As we are currently living in our new pandemic normal in the reprobate nation of the year 2020, I got to watch the 2018 documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone. I was pleasantly surprised by how well made and biblically sound this movie is. American Gospel is chock full of massive red pills and hard hitting questions that American believers need to start asking and meditating on.
Directed and written by a young believer named Brandon Kimber, American Gospel: Christ Alone is a critique, examination, and a thorough deep dive into contemporary americanized Christianity. Including, predominantly, an heavy discourse on the “Prosperity Gospel” and Word-of-Faith movements. The movie has so many jarring red pills coming from all angles that it was very hard to keep up with the many truth-bombs being thrown in the film. In terms of quality, the movie is on par with many other excellent, well-made documentaries. The film is loaded with well-known biblical teachers and preachers, though some briefly. Voddie Baucham, Paul Washer, Ray Comfort, John MacArthur, and many others make appearances in the film to share the pressing issues going on in the Church in America. Despite these big names, the film mostly concentrates on some smaller characters. Such as the amazing testimony of Katherine Berger, a mother with a rare genetic disorder that makes her chronically ill. This was easily one of the most captivating parts of the film hearing how she went from a healthy atheist, to getting sick, and her family and her coming to Christ and navigating their faith through her illness. Justin Peters is also featured in the documentary and he tells his origin story on why he is against the Prosperity Gospel. His story is particularly interesting considering he suffers from Cerebral Palsy and had a couple of run-ins with faith healers in his journey.
Kimber wastes no time in this movie as the documentary is very fast paced, never wasting a second of its two hour, thirty minute runtime. The film runs the gambit of major issues inside the Church in America and includes:
-Grace vs Works
-Jesus in the Old Testament
-The Goal of Preaching
-What is true Happiness?
-The inerrancy of Scripture
-The Nature of Christ
-Signs and Wonders
-Preaching the Gospel correctly
-The cost of following Christ
-The obsession with unifying the Church with other religions
-Faith and miracles
-The sovereignty of God
American Gospel goes to great length to touch upon all of these topics that are affecting the American Church today. And while there are so many countless books and essays on nearly all these important issues of our time, the movie does a good job on at least touching the bulletin points of these often debated subjects.
Still, the main issue the movie addresses is the often lambasted Word-of-Faith movement, and the prosperity gospel. The usual suspects are front and center as we get a large dose of Benny Hinn, Todd White, Joel Olsteen, Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, and much, much more of the prosperity crowd.
In researching for this film, I watched an interview from Kimber on Doreen Virtue’s youtube channel. Kimber was briefly part of the Prosperity movement until he watched the infamous “Shocking Youth Message” by Paul Washer. This was the beginning of him learning about reformed theology, and the more he dove into scripture, the more he was pulled away from the word-of-faith crowd. With this in mind, it is not shocking that the movie is so very critical of the Benny Hinns and Todd Whites of the world. I know some of you out there will roll your eyes thinking this movie is some cringe Calvinistic propaganda piece. And yes, the way some promote Calvinism is embarrassing and it does produce face-palming cringe, but Kimber does an excellent job at not browbeating the audience with heavy 4-D Chess-level reformed doctrine and there is not one mention of the TULIP in the movie. Kimber is not wasting his audience time by explaining to them the wonders of Limited Atonement or the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints. He goes right to the heart of some of American Christianity’s biggest doctrinal issues and leaves some of the more heavy theological debates at the door.
This leaves us with one of the film’s flaws, which is the criticism of the Word-of-faith/Prosperity Gospel movement itself. This is, however, just personal preference. I have been a professional wrestling fan since I was a toddler so I know when I am being conned, shilled, worked, or someone is pulling my leg (I’m looking at you Todd). After all, pro wrestling is fake and even at the beginning journey with Christ, with basic knowledge of the four gospels, I could discern that people like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland were hucksters just by what they were preaching. What was more interesting wasn’t the critique of the prosperity gospel itself, but the theological reaping that the Prosperity Gospel sowed and what it looks like in modern American Christianity.
But even with that being said. The cold hard facts is that many, yes many, follow the errors of the Joel Olsteens of the world and this error must be addressed. American Gospel might be the best nonacademic critique of this movement.
Even with a movie like this that is rich in good doctrine and makes their points well, I know some boomers will make mouth noises and slobber out the usual defenses and tropes associated with contemporary american christianity. They will scoff, not take it seriously, and complain about legalism, and about division, and about this and that to defend the buffoonery going on. They will also go to the extreme asking if this is a matter of losing your salvation. But this is a fair question to ask if this is a gospel issue. I personally believe someone can be saved through the Todd Whites and Steven Ferticks of the world. After all, both are amazing speakers and have a ton of zeal even though their doctrine is heretical. But I believe, if these new converts are truly the Lord’s, God will draw those believers out of their churches. Yes, the Lord works through these questionable men to fulfill his purposes. But at what point does God work through these men in spite of their teachings? It is interesting because Paul himself said that some men will preach out of selfish ambition, but that the important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. But that leaves us with an even bigger question, are these men preaching about the Jesus in the Bible? Or are they preaching a false Jesus? This is a humongous question every preacher needs to ask themselves before they open their mouth when they get to the pulpit. And yes, the movie does address this exact question and does it brilliantly.
It is a tough situation because we try not to divide the Church and discern out of love. This is why it is so important to study scripture and why the Bible should be the standard and the rock of what we preach. This is one of the principle problems with the western world today, that we have no respect for scripture.
I often meditated while watching this movie how someone can get entangled in the prosperity gospel movement. The truth is, that we are all guilty of this at one point in our lives. We only care about getting what we want from God, and when we do receive what we want, we often do not give thanks to Him. Instead of Christ being enough in our lives, we instead make Him an accessory to go along with our picture of Ronald Regan or that autographed book of Das Kapital depending where you swing in the political sandwich. We have no respect for the Bible, and ultimately we do not believe what the Holy scriptures say. And in the end we craft out of our 401ks, an idol more like the pegan God of the USA, Santa Claus, and call it God or Jesus. It’s the same old story, from Genesis, to Exodus, to Israel, to the current era in the United States, we continually break the very first commandment and instead of worshiping the Almighty Creator God, we chase after other Gods. Nothing is new under the sun.
I often debate with friends if people are just very stupid and thats why they won’t believe in the truth. But… I think we all need to step back and look at the condition of the western man’s heart in the context of a dying American Dream. For so long the US has promoted the idea of the American Dream: A Big McMansion, a wife, couple of kids, an upwards career or factory job that gives you a comfortable middle class wage, a retirement fund, a healthy body and the freedom to do whatever business you want. This is the ideal. But as we roll along in the year of our Lord 2020 and America metamorphs into Clownworld, all these dreams are melting away in the eyes of the Millennial and Zoomer generations. House prices are astronomical, feminism and soy products have all but destroyed the family unit, we are metamorphosing into a gig economy and the middle class jobs have all but disappeared, we are constantly eating and drinking poison which in turn, are destroying our bodies. And many are shackled by student loan debt, effectively making a slave class that will take them the rest of their lives to pay it off. This is just from the younger generation perspective, as even the boomers are being heavily affected by the downgrade of the nation and the idols are being shattered left and right by God’s judgement. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
We often chase our whole lives after the almighty dollar bill. Some people are trapped under the yoke of debt, others desperately try to advance up the corporate ladder, or make the sales mark, all to get one taste of the sweet nectar of a cash bonus or raise. Some are very very poor, and not by their own doing. Some just have bad luck. Is it no wonder that a lot of people gravitate to these hucksters to cling onto any hope they can? Any simpliecnce of hope or control of their own lives? To just grasp and hold onto some hope that maybe, just maybe, God can give them wealth or a healthy body or whatever just to get some relief?
Yet this is not what the gospel really is. The Gospel is a radical call for all men, both mighty and weak, both wealthy and poor, both healthy and sick, both tall and small, to repent and believe the good news. That though we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins, according to scripture. And rose after the third day, according to scripture. That Holy God, though we are sinners, so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. That whoever so believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. That salvation comes from, is given from, and belongs to God, for His glory. This is not a political theory, or accessory, or silly little trinket you can put next to that polaroid of your favorite false political messiah. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. To be born again, to experience a new life, with new hopes and dreams, and loving the things that God loves and hating the things God hates. To have a new heart and real, true hope. To not die, but to live, in a new Heavens and New Earth without the pain and the heartbreak and the depression of our age.
This is why the red pill is so hard for people to swallow. Because the Prosperity Gospel’s doctrine is not how the world really works. Just a reading through Eccestiaties shatters every doctrine of the PG movement. Because to the materialistic man, the Jesus Christ of the Bible is foolishness. Because of people’s sin nature, and their love for sin, they will harden their hearts to the truth, and instead chase after a gospel that will cater to the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life. To have their ears tickled and tell them what they want to hear. This is why the Prosperity Gospel is so dangerous, because it placaites to the carnal man who is chasing the things that are passing away instead of the Heavenly things that will last for eternity. They follow these teachers and follow their carnal hearts, and in the end they perish or wind up even more broken-hearted and lost when they start. Quite simply, the Prosperity Gospel is God’s judgement on a nation that is reprobate and will not turn to the truth.
Still, what is true riches? What is true healing? What is the Kingdom of Heaven like? This is why Katherine Berger’s story in this film is so compelling. Because this is a woman whose body is breaking down constantly with horrific ailments, yet Berger has the clarity to know that God loves her, and that she is blessed despite her condition. We see that she has wonderful children, a wonderful husband and you can see that spirit of life in her eyes. She even says she wouldn’t trade her old atheist life with a healthy body for her current situation. Because her relationship with God is stronger each day because she needs Him. To know Christ is to gain. How many of us could really say that about God if we were in her situation? How many of us would curse God to His face if we had cancer, or paralyzed, or any other ailment? This is what makes the book of Job (which the movie does talk about) such an important read, because Job, despite losing everything, refuses to curse God. To walk through the darkest valleys this world offers, and not fear any evil but trusting and praising God, THAT is true power, a true gift, and a true blessing. Because we all come in naked in this world and we can’t take anything out of the world when we leave, even our own bodies.
Does this mean that there is no more miraculous healing? Or signs and wonders? Or speaking in tongues? Should we turn away or dull ourselves to the possibility of signs and wonders in the technological new millennium? Should we forget to pray to God for the healing of our bodies? By no means! There are stories all the time from outside the United States of signs and wonders, all in the advancement of God’s kingdom. After all, this is the same God who created the Heavens and Earth, parted the red sea, and raised His Son from the dead. Many western-minded people will cry and ask for a sign, for photo or video evidence, or scientific proof for signs and wonders, but the Lord will not be put to the test. We should pray for healing, but we must first seek His Kingdom first, then everything we ask will be granted to us.
American Gospel: Christ Alone is a well-made, laborious wake-up call to those who proclaim Christ as Lord and savior. The good thing about this film is it came out (2018) at just the right time as the United States is currently going through a state of turmoil. As the idols of money, wealth, and health get shattered, what will people do and who will they turn to? Will they turn to the Jesus of the Bible, or an idol to look like Jesus. When turmoil comes to us and our house, will we turn to the Jesus of the Bible or will we stumble and deny Him? The life of a believer in Christ is brutal and hard, and requires us to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him. But what is the Kingdom of Heaven like?
Matthew 13:44-46 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, 46who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.
Preachers will preach about the cost to following Christ, and rightfully so, but seldom will they preach about what they gain, or what it is like to gain Christ. The gospel is not about the systematic face-palming “DURR HURR get-out-of-hell-free” card. It is not a political philosophy, not a wealth and health scheme, it does not care about your religion, or twelve steps to a happy life. It ignores and laughs at what you think the world’s problems and solutions are. It is not an apologetics tract or scientific foundation. The Gospel is the way, the life, and quite simply, the truth. The truth about the wickedness of fallen man, the world, the fate of a fallen world, and the truth about God, his character, and His redemptive plan through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately during the end times, men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. What America Gospel shows to us is that it is now more important than ever to preach the authentic gospel, without tricks, without the Mickey Mouse tactics or seeker-friendly buffoonery. As the Day of the Lord approaches, we must stay firm and preach the truth, in love, to all who would believe. The truth is that all men have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, that all men deserve the all-consuming fires of the judgement to come. But God, rich in mercy, and grace, sent His only Son, the Lord Jesus, to die in our place. And behold! God raised Christ Jesus from the dead and now He sits at the right hand of the father. This is the good news to all those who believe in the name Jesus. The gift of salvation and eternal life to all those who believe. Let us preach the proclamation in joy and true hope in a hopeless world. Is America a “Christian” nation as it likes to claim it is? I would like to think it is, but the truth is I do not believe America, or any nation currently, can uphold this claim in a world so secular and foreign to the scriptures. American Gospel shows that there is still work to be done, that America needs the Great Commission more than ever. And I think this is the perfect time, in all this chaos, to preach. Not Republican party talking points, or the SJW gospel, but of Christ crucified, and the resurrection of the dead.