Just what is "Calvinism?" Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won't evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God's sovereignty and man's responsibility? And why do so many Protestants, perhaps unwittingly, agree with Rome on this issue?
This film helped me understand basics of the reformed/protestant christian faith such as God's grace, original sin, etc., and how these differ from Catholicism and so on. I'm a beginner at studying the Bible and this documentary really helped me with the foundations and I'm better for it. I did have to pause several times as the concepts were new to me and I needed to think about them and let them soak in as I really wanted to understand and sorta "debate" them in my head. After watching the film, I put the topic to rest and didn't think about it at all, but over the coming months, these concepts blossomed on their own as I continued reading the Bible and attending church. Now I'm planning to watch again. :-)
Pros: The presentation with its music and graphics is high quality. Keep in mind, the DVD version is over four hours long.
Cons: As it has been pointed out by others (reviewing the DVD), the title of this video is a misnomer and somewhat disingenuous. It would more accurately be called: The Polemic Against Arminianism, or The Apologetic for Calvinism. I would say this video is merely an exercise in "preaching to the choir." It is amazingly one sided and I doubt it will do much more than make Calvinists feel good about being Calvinists.
I suspect that most non-Calvinists who watch this are going to be irritated and want to give their side in their own words and arguments. While watching, I constantly wanted to cry out, "I DO NOT believe that, nor do I argue that way." You might find someone who argues in those ways, but I think for most of us, it's just beating up a "strawman." And they sometimes commit the "bifurcation fallacy" (false dilemma) and say if you are an Arminian, then you either have to believe this or this, when there are in fact other possibilities.
I find it interesting that they keep referring to councils and the decisions made in them. Should a Christian's authority be the Word of God or human traditions, church laws, decrees of councils, and creeds which are constantly being changed and revised because of their imperfections?
Also, they use a lot of "appeal to authority": You see, great and godly men are in favor of it so it must be right. There is a great flaw in this thinking. According to the Bible, after our lives are over, we will not be judged by what other people have said, no matter how godly or smart we may think they are, but by the words of Jesus (John 12:48). And they seem to miss the fact that there are those of us who are not Calvinists who don't follow Palagianism or Arminianism (and certainly don't like being categorized by the name of a man). Many of us don't care what Palagius or Arminius taught, but rather, we simply care about the Bible's teachings.
Another problem is they come across as extremely arrogant which I find very off-putting. And every now and then they use loaded words, question-begging epithet, and even snark (like Spurgeon's "Armenian prayer" and the book sale in the graveyard). This kind of stuff just makes them look like bullies and jerks.
They also like to use "slippery slope" arguments. They contend that Arminians are on a slippery slope to either Roman Catholicism or to liberalism. Oh, really? I felt like every time someone in the video said "Arminianism" they wanted to turn their head and spit.
And continuing to repeat that Calvinism has not been defeated and that Calvinism cannot be defeated certainly doesn't make it so; it just sounds like bluff and bluster. Also, when arguing against a passage used by non-Calvinists, they will often throw out a strong statement like, "In fact, this is a powerful verse FOR Calvinism," but they are far from demonstrating that fact. It's like they think if the audience is told enough that Calvinism is true, that they will simply start to believe it.
There is also quite a bit of "elephant hurling" where they quickly throw out a bunch of scriptures or scripture references and assume their point has been proven (without actually examining them). But, throwing out a bunch of proof-texts isn't helpful--passages need to be carefully examined in their contexts. And when one does that examination, they can easily see how these passages can be interpreted in different ways. The people in the video often act as if their interpretation is the only one out there.
There are also some contradictory arguments. For example, at one point, they make a big deal about all-inclusive words and how "all" doesn't always mean "all." But, then, a bit later, they make the opposite argument from the word "never" in John 10 ("How long is never?").
There were some other contradictory statements like their complaints against the depravity of our culture and saying: "The only antidote to the sickness of our present age--the gospel of the kingdom of God." But, I thought they taught that people can't accept the gospel without God forcing them to (Total Depravity/Irresistible Grace). And so, who cares if Arminianism causes liberalism (as they claim)? The only One who can do anything about it is God since we are all "totally depraved." Don't blame Arminianism, blame God (or at least Adam). That statement makes a lot more sense if Calvinism is NOT true.
They even go so far as to say we can thank Calvinism for American liberty. And they say things like, "Calvinism is probably the MOST influential theological strain in ALL of constitutional history." Oh, don't be so modest; I’m sure they also “created the internet” (yeah, that’s sarcasm).
One thing that I find interesting (the "elephant in the room") is if Calvinism is true, why make this video? If you really believe it's true, why argue about it--it doesn't make any difference what we believe and teach or what we want to do--it won't change my or anyone else's eternal destiny. There wouldn't be any point in discussing it because our teaching on the subject will not change the salvation or damnation of one soul. Amazing Grace? Only for those lucky enough to be one of the "elect." Why waste my time with this DVD?
Here is a question I have (excuse the tongue-in-cheek): If I believe "wrong" on this, isn't that just proof that I'm NOT one of the elect (since it's a slippery slope into Roman Catholicism or liberalism)? Well, thank you so much for that confirmation! Now, I can sleep easy knowing for sure that I'm not one of the elect (no need to wonder). I can now just live any way I want (oh, goodie). I guess I'll quit praying and reading the Scriptures and quit trying to conform my life into the likeness of Christ; I wasn't lucky enough for God to love me. Oh, well, it didn't have anything to do with me anyway.
Conclusion: I was hoping for a documentary on the "history and theology of Calvinism," but what I got was a browbeating with a bunch of weak arguments.
After watching this, I'm reminded of Proverbs 18:17: "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him."
This explicably well thought out system of beliefs helps reformed Christians further and consistently hone out their beliefs. It will deepen your faith and give all glory to God for your salvation. All, not some or most, but all of the glory so that all know no one can boast! Contemporaneous theologians echo the historical theologians that triggered the reformation. A must-see video for every Christian.
Sometimes truth is hard to accept. Some of us live with a concept that it is by our OWN hand that we achieve salvation. It is and always has been about God's sovereignty and glory. He chose Israel...they didn't have a say in it, he chose Jonah, he didn't have a say in it, he chose Paul and he didn't have any say in it...on and on.
This is an extremely biased piece of fundamentalist propaganda. If like me you were looking for an academic, historical, objective presentation on Calvinism, this is NOT a purchase you should make. Had I read closely, I would have noticed that James Kennedy and his ilk are among those prominently featured. This should have been a red, flashing sign not to make this selection. The only saving grace is that I rented instead of purchased this media. If you are looking for this type of engagement, simply turn on your T.V. and watch the televangelists for free.