The Encounter

Okay, I am going to take a slight detour from my normal review and talk about a Christian movie.

I stay away from reviewing those because I think a lot less people have seen them and frankly, they aren’t usually very good unless they are based on a true story. (Like Soul Surfer.)

That said, there’s a few of them out there worth seeing.

One of my favorites, back in the days when I searched for Christian cinema online, was “The Encounter” and its sequel “The Encounter 2: Paradise Lost.”

I’ll say upfront I think the second one was the better made and scripted, but the first one is what introduces us to the movie’s premise.

Which is, what if Jesus appeared to us today, in person. Like he did while he was on earth.

It’s also an old idea, if you’ve grown up in church you’ve heard it a thousand times “What if Jesus appeared now?” and it’s usually followed with “would you be ready?”

Well, I think Left Behind style books have their place. But this movie is actually not about that, it’s about Jesus simply meeting people, like you’d meet anyone else. And engaging their attention.

There’s a score of examples form the gospel of this happening, and the movie copies some of them. It most strongly resembles the story of the woman at the well. Because Jesus knows all about each of the five people who come into the Diner.

I should explain, the setting is a dark and stormy night, and five people have turn back because the remote road they’re on is blocked. So they go into the only building for miles Last Chance Diner. Which they think is a joke. (I think I actually saw the same name in another movie, or possibly in real life.)

The people are Sarah, a woman driving 500 miles to see her boyfriend hoping he’s going to propose; Kayla, a runaway who’s been sexually abused by her stepdad; Hank and Catherine, a couple headed for divorce, against Hank’s will; and Nick, a wealthy owner of a chain of restaurants.

Sarah and Hank are Christians, the other three are not though Catherine claims to be.

In one way, I’m glad there are some Christians already, because turning it into a five people get saved story would be kind of predictable.

So they all sit down, have some of the best water they’e ever tasted, and Jesus tells them all what they want for dinner. He somehow know their favorites foods. Then he makes it for them for free.

(I hate to pick apart the metaphor, but I’m sure when Jesus did honest work as a carpenter, he charged people for it.)

But if you think I’m too interested in semantics, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

Because this movie is about 60% semantics. Jesus explaining free will, and creation, and salvation, and forgiveness.

There is nothing wrong with that, exactly, but I think the writers stressed it too much. When I read about Jesus, I don’t feel that semantics were a problem for him. When he is literally the truth, the living word, then whatever he says is correct. He doesn’t ‘ have to explain why.

That’s the thing, God doesn’t explain himself a whole lot. Especially to people of little faith. Like Nick, who is very scornful of his claim.

With some basis of course. It’s a little weird, and there’s a lot of phonies claiming to be Jesus out there.

Personally, I would have quoted that verse aobut “Many who will come in my name.” Or the one about false Christs. But that never comes up. Which you’d think it should.

Notwithstanding, I don’t have a problem with the idea of Jesus appearing to people. I just think the way it was written was under-baked.

I even think him telling them about themselves is within biblical limits.

But what leaves a bad taste in my mouth is how he shares all these people’s deep personal issues with total strangers. And basically goads them into telling even more aobut. Kayla’s rape story wasn’t really something all of them needed to hear. Neither was Catherine’s lack of faith. Or Nick’s past of feeling embarrassed because of his father’s Italian ways.

Yeah, I just don’t see Jesus exposing people like that.

Theologically, I agree with most of the film. But on a few points I think they are too glib. They treat tough topics like they can be easily explained. I notice a lot of christian movies do that.

Also, it makes it seem like we should expect Jesus to answer all our questions before we trust in him. But that’s not how faith works.

Faith means having enough reason to believe in something, without having so much reason that it ceases to be a choice. Unless you’re the C. S. Lewis type and reason can actually convince you of something. (Many people are not convinced by reasons or facts.)

Things like rape can’t be reasoned into being accepted. Only faith can cover it.

In the end, four people decide to believe in Him. Nick goes to the devil. Literally. Teh devil character is in this too.

Now, as cheesy as this may sound. I believe this movie does work in some ways. It’s more like an allegory than a real life representation. And the writers were trying to answer peoples questions aobut the faith. And some of their answers were good.

The acting is also very good for one of these movies.

But it lacks character depth. Even in Jesus, which is the worst crime of all. Though he is likable and almost believable, he doesn’t seem quite real.

That’s the problem, because for this to work, he needs to.

And the other characters need to be relatable.

But on record, the sequel does correct some of the problems of the first one.

What I think gives these movies merit is that they do help you imagine Jesus more as a person. And picture what it must have been like for people to meet him.

I would say another film that does it even better is “Another Perfect Stranger.”

And that’s all for now–Natasha.


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