War Room: Dishonoring God

war-roomby John Ellis

 *Spoiler Alert*

I didn’t wake up last Monday morning thinking about War Room, the Kendrick brothers, or Christian movies in general. Perusing one of my favorite websites while drinking my morning coffee, I read a wrap-up of the weekend’s box office that briefly discussed the success of War Room, a movie I hadn’t thought about in months since I had watched the trailer. Delving further, I clicked on several links to reviews of War Room and came across a statement that prompted me to write a brief article on the Kendrick brothers. I didn’t write a review of War Room, nor was that my intention; writing the article, based on my knowledge of the Kendrick brothers’ movies, I was mainly responding to movie critic Scott Renshaw’s comment. However, my post generated so much buzz, both positive and negative, that I made the rash promise that I would watch the movie and if my assessment of it was unfair, I’d donate money to Joel Osteen’s church. Well, Joel Osteen ain’t gettin’ any of my money, thankfully. And here’s why:

In chapter one of his seminal book, Art and the Bible, famed theologian and Christian apologist Francis Schaeffer wrote that “The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy of hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul and redemption is for the whole man”[1]. Schaeffer, in his short book, goes on to develop that thought in regards to Christians’ involvement and interaction with art; later in the same chapter he scribed the beautiful statement, “An art work can be a doxology in itself”[2].

As a doxology, art, in and of itself, apart from any message, gives praise to God and reveals aspects of God’s character. This is why Mozart, for example, a notoriously wicked man, composed beautiful music that points the listener to the ultimate composer, God. But, this is assuming a level of excellence within the artistic discipline’s standards. Lazy art, bad art does a poor job of truthfully communicating the character of God. Art can communicate beauty and truth through its form (the artistic standard) even apart from its function (the purpose/message)[3]; unfortunately, the failure of War Room to adhere to even a merely acceptable level of competence within its art discipline’s form causes it to fall far short of artistic doxology.

To be honest, I’m at a loss of what to write next. Don’t misunderstand, I have a distinct outline for this review; I’m at the point where I’m supposed to dissect War Room’s failure of form within the standards of storytelling and filmmaking; but, and please bear with me, War Room, as a movie, is so bad that I’m afraid that this review is going to turn into a book. Should I begin, for example, by pointing out that the sound editing was atrocious? That the ambient sounds in the film (think footsteps, glasses clinking, etc.) mostly sounded as if they were recorded in a vast, empty, and echoing warehouse? The problem with starting there, though, is that many, if not most, of the film’s fans don’t care about sound editing. They will dismiss me as being a petty elitist who is nit-picking a family-friendly movie because I don’t love Jesus[4]; a charge that, if you’ve read any of this blog or know me, you recognize as untrue.

In His design and building instructions, God nitpicked, in a similar sense, the form of the Tabernacle. In Exodus 31, we read how God called Bezalel, among other artists, and “filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft”[5]. Earlier in Exodus, demonstrating high artistic expectations, God, through Moses, gave instructions to the craftsmen and artists about the design and construction of the Tabernacle.

Reading the chapters in Exodus that detail the design of the Tabernacle is an exercise in being overwhelmed by beauty, intricate detail, and what many might mistakenly call excess. Based on the instructions for the building of the Tabernacle, it’s obvious that God loves beautiful art, and a lot of it (He loves a variety of art, I might add). And God loves beautiful art because it glorifies Him. The Tabernacle points people to Jesus Christ, the final and perfect Tabernacle.

God’s love and desire for beauty expressed artistically should come as no surprise to anyone who believes, as Genesis chapter one declares, that God is the creator of all things. He took shapeless void and formed it into a beautiful world. Keep in mind, as beautiful as things like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and fields of colorful flowers are, the world has been broken by the sin of man and isn’t as beautiful and good as God originally made it.

So where does this leave bad or merely inadequate art? Are good motives enough to justify the lack of adherence to the standards of form that best reveal aspects of God’s character? Well, humans are finite, and honesty and fairness demand a sliding-scale. For example, when friends invite me to watch their children perform in a school production of Hamlet, I hold those children and the production to much different standards than when I watch my professional actor friends in Hamlet. The Kendrick brothers and their production company, however, are not billing themselves as amateurs; in fact, they’re begging comparison to the “secular” movies playing in the same Cineplex as War Room because, to name a few reasons, the movie’s budget, while not large by Hollywood standards, was not unsubstantial[6]; they went through the hassle of having the MPAA rate the movie, something that indie filmmakers who aren’t expecting to compete with the “big boys” don’t bother to do; and, well, War Room, distributed by Tri Star and Sony, opened in over one thousand movie theaters, which is not indicative of non-big league status. That’s to say, War Room needs to be judged by the same standards that movie-goers expect from a movie made by professionals at the top of their game. With that in mind, and realizing that no movie, no human artistic expression is perfect, War Room falls so dismally far below the objective standards of filmmaking that all the good motives in the world couldn’t keep War Room’s form from dishonoring God.

Movies are a visual medium; the Kendrick brothers don’t seem to either understand that or care. Far too much exposition clogs the actors’ mouths as the film’s writers, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, attempting to move the story forward, violate the filmmaking maxim “show us, don’t tell us.” The bigger problem is that the story resists any forward motion, and no amount of dialogue can mask that fact. Next to nothing happens in War Room, outside of some contrived , at times out-of-the-blue plot devices (the married Elizabeth and Tony Jordan fighting over money used to help Elizabeth’s sister, Tony losing his job, Tony’s sickness preventing him from having an affair, etc.[7]), and the changes of character stasis that do happen are so unearned as to be vertigo inducing. Yes, the world of movies and stories are heightened reality and compressed and generally has changes that happen quicker than what are normal in real life. But, good storytelling constructs at least a scaffold of causes and motives that justify the characters’ changes, allowing the audience to climb, albeit quickly, through the rising action; War Room does not.

Instead, the audience is left with a character in Tony that, after the aforementioned bout of affair preventing sickness, takes less than twenty four hours to completely reverse course from an emotionally and verbally abusive, thieving, and adulterous narcissist to that of a highly sympathetic character who only wants to do what’s right with no noticeable character flaws remaining – zero nuance makes for uninteresting and unbelievable characters. And I wrote “the audience is left with Tony” because only one other character in the movie, his wife Elizabeth, changes, but with many of the same storytelling problems that I mentioned that the character Tony suffers from. In other words, there is very little dramatic tension in War Room – tension that is needed to overcome the Kendrick brother’s poor use of the three act structure.

For the sake of space, I’m only going to write about War Room’s third act. There are only two possible subplots in the movie: the selling of Miss Clara’s house and the jump rope contest. Ignoring that neither subplot is really a true subplot as written, the two are resolved so far past the third act’s climax, hence, War Room’s climax/resolution, I felt like I’d begun watching an unwanted sequel at that point and was worried that the theatre was going to charge me an extra twelve bucks. The Kendrick brothers could’ve easily and seamlessly written the climax into the jump rope contest scene. It would’ve been a much more interesting setting for the news to be delivered that Tony isn’t going to be arrested. Instead, the news is delivered at the couple’s home, on an uneventful evening when nothing was happening, and while the characters were statically stuck to couches. I suspect, based on watching all of the Kendrick brother’s movies, that Alex Kendrick’s inability to block a movie (the character’s movement) keeps him tethered to the safety of sets with lots of couches where the actors can sit while they talk and talk and talk.

Oh, and lest I forget, the third act climax is, in fact, the wrong climax for the story. The actual story is the imploding marriage of Elizabeth and Tony. The resolution for War Room is technically when their marriage is healed, but the Kendrick brothers wrote that into act two. The conflict found in Tony’s stealing drugs from the pharmaceutical company and then selling them should’ve been an important subplot, but since its resolution was the climax of the “first” third act (I think, at best count, the Kendrick brothers wrote three and a half third acts) that conflict, by virtue of its third act treatment, is elevated above the actual story. I’m not sure if the Kendrick brothers understand even the basic rules of storytelling.

The storytelling, filmmaking, and “form” flaws of War Room are so numerous as to create a veritable piñata for critics; and, as a bonus, we critics don’t have to cover our eyes when we swing our rhetorical bats at it. To be honest, as I look over the notes I took while watching War Room, that rhetorical bat is starting to feel heavy and I’m starting to wonder if I’ve taken more than my fair share of swings at the War Room piñata. With that in mind, and with several pages of notes about the ubiquitous film score, bad acting, and a long and sundry list of storytelling faux pas remaining unpacked, it’s obvious that the Kendrick brothers blatantly violate the standards of storytelling and filmmaking. Failing in its form, War Room tells the audience that God doesn’t care about art that strives to honor Him through excellence in form.

Sadly, many Christians are ok with that. They, too, have bought into the lie that function in art washes away the sin of bad form. In War Room, like as in much of so-called “Christian” art/entertainment, function is firmly in the driver’s seat with the gas pedal shoved all the way to the floor; form, left far behind, is still looking for its battered suitcase. Except the function in War Room doesn’t comport with historic and Biblical Christianity.

With its theology, War Room weaves together three serious errors: Manichaeism, name it/claim it, and the belief that evil/sin resides outside of a person and not within. Manichaeism, the dualistic and odd heresy that claims there is a cosmic struggle between the equal forces of good (the spiritual world of light) and evil (the material world of, well, material and darkness), is a kissing cousin of Gnosticism. It’s often worked out in strains of Christianity by the belief that God and Satan are locked in a cosmic dual and that the good side, God, needs the spiritual engagement of His foot soldiers in order to ensure the day to day besting of Satan[8].

This is obvious in War Room, even beyond the war motif. Miss Clara’s treatment of prayer and Satan reveal that the filmmakers believe that God needs our help to defeat today’s evil; prayer isn’t a humble response and recognition of total dependence before a holy and sovereign God, it’s a battle tactic. The scene in the movie that elicited the largest applause from my fellow audience members was when Elizabeth, enacting a form of Protestant exorcism that reminded me of Poltergeist, chased Satan out of her house by her prayer/non-prayer(?)/incantation. Whatever you want to call it, Elizabeth, by strength of will, went toe-to-toe with Satan and won. Of course, that set the stage for the complete and almost immediate reversal of her troubles.

Within their Manichaeism, it’s revealed that the Kendrick brothers believe that sin and evil are external; the enemy is outside of ourselves and not within; which flies in the face of the clear teaching of the Bible that claims, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”[9]. Even King Jesus told us that “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person. … what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person”[10]. Our problem isn’t external, it’s internal. We don’t need to banish Satan from our house; we need God to give us a clean heart and change our desires to match His desires. War Room says the opposite.

Most of War Room’s theological errors may slide by unnoticed by many, but the Kendrick brothers’ main plot device, the heresy of “name it, claim it,” is hard to miss. Reiterating what I stated about Facing the Giants in my ballyhooed article about the heresy of Christian movies, the characters of War Room, once they start rubbing the genie lamp disguised as prayer, find that life is great and devoid of consequences. And this is the point where the comment section will probably point out that Tony Jordan lost his job. Well, yes, but think about it. Losing his job is a blessing in disguise; he ends up with a much more fulfilling job that he loves. Outside of an acknowledged possible – possible – belt-tightening, the lives of the Jordan family are minimally impacted, materialistically speaking; the Jordans, at the end of the movie, remain in their incredibly large house, for example. And, apart from Tony losing his job because he committed fraud and stole almost twenty thousand dollars worth of drugs and then sold them, the characters in the movie suffer zero consequences[11] … well, that’s not exactly true.

Towards the end of War Room, it’s revealed that Miss Clara’s husband died, decades earlier; because she didn’t create her war room/prayer closet and engage Satan in battle soon enough. Manichaeism, anyone?

But, back to Tony. War Room isn’t a parable nor is it a fable. If it were, the story could work for Tony to suffer zero consequences for his thieving and drug-peddling. But, as it stands, the movie operates in the arena of realistic narrative. Having such a huge leap over normal consequences in a movie that, by demonstration, touts the belief that prayer is a Christian good-luck charm, the total amnesty granted Tony is, at best, distasteful, at worst, giving people a wrong view of God and prayer. The fact that Tony escaped his deserved consequences because he asked for forgiveness leaves me wondering if, for their next movie, the Kendrick brothers are going to focus on a husband who has contracted HIV from having unprotected sex with prostitutes. In this new movie, the husband, after seeking forgiveness, will have his HIV healed. I would love to see a movie in which the Kendrick brothers take my imagined protagonist, introduce him to the love and forgiveness found in King Jesus, and have that love displayed through a local church who enter into the man’s suffering and walk with him like Jesus walked with lepers. The happy ending for that movie would be watching God’s name made great through the loving actions of Christians who understand that everyone is made in the Image of God and everyone should be treated with compassion and love, and the forgiveness offered by Jesus Christ to a repentant sinner.

As Scott Renshaw alluded, a movie that teaches that real Christians, if they pray hard enough and in the correct way, will see everything answered exactly how they ask is a movie that heaps piles of guilt on those for whom prayers aren’t answered in the warm and fuzzy manner of the Kendrick brothers’ movie world. I received one comment telling me that “I’m sorry if things have never worked so well for you, but that doesn’t mean it never happens.” Well, according to what I saw in War Room, it always happens if you do it correctly. Thankfully, I understand that the “good” of Romans 8:28 is referencing God being glorified through my sanctification and becoming like Jesus. Whether or not “things have never worked so well” for me is beside the point; God is sanctifying me for His glory; the means He uses to do it, whether those means are defined by humans as either “good” or “bad,” shouldn’t be where my hope and joy are placed. My prayer should be characterized by humility and the plea for sanctification and to have my heart’s desires changed to reflect the desires of God. When the Psalmist writes, “He fulfills the desire of those who fear him”[12], the implication is that our desires will match our Creator’s desires. God isn’t Santa Clause, and prayer isn’t a wish list of the goodies and toys that we hope to find under the tree.

Before wrapping up, I want to bring up one more serious concern that I have with War Room – its depiction of spousal abuse. Having read several reviews, I was aware, going into the movie, that many saw this as an issue. To be honest, I was skeptical and assumed that some critics were looking for boogie men behind every tree. I mean, there’s no way that the Kendrick brothers would actually do that, right? Well, when Elizabeth was told, by Miss Clara, that she’s at least partially to blame for Tony’s abuse, I almost walked out. If nothing else in this review convinces you to avoid War Room, please allow the sickening display of blaming an abuse victim for her abuse cause you to wash your hands of this movie.

I’m not so naïve as to think that my review is going to do much more than garner loud “amens” from one side while drawing condemnation from the other side. However, my sincere prayer is that Christians will begin interacting with art that truly glorifies God, and stop being conned by buzz words like “wholesome” and “family-friendly.” With both its form and its function, War Room promotes a wrong view of God. And movies that promote a wrong view of God are neither wholesome nor family-friendly.

[1] Francis Schaeffer. Art and the Bible. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 1973), 14.

[2] Schaeffer. Art and the Bible. 18.

[3] I’m not a fan of dividing form and function; for me, it’s somewhat of a “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” question. But, for the sake of simplifying my argument in this review, I’m going to treat form and function as if they were separate.

[4] For the record, I’ve been accused of that based on this article.

[5] Exodus 31:2-5, ESV Study Bible.

[6] War Room’s budget is estimated at around three million dollars. Keep in mind that the Kendrick brothers don’t hire big name actors, and much of their marketing is done for free by churches and para-church organizations.

[7] My nine year old daughter wants to be a writer, and I’ve explained to her to be careful about confusing plot points with an actual plot.

[8] To be fair, most Christians, if not the vast majority, who dabble in this heresy would recoil at any suggestion that the final outcome is up in the air. That only makes it somewhat less dangerous. Adhering to Manichaeism-light perverts the Gospel of God’s total defeat of the Serpent, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It opens the door for other heresies like Pelagianism – which War Room flirts with.

[9] Jeremiah 17:9, ESV Study Bible.

[10] Matthew 15:11-18, ESV Study Bible.

[11] Unless you count the one guy who had a flat tire, but Tony changed the tire for free, so it was all good.

[12] Psalm 145:19, ESV Study Bible.


67 thoughts on “War Room: Dishonoring God

    • Wow,

      Your attitude and false humility is exactly why I left my reformed church. You have a condescending attitude and an arrogant intelectualism. Your criticism misses the mark by a long shot. Why don’t you go make a movie and show us all how it’s done. You missed the entire point of the movie. Lest you think I’m just another angry supporter of the movie, I obtained my undergrad degree in theology/Greek from a well known bible college and am now a practicing attorney. I had a very similar attitude snd approach you did when I was in bible school. However, when I started working in the world as a lawyer I quickly realized how rare it is to find someone that simply loves Jesus in the market place. This movie did a good job of relating to business men and middle class Families (yes American not Sudanese since that was not the purpose of the film) and the struggles that many Christians in this position deal with. We are in a war with the enemy man…wakeup. Yes Christ has won but what the heck is the point of Ephesians 6 ? There are so many points I would like to make but I live in the real world and have to get up and go to work in the morning and don’t have time to wax elloquent. It’s people like you that turn away believers who are strugging in their walk with Christ and continue to make true unity in christ among true believers impossible. Read john 17. What did Christ pray for? That the true church would be unified in the Spirit. No we can not be unified with those who do not hold to the essentials of the faith ( the five solas) but we should strive for unity with those believers who differ in beliefs and practices on the non-essentials. People like you make this impossible and you hammer away at fellow believers who are spreading the message of hope in Christ and his death and resurrection because they don’t line up with your finer points of theology. I am tired of critics like yourself who are full of “spiritual” and intellectual pride. You really do need to check your heart and motivation. What are you doing to spread the gospel of Christ and build up the church? It looks to me like you are too busy nit picking non essentials and criticising brothers and sisters in the faith to engage in the real battle We don’t have time for this. I don’t agree with every thing in the movie but there is a much more loving and appropriate way to address your concerns then coming across in an arrogant attacking manner and causing divisiveness between true believers.


      • One doesn’t have to be good at making movies to know what a good movie looks like. If you went out to eat and your food tasted funky, would you feel unqualified to complain if you aren’t a professional chef?

        He could possibly have softened the tone a little, but the theological points are true ones that most Christian denominations should be able to agree on. We should speak the truth, even if it rains on someone’s fan parade.

        Lastly, people who aren’t fans of the Christian film industry are frustrated because of everyone making excuses for bad movies while ignoring so many good Christian movies. Also, the fans of these movies are often very judgemental of those of us that aren’t, going so far as calling people pawns of Satan. They also often have a populist philistinism that is dismissive and mocking towards other people’s enjoyments or refinement.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Nit-picking non essentials and criticizing brothers and sisters in the faith” ??? seriously mr. pedigreed person, even Paul criticized Peter – and publicly. We are called to rightly handle the Word of Truth and be ambassadors of the Lord. I hardly call pointing out theogical errors and false Christian ideologies “nit picking”. Americanized church has grown to be nothing more than spiritualizing the American Dream, white picket fence and all.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I would agree that the movies are not well put together however I disagree with some points while trying not to spoil.

    The wife did go thru stages. So did husband in both directions. I disagree that evil was seen as totally outside. What about the other prayers that were written. People don’t pray for people to be changed if they think praying against spirits in the house takes care of things. Also, I disagree with the assessment that the characters saw the battle as two equal cosmic forces. I think scenes showed explicitly who the greater force is. And there were consequences for the theft. And not everyone caught stealing by corporations have charges brought. Often a company will do so to protect themselves from bad press and/or to avoid other employees knowing there is a hole in security. Not making it public gives them time to figure out how to prevent future thefts. I do not believe it was a foregone conclusion they were going to be able to keep the house either. I think it leaves that door open.

    I will say too much was made out of the strategy instead of the relationship w God. I don’t believe a prayer closet is just a war room. Jesus taught his disciples to pray “Our Father.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you, John, for the work you put in on this. Strangely, reading your review actually makes me want to see the movie more (something which the Kendrick brothers would be happy about). I might even watch a few clips from it, and some of the other Kendrick movies, in class and try to have discussions with my students about how to be thinking biblically even during Christian movies to detect subtle problems.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Let me start by saying I don’t disagree entirely with all your theological points, and I too am not thrilled with the “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel heresy preached in many of our churches today and Christian broadcasting/media networks. I do, however, disagree with your opinion that this is a typical “name it and claim it” portrayal that we’ve come to expect from the likes of the Mike Murdoch’s of the world and the Word of Faith movement. That said, I personally believe we’ve come to expect far too little in prayer. I listened to a Piper message that sums it up well:

    “Nevertheless, God has ordained to make our prayers real causes of real events. Real causes. The words of James 4:2, ‘You do not have because you do not ask,’ do not mean, ‘You would have had anyway, even if you didn’t pray, since God had a plan and your prayers don’t matter.’ ‘You do not have because you do not ask’ means prayer causes things to happen that do not happen if the prayers don’t happen. This is breathtaking. And if you neglect this privilege—your participation in God’s moving the world—you are acting very foolishly. We pray because it is a staggeringly awesome privilege.” -John Piper

    In another version of this message he says, “…to not avail ourselves of this privilege is folly of the highest or lowest order.”

    A two hour movie is hardly enough time to unpack the profoundness of prayer. But, I was a bit surprised as I read your review and the negative light you have portrayed War Room in with regard to the theology and practice of prayer. Unfortunately, and I hope I’m wrong, this seems like just another example of stone-throwing theological dispute rather than the essential work of the Commission and taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth that all may hear of the gospel and the profound grace of our savior. Everyone with a blog wants to tear down those of differing theological persuasions these days, rather than engaging in the commission as billions still live without any gospel witness and multitudes die daily having never even heard of Jesus, all under our watch and knowledge and apathy while we tear others down who disagree with our own theology frameworks and “isms”. At the very least, you think we’d more frequently take Paul’s stance and rejoice that at least the name of Christ is being proclaimed through a medium where He is more commonly abused, blasphemed and ridiculed (Philippians 1:18).

    I also find it interesting that you seem to be really put off by the fact that Tony isn’t forced to deal with some “real world” consequences, specifically, jail or other punishment with regard to his theft. I could be wrong, but that seems like a profound example of grace your repudiating, but which others watching could learn from. Unmerited favor or standing. Not getting what it is we deserve. The movie made it clear that the decision was made to “do the right thing” even if the consequence was jail. Yet, you seem dissatisfied that it wasn’t. Are you also of the persuasion that we must “merit” God’s pardoning of our own consequences? Should you and I get what we deserve? I understand your point, but I don’t think it made the movie worse that Tony doesn’t have the affair or doesn’t go to jail. I’m kind of glad he didn’t (especially the affair) given I took my two daughters with me to see it, and really didn’t need another real or simulated sex scene in order to make the movie more “raw” and real. As Christians, we willingly feed on enough brokenness and depravity streamed directly in our homes and our hearts in the garbage we consume that is not Christ and Him crucified. I’d rather they be inspired to pray more, and it sparked some great conversation from them on the ride home! Let us also not forget:

    “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” James 5:17-18

    and previously,

    “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:13-16

    I hope, at the very least, that you’ll reconsider some of your hyper-critical tearing down, and perhaps focus more on the mountain of work that lies ahead of us in the Commission and our appointed ministry of reconciliation as we attempt to reach those who have yet to even hear the gospel. Rather than just arguing with one another over a movie that many have found inspiring, may we ourselves be inspired by Christ to pursue greater common ground and may grace and Holy Spirit drive us to preach the gospel to the ends of the earth while there is still time to work in the harvest, before the time comes when no man can work.


    • It is obvious that you do not approve of this movie or it’s message, that is your decision to make. Not every Christian is on the same”level” of revelation as you obviously! I can say that this movie blessed me and my life and has led me to a deeper prayer life and relationship with Christ! This brings to mind the many “mature” Christians in my walk who have felt the need to “correct” constantly until I learned to depend on the Holy Spirit for correction and found that varying opinions and pet peeves are very common among Man!


      • Not having read of any of it, I’m not sure of the complete context of your statement. However, assuming that you are only referring to his opposition of “ALL Christian movies,” why do you claim that that’s the iconoclast position? I mean, I think a better argument can be made that Christians movies are destroying cherished beliefs. Hence, Christian movies are the iconoclasts, not Tozer. If Tozer did, indeed, “oppose ALL Christian movies,” than I would say that he’s the one protecting heritage, tradition, and the iconic images/beliefs of Christianity.


      • I was thinking of the second meaning of iconoclast: “a destroyer of images used in religious worship, in particular.” Not that he literally destroys them, but he believes that they are not good for religious devotion. God gave us the word and has nothing to communicate through image. “Surely it requires no genius to see that the Bible rules out pictures and dramatics as media for bringing faith and life to the human soul.” He’s against all religious imagery. He’s against using movies as an evangelization tool because all evangelization should be through words and all pop entertainment is inherently evil. He also believes that acting violates the Ten Commandments because it is a form of lying. http://www.biblebb.com/files/tozermovie.htm

        Liked by 1 person

      • Fair enough. I just have a hard time connecting contemporary Christian pop culture with icons, no matter how loosely.

        The “acting is lying” thing was not unique to Tozer. Many conservative Christians believed that, and some still do. “Interpretative Speech” (think Chautauqua Festival, for example) was the replacement in conservative Christian circles …. which is one of the reasons that acting is traditionally so bad in Christian movies; their heritage is that of false histrionics and declaiming.

        Thank you for reading and commenting.


  4. I was worried by the obvious symbols in the “war room” Movie. The sun on the wall above their bed, the trojan horse on the shelve in their daughters room when the dad went in there, the skeleton face on the vase next to his wife picture, and a funny looking cross with a wedge-like horisontal arm… Did anyone else notice these?


  5. The Kendrick brothers are probably in their war rooms rebuking you, I mean Satan, for this review right now or at least daily, between counting someones money and planning their next venture.

    Well, at least, now, after reading this, I don’t have to donate money to Joel Osteen either. That was close.

    Thanks for the review.

    Liked by 5 people

  6. I avoid movies as much as I can, but as a pastor, I have to minister to people who don’t have my scruples. I really appreciate your taking time to analyze it at the level of form, independent of function. As you well pointed out, form is far from relative, and even if the doctrinal content weren’t as problematic as it is, it still falls short as an artistic expression. Thank you.

    In fact, your site is going into my feedly list.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Christopher, thank you for your kind words and for reading. I am honored that you would add my site to your feedly list.

      Out of curiosity, and please email me (adayinhiscourt@gmail.com) if you don’t want to post it publicly, where is the church that you pastor at?


  7. Everyone who is commenting is fussing about the perceived attack on the theology and the art and whether or not it was true or problematic. I find it very disturbing that I don’t hear anyone expressing any consternation that a victim of abuse is being blamed and told to stay in the relationship. People who call yourselves Christians, WAKE UP! Will we continue to be soft on domestic abuse and blame victims, demanding that they stay victims?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Right! And why is the perpetrator not held to account? The devil is inferred to be responsible for all the evils in this family. I think the devil has taught the church too well to place blame elsewhere. Everything that is not whole in this family comes from the perpetration of abusive acts (e.g. treating the wife with disrespect, being unfaithful, etc.), and someone is responsible for that. In the world, agency is deleted through the use of passive voice in reporting of abuse, but in the church, it looks like agency is deleted through taking the spotlight away from the perpetrator and holding the devil responsible. That narrative suits perpetrators very much, and is part of the abusive person’s modus operandi. Why are we endorsing the perpetrator’s narrative and giving it air time?

      Liked by 3 people

    • Good catch, Karen. I suspect that many of my “critics” didn’t read far enough to actually get to my paragraph about the victim-blaming in the movie. But, to be fair and blunt, if they watched the movie, they shouldn’t need me to point out that specific evil in the movie; it was obvious.


      • Adayinhiscourt, thanks so much for taking the time to write the review. Some who have seen it don’t see the abuse in it. I read the synopsis and watched the trailer, and it seemed to me that the husband was abusive to his wife. Was the trailer misleading? Would I get a different impression if I watched the movie?

        Liked by 2 people

      • Christian, thank you for reading and thank you for your comment and kind words. I don’t believe that you would get a different impression by watching the movie. As I wrote in the review, I almost walked out of the movie. The only thing that kept me there was my promise to write this review. The victim shaming is disgusting. Unfortunately, many people soft-pedal emotional abuse and/or place at least part of the blame on the victim. A sea-change may be necessary in the hearts and minds of many before they are willing to stop overlooking domestic abuse.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. You riffed at great length about the poor quality in the production of the movie and then you put a sentence in like this, “Yes, the world of movies and stories are heightened reality and compressed and generally has changes that happen quicker than what are normal in real life.” I had to read it 3 times to try get what you were trying to say. I think I understand it, but something sure seems way off in it. And according to your riffing on the movie, God is highly displeased with your inability to write flawless sentences. He demands that you write only in sentences that make perfect sense to everyone reading them.

    Having said that, I am no supporter of “War Room”, in fact I have nothing to say in support of it and believe that it misses the mark by a large margin. You came close to hitting the reason when you tackled the “name it and claim it” theology, but then you got hung up on a petty personal interpretation and swung wide of the mark.

    Basically, I would have to say that the most likely reason for missing the real reason that the movie fails abysmally as a “Christian” movie is your own hyper-inflated sense of self-importance. That comes through significantly in the lengthy and totally unnecessary diatribe against the quality of the movie. If you want to be a Christian reviewer of Christian movies, make sure that you demonstrate Christ and stick to what really matters. Is Truth being presented or is it a glossy facsimile of Truth that is being peddled as truth. From the little I have seen of the trailer from the movie, I am reasonably certain that this movie is peddling a facsimile of the truth and not the Truth.


      • I reached that conclusion based on the amount of time you spent railing against flaws in the quality of the movie itself while giving less attention to what really matters, is truth being portrayed. You were far more interested in shredding the quality of the movie itself than in talking about the content of the movie. God used many people who lacked in the ability to speak and present fluently to get his truth across. He is far more concerned with His truth being preached than in a flowery presentation of that truth. Truth is not contained in 5 dollar words and premium sound bytes, but rather, as Paul put it, in the foolishness of preaching. Just simple straight forward talk that everyone can understand.

        Oh, and then you came back with a rather snide return. I expected such, but hoped you would pass on doing so.


      • I didn’t talk about the content of the movie? Really? Ok.

        Truth isn’t portrayed in the movie; heresy is. But I wrote about that in the review above.

        Interacting with my actual arguments is one thing. Judging my heart and motives is another thing altogether and not something that I’m interested in engaging. I will not block your comments, but I will no longer be responding to you. You don’t know me, yet you interact with me as if you know my heart. Why is that?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I deliberately issued a reply aimed at getting a response to see if the response would coincide with my assessment based on reading your review. The response was in keeping with the impression garnered from reading your review. And reading your replies on here reinforce that assessment pretty solidly. You warmly thank every person who pats you on the back and roundly smack down anyone who takes issue with anything you said.

        Again, I am NOT in favor of the movie. I believe it delivers a message far out of the bounds of actual truth. But I am calling out your riffing on the style while giving second place to calling out the truth or lack there of in the movie. As a Christian, truth should always take precedence in our hearts over style, and self importance has no place at all. You could have delivered the message better by adhering to addressing the theological short comings in the movie instead of making a rebuttal of their lack of style that suited your personal tastes paramount to your dissection of the movie.


  9. Thank you! Great review! A lot of good insights, especially in the theology.
    If I could encourage you to change one thing about this article, it would be the small side example about HIV. American Christians have a very low level of compassion for people with HIV/AIDS because it is viewed as a “deserved” punishment for sin, mirroring ancient beliefs in the Bible of how the blind man and other suffering people were treated. Maybe a different example could make the point just as well?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gingerm, thank you for reading and for commenting; your kind words are much appreciated.

      RE: HIV/AIDS – I sincerely hope that my example hasn’t been taken by anyone as an excuse to be less compassionate to people suffering from HIV/AIDS, regardless of the why’s and how’s. I was trying to find an effect that had its cause in the sin of the individual; and an effect that had no known human cure/answer/solution, and would, hence, require the miraculous intervention by God.

      I will take your counsel to heart and try and come up with an example that fits those requirements but without the potential for causing hurt. However, I am afraid that anything I can think of will be of the type that can be misconstrued. Maybe the best solution is me finding a way to reword the example as to make sure that readers have to work hard to misconstrue my meaning.


  10. Wow, Vincent Milburn. Since you invited readers to check out all your links, I did exactly that: (“I am a Catholic-Christian American man. I also consider myself a cinephile and see movie writing as a gateway to many topics. I graduated from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio with a B.A. in communication arts in 2008. I have worked in professional television and feature film. I recently received an MBA in film producing and would like to work in story development or on set. That’s a little disparate, but I’m a complex person and I love the medium. Feel free to check out all my links”)

    So, you want to “work in story development” but then refer to AW Tozer as a “crazy iconoclast”, after admitting you only read “part” of Tozer’s “Menace of the Religious Movie”? I will help you out & attach the link here: http://www.biblebb.com/files/tozermovie.htm

    I can assure you that AW Tozer was incredibly complex and thoughtful, and while you boldly proclaim you “love the medium”, Tozer boldly proclaimed his love of Christ and His Church. Tozer identified in Christ, not in man, and humbly called for an elevation of worship; his classic exhortation regarding worship was this:

    “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has
    substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking,
    worshipping men. This she has done not deliberately, but little by little and without her
    knowledge; and her very unawareness only makes her situation all the more tragic.”

    I humbly suggest, Mr. Milburn, that you have unfortunately done what so grieved Tozer, perhaps not deliberately, but little by little, and sadly, unaware. Tozer called us to think deeply, to worship honorably, while you have called him a “crazy iconoclast”. Tragic.

    Tozer eloquently wrote: “It will cost something to walk slow in the parade of the ages, while excited men of time rush about confusing motion with progress.”

    Tozer raised the bar for all who claim Christ and I think Ellis has done the same here.


    • Scroll upward. I already posted that very link. I know about it. Have you actually been reading this thread or did you just take one of my comments out of context and rush to respond to it? The man is against using religious imagery. “Surely it requires no genius to see that the Bible rules out pictures and dramatics as media for bringing faith and life to the human soul.” That makes him an iconoclast. Iconoclast: a person who destroys religious images or opposes their veneration. (Merriam-Webster)

      Saying I love the medium is like saying “I love chocolate.” No intelligent and honest person would mistake such mundane phrasing as idolatry.


      • “Having read part of that, doesn’t he oppose ALL Christian movies? He sounds like a crazy iconoclast.” Saying “I know about it” while also saying you “read part of it” sounds like double-speak to the reader.

        You have had ample opportunity to say you love Jesus and the Church and the Word but choose instead to label those who disagree with you as crazy, which comes across as abusive speech, while vociferously defending “the medium” Can we at least agree that “the medium” is NOT the Gospel?

        Another definition of iconoclast is “a person who attacks cherished beliefs”.



      • Perhaps “crazy” was not wrong, but needlessly harsh. The man says that acting is a sin as it is a form of lying. Are children sinning when they play pretend? That’s what his writing definitely seems to imply. He’s taken a very extreme position that can reasonably be considered crazy. Was I elevating the conversation by bringing that label into it? I suppose not.

        I definitely agree that the medium is not the Gospel.

        As already noted above, iconoclast has two meanings.


  11. I think we both agree that “words have meaning”, and Tozer’s meaning was in the context of “the religious movie”, not in children at play. Thus to conclude “that is what his writing definitely seems to imply” is false when he says no such thing.

    The offense to Tozer and many like him was that to produce the so-called religious movie, based on the holy Word of God, is to trivialize the Word and thus our Savior, who was the “Word become flesh”. Jesus is not “the Word as a movie”. This is offensive to Tozer because “To pretend to pray, to simulate godly sorrow, to play at worship before the camera for effect—how utterly shocking to the reverent heart! How can Christians who approve this gross pretense ever understand the value of sincerity as taught by our Lord?”

    This is said in the context of reverence to the holy Word of God, which instructs us to “be holy, for I am holy”. Thus to reduce holiness to a form of entertainment demotes Christ Himself to mere entertainment rather than worship. Can we agree that “to play at worship” is offensive to its core….and not crazy?

    You also engage in double-speak again, when you initially say “Perhaps crazy… was needlessly harsh” but then proceed to use it again accusing Tozer’s view is “a very extreme position that can reasonably be considered crazy”.

    The use of “crazy” is offensive to fellow Believers whose primary desire is to worship God in Spirit and in Truth, not in pretense, not in entertainment. I will not play at worship.

    That is my heart’s cry, and I fail miserably, I fail daily…. but I will NOT allow you to call me crazy.



    • Religious movies do not reduce religious expression to movies and entertainment, but they include movies and entertainment as a part of religious expression. If someone’s entire spirituality is built around pop entertainment, that is problematic. If someone likes to listen to ten minutes of praise and worship music during their day, or some prudent amount that their conscience has led them to, I see no problem with them meeting God in that way at that time. Human beings are too psychologically weak to be on a high spiritual plane at all times. Sometimes we meet God halfway through art, entertainment, etc. Cutting out the middle seeks to purify our spirituality, but it can actually further secularize our time that is not so overtly spiritual. It also consigns a huge, popular medium that could be a powerful evangelization tool to being strictly a powerful tool for non-Christians.

      Acting out spirituality for the camera does not INHERENTLY cheapen it. Religious films can treat their subject matter with much reverence and even draw their audience to do the same, so Tozer’s analysis of that is a personal interpretation. Tozer merely INSISTS otherwise, but provides no evidence. Also Tozer specifically states: “Stepping out of our own character for ANY reason is always dangerous, and may be fatal to the soul. However innocent his intentions, a man who assumes a false character has betrayed his own soul and has deeply injured something sacred within him.” (emphasis mine) In the next paragraph, he makes a further point about acted spirituality, but that comes after the point about ALL acting.

      When I say that crazy was needlessly harsh, I’m not saying he isn’t actually crazy. I’m only saying that I shouldn’t have brought that word into the discussion, however true. It would have been better to bring up substantive examples of his craziness, of which that link has many, rather than name-call. Since the cat was already out of the bag, though, I reiterated that it was not incorrect. I suppose I certainly I don’t know that he was literally crazy by some measure, but you have to admit that his views, as shown in that essay, are far outside of any sort of Christian mainstream, whatever that is. I would lastly add that Tozer’s tone in the essay is condescending, judgmental and insulting. At one point he says, “The plea that all this must be good because it is done for the glory of God is a gossamer-thin bit of rationalizing which should not fool anyone above the mental age of six.” So apparently he is crazy, but I have the intellect of a six-year-old.


      • Too much above has been taking other men’s writings and parading it around as gospel to follow or believe in. There is only one gospel and it is the Bible. That should be your only reference for the way to follow. One thing I pick up loud and clear from that book is Gods grace and how in no form can we “Earn our way towards righteousness or our standing with God”. It is a gift from him which you either accept or reject. Legalistic always have a problem with that and also the concept of forgiveness. Surely something lacking in a great many of the posts on this subject, something that grieves the Holy Spirit. Quite frankly God looks at the heart and judges by that. So watch how you speak against a brother or sister in Christ, especially since you don’t know the hearts intent of those which you criticize. If you can’t keep the non-essentials to your self, then let God be your judge. Have you actually read what Jesus said and did in the New Testament, I will let that be the test for if your actions are being Christ-like. I think you have problems with seeing others succeed in living their convictions without being judgemental,also Think a great many of you have trouble with whom God chooses to bless quite frankly, so the only way for you to make sense of this world is to tear down those who are successful in putting a positive message out there. Seems a bit childish frankly.


  12. Lastly, the author this piece, John Ellis, is an odd person to compare to Tozer, as Tozer is fundamentally opposed to the very idea of a Christian movie, where as Ellis seems merely opposed to certain specific iterations of Christian cinema.


  13. I haven’t seen the movie, and don’t care to, but it’s interesting that the writer of the article criticizes War Room so deeply for being so poorly produced, but about half way through reading the article, I had to finally give up thanks to how rambling and poorly written it is.


  14. […] To make matters worse, when knowledgeable Christians point out specific ways in which the Christian art/entertainment industry is making bad art, the response from other Christians is often dismissive, uncharitable, and downright demeaning. In the issue of full disclosure, this is not an impersonal topic for me. Beyond the many ways in which I, as a theatre artist, have been actively discouraged by fellow Christians in my own making of art[2], I have been publicly and privately reviled for writing, among other things, a negative review of the popular Christian movie War Room. […]


    • There seem to be varying opinions, observations, and at times, accusations about this movie. Many of which are interesting and in most cases quite well thought out. On one level, i’ve asked myself, how did i miss so many of these deep points that can only be derived after days of dissection? I guess because i didn’t spend that kind of time on it…..if i view the movie as a form of entertainment that can help me relax with the wife for a bit, and just take a few things at face value, then i might just see a few points they might be trying to make:

      Stop viewing my spouse as my enemy

      awesome point they make if i give them the chance and forget which Act (is that the proper critical term for movie viewers?) it actually takes place in…very important today as we are all behaving like consumers instead of sacrificial care givers of our husbands and wives.

      Wear the full body of armor

      is war room simply challenging me to keep my eye on the ball? if satan comes to deceive, steal, and destroy, then we should be prepared for that. Prayer is part of our armor; i took that at face value with or without the cheesy chase scene through the rose garden with the climactic back hand of satan.

      Be available and willing to mentor others

      this was a missed aspect of their message; how many of us are more willing to dedicate our time to books and blogs in the security of our comfort zones vs. walking and laboring with others? i have a feeling i know the answer. it’s easy for us to academically evaluate people and problems, it’s hard to walk with sinful broken people (just ask my wife) and labor through their issues as one body…

      Take personal responsibility and let God work out the rest

      once again, i took this at face value. we live in a society of political savvy; this guy simply told the truth and let the chips fall where they may. good message; even if they kept the pimp pad, he lost his SUV…

      Be honest

      tony’s boss was perplexed by his honesty vs. outraged by his crime (what Act was that again?) and the only reward he gave him, was not pressing charges, for which most DA’s would have dropped after he returned what he stole…but that would be a whole other movie about crime and punishment, which would create a whole new blog, for which i can’t predict how people would respond and can’t predetermine what theological or biblical confusions would arise on that….well, maybe i could, if i prayed hard enough for the gift of prophecy 🙂


  15. I am humbled by the skill and expertise which you apply in writing and assume your work generally displays such genius.

    I am also grateful to have found an echo to the dissonance that I experienced when watching and briefly contemplating this movie. Something about it just doesn’t seem to gel and you effectively addressed several issues, but I suspect there’s more…

    My prayer is that real Christians smarten up and quit gobbling up anything and everything that is promoted under the often deceptive guise of ‘Christianity’.


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