“The Debate Begins September 26” is the tagline for A Matter of Faith, the newest faith-based film from Christian producer Rich Christiano (Time Changer, The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry). Debate is an appropriate word to describe A Matter of Faith. Not only does the idea of debate encompass the main premise of the film—a college freshman torn between six-day creationism and evolution—but also the controversy Faith is already generating.
Placing aside the issue of whether evolution and Christianity can coexist (an entire subject in itself), the film’s trailer presents a number of problems, one of which is the exaltation of triumphalism at the expense of evangelism.
In a recent blog post, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis writes: “Atheists and compromising Christians are going to hate A Matter of Faith!” While yet to see the movie personally, Ham writes that a staff member at Answers in Genesis served as a consultant for the film. Later, Ham seems to contradict himself. “This is a movie you can take friends and family to—and rest assured that both the message of the film, and the conversations that will follow, will turn minds and hearts directly to the gospel!”
So who is Faith’s intended audience? Christians, or friends and family members who are not Christians? What if they are atheists?
Ham’s statements seem to highlight the predicament facing numerous faith-based movies today. Many are released with a stated purpose of evangelism—Christiano himself said about his prior release Time Changer, “We have learned how to present truth so that it will not be a turnoff.” Yet Christians seem to be the only ones enjoying “Christian” films.
While we acknowledge that the gospel is offensive to some, at what point do we distinguish between the gospel and our personal agenda? In his book Tactics, Gregory Koukl writes that the goal of a religious debate shouldn’t be to conquer one’s opponent. Koukle instead argues for what he calls the “stone in the shoe” method. In other words, our objective shouldn’t be to “win,” but to give our critics something worth thinking about. Koukl says, “Dropping a message on her [an unbeliever] that is, from her point of view, meaningless or simply unbelievable doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, it may be the worst thing you can do.”
If Christian filmmakers desire to use their art as a way to lead others to the gospel, they might want to take the “stone in the shoe” method seriously. Unbelievers—atheist or not—ought to walk away from a faith-based film saying, “I may not agree with their position, but they gave me something to think about.”