Courageous, a book review

Courageous is a novelization by Randy Alcorn, based on the screenplay by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick.

It is a “Christian” novel  more accurately  a  fable, about a group of policeman, in the deep south,  who, are struggling with their roles of husband and father, compounded by the significant stress and challenge of policing.   It is a too heartwarming tale with too much word based humor and of course  a too obvious  moral.  I read it because it was given to me by a good friend and his intent was great and kind.  But I really struggle with this kind of so-called Christian drama. I have to confess that I dislike it and I suppose admitting  that makes me about as popular in Christian circles as disliking apple pie and motherhood. But  I don’t just dislike it.   I feel that this story  essentially presents a solution to life problems, sin really ,  that just does not work.  In my opinion, Courageous is unbiblical, and spiritually misleading.  The solution it presents to sin, doesn’t work, in my opinion and that is a big problem.

First of all I call it a fable because it portrays the world as it should be and not as it is. I hear howls of protest already, as fans of the book and movie are going to point out all the ” reality ” of the gritty drug world and the “reality” of the struggles that police marriages face that the book diligently  conveys.  The reality of the compromising nature of police culture, was, however, conspicuously absent.  Nowhere was there any indication of the       “internal  sexual affairs”  that plague emergency personnel much less any indication that this  culture tends to justify ” internal sexual affairs’  as normal. That there should be a high incidence of affairs among emergency personnel should  not be too surprising, considering the stressful nature of policing and the esprit de corps  that develops among both emergency and prison staff.  These ” internal sexual affairs” remind us that the biggest challenge almost all men face is overcoming lust, in a world absolutely saturated with sexual obsession. Sex is,  after all, the primal drug, and when people are in pain, for whatever reason, there is a powerful temptation to reach for nearest  pain killer, be it alcohol, drugs or sex. Police, as the book rightfully  reveals, often are in great, personal, pain.  They experience violence, and death, and the degradation of vice and the criminal culture on a constant basis.  It would be difficult for their loved ones to really understand or share the pain they experience.  Moreover police have power and opportunity to indulge in sexual affairs, most people don’t,  and they need considerable integrity and strength not to do so. The question is, is  courage enough?  I don’t think so.  The fans of Courageous will likely respond to this writer,  that the story does say that this integrity must be done in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true. Adam, one of the policeman, at one point quotes from Spurgeon’s sermon,

for the truths sake, to hazard reputation and affection , is such a deed that to do it constantly you will need a degree of moral principle that only the Spirit of God can work in you”

My response is that this reference to the essential role of the Holy Spirit in enabling a man to live with true moral principle amounts to little more than a mere, tipping of the hat, compared to the overwhelming importance given, by this story ,  to a public commitment to a set of promises and mutual accountability.  The promises themselves are wonderful, being in most respects those promoted by Promise Keepers.
They essentially describe what it takes to be a godly Christian father, and citizen. But at the end of the day, they are simply a detailed restatement of the law of Jesus; “Love one another as I have loved you.”  And all men are just as incapable of keeping these promises, this noble resolution, as they are of keeping the law of Jesus.  Calling it a resolution, making solemn declarations of will and doing so in public makes no difference whatsoever. It is merely high drama, the work of a fool, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.  This resolution suffers from the same problem as the law.  It is weak thru the flesh.  The will just won’t.  As long as we are living according to the sin nature, our minds are hostile to God’s law, and are incapable of keeping God’s law.  Romans 8:7.

The only solution to the sin problem, the fatherless family problem, the divorce problem, the lust problem and crime problem ( which are all just subsets of the sin problem )  is men and women being set free from the law of sin and death by the law of the spirit of life. Romans 8:2  And that is only accomplished when we are cleansed from ALL sin and sanctified by the Holy Spirit and that is what it means to be revived. Let us be clear,  one is not revived by signing a resolution not to sin,  something not unlike, the ,thankfully long abandoned, practice of having alcoholics signing a pledge not to drink alcohol.  Resolutions and pledges are mere  bandages when what is required is radical surgery. We suffer from the cancer of sin, not a skin rash of sin.

This revival, this radical surgery, is accomplished  by God only, and that only in response to a persons confession and thorough repentance of all, all, all, all  sin.  And revival takes care of every sin problem. Revived men are faithful husbands, loving fathers,  willing workers, honest citizens, courageous transformers of society, and above all faithful, loving,  servants of God.  To believe that this transformation will be accomplished any other way than through revival is a pipe dream. Courageous offers a vain hope, a misleading and disappointing promise. It is a fable. Do not be deceived by it.

So in conclusion, I don’t give Courageous any thumbs up at all.   .

Jack

 

 

 

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