William Wilberforce regains his faith and works out his own salvation by ending the Slave Trade in the British Empire of 1797. We’ll discuss this and the several other Christian themes in Amazing Grace, the best Christian film you’ve never heard of until now.

For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction
  • 00:10:32 – Movie Discussion
  • 00:36:44 – Christian Themes in AMAZING GRACE
  • 01:32:29 – Listener Feedback
  • 01:42:02 – Well-mannered Frivolity
  • 01:49:45 – Lightning Round

Amazing Grace, How Sweet the Sound

Don’t let the name fool you: the film Amazing Grace is not about the making of the popular hymn; granted, songwriter John Newton is an influential character in the film, and his lyrics are a staple in some of the pivotal scenes. The plot of the film instead centers on William Wilberforce, an abolitionist in 18th-Century England (slavery wasn’t just a thing on our side of the pond, you know). The story really kicks off when William visits his old minister, the very same John Newton, for advice.

This image from AMAZING GRACE shows Albert Finney as John Newton.

William has to make a decision: either love God by walking humbly and meditating with Him or change the world by eradicating the use of slavery within the British Empire. The first option is peculiar since William some time ago – that is, before the action of the film starts – had lost his faith in God. As revealed in his conversation with the priest from his childhood, however, he is slowly but surely regaining his faith.

This comes at the unfortunate time of a budding political career, and to William, it would seem that the two paths are separate for a reason and never the twain shall meet. But William soon realizes, thanks to the overwhelming encouragement of his friends, that he can both follow God and change the world; furthermore, throughout the film, he realizes that the two are one in the same.

…and Grace Will Lead Me Home

This film has plenty to say about the Christian faith and how God intended that faith to be expressed (or worked out) in all aspects of life and not just on Sunday mornings. For example, William could have walked with God in his back yard only to leave Him there when came the time for political matters. In the onset of his renewed faith, William himself even said that he would rather sit on the wet grass and get lost in the wonder of God than go back to work.

Even still, as pious as that sounds, William feels the tug for something more – something beyond the private religion of his own back yard. This sentiment is confirmed when Wilberforce’s friend William Pitt (soon-to-be Prime Minister), says, “Surely the principles of Christianity lead to action as well as meditation.”

This image from AMAZING GRACE shows Ioan Gruffudd and Romola Garai as William Wilberforce and Barbara Spooner.

This echoes what James says in his epistle to the converted-from-Judaism Christian who were at the time scattered all about Palestine because of the persecution. It’s a popular trope in the Christian church: “faith without works is dead.” That is not to say, though, that we earn our salvation by our works; instead, once we put our continual faith in Jesus and His amazing grace, we are to outwardly express that faith not only by words but by action.

In the film, Barbara Spooner shows her faith by not eating sugar that has been produced by the slave trade. Thomas Clarkson shows his faith by supporting the American Revolution. John Newton eventually shows his faith by offering a detailed account of the “20,000 slaves” that haunt him even at his old age. The film then boils down to William Wilberforce ultimately showing his faith by, in no small way, eradicating the slave trade in the British Empire.

Each person, in their own way, by the faith that had been allotted to them, had furthered the kingdom of God. It started by making the right choices in small situations so much so that when the big situations came, making the right choice was already second nature. May it be so with us as we, too, further the kingdom of God however we can.

Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.

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About Brenden Taylor

Brenden is an educational assistant and tutor by day and a theatre practitioner by night. He has his M.A. in Theatre Arts and is always looking for a way to use good stories to soften people's hearts.
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  • Philip Heard

    Great show guys, and Lee was a welcome addition! I first heard about Amazing Grace back when I used to listen to Christian radio, before the time of mp3 players & podcasts. I didn’t recognize all the amazing actors in it back then, but re-watching it now was very impressed at the cast assembled. I challenge you guys to go to IMDB and look up the cast for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Doing so may give you a compulsion to watch it, it’s a great film.
    I bought Amazing Grace used on eBay, which is an affordable way to pick up a DVD for less than 5 bucks, rather than renting for 3 or 4 dollars. Goodwill especially has lots of movies there, and the discs are in great shape.
    I felt like William Pitt was indeed a good man in the film, led by his conscience. I just don’t know if he ever had a clear understanding of just who was leading his conscience.
    One thing I got was a reminder from Wilberforce of Job 13:15(NET) “Even if he slays me, I will hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face!” His commitment to his calling and mission came at great price to his health- physical, mental, and emotional. But he persevered and remained faithful, in spite of his doubts. Like Job, he seemed determined to the death if it was going to come to that. He was also like Job in being convinced he was doing the right thing, but he was doubtful it would ever be a success.
    I enjoyed seeing Spratt as well- Downton Abbey has been a favorite of mine for a while. That Sunday night PBS time slot has some great stuff in it, check out Call the Midwife sometime- it’s also streaming on Netflix, and an amazing show.
    Looking forward to seeing what the new worship show will be like. And would you guys just spit out the name already and stop with the suspense? Sheesh! 😉 #muhweeladgimli

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