Movie Review: “Questioning Faith” (Mar-Apr 2002)

By Matt Dabbs

by Dawson Robb and Nate Willis and their Movie Night group comprised of undergrads, grads, profs, and other movie-loving people in Abilene, Texas. This review expresses the collective opinion of the group.

Questioning Faith National Television Premiere 27 June 2002, HBO’s Cinemax Reel Life, 6:30 PM (EST). For more on the movie, see the Questioning Faith web site.

Summary

Questioning Faith, an autobiographical documentary, is filmed by Mackey, a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, who struggles with the death of fellow student Alan, a friend and soup-kitchen co-worker. Alan was just beginning to flourish ministerially and was full of potential when he lost a six-month battle with AIDS. Through Mackey, the documentary asks, “How can Alan’s death be reconciled with a good and sovereign God?” Dr. James Cone, one of Mackey’s professors, shapes the framework of the movie by stating, “There is no intellectual solution to theodicy. What one must do is give voice to the individual experience of the suffering.” Following this methodology, Mackey gives voice to his own struggle, and brings in the stories of Alan’s friends and family, as well as individuals from various other faiths. No one point of view is given precedence over another, and Mackey comes to a cathartic personal theodicy in the end.

Reflections

The Good: Mackey openly, honestly, and seriously pursues the questions raised by his experience. From the mouths of real people, most of the major theological stances concerning theodicy are voiced.

The Bad: One member of our group felt that “it was a cathartic merry-go-round,” whipping through numerous viewpoints but never critically examining them. A lack of Biblical and theological reflection by Mackey (hinged on his high view of sovereignty), prompted another group member to say, “it seemed more like self-ology than theology.” Both the constraints of the documentary form and Dr. Cone’s influence make Mackey unable to press the positions each person presents, limiting the discussion severely. Last, Mackey confines himself to one understanding of the question of “unjust” suffering: that God in absolute sovereignty causes earthly suffering in accordance with His designs.

We would not recommend this movie as an introduction to theodicy in many some Evangelical churches, such as the churches of Christ. The movie brings too much baggage, which will inevitably pull the discussion away from the topic and potentially into digressions on homosexuality, pluralism, female preachers, and role of the Biblical witness. On the other hand, the high view of sovereignty, low view of scripture, and other seldom-discussed theological viewpoints might make for thought-provoking discussion starters for older youth or college students interested in exploring matters of faith in God.

Movies dealing with theodicy we’d recommend more than Questioning Faith for discussion groups:
Amadeus, The Mission, Wit

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This author published 1598 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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