Sunday, September 06, 2015

The War Room: A Movie Review

A new "Christian" movie starring false teachers Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore.

The Short of It:

War Room is basically a re-casting of Fireproof switching out the white-male main character for an African-American female lead. The basic issues are the same. Where Fireproof emphasized “the love dare” (one of the writer’s theological themes) the basic flow of War Room follows an un-biblical focus on prayer as way of getting God’s attention off of other things to finally be able to do what the person praying desires. Very evocative emotionally, there are lots of quotes from Scripture, but very few of the quotations are actually interpreted correctly in their context. It follows the Word of Faith heresy pretty strictly. A character prays, God does what the character wants. Yippee! The Divine Vending machine! Put the right kind of prayer in, get the favor you want!

The movie is family friendly in that there is no foul language, graphic violence, or nudity. But it’s not really family friendly in that the Christianity portrayed in the movie is pop-nondenom consumer driven therapeutic deism--which is part of the broad path that leads to destruction. It was so doctrinally generic that Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and even members of the Pentecostal Oneness movement alike could find this particular movie acceptable. Well, the Witnesses still wouldn’t attend because it has “Christian” celebrities as actors: the false teachers: Beth Moore; Priscilla C. Shirer and Michael Jr. But as far as addressing the issue of who God is and how God saves sinners, there was not much that a Witness would object to.

While having an emotional draw, the movie is formulaic and highly predictable. It might be an enjoyable time, except that it is preaching damnable false doctrine. And when I say it is highly predictable, it is, really. Atheists will have no problem mocking this “God is my Sugar-Daddy movie.”

The Long of It:

I think that there will be some under the umbrella of Confessional Lutheran who object to this negative review. After all, they might argue, this is a good, clean, family friendly movie that directs people away from their sin and into the grace of God’s forgiveness. Many of the criticisms in this review will be seen as nitpicking doctrinal details. And, shouldn’t we, as Christians, be united together in the love of God. Which, they will claim, is what this movie is about.

But, their objections are not new. There have always been those who, in the name of peace, cry out against contending for the doctrine of God’s revealed Word, the Bible. The evidence of this starts in Genesis 3 and fills the pages of Scripture and the epochs of Church history.

It is significant that the first counsel of the Church, in Acts 15, dealt with this issue of rightly dividing God’s Law and Gospel, and that the Letter to the Galatians is essentially a treatment of the heresy of trying to be at peace with God through the works of the Law.

More recently, just over a century ago, on the evening of January 6th, 1885 a sinful man, and in some significant ways in his own personal history--as he would admit--a very flawed man was teaching a group of men who desired to be pastors about an essential difference between the faith held by Reformed churches and the faith held by Confessional Lutherans. The problem then was very much the same as it is now: that is, if we agree on God’s grace why quibble about fine points of doctrine? There was then as there is now, a strong cry to be united together outwardly despite the very real and essential differences on this basic teaching of God’s written Word. This man (C.F.W. Walther) said about the Prussian Union and its affects in America. Walther’s remarks strike at the heart of this movie’s fatal, and Christ denying flaw:

“What is the reason, then, that … many who claim to be Lutherans have allowed themselves to become enmeshed in the unionistic net and, while claiming to be Lutherans, calmly remain in the Union [with the Reformed churches in Germany], which is nothing but an emergency device? They are in a Church that has not been established by Christ, but by an earthly king [Frederick William III of Prussia]; a church in which not all speak the same things nor hold the same views, as the apostle requires in I Cor. 1; a Church in which there is not that one faith, one Baptism, one hope, which the apostle, Eph. 4, predicates of the Church of Jesus Christ. What is the reason? It is nothing else than the notion that, spite of the many and grave errors of the Reformed Church, there is an agreement between it and the Lutheran Church in the principal points. It is claimed that the relation between these two churches is entirely different from that existing between the Lutheran and the Romish Church. There is truth in the claim mentioned last; but if the Reformed Church were in agreement with us in the main points, — a consummation devoutly to be wished! — it would speedily reach an agreement with us also in the few points of minor importance. But what the Reformed Church lacks is just this — it cannot correctly answer the question, “What must I do to be saved?” In the very doctrine of justification, the cardinal doctrine of the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church is not in agreement with us; it does not point the right way to grace and salvation. Few there are in our day who perceive this point. All the Reformed, and the sects that are derived from the Reformed Church, affirm that a person is saved by grace alone. But the moment you examine their practise, you immediately discover that, while they hold this truth in theory, they do not put it into effect, but rather point in the opposite direction.

The thesis which we are approaching tonight invites a discussion of this subject

Thesis IX.
In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.
[emphasis added]

War Room’s False Gospel:

The fatal flaw is found directly in the title of the movie, “The War Room” and serves as the basis for promoting a popular American view of Christianity, which is not Biblical Christianity.

War Room begins with narration from the elderly widow, Miss Clara (very convincingly played by Karen Abercrombie). Miss Clara, speaking over scenes of a WWII war room in which one of the officers is her late husband, tells the moviegoer:

“Behind the field of battle, someone has a strategy. Death is a part of life. Battles need to be fought the right way. And we need to know who we fight against.” “Victories don’t come by accident.” “The power of God can’t be bought.”

Every plot development in this movie is worked out to demonstrate the pop-Christian/consumerist and Reformed false doctrine of the power of prayer. The lead character, Elizabeth, is a real estate agent engaged in selling Miss Clara’s home. Miss Clara senses Elizabeth’s weak faith and takes her on as a disciple. Elizabeth is introduced to Miss Clara’s empty bedroom closet, her War Room, where she is a prayer warrior for God and for her neighbor. She teaches Elizabeth about the need for a special prayer spot: based on a strongly slanted and over-loaded interpretation of Matthew 6:6:

“6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Elizabeth is introduced to Miss Clara’s “wall of remembrance” where she lists and checks off every prayer answered by God. Following this, Elizabeth is instructed in the necessity of having a “prayer strategy” to learn “how to fight the right way with the right weapons.”

“You got to plead with God, so that He can do what only He can do.” (Miss Clara)

The formula “if you pray for something you get a blessing, if you don’t pray for something you won’t get a blessing” is stated overtly a couple of times. But this formula is, as stated above, the basis for every plot development in the movie.

Elizabeth’s life is a shambles, her marriage is almost lost, her husband a successful salesman who lied about his success and stole from his company. Their young daughter is estranged from them in their own home by the lack of love she greatly desires from her parents.

Elizabeth prays: her sales improve; her housework gets done; the bathroom is clean; her daughter starts prayer journaling; far away in Atlanta her husband, Tony, gets sick just when he is about to violate their marriage; he becomes humble; their daughter sees them both starting to love each other. Tony prays and he learns to own up to his own faults and, even though he does lose his job, their marriage and family life are made better than they ever were before. They don’t even lose their home! Plus, Tony and his daughter take second place in the Double Dutch jump-rope contest. And Mr. Scott gets the warp core online with shoelaces and chewing gum just in time to save the TARDIS from Emperor Palpatine.

I have a feeling that the writers gave second place to the team due to a remark by Rebecca Manley Pippert in her “Out of the Salt Shaker” videos from the 1980s. Pippert, a Reformed evangelism advocate, was commenting on how awkward sharing the Gospel can be. Her quip was about having a Christian basketball team and how it would be ironic to say: “We play for God! We never lose!”

It must be pointed out, that just like unionists mentioned by Walther in his lecture in 1885, this movie does have Miss Clara briefly describing the Law, Sin, and Grace. The vicarious atonement is described, but it is described in a way that would be acceptable to Mormons and the Pentecostal Oneness movement--and even so: it all hinges on the false doctrine of making the choice for God and surrendering the heart. It took all of about 2 minutes of the movie. Kind of a footnote, really. The rest was all “do your fighting in prayer. And you better do that right with the correct place and strategy and all.” The same problem outlined by Walther in 1885 “the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling until they feel that God has received them into grace.

Ironically, when Miss Clara’s “war room” is introduced she states that there’s “no magic in the location.” Yet later in the movie when a retired preacher buy’s her home, he can somehow, mystically sense that that particular room was used as a prayer room with mighty prayers. Which is true? Or is there some magical power this other preacher has, like some kind of reformed version of indelible character.

At one point Elizabeth’s prayer borders on the form of the heretical “contemplative prayer.” This is not really surprising because Priscilla Shirer, who plays Elizabeth, is an Emergent Church false teacher and advocate for contemplative prayer (at about 0:45:00 in the show at the link). Shirer and Beth Moore are both heretics who claim to have received special revelations from God, teaching contrary to the written Word of God.

There is no accurate Biblical teaching in this movie on the topic of prayer. There is no accurate Biblical teaching about repentance and forgiveness. Oh, these are all mentioned, but they are not taught in the way the Scripture teaches. One must be honest about who made the movie and not hear what the characters say as if the characters were Lutheran. They are not. There are no Means of Grace in this movie. There is no presence of God where God tells us He will be found in Word and Sacrament. The Scripture searching in the movie is haphazard, and serves more as an example of the heretical Lectio Divina than of systematic Bible reading.

Prayer is a wonderful gift of God. He commanded that we as His own children through faith in Jesus Christ, talk to Him, our loving Father. He promised to hear us.

But the god portrayed in War Room is more like an alcoholic father who won’t get his rear end out of the lazy boy to fix the kids frozen pizzas for supper unless they constantly press him with really, really, really nice formal requests. And if you can figure out a strategy, wow, you can really manipulate dad into getting you the good stuff.

War Room is not really evangelism for lost sinners. It is an effort to homogenize the visible church under the market driven false teachings of people like Shirer and Moore. Those who fall for its emotional story will use vitriol against those of us who out of love for God’s Word and our neighbor’s salvation oppose it because it is heretical and damning. The movie is divisive, causing division contrary to God’s Word, uniting people under false teaching.

Now for the last bit. This review focused mainly on just the major theological problem that formed the theme of this movie. There are several other serious unscriptural claims made in this movie. But the movie is itself a marketing campaign for Lifeway books. From the resources link on the movie’s page one is directed to a variety of Lifeway products, including special studies on how to set up one’s own war room and strategies for prayer. Lifeway brought us the heaven tourism books like 90 Minutes in Heaven, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, and Heaven is for Real. After making a significant amount of sales on this it was revealed that the testimony on which The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven was based was all lies. This past March 2015 Lifeway finally pulled their “heaven visitation resources” after the Southern Baptist Convention rebuked them last June 2014. [SBC Resolution] But Lifeway continues to sell heretical books from heretical authors like T.D. Jakes (a modalist), Beth Moore (Word of Faith heresy), Priscilla Shirer (Word of Faith heresey and contemplative prayer), Sarah Young (a Montanist), Mark Batterson (the Circlemaker, weird mystical christianized neo-shamanism); et-ad nauseam-cetera

Basic issue, Lifeway is struggling as a book company like most other book companies. War Room could be a cash-cow. I have no doubt the product will be pushed in pop-christian circles. My personal view is that Lifeway has demonstrated in the past and up to this day that its primary concern is not the teaching of Scripture but what will do best in the market.

If you want to watch something biblical, watch Mel Gibson’s The Passion. Even with the little additions from tradition that movie still gets the Law and the Gospel down pretty well.

If you want to watch a family friendly movie, get Lassie. The morality is great, the language is fine, and there is a lot less Bible twisting.