QUESTION: What do you think of the Christian movie War Room?
ANSWER: My wife and I watched this recently released film. Later, I went back and watched it again, double-checking some things. Here are a few personal observations.
War Room provides an interesting and emotionally intense story about a husband and wife in serious conflict (an all too common problem), and how God answered prayer and got them on the right path. Great! Miss Clara's desire to pass on what the Lord had taught her was also good, providing an example of personal discipling (cf. II Tim. 2:2).
However, there were a number of things that concerned me, so that, in spite of what is positive, I would not personally recommend the film to others.
1) First, there's the "closet" issue--going into a clothes closet to pray. It's apparently based on Matthew 6:6, in the old King James Version, "when thou prayest, enter into thy closet." Most modern translations simply have "room," or "private room." In the context of the Matthew text, the Lord is decrying the hypocritical Pharisees' practice of offering their personal prayers out in public, "that they may be seen by men" (vs. 5).
In narration over what Elizabeth is doing to her closet, Miss Clara does acknowledge that the place is not the critical thing, But Clara, Elizabeth, and the couple's young daughter, all turn their clothes closets into a prayer rooms. If that's not an essential point, why not show alternatives by having one or two choose someplace different? (And what have they done with their clothes and other things? Closets are storage areas.)
Personal prayers are best offered in a quiet and private place. I often pray in the living room, before my wife is up, in the car on my way to the city, and in the office alone, while I work.
At the end of the film, a pastor goes in Clara's closet (now stripped of everything she had there) and somehow senses that someone has been praying in the closet ("It's almost like it's baked in."). That seems downright spooky! And it's nonsense.
2) Elizabeth, in her "prayer closet," quotes James 4:7 several times, "Submit to God, resist the devil," which basically means we are to say "Yes" to God's Word and will, and "No" to the devil's temptations. (When we sin, we are doing the opposite.)
But then, using an unscriptural technique popular in some "spiritual warfare" circles, she goes through the house, shouting angry insults and orders to Satan. "I know you can hear me," she says. Really? How does she know that? The devil is neither omniscient nor omnipresent, but she "knows."
"Get out, in Jesus' name," she cries. That is not what the Scripture means by resisting Satan. Nor is it appropriate for a Christian to do. Elizabeth needed to read on a little further in her Bible. Jude tells us, "Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, 'The Lord rebuke you!'" (Jude 1:9).
Leave Satan to God. It's not up to us to tell him off. Instead of taking a more biblical approach, praying for strength to "resist" the devil's attacks, Elizabeth went to reviling and ridiculing the devil's person in an angry way. And Miss Clara's comment about "kicking the devil's butt" was wrong, in bad taste, and totally uncalled for.
3) In the same rant, Elizabeth cries, "Jesus is the Lord of this house." I wonder what she meant by that. It sounded a bit like the "territorial spirits" notion. Drive the devil out, and let Jesus in to rule over the building. However, I know of no text that speaks in these terms. Some might appeal to Luke 11:24-26. But that is something of a parable. The "house" in that case is a figurative picture of a "man" (vs. 26), not a man-made structure.
Jesus Christ is Lord (Acts 10:36), and we need to recognize His lordship over us personally and individually. But the only houses God was said to have occupied specifically were the tabernacle in the wilderness and, later, the temple in Jerusalem. Both are gone, now.
And if, by "house," Elizabeth meant their family (as Joshua likely did in Joshua 24:15), rather than the building, it was still incorrect, since her husband, the head of their home, was far from God at that time.
4) I was turned off by all the shouting in prayer, especially by Miss Clara. Is yelling our words supposed to make the prayers more effective? God is not hard of hearing! It seemed too much like the prophets of Baal, "crying aloud and cutting themselves" to get their god's attention (I Kgs. 18:26, 28), and not enough like the reverent prayer of Elijah that God answered with fire from heaven (vs. 36-37).
And more noise. Three or four times in the film we were subjected to blaring rock music. (I finally put my hands over my ears!) I know this is a pet peeve of mine, and that I'm going against a modern trend, but so be it. I couldn't understand the words that were being sung, and it simply injected the ways of the world into what was supposed to be a spiritually significant moment.
5) We get a lot of references to "Jesus" in the film, which does bother me a bit. Jesus was the earthly name of the Son of God. He is called Jesus hundreds of times in the Gospels. And yes, it's still an important name (Phil. 2:10). But He is only rarely called "Jesus" by itself, after His resurrection and ascension.
Almost always, in Acts and the Epistles, He is "the Lord Jesus," or "the Lord Jesus Christ" (e.g. Acts 1:21; 4:33; 7:59; 9:29; 11:17, etc.). It is a recognition that He is not only our Saviour, but our Lord, now exalted in glory, and that He should be spoken of (and to) with submission and reverent respect.
6) When a robber confronts Elizabeth and Miss Clara, asking for money, and threatening them with a knife, Miss Clara boldly commands, "In Jesus' name, drop the knife!" And he does so. This makes for exciting drama, but it's poor theology. It may be based on the faulty idea that whatever happened in Acts must, of necessity, be happening today.
That is not the case. We do not have God-given apostolic authority (Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3-4). Nor do we have the right to command other people to do what we think God wants them to do--assuming that, if necessary, He will supernaturally force them to comply. This too is nonsense.
Does God ever work that way. I'd be hesitant to say it never happens, but it is not the general rule for God's people. It's not for every Christian to go here and there, commanding this and that, "in Jesus' name." We cannot simply assume we know God's will in every situation.
We need to be very cautious about making such grandiose assumptions (cf. the "but if not" of the three Hebrews, Dan. 3:15-18). We are to pray to God the Father, on the authority of Jesus' name and in the energy of the Spirit of God, and in submission to His will (Eph. 2:18; Jas. 4:15).
A flash prayer to heaven from Miss Clara would have been appropriate (cf. Neh. 1:4-5). Then, the two women should have dealt graciously and gently with the man, trusting the Lord to work in the situation, dealing with him according to His will.
7) The text of Second Chronicles 7:14 is displayed at the end of the film. I realize this verse is dear to the hearts of those who teach a particular kind of revivalism, but a closer look at the context needs to be considered. Here is the verse:
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
It is a promise specifically for the nation of Israel, whom the Lord spoke of as "My people" from early days (cf. Exod. 3:7, 10; 5:1). Beginning with their forefather Jacob (Gen. 32:28), they are the people called (by God Himself) by His name.
The "El" in their name (a version of the Hebrew Elohim) is the name of God. They are literally, therefore, called by God's name. The whole name "Israel" has been variously interpreted, but it seems to mean God Fights, that God is the Defender of the nation of Israel, and of their God-given land.
There is a special covenant relationship of that nation to the Lord. God promised obedience would bring the people blessing, in their land. (Deut. 28:9-10), but that if they sinned, He would discipline them by destroying their crops (II Chron. 7:13), and by exiling them from the land (vs. 20).
Returning to the Lord would bring restoration. "Healing" the land means just that--driving out the locusts, and bringing the rain to water the crops. The whole issue of the prosperity of the land of Israel being attached to the obedience of the people is dealt with in detail in Leviticus 26:3-45, and Deuteronomy 28--30.
The Lord makes no such promise to other countries--that, in fact, is one thing that makes Israel unique above all the nations of the earth (cf. Deut. 7:6). Nor does His promise of "healing" the physical land of Israel apply to the spiritual healing of the people of Canada, or the United States, or any other nation.
Nor can we take material promises made to this one earthly nation, and apply them in some spiritual sense to the church of Jesus Christ. The church is a spiritual body of people made up of all nations. We cannot lift verses out of context and apply them as we like.
8) In conclusion, the "general rule" for God's people today, that I mentioned earlier, is where the film should have been aimed. There are numerous general principles and admonitions in Scripture that give us plenty to work on.
These are many times embodied in "one another" exhortations--of which there are dozens. For instance, we are to love one another (Jn. 13:34; I Jn. 3:11), bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2), forgive one another (Eph. 4:32), comfort one another (I Thess. 5:11), and pray for one another (Jas. 5:16). See also: Rom. 12:5, 10, 16; 15:7, 14; I Cor. 12:25; Eph. 4:2, 25; Col. 3:16; Heb. 10:25; I Pet. 4:9-10.
Surely the intent of the film is to instruct, and show us what we all should be doing. For that reason, more care should have been taken to avoid error, and the odd or extreme things mentioned earlier. They set forth a bad, and sometimes quite unbiblical example.