If you’re familiar the American Gospel films you’ll know that we’ve attempted to be fair in our representation of those we are critiquing. In the first film, you’ll notice a lot of text graphics which say something like, “[insert person] declined [or did not respond to] an interview request.” In AG2: Christ Crucified, we were more successful in getting some opposition interviews to agree to appear in the film, including Bart Campolo, a secular humanist. Our approach with people like Bart is to give them the ability to review and approve of how we have edited their interview before they sign their appearance release (Bart describes his experience here: http://www.watchagtv.com/videos/campolo-recommend). We think that overall, this approach is a helpful way to discern truth and error, when two opposing views are contrasted side by side with Scripture.
In AG3: Spirit & Fire, we’ve continued with the same approach in interviewing people like Dr. Michael Brown, Dr. Randy Clark, and Will Hart (hopefully a few more people will agree before AG3 is finished). Some of our viewers have brought up concerns with this approach, which we do understand. However, we think it’s healthy to have these people involved no matter how difficult the process may be. We need to know and understand the arguments from the other side for a number of reasons. First, this can ensure that our critique of their positions is honest and fair, and we can avoid being dismissed for taking people out of context. Second, this approach can help our arguments to be stronger, or perhaps help us to see weaknesses or errors in our own beliefs compared to Scripture. Third, we think this approach can help open up this content to a wider audience for the purpose of evangelism, or challenging other Christians who may be in error. Finally, if we were to release this content without any input from those we disagree with, they would likely spend a lot of time commenting and critiquing this project from the outside after its release, just like many did with the Strange Fire Conference in 2013. Instead of spending the time responding to their critiques, why not allow them to critique our perspective, and respond to that within the film?
As you can imagine, this approach has made it very difficult to create a trailer for the project. The point of a trailer is to tease the content of a full-length feature film, not to spoil everything, or present every argument that will appear in the final film. A normal trailer is around 2 minutes in length, which makes it impossible to address every argument, or to be completely balanced (in hearing the opposing argument) on every single point. All of this has created the need to create a longer, extended preview, in order to have more time for differences to be explained. At the end of this 12-minute preview, we allowed Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Randy Clark to add a summary of their disagreements and concerns that didn’t make it into the main body of the trailer. Much of what they say, we disagree with, and we plan to address many of their points within the final docuseries.
In response to some of their criticisms, it’s important for our audience to remember that they are critiquing a preview* of a docuseries (*a small teaser of something that is much larger and more detailed) which is still a work in progress. So any claims of us taking Scripture out of context, or taking those we are critiquing out of context, are premature. We plan to go into great detail about these issues in the full series, including the controversial issue of “grave-soaking” (which is shown briefly in the preview). Here are some other important questions to consider in response to some of their points: Does the doctrine of cessationism itself necessarily lead to a shipwrecked faith or apostasy? Regarding judging the fruit of a movement, is it Biblical to equate church growth to church health? Are we to judge quantity of fruit, or quality of fruit?
As you can see, the differences in perspectives here are big, and require a lot of time and nuance to fully understand. Lord willing, this April we will conclude our production with a final roundtable discussion with Justin Peters & Jim Osman discussing their differences with Dr. Michael Brown & Dr. Sam Storms. Please continue to pray for the production of this project. We do not like giving estimated release dates, due to the nature of all of the issues above and size of the project, but we we are hoping it will be done by the end of Spring, 2023.
-Brandon Kimber & the AG Team