, including, “…Thy will be done on earth, at is it in heaven.” (God is not concerned about how we brush our teeth, but He is most definitely concerned about eradicating evil.)
In the discussion of salvation, evil, and Satan (hell is never mentioned), God replies, “Satan is overrated” and “he (Satan) only has the power we give to him.” While it is true that Jesus has defeated Satan (and sin and death) on the Cross, and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Christians can resist the devil’s schemes and defeat his attacks (1 John 5:18), it is still important to remember that we live in a sin-cursed world that is ruled (temporarily) by Satan, albeit within God’s prescribed limits for God’s own purposes (1 John 5:19). While the devil is nothing more than a single fallen angel (a mere creature), he and his demon cohorts nonetheless have power, but only because God allows it for His purposes, which are often far above our understanding. In short, GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL. (The topic of demons is actually a key theme in my new Bible study, Legion: Rediscovering the God Who Rescues Me, which comes out in October 2019.
While I agree we as Christians very often give Satan more credit than he deserves, it is dangerous to sidestep the reality that he does wreck havoc on this world by enticing and enslaving people in sin (even though none of us can ever claim, “the devil made me do it,” see James 1:14-15). More importantly, as the movie addresses evil and Satan, it seemed odd that an acknowledgement that hell exists was left out altogether. At one point, God suggests to Paul that miracles are “within” each of us to live out and, in effect, make the world a better place by healing marriages, caring for the sick, etc. God encourages Paul, “you have more power than you know.”
I would agree; however, without a sound understanding of what the Bible actually teaches on these topics, this could mislead viewers to simply embrace God’s love, ignore that hell exists, and “go and make the world a better place”. But Jesus’s great commission was not go and “make the world a better place” (actually, the Bible tells us that this world is reserved for judgment; 2 Peter 3:7), but rather to evangelize the world. “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20).
At the end of the movie, which I confess was somewhat disappointing, an interview takes place with two authors who share some personal thoughts about the movie, including a discussion on the importance in prayer of not only speaking, but listening to God. I could not agree more. Unfortunately, the “listening” centered on being receptive to God’s voice through things such as our circumstances, “signs,” words from other people, etc. However, there was little to no discussion about the importance of knowing God’s Word, even though Scripture is how God speaks to us. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is “God-breathed.” If this is true (and it most certainly is), shouldn’t knowing what God’s Word says be our priority if we want to hear from God? I agree that God can use other things to confirm His Word, but if we don’t know His Word, how can we trust these secondary ‘voices?’
Overall, the producers’ aim is worthy – to encourage conversations about God and faith, and in that regard, I would say they succeeded. The quality of the film is very well done. Even the concepts of God, evil, and salvation, if taken as a whole and carefully considered in light of the Bible (you almost need to “read between the lines” to get the gospel message), are reasonably on target (more on than off, but that’s the best I can say).
However, there are many places where, if what is being presented about God (or evil, salvation, etc) are taken separately, they could lead down the wrong path. While I commend the producers that pieces of the true gospel are ‘sprinkled’ in here and there, I felt it could have been more clearly presented – if not in the movie itself, then at least in the interview at the end, which would have been far better had they interviewed pastors or others who had some theological training to lead us into a deeper discussion and a more careful presentation of the gospel.
Quality: 4 stars
Human interest/story: 3.5 stars
Theology: 2.5 starsIn 'An Interview with God,' a Christian journalist begins to question his faith. While thought provoking, the movie does present some theological issues. Read more. Click To Tweet