Facing the Giant Christian Myths


“Dad you will really like this movie.” Like many families, we sometimes have battles regarding which movies are permissible and which ones are not. Our youngest daughter was confident I would like this movie. So I asked her, “Why do you think I will like this one?” “It’s about football and Christians.” She had already seen the movie and in her mind there could not be any better movie for me—a Christian movie about football! She knows me pretty well.

I had heard positive reports on Facing the Giants. Therefore, when I saw it for just $5 at our local Kroger on Black Friday I picked it up. One evening that weekend my daughters and I sat down with our popcorn to watch the movie. It held our attention, but my response was not what my daughters expected. I surprised them when, after the movie, I said, “I didn’t like it.” How could I not like a movie about football and with an overtly Christian message? I shared with my daughters my answer to this question for the next few minutes. It was a teaching moment.

Facing the Giants is about a small Christian high school football team, the Shiloh Christian Academy Eagles, that eventually meets the Giants in the state championship. In addition to this quest for the state championship, there are several additional subplots. One is the desire of the head coach, Grant Taylor, and his wife to have a child. Another revolves around their financial struggles. Another focuses in on a rookie kicker, David Childers, attempting to transition his soccer skills to football.

If you are looking for a family-friendly movie, there is a lot to like about Facing the Giants. There is the absence of foul language, sex and violence—minus the football kind of violence. Throughout the film several good life-lessons are taught—such as lessons on respect, leadership and the rewards of hard work. “Doing our best” is a constant theme. Christians will also find reason to appreciate this move. The Bible is quoted and applied. Prayer is valued, uttered honestly with passion, and answered. The reality of questioning God and crying out to God in the midst of pain is not ignored. There is even an appearance by the real-life role model Mark Richt, the well respected head coach of the University of Georgia Bulldogs and a devout Christian. The principal theme of the movie is certainly Biblical: All things are possible with God.

Strangely, however, it is not a movie I would whole-heartedly recommend for children.

Many Christians blindly love this movie because it is overtly Christian. Yet, I think there are serious drawbacks. Primarily, it appears that the movie attempts to depict the Christian life as we would like it to be—and not as it is. God is seen providing the answers to prayer just as desired.

In all of the plots of this story, God answers perfectly and provides miraculous intervention. Coach Taylor is given a shiny new red Ford F-150 pickup to replace his old and broken down Chevy. On top of this unexpected gift, he gets a $6,000 raise. Furthermore, the coach and his barren wife get the news they have been seeking for years—a baby is on the way. Yet, the miracles don’t stop here. The football team wins the state championship after not having a winning season in over a decade, starting the season 0-3, losing their best player to a rival school, having a loss nullified because of ineligible players on the other team, and losing their first-string kicker in the final game. This championship comes after the team and school experienced a spiritual revival and turned to God in prayer. The climax to the story arrives in the waning seconds of the championship game as David Childers, the rookie kicker who has never kicked a field goal longer than 39 yards, is put into the game to attempt a 51 yard kick—into the wind! Just as it is time to kick the ball, the camera focuses on the flag waving in the wind. Suddenly, the wind changes direction in David’s favor. As the ball sails through the uprights, the crowd roars. David has slain the Giants, not with a stone, but with his foot and the God-inspired wind.

It’s a great feel-good movie. Some may argue that it is just a movie—and simply that. Movies are fictional and we shouldn’t judge its theology. But this is different…it is not designed to be a fairy tale. It’s a movie with a message. It’s a movie about answered prayer, spiritual revival, miracles, and God. The story is fictional, but the intent is to provide spiritual truth. Perhaps I am wrong, but I see this movie as an attempt to warm people up to the idea of God, prayer and Jesus. This is a clear message to this movie, but is it accurate? Is it healthy?

I don’t think so. A movie like this provides misleading expectations of Christianity, prayer and God. More disturbing, because the movie can be promoted as family and child-friendly, there is the very real danger this depiction of Christianity may set a child up for spiritual failure later in life. At some point in their life this child will grow up and discover that God doesn’t always give us what we want; He doesn’t always orchestrate a championship; He doesn’t always send a life changing wind. He doesn’t always provide the miracle we so fervently desire.

We can be so intent on instilling positive and Christian values in our children that we blindly accept a “Christian message” without stepping back and taking a look at what we are actually teaching. A few years ago I volunteered to write some children’s Sunday School lessons for our church. My assignment was to write six lessons from six assigned stories from the book of Daniel. I struggled with the assignment. My struggle was partially the result of time constraints, having recently taken a new job. The main hindrance I faced, however, was trying to determine how I could tell these stories, remaining true to the Biblical text and also providing lessons suitable for children. I had no problem developing the part of the lessons that focused on retelling the stories; my problem was in making application.

In pondering my conflict in writing these lessons, and in thinking back on how I remember the Bible being taught to me as a child, I have come to the conclusion that I have a valid concern that many of the stories from the Bible are taken out of context. Many of the Bible stories, primarily those with miraculous and supernatural intervention, are recorded to show the power and glory of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. This may seem obvious. However, it is very common for Bible teachers—with students of all ages—to take a story displaying the supernatural power of God and make the point that “this” is what God wants to do for you and me. Many of the great Old Testament stories took place because God wanted to reveal that the God of Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob—the God of Israel—was the one true God. That was the primary purpose of God’s work. Yes, God brought judgment. Yes, God blessed His people. Yes, God rewarded obedience. Yet often, the primary supernatural work of God was to give glory to God. Many of the miracles Jesus did were for the purpose of giving testimony of His deity. Yes, Jesus showed compassion on the sick. Yes, Jesus cared for those around Him. Yes, Jesus displayed love wherever he went. However, I think we need to use caution in making the point of these stories to be that “this” is what God will do “for you.”

In contrast, I also speak caution to myself. A major theme of the movie is that all things are possible with God. This is true. Everything portrayed in this movie, including the changing of the wind, is within the scope of what God can do. God can, and does, intervene in our lives. He does answer prayer. He can give children to the childless couple who has been told by doctors that it can’t happen. God has done this for some, but not for all. He can, and does, provide financially and give material blessings. My concern does not revolve around the possibilities with God; rather, my concern revolves around the implication that every prayer is answered, and every wish fulfilled, in our lives and that it takes place all on this side of the Jordan and in a short period of time—in the few months of one football season. The movie would have been a better portrayal of the Christian life if some of the difficulties had remained through the end of the movie. The Christian life includes perseverance, longsuffering, trials, temptations, and hardship.

As Christian parents and teachers, the Giant we face is the temptation to not think through the implications of what we teach our children. I applaud the bold creators and producers of Facing the Giants. It is a nice movie. Yet, it needs intentional follow-up discussion and teaching. Let’s teach our children that all things are possible with God. Let’s also teach our children how to maintain faith when God chooses not to relieve us of every pain, heartache and difficulty we encounter—for that is the life of the true disciple.

 

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15 responses to this post.

  1. You may not think it is possible for that to happen but i am sorry when god is on your side anything is truly possible i have watched more miracles than you could possibly think of i have been truly blessed because i put my faith in god i am sorry but you can not just sit there and say that is not true cause i can tell you without god i would not be anywhere in my life i would have gone down the wrong path and i know that when we do prepare our feilds for rain god will give us the blessings that we need again i know its your opinion and i am not trying to bash it but i want to tell you the possibliities with god on your side is infinite and i will testify of him everyday good sir

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on January 21, 2013 at 12:43 pm

      Jesse, I encourage you to reread the post to find the intent of my writing. I concur that with God all things are possible. Greater things than anything depicted in this movie have certainly taken place. My point is the message this movie sends to our kids is not spiritual healthy or accurate. I don’t believe you understood what I was attempting to communicate. Thanks for your comments. -Jack

      Reply

  2. Posted by Debbie Pierce on March 29, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    I saw the movie and it is a feel good movie. I could not put into words the things in the movie that bothered me ,but you did and I am not at all surprized.I agree with everything you said. Debbie Pierce

    Reply

  3. Posted by Sulemana Safianu on July 28, 2013 at 6:53 am

    The focus of this movie is not the time frame for which God blesses people. Do not forget that Lazarus died and was resurected in three days. Our sense of time is completely different from what God sees. And with reference to him getting a new car, He helped someone get close to his father and he was given a car as appreciation. An example of one of the many way God works. The thema of this movie is to show that with God all things are possible and to say God doesnt answer for everybody is a lack of faith. Dosen’t the bible say God is no respector of persons? So why do you think God will bless somebody and ignore another person. Everybody’s experience with God is different concerning the tests and trials we go through. At the end of the day this movie speaks of how God is always ready to help people who come to him. Bible says when we ask and we do not receive we ask amiss. The problem is not God, the problem is how we ask,our mindset and our faith. So Know that God is always ever ready to help anyone who asks. And this movie depicts that.. Also remember in the movie the coach said he will honour God with everything he is, give God his best and leave the results to God. God is ever ready to give us anything we ask for according to His will and remember when the coach was in pain and prayed ,God lead a preacher to tell him He has been planted and has to wait to blossom… A lot of things work towards getting a miracle. The coach was in the right place,had the right attitude and had faith more importantly He was in the will of God and this story illustrates that. Not that God just hands out miracles willy nilly. The coach also did not reject God inspite of all His problems and according to the movie he had suffered for six years and kept his faith. That was his seventh year in shiloh christian academy and his patience and trust finally was rewarded by God. So the fact that he was rewarded in the movie doesnt mean he didnt suffer and he wasnt patient. God bless you

    Reply

  4. Posted by Sulemana Safianu on July 28, 2013 at 7:05 am

    The movie started with problems that have plagued him along time and have gotten out of hand…He finally knew He cant get His wife pregnant, he finally knew they were trying to replace him as coach,his car had finally broken down and his finances were down yet through all this he didnt leave God. He was faithful to God and after years of failure, he changed his attitude and made a plan and God rewarded Him. This movie illustrates true faith and is Ideal for your children.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Tom on August 30, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    You realize the bible is made up. Noah’s ark?

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on August 31, 2013 at 5:04 am

      Pete, Sadly, those who drowned in the flood had similar thoughts. It’s gonna rain, hope you are ready. -Jack

      Reply

  6. Posted by Emmanuel on October 1, 2013 at 9:43 am

    I am party agrees with the comment. But Grant Taylor always said throughout this film, “We will thank God if we win or if we lose” This film reflects what we live as a Christian. Thank you…

    Reply

  7. Posted by jack on December 17, 2013 at 8:20 am

    I agree with your observations about the movie. I felt the same thing as I watched it. The Bible doesn’t teach that we always get what WE want. Sadly, too many Christians unthoughtfully run to things and support them just because they have the word “Christian” attached to them. We need to be biblically-thinking people.

    Reply

  8. It does perhaps over do it onnthr miracles. The point was not to show what the Christian life is as we would like it to be. The point was to show that nothing is impossible. A 10% chance of pregnancy, turned into a miracle that could only be explained by providential intervention. A coach with a losing record got HIS heart right, and started coaching his players lives not just their football skills.
    A need was met by someone with the means to meet it, which again, all stems from the players getting serious about being spiritual leaders in their school. I’m a witness to the power and blessing that comes from being in the center of God’s will. I’m also a testimony of the loneliness, the despair, the regret that comes from not being in His will. That’s what changed in this movie.

    Reply

  9. Posted by Joe B on January 18, 2014 at 10:57 pm

    Jack, I have to say, bless you for having your thoughts and Praise God that He provided the part of the body of Christ that is Alex Kendrick and the rest of the people who put their efforts into this project “Facing the Giants.” They serve God by creating this awesome depiction of the Christian life, by challenging us to remain faithful to God when our lives are difficult. You focus on the message that a selfish person would take from this, while they challenge the spirit of man through the Holy Spirit who lives inside of the saints to rise up and never give up on Him, who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. I myself do not come away fooled by any delusions that suddenly the verse of Gods’ word that says I will have trouble in this world will no longer be true. Nor, do I forget that this very same verse tells me to take heart that HE has overcome the world. This message is true. We will suffer IN THIS LIFE, but God does not allow anything to come to us that will not work out for good for those who love Him. In fact, from watching this movie, I came away certainly more convinced I will have tremendous adversity in my life and yet encouraged that I want to remain focused on Him, and thankful in the midst rather than looking to my circumstances like I often do. It doesn’t depend on our faith, but He certainly blesses us when we obey Him. He certainly acts supernaturally often in the lives of His children. In millions of ways every day His love, and sustenance is the stuff of physics, chemistry and every law of the physical world. He also whenever He wants to, defies those laws that govern our physical world to show us not only His great power to do so, His majesty and sovereignty over all things, but more than that His awesome grace, kindness and intimate concern of every little thing that impacts our lives. In short, as Coach Grant Taylor says very accurately, God cares about our hearts. In a comment Above you responded, to someone to re-read your post and see how you had said those very things she pointed out. Good time to note, when something angers me a bit, I struggle with coming across condescending. Let me step back. I do want to challenge you to go back and re watch the movie without so much of a critical point of view and concern for what damage someone sharing the gospel might do in a feature film and; let the Spirit of God challenge you to see the illustrations within that movie that parallel your own life. The producers of “Facing the Giants,” have not chosen to comment on your sermons and find little things that probably could be nitpicked, because you weren’t focusing on those specifics. Unfortunately, you did decide to nitpick this awesome movie to garner some warning for the believers against something dangerous. Wow! Good news is rather than them being that guy you were when you wrote this blog, they have chosen to reach out to prick the soul and hopefully quicken each viewer to the Holy Spirit. They’ve chosen to preach God’s word publicly through entertainment and inspire and encourage men and women to be challenged in their hearts to know that they have not yet resisted sin to the point of having their blood shed, but can remain a little more faithful. They show God for who He is, someone who changes lives and they let the Holy Spirit challenge people to know that God is faithful and they can hang on longer, do a little more, forget about themselves and put their eyes back on their faithful Creator. Praise God for this great movie. I am challenged tonight after viewing it to remember that in the midst of my hurts and struggles, it’s not about me. It’s about Him. I read your blog and I remembered the body of Christ is filled with people like me who don’t have it all together and sometimes choose things that well…… You’re not wrong… This movie opens a door to some further conversation and some shepherding of young disciples or even seeking peeps. But, praise God that your brothers in Christ created it for the rest of you and I and the remainder of the body of Christ that you might have that opportunity. Let’ me say Thank you My Lord for giving such creative talent to your servants Alex Kendrick and those he serves with in his church down there in ole GA.

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on January 19, 2014 at 7:29 am

      Joe,

      Thank you for your comments. You well state your points. I am glad you find much good and hope in the movie. I agree with much of what you say. From your writing I surmise you are mature in your faith. Therefore, you have the ability to see past the concerns I raise in my blog post. However, would a 10 year old have the same maturity and discernment? What about the adult who is hurting and looking for hope and then decides to embrace Christianity because of this movie or some preacher with a everything-turns-out-wonderful-in-this-life message? One of the reasons children who come to Christ later stray from God is that they were set up with unrealistic expectations of the faith. We must do a better job of teaching youth about the realities of the Christian life, prayer and miracles. Perhaps the creators of this movie felt there is some validity to my concerns (and the concerns of many others) because their next movie did a much better job depicting a realistic life of faith.

      Thank you,

      Jack (A selfish, nitpicking guy who cares about truth and accurately handling the Word of God.)

      Reply

  10. Posted by Justin Parker on June 8, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    I hope you enjoy your little island you created for yourself. To look into this film and criticize what is a very real side of our relationship with God is pompous and arrogant . God does answer prayers and though the circumstances most certainly very, any one can benefit from the hope clearly portrayed in this movie.

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on June 9, 2014 at 6:44 am

      Justin, Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you found the movie inspiring. In a vast sea of prosperity Gospel and unrealistic expectations of how a Good God should always respond, I am happy to be on an island where Prayers are offered (and answered), where the truth of God’s Word is prominent and where our faith is not evidenced by God always giving us what we expect or want. On my island are a few others “who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning, they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:35ff) …and there were some who got brand new red pickup trucks. -jack

      Reply

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