The Apostle: An Exercise in Theological Criticism


Gordon Matties, Canadian Mennonite University

Movie Theology Website

           I.   Introduction

 A.    How did you experience the film? With what did you identify in the film? With what could you not identify?

 B.    What are the most memorable images? Which scenes stand out for you?

 C.    What kind of film is this? Genre?

 D.    What is the film about?  What scenes or images embody that for you?

 E.    What happens in the plot?  Identify the beginning, in which you discover the characters and plot conflicts; the middle which explores the complexity of issues and relationships; and the end in which tensions come to resolution or not.

         II.   Theological Themes

 A.    Identify the theological themes you see working themselves out in The Apostle.

 B.    What theological or ethical questions does the movie raise?

 C.    Explain how one (or more) of those themes was played out in the movie.

 D.    Describe how this theme resonates (or not) with your own experience, with Scripture, and with the tradition(s) of the church.

 E.    How does this theme energize, confront, criticize or confirm your experience, your reading of Scripture, and the tradition(s) of the church that you know about or have experienced?

 F.     With which biblical texts do you think the movie resonates?  Why?

       III.   Images of God and Humanity

 A.    What image(s) of God and humanity are expressed in the film?

 B.    What is the scope of human activity? For what are humans responsible? What freedom and limitations do they have?

 C.    How is the presence and activity of God acknowledged?

 D.    What is the relationship between divine initiative and human responsibility?

 E.    Describe the spirituality expressed in this film.

 F.     Where are these images of God and persons supported or challenged by Scripture and/or church tradition(s)?

       IV.   Dialogue between the movie and the Apostle Paul. Discuss and rank the following themes and texts according to their importance as you find them embodied in the film.

 A.    Called and Gifted. Rom 1:1; 1 Cor 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9

 B.    Guided by the Spirit. Galatians 3:1-5; 5:16-26; Romans 5:14; 8:1-30; etc.

 C.    Gifts of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12

 D.    Treasures in Jars of Clay.  2 Corinthians 4:1-5:21; Rom 8:26;

 E.    Weakness. Rom 8:26; 1 Cor 2:3; 15:9; 2 Cor 11:30; 12:1-10; 13:4

 F.     Greatest of Sinners. 1 Timothy 1:15

 G.    Flesh, Spirit & Law. Romans 8; Galatians 3; 5:16-6:5; 6:8; Philippians 3:3-16

 H.    The old life and the new. Ephesians 4:17-5:2; Galatians 6:14-15

 I.      As long as Christ is proclaimed.  Philippians 1:15-18

 J.      Partnership with God in our salvation. Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13

 K.    The church as “body” and “temple.”  1 Corinthians 3:16; 12; 2 Corinthians 6:16

 L.    “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” 1 Cor 11:1; Phil 3:17-4:1; 4:8-9.


         V.   Synthesis: Having worked through the discussion guide, summarize your understanding of the “embodied theology” of the film?  How does its theological perspective seek to confirm or to challenge cultural assumptions, religious traditions, and Christian practices?


For further resources on theological themes, go to