Guest Post: Movie Review- Risen

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Movie Review- Risen
by Michael Coughlin

I was privileged to see the Risen movie in advance courtesy of Sony Screenings. I enjoyed the movie, generally speaking, and there were a few parts where the story on the screen and my thoughts of my own relationship with Christ brought me to tears of joy over my salvation and sadness over my sin. Risen was entertaining. The acting and cinematography was stellar. The characters were believable and their interactions told the story well without a need for narration.

It is rated PG-13 for its gruesome depiction of crucifixion, a war battle, and blood and death. It isn’t gratuitous, though. It is part of the story and done in a way which makes sense. But I wouldn’t take a young child or someone who has PTSD or some kind of issue dealing with death or gruesome violence. I had to cover my 11 year old’s eyes on several occasions as it was too much gore for her.

Where the movie seems to try to communicate Biblical truths, I’d say it succeeds. Well, I’d give it a B or B+.  But let me caution anyone who will see it, you will walk away with ideas from the movie that you will not find in the Bible. In some cases, things are just shown in a chronology that doesn’t fit with the biblical accounts. I would not recommend this movie as an ‘evangelistic tool.’ But if a nonbelieving friend or coworker wanted to see it, it could be a launchpad for discussion. Furthermore, I would not recommend this movie for a new Christian or a child who isn’t already very discerning and biblically knowledgeable.

I think where many reasonable people will be disappointed is the lack of a clear call to repent and believe in the Jesus in the story. He is undoubtedly depicted as God in the flesh, the suffering Savior and a loving and gentle shepherd. His resurrection and ascension are unmistakably testified to. What is missing is any real depiction of His wrath and imminent judgment. He is the “all love” Jesus. It is hard to know from watching this move whether a person would have enough truth communicated to them about their need for a Savior to cause them to run to the Savior.

The obvious emphasis was on Jesus’ teaching about loving others and his earthly ministry, especially miracles. We know from the New Testament that many people who witnessed Jesus’ miracles did not follow Him (John 6), yet the movie makes the implication that it was those miracles that kept at least one Apostle around.

To be fair, many true accounts from the Bible were very well portrayed. And, usually, where the makers took liberty, I thought they were fair and faithful to what is known from Scripture. But, as I wrote earlier, the mixture of extra-biblical and biblical, with no clear delineation can muddy the waters.

This movie is clearly an evidentialist’s idea of leading people to Christ. The concept of becoming a follower of Jesus, and even evangelizing the world is clear. But I’m afraid that the author doesn’t seem to think it is God’s Word that saves people and the hearing of the gospel. I think the presupposition is that somehow if we could get people to believe in a resurrection, they’d believe. It is in this way, the movie may fail the most. By creating a Forrest Gump style documentary with fiction interspersed with real history, they give the nonbeliever an easy out. A person can watch this movie and not be challenged by God’s truth, but rather see God’s truth as just one piece of fiction as part of a larger piece. Oh how much we lose when we don’t stick to the Word!

Finally, the movie is not entirely clear what exactly Jesus died for. There is no reference to God’s wrath for sinners being poured out on Jesus. Nor is there a definite explanation of faith, especially sola fide. I do not think a Roman Catholic, a Mormon or any number of other false “Christian” systems would have any problem with this movie. I suppose it is intentionally non-polarizing. This didn’t totally bother me, but I know some people for whom this would be the deal-breaker. That aspect actually made me think of how much we have in common with faithful Roman Catholics, and how that should affect our evangelism

When I walked out, I told my wife via text that it was better than The Passion of the Christ and not as good as any Kendrick brother movie (I haven’t seen War Room). It’s just sorta there: it will have nowhere near the impact upon eternity the makers may really hope it has, but I doubt it will lead anyone to terrible heresy or into forms of sin either. My recommendation is that you wait for the movie to come out on DVD. (If you really want to spend some money, then send it to a doctrinally sound missions or evangelism ministry. Here’s my suggestion.) But if you are a moviegoer, I also don’t see any harm in checking it out. As always, compare what you see with Scripture and you will be OK.

Michael Coughlin is a street evangelist from Ohio. He and his wife, Erin have 5 children. You can find him on Twitter, at his blog, or on Sermon Audio.


Please keep in mind that this is a guest post. While I respect Michael’s perspective and observations about the movie, I have not seen it yet and will not be able to answer any questions about it or Michael’s thoughts pertaining to it. I’m going to take Michael’s advice and wait until it comes out on DVD. Find out more about Risen here. Answers in Genesis has also posted a review, Risen Movie Upholds Scripture.

Have you seen Risen yet?
What did you think of it?

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: Movie Review- Risen”

    1. Michael,I don’t know how much of a project it would be but an outline documenting errors in chronology as well as non-Biblical additions would be very helpful. I’m sure many of our non-believing friends will see this movie and, as you said, that might present a witnessing opportunity.


      1. Thanks for commenting labman99. I would say it would be quite an undertaking which IMO wouldn’t be worth the effort for me or anyone else. Just faithfully be ready to teach God’s Word to your friends and, if God is merciful to them, it will all work out.


  1. Interesting comment from a read on my blog and my response:

    I just read your review of Risen. Which was interesting but I had a question. Did you go from stating false Christian systems such as Catholicism wouldn’t have a problem with it… to a comment about how much you have in common with the faithful catholic? Im confused. The faithful catholic is the one who believes in shared redemption, sinlessness of Mary, transubstantiation, sacerdotal system, earned righteousness, merited grace, papal infallibilty, not to mention the faithful
    catholic would/should/better adhere to the anathemas. So clear me up on this- I had to cut and edit your article to use in my bible study so as not to confuse participants.
    Tony – That is an EXCELLENT catch. I had to go reread my review and try to figure out what I meant!

    For those who have not read it, it is here.

    Tony is referring to a sentence at the end where I wrote: “how much we have in common with faithful Roman Catholics, and how that should affect our evangelism.”

    What I mean by this sentence is that if you study what it is that the RCC believes and what born-again Christians believe, you will find a number of things which we would agree upon and use the same terminology for – therefore, we need to consider these things in our evangelism.

    For example, if you asked a faithful RC if they “believe the Bible,” “trust Jesus for forgiveness of sins,” or “believe Jesus is God” or that “Jesus resurrected” – you would get a “Yes” answer. But we both know that we need to be able to ask better questions to expose where a Roman Catholic differs.

    My point was the movie did not do an effective job of making these differences clear (as you did in your comment!), so a Catholic would not walk away from that movie offended and challenged to believe the gospel, but rather, they could applaud and Amen the movie…unlike a Muslim could, for example.

    Thanks for asking the question and letting me clarify. I hope that satisfies your curiosity. I appreciate you using my article in your Bible study – please assure the participants I’m “still protesting.” 🙂


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