Monday, September 8, 2014

A Review of the Wanderlust Film "The Holy Ghost"

Acts 2 begins with the day of Pentecost. The apostles receive the Holy Spirit and are able to speak in whatever languages were necessary for communicating the gospel in Jerusalem. "Men from every nation under heaven," as it says in the text, understood the message in their own language. Some of the Jews thought the apostles were drunk. But Peter stood before them and delivered the good news of salvation.

He shared prophesy from the Old Testament concerning Jesus Christ, the Son of God put to death by lawless men, and rose again from the grave. This was preordained by God, but that did not absolve the guilty of their sin. Peter's hearers were "cut to the heart" and asked the apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" To which Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

I wish I could say that filmmaker Darren Wilson and company had at least this much understanding of what it means to present the gospel when they made their movie, The Holy Ghost. But they do not show any hint of knowing, even at a basic level, what the gospel is or even who the Holy Spirit is. This documentary is a travesty that reduces the Spirit of God to sidewalk parlor tricks, salvation to magic words, and evangelism to guitar songs no one knows or understands.

If you don't read anything else of the review that follows, just know that the Wanderlust produced documentary entitled The Holy Ghost is heresy. It is a false gospel (actually, it's no gospel at all) that will lead a person to hell. It will not lead anyone to salvation in Christ. If the Holy Spirit does indeed save a person who watches this documentary, it is in spite of it, not because of it.

This costs $25 on DVD. Don't buy it.

I've watched this movie having taken advantage of the free world-premier online (which is still going on today). I am offering this review not just so you can save a few bucks on buying the over-priced DVD, but so you won't get bamboozled by this nonsense doctrine.

In the Beginning

The documentary begins with Genesis 1:1-3 -- that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters. Not including this passage, there are ten scripture references in the film overall: 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Titus 3:5, Isaiah 59:21, Psalm 139:7, 1 John 4:7-8, Psalm 81:10, Psalm 138:1, Psalm 95:3, and Matthew 28:20. I wrote them all down as they came up. Pretty sure I didn't miss any.

I also tried to keep track of when the words "sin," "repent" (or repentance), or "salvation" were mentioned. I didn't start doing this until about 15 or 20 minutes in, so this is given that I didn't miss any early on. The word "sin" is mentioned 5 times. Not any single one of those times is it ever explained. Sometimes the word "junk" or "stuff" is used as a substitute, but that's not an explanation of what sin is or what it does to our relationship with God.

Lists of sins are given many times in the New Testament, but here are just a few of those thorough references:
"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) 
"Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Galatians 5:19-21) 
"Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth." (Colossians 3:5-8)
That's my sin. That's your sin. The Bible says that before we come to Christ, we are dead in our sins and the objects of God's wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). God loved us so much that he didn't leave us in that state, but sent His Son to die in our place. This means he became the atonement for our sins. Christ then rose from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit showing that in him is power over the grave. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). Only those who follow Christ will enter into his life.

Romans 8:9-11 reads, "You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you."

Without the Spirit, one will not accept that Christ is the Son of God who takes away sin. It is the Spirit who testifies about the identity of Christ Jesus (1 John 5:6). The Spirit is not some mystical force. He is the third person of the Trinity. He is the very power that brought Christ back from the dead. He is working the same miracle in us to give us life though we were once dead in our trespasses. If a person is not in Christ, they don't have the Spirit of God, and they're still dead in their sins.

That message is never spoken about in this documentary. Given that "sin" is never defined, there's no call to turn from it. Therefore, the words "repent" or "repentance" are not heard a single time. If they came up early in the film, I missed them. The word "salvation" is heard only twice, but like with "sin," it's never defined. Salvation? Salvation from what? If you don't know what Jesus is saving you from, then he is not your savior and no salvation has occurred.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life." Twenty verses later, in John 3:36, it says, "He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him." So what has Jesus saved us from? The wrath of God burning against our sin.


That message is vital to the presentation of the gospel. A person cannot be saved without knowing what their sin is and that it has separated them from God. Furthermore, a person who is not saved does not have the Holy Spirit. And that totally usurps everything about this documentary!

These filmmakers lead people not to the way of eternal life, but to a path of false assurances. It's a road that leads to hell. That is why this documentary is heresy. The truth of God's Word, the realities of his love, are never proclaimed. The filmmakers will say that they are declaring it. But they're lying. Whether or not they're charlatans, I don't know. Are they deliberately conning people with this stuff? What is evident is that they reduce the power of the Holy Spirit to street magic.

The Holy Spirit In the Mormon Temple?

After a few strange interviews at the beginning, the filmmakers get admittedly bold by visiting the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City. Outside they encounter a young man and introduce the "Holy Spirit" to him. This team of sidewalk missionaries consists of Tommy Green, Jamie Galloway, and Will Hart. One of them puts their hands over this young man -- not on him, but hovering over him -- and makes him feel goosebumps.

They assure him that's the power of the Holy Spirit. The young man claims to feel chills. His armpits get cold, he says, and goes as far as saying, "My nipples got hard." I'm not making this up. The team of Green/Galloway/Hart would say things like, "Whoa, do you feel that?" then go, "Double it, double it," as if they're summoning the power of the oh good grief I can't even finish this sentence it's so ridiculous. I was done with the movie at this point.

Double it!

This is the first "Holy Spirit" encounter in the documentary, and apparently inciting the Holy Spirit means walking up to people on the street and dropping their body temperature. This is the kind of things you see on those ghost shows, right? Someone investigates a dark, haunted room and goes, "Whoa, did you feel that? The temperature just dropped!" Perhaps the documentarians know that, and that's why they chose to title it The Holy Ghost instead of The Holy Spirit?

In addition to being ghost hunters, they're also psychics. They ask another young man, "Am I detecting metal in your body?" It turns out he has screws in his wrist, but this is already after he told them he had joint trouble. They ask another youth, "Am I detecting something about your intestines?" Yes, he had a mass in his gut removed. Yay. Good job, guys. You know how to do a cold reading. Maybe you could team up with Theresa Caputo in the next movie (yup, they've already planned a sequel).

As they walk up to the temple gate, they encounter a street evangelist preaching against the lie that is the Mormon faith. As far as I could tell, this man was teaching gospel truth. In talking to him, he reveals himself to be a cessationist, meaning that certain spiritual gifts were given during a certain period of time to authenticate the message declared by the apostles. When the last of the apostles died, those giftings "ceased."

Some element of cessationism is necessary to believe, otherwise there would be no reason to close canon. The New Testament will never be added to. It's complete. To believe that the gifts of the Spirit still exist today in the same measure that they existed in the apostolic era is to say that there will be another Apostle Paul or John. And there will never be another Paul or John. The Apostle Paul said he was the last to ever be made an apostle, and that is exactly how 1 Corinthians 15:8 is to be understood.

A cessationist does not necessarily believe that God no longer performs miraculous healings. Some probably take cessationism that far, but most are not closed to the idea that God still may work some kind of miracle in a person's life -- according to his good purpose, of course -- or give a foreign language to a missionary in order to communicate the gospel, which is what the gift of tongues really is (the subject of speaking random gibberish never comes up in the movie, thank heavens).

Unfortunately, this movie gives a very biased view of cessationism. They reference pastors Chad Norris and R.T. Kendall, and how these two experts explain cessationism is not only inaccurate, it's delivered with a bitter tinge. The direction of the movie very deliberately makes the evangelist in front of the Mormon Temple out to be a buffoon who does little to nothing to advance the kingdom.

As that evangelist's wife reveals, they've only seen about 4 or 5 people become Christians in the 30 years that they've been evangelizing in front of the temple. The filmmakers treat this as ludicrous. They then walk up to a group of teens, perform a little more street magic, and lead them in a prayer of "salvation." Except that it's not. They make it look like they're leading people to Christ, but it's as legitimate as their body-temperature-dropping Holy Ghost parlor trick.

The Sons of Sceva didn't fare so well doing this. (Acts 19)

The whole thing is a scam. Perhaps they're in on it, or perhaps they're being manipulated by a dark spirit themselves. They present their mission as being able to accomplish more in a few minutes than their contrasting evangelist has done in 30 years. While they're "praying" (it's more like chanting magic words) with the teens, they let the voice of the evangelist be heard preaching in the background. He's made to look like a fool while they make themselves out to be heroes of the faith. That's prideful and manipulative. It's slanderous. It's sinful.

Not once in any of their street encounters do they share the gospel. They don't talk about sin, they don't talk about repentance, and they don't tell their hearers that they're under the wrath of God unless they come to Christ. Though they're outside the Mormon Temple, they never tell anyone that the Mormon Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible. If a person worships a different Jesus, they're under a different atonement. If they're under a different atonement, they will go to hell unless they repent and believe in the true Christ.

But the Green/Galloway/Hart street missionaries do not care about heaven and hell. The reason why they don't tell people these things is because they're ministers of the flesh, not preachers of the Word. They are sensuous appeasers, the kind that Jude specifically rebukes in his letter (Jude 1:4). It's very likely that the Jesus worshiped at their churches is also a different Jesus. God, help them if that's true. I hope they come to understand this and repent of their false gospel.

The Holy Spirit At a Korn Concert?

Todd White -- a motivational speaker in dreadlocks who claims to have been an atheist and a drug addict for 22 years until Christ set him free but he doesn't actually know what that means -- teams up with Brian "Head" Welch and Fieldy of the band Korn. They go out to the lobby area of the arena where scores of people are waiting to get into a Korn concert.

Both Welch and Fieldy claim to be born-again Christians, but that has to be called into question. First of all, their testimonies basically sound like they substituted the Holy Spirit for their former drug addictions. The Spirit is just their new trip. They talk about how God's Word is amazing, but don't quote any of it or what it revealed to them about their sin. Secondly, they've not actually repented of anything. They're still in Korn. Are you familiar with Korn's lyrics? It's filthy stuff. Lead singer Jonathan Davis has a custom-made HR Giger microphone stand so lewd, I can't post a picture of it.

So here's a picture of a real mic stand.

The filmmakers actually show people at that concert throwing their bras on stage, flipping off the camera, and acting like animals. It's hard to believe if Welch and Fieldy truly were born again and had the Spirit of God inside of them, they'd continue to associate themselves with such things of the flesh.

So anyway, White uses Welch and Fieldy before the show to attract people. Of course they're going to come over: "Dude, it's Head and Fieldy!" White then proceeds to do miraculous healings. For example, he demonstrates the power of the Holy Spirit by making a professing atheist's leg grow longer to even out his back (edit: fake). They get a group of several dozen to gather around them and pray them to salvation. It's one of those magic-word/repeat-after-me/sinner's-prayer incantations that don't save anyone. Again, no gospel, no Word of God, and no understanding of sin is ever presented.

While words like sin, repentance, and salvation make seldom appearances, the words "dude," "bro," and "man" are heard a lot. There's another word the movie commonly associates with the Holy Spirit: "Risk." Yeah, apparently a person first has to have "risk" in order to be filled with the Holy Spirit. But Wilson and company's version of risk turns out to be not so risky.

The Holy Spirit In a Hindu Temple?

The last adventure in the movie takes the film crew to the oldest city in the world. Damascus? No. Varanasi, India. Yeah, that was new to me, too. Throughout their visit, the documentarians are constantly emphasizing how dangerous it is for them to be there. They could literally be torn to pieces just for talking about Christ. So they don't! What they do is just as much a gimmick as their street-magic bunk.

They get Jesus Culture musician Jake Hamilton to strap on a guitar and sing praise songs throughout the city. Of course this attracts masses of people. One of his audiences looked to number over a thousand. But this has nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. It has to do with Jake being a talented musician and singer.

Yes, he's singing Christian songs, including a version of Amazing Grace called Freedom Song. So why is it that he's not being torn to shreds in a Hindu city that heavily persecutes Christians? Because he's being protected by the power of the Holy Spirit, right? No. It's because no one can understand a word he's singing!

Missionary Mark Marx who is with the crew will walk among the people Hamilton attracts. He will pray for them and gives them the "Holy Spirit." It's the same trick as before -- it's just giving a person chills. You know, they probably get chills because someone is invading their personal space, putting their hands on them, and murmuring "spiritual" words in a low voice. Just a guess.

In none of these encounters Marx has with anyone is Christ ever mentioned. Okay, I take that back. In one of the biggest crowds, he pretends to heal a man's knee and says something to the effect of, "In the power of the Lord Jesus." But it's clear the man he's healing doesn't speak English. Christ is never proclaimed. He's never preached. No one is ever told to turn from their sin. So much for "risk."

By far the most spiritual board game I've ever played.

After singing to a poor district in the city, Hamilton addresses the crowd through a translator. This is it. Here's his golden opportunity to tell them about Christ in words they will understand, right? No. Here's what he says: "I came to India for one reason. I'm only singing in the streets to tell you that no matter where you're at, no matter what you do, no matter how rich or poor, you are loved. You are loved. You are loved." Oh, Jake. You forgot to tell them to just believe in themselves.

The film crew get to go inside the Hindu Temple of Shiva, even to the holy of holies -- which, again, they heavily emphasize is very, very dangerous for them to do and foreigners just don't get to do that. It's only because they are protected by the Holy Spirit, they say. But like with the Mormon Temple, the gospel is never shared. No one is ever told they worship a false god and need to repent and follow Christ. We only get to see the inside of the Temple of Shiva. That's all.

As Jake Hamilton would go on to say, "We're not trying to convert thousands of people." Right, they're not even trying to convert one. Another said of their experience in India, "We openly proclaimed Jesus as Lord." Far from it. It is director Darren Wilson who closes the film by saying, "The Holy Spirit is here on the earth so that people might see and believe that God is good, God is here, and with God all things are possible."

That last statement, that with God all things are possible, was something Jesus said to his disciples when they asked, "Who then can be saved?" This was right after Jesus addressed the Rich Young Ruler who asked, "What must I do to have eternal life?" The disciples were so baffled by Jesus's response that salvation seemed impossible to them. That is why Jesus says, "With man, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible." (Mark 10:17-31)

Unfortunately, salvation is a subject that Wilson and company just don't understand. It's the blind leading the blind -- right off the cliff into the abyss that separates us from God because of our sin. The cross of Christ is not the bridge they use to get to eternal life. They're trying to get there with cheap tricks and magic words. God help them and call them to repentance.

Is There Anything Good That Can Be Taken From This Film?

No.

Okay, I give. One of the things that I will say the movie made me think about was this: Am I as bold to go into the streets and share the true gospel of Jesus Christ with strangers as these false teachers were with doing magic tricks and spreading lies?

That seems like a back-handed question, but it's a legitimate one. If I'm not bold enough to step out on the street and present the true gospel, then I'm leaving the streets to false teachers and soothsayers who claim to be from God but present a different gospel. If I truly believe the Word of God to be true and desire all to come to repentance as the Father does, then I need to step out and proclaim the gospel of Christ in all places.

The only other redeeming quality I can say this movie has is that it's a telling guide as to how messed up much of the American church has become. The filmmakers unintentionally reveal our growing biblical illiteracy. The Sinner's Prayer from a generation ago is alive and well and continues to offer false assurance of salvation. The movie also exposes how warped Bethel Church, Jesus Culture, Willow Creek, and similar churches are in their understanding of the gospel.

And what are Meredith Andrews and Michael W. Smith doing offering their opinions about the Holy Spirit along side musicians like Korn and Lenny Kravitz? The latter pair are not to be considered authorities of the Spirit. Smith and Phil Vischer, who's also in the film, are both men that I have admired and contributed to my growth as a Christian. Their appearances were very minimal, probably not even two minutes of screen time combined. I hope that they didn't actually know what they were getting into when they agreed to be interviewed.

The movie claimed to put God in the dirctor's chair. It did not. Where the gospel of Jesus Christ is desperately avoided, the Holy Spirit cannot be present. Where the Holy Spirit is not present, God is not either. This documentary can only deceive. It will not lead anyone to Christ. It tells the viewer little to nothing about the film's title subject -- the Holy Spirit.