by John Ellis
When you read the Bible, are you the hero? Do you see yourself as Joshua? As David? As Daniel?
If you answered “yes” to those questions, you should meet Katherine Berger who gently smiles into the camera as she says, “I have so much more happiness now than I ever did before.”
You see, as a wife and mother of two, Katherine is a modern-day Job, suffering immeasurable physical pain from a failing body racked by numerous diseases. And, yet, Katherine, who once prided herself on her physical strength and abilities, now confesses that she loves her current life more than her past life because when she wakes up in the morning, she now realizes that she needs God.
Katherine Berger has come to learn that the Bible is not about her and that she is not Joshua, not David, and not Daniel. She is the weak, frail sinner who needs Jesus, the true Joshua, the true David, and the true Daniel. Katherine can praise God for her ever increasing delight in her Savior even in the face of suffering because, by God’s grace, she has learned that all she needs is Christ.
Her story is told in the new documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone. Produced by Transition Studios, the documentary diagnoses the sickness spreading throughout the world that is colloquially called “American Christianity.” More than diagnosing the problem, the documentary ably presents the solution: the gospel of Jesus Christ.
You want to know what’s wrong with “American Christianity?” It’s a self-serving religion. It buys the lie of Serpent-Satan that we too can be like God; just try a little harder because we have the same spiritual DNA as Jesus. It’s a religion that prioritizes this life instead of the next; “live your best life now,” Serpent-Satan slithers out from the TV screen. It’s a religion that believes that the Bible is about us, a self-help manual designed to improve our lives. And what is the standard for an improved life? The American dream.
To make matters worse, “American Christianity” has become one of our biggest exports. As Justin Peters tells the viewers of American Gospel: Christ Alone, “Now the face of Christianity in most of the world today is Word of Faith.”
It’s this religion, stereotypical “American Christianity,” that the newly released documentary American Gospel: Christ Alone dismantles. And it swings hard as it takes on the seeker sensitive movement, the Word of Faith/prosperity gospel, and moralistic therapeutic deism.
Filled with interviews of prominent theologians intersecting with testimonials of those who bought the lies of “American Christianity” but have since repented, American Gospel: Christ Alone is thoughtful, compelling, and, most importantly, God honoring. It’s a documentary that is needed to help educate ourselves, our family members, and our neighbors about the dangers of the prosperity gospel. Before it does that, though, the documentarians made the wise decision to educate the viewers about the truth first.
The first forty minutes of the documentary contain one of the best presentations of the gospel of Jesus Christ that I’ve ever witnessed. Those forty minutes alone are worth the price. Those forty minutes alone would make a good, visual gospel tract to show your unsaved friends and family members.
As the first forty minutes wind down, American Gospel: Christ Alone stresses that the benefit of Christ’s gospel is God. God is the giver and the gift. That makes for a smooth transition as the film begins to set its sights on the prosperity gospel and the seeker sensitive movement. In the words of theologian Michael Horton, “The gospel isn’t, ‘What would Jesus do?’ Now go and do that. It’s, ‘What has Jesus done?’ Now believe that.”
The ultimate problem, as the documentary realizes, is that Christ is hidden in the “American gospel.” Instead, a cacophony of self-help advice, snake oil salesmen tricks, and a self-serving focus make up the core of “American Christianity.” Interviewed by the filmmakers, Russell Berger puts it bluntly, “All the things that Jesus says we have to be willing to set aside to follow him, they take all those things and they make that the attraction of the gospel.”
Pastor Mark Dever explains, “So they can present messages which downplay uncomfortable parts of the truth. It can simply be a ‘God Is Love’ message where you’re careful not to define ‘God’ very Biblically or ‘love’ very Biblically. Make it sound like there’s a force that approves of whatever you do and your innermost being wants. Well, that’s nothing like God; that’s actually a lot more like Satan.”
Set among the interviews, the story of Justin Peters is one of the highlights of the documentary. Born with cerebral palsy, Peters recounts a time when he was sixteen and a neighbor told him that God had revealed that Justin was going to be healed if only he had enough faith. Of course, as a sixteen-year old boy, Peters wanted to be able to do the things that other boys did.
Peters then tells how his dad took him and the rest of his family to a faith healing service conducted by Nora Lam. My desire with this review is to compel people to watch the documentary, so I’m not going to reveal what happened. Obviously, Peters wasn’t healed, but his interaction with Lam was an instructive moment in his life.
American Gospel: Christ Alone understands the value of providing viewers with compelling stories and not just information. But make no mistake, the documentary is an excellent resource for those who want to learn more about what exactly is wrong with the Word of Faith movement. In what will be one of the more shocking revelations for viewers who haven’t studied the theology of the prosperity gospel, the documentary breaks down Kenneth Copeland’s belief that, “Adam in the Garden of Eden was God manifested in the flesh.”
In short, American Gospel: Christ Alone leaves no doubt that the prosperity gospel is a gnostic heresy birthed by Satan and its false-gospel seeds sown by his minions.
American Gospel: Christ Alone is a documentary that I’m going to order multiple copies of once it’s released on DVD. We are so beset by “American Christianity” that we often don’t realize how it has influenced us. I want a copy of the documentary on hand to occasionally remind myself of the dangers, and I want copies to hand out to friends and family members. In fact, I may put a copy of it in my church’s library.
In closing, I want to end where I began, with the praise from my sister in Christ, Katherine Berger, who says towards the end of American Gospel: Christ Alone, “I’m not any better physically, but I am so much happier because I have Jesus.”
Soli Deo Gloria
(watch the trailer for American Gospel: Christ Alone by clicking here, where you can also rent the film)