Leans strongly toward a biblical worldview
|Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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Set in the context of an increasingly bold secular humanism in American culture today, LET THERE BE LIGHT is a faith-driven film that takes aim at some of the core views held by atheists by telling the story of a highly acclaimed atheist author whose worldview is shaken to the core following a near-death experience. Along the way, he accepts Christ, overcomes life-dominating anger and addictive behaviors, and reconciles with his family—just in time to walk alongside his wife as she faces a grim health prognosis.
Arriving in theaters on Friday, October 27, LET THERE BE LIGHT is produced by openly Christian Hollywood actor Kevin Sorbo and his team at LTBL Productions in association with WildFire Films—with well-known radio and talk show host Sean Hannity also serving as an executive producer. Written by Dan Gordon and Sam Sorbo, the film marks Kevin Sorbo’s directorial debut and features a cast that includes himself (HERCULES, GOD’S NOT DEAD, SOUL SURFER) as Dr. Sol Harkens; Sam Sorbo (HOPE BRIDGE, HERCULES) as Harkens’ ex-wife/wife Katy Harkens; Daniel Roebuck as Sol’s agent, Norm; Donielle Artese as Sol’s publicist, Tracee; singer Dionne Warwick as herself; and country music star Travis Tritt in a cameo role as Dr. Corey.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
With the notable rise in Americans who say they are atheist, agnostic or not affiliated with any religion, the need for a clearly articulated Christian apologetic is perhaps greater than ever. And while the story presented in LET THERE BE LIGHT is not primarily focused on equipping faith-driven viewers to defend their faith or win over unbelievers, the film serves as a wake-up call for Christians to live out Matthew 5:16 and let the light of Jesus shine before others in an increasingly dark world.
Beyond the light vs. darkness theme, LET THERE BE LIGHT does not shy away from proclaiming the name of Jesus—all while affirming that evil is real and that the answer to hate is the love of Jesus. Here, the message is that Christians should have as much zeal in spreading Christ’s love as radicalized Muslims have in spreading their ideology of hate.
Finally, LET THERE BE LIGHT presents a strong parallel between the character of Sol Harkens and Saul of Tarsus in the Bible. Here, Sol is depicted as the “world’s greatest atheist” whose mission in life is to bash Christians. And like Saul, when Sol—as a modern-day persecutor of Christians—sees the light for himself, he realizes that he, too, has been chosen by Jesus to spread the light of the Gospel to the whole world. This is a great reminder that even those who seem to be the farthest from God are not beyond His redemption.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
LET THERE BE LIGHT offers a diversity of characters that largely depict realistic and faith-compatible relationships. Billed as the “World’s Greatest Atheist,” Dr. Sol Harkens is shown to be angry, bitter, arrogant, narcissistic and alcoholic. While some may criticize this portrayal as a straw man caricature, an honest look at prominent atheists in recent years—whose lives this character appears to be drawn from—reveals that this depiction is not unrealistic nor particularly unfair. Moreover, in LET THERE BE LIGHT, Sol’s worldview is given disproportionately full treatment compared to the Biblical worldview of Christian professor Dr. Fournier, who is shown to be hapless, ineffective and unpersuasive in a public debate.
In terms of Sol’s personal relationships, he is divorced from his Christian ex-wife, Katy, who is shown to be patient and kind—yet also exercising firm and healthy boundaries with her ex-husband. She is also committed to praying for Sol’s salvation and tries to limit their two sons’ exposure to Sol’s cynical views about Christianity. Here, the older son, Gus, is protective of his mother, and confident enough in who he is to respectfully stand up to his father when necessary.
In contrast, Sol is depicted as acerbic, sarcastic and hostile to Christianity following the death of his youngest son, Davey, several years prior. Although he makes great money and claims to be “living the dream” as an internationally acclaimed author and speaker, Sol is clearly depressed and unhappy. Here, his lonely urban existence in an upscale New York City condo is contrasted with the bucolic suburban home life Katy is building for their sons. And in an odd detail relating to Sol’s narcissism, astute moviegoers may be distracted by a movie poster of Kevin Sorbo playing the role of Hercules on the wall of Sol’s condo.
Other key relationships in LET THERE BE LIGHT include Sol and his agent, Norm, who works in tandem with publicist, Tracee, to manage Sol’s career in the spotlight. And while Norm ultimately only cares about Sol to the degree that his books stay on top of the best-seller lists, Tracee comes from a Christian background and does not reject Sol when he later comes to faith and renounces his atheist worldview.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
While most situations in LET THERE BE LIGHT are depicted respectfully, the film makes repeated references to ISIS as the most prominent example of darkness and evil facing the world that seem strained and out of place with the story’s focus on atheism.
Despite this distraction, the story moves forward through Sol’s shift from high priest of atheism to servant of Jesus. Before his conversion, Sol’s godless motto is “party on” and he cheerleads for sex, drugs, and rock and roll in his book, “Aborting God: The Reasoned Choice.” Here, as a humanist who sees no transcendent meaning or purpose in life, Sol is depicted as hard-drinking and angry with God for not healing his nine-year-old son Davey of cancer. And his Russian model girlfriend, Vanessa—with whom Sol seems to have no discernable chemistry—is stereotypically depicted as using Sol to further her career. To her credit, she refuses to get into Sol’s car after he has been drinking at an event to promote his book.
Alone in his car, Sol crashes into a construction site while talking to Norm on his cellphone. At the hospital, we learn that Sol was clinically dead for four minutes—but somehow miraculously survived with virtually no injuries. While this is somewhat unbelievable, we also learn that Sol experienced a Near Death Experience (NDE) in which he was in a tunnel with light at one end and a dark abyss at the other. On the walls are images of his life, and his deceased son, Davey, appears from the light to give him a hug and give Sol the mysterious message, “Let there be light.” Here—as with other recent faith-driven “heaven tourism” films—some moviegoers may take theological issue with this NDE experience. Nevertheless, in LET THERE BE LIGHT, Davey who is surrounded by white light (and presumably saved) tells a black-clad Sol (who is presumably not saved) that it is not yet his time and that he must return. Of course, Sol is confused by this, but reluctantly returns to his body.
When Sol mentions the NDE to Norm and Tracee, they go into full-blown public relations mode and do everything in their power to keep the news that Sol has had an afterlife experience out of the press. Although Tracee makes passing reference to Lazarus rising from the grave, they immediately dismiss Sol’s story as a hallucination and tell him to stay on point. Still, Sol cannot get the NDE out of his mind, and he increasingly shows signs of debilitating cognitive dissonance as his carefully crafted atheist worldview comes crashing down. Even another doctor’s medical explanation of the NDE as a neurological “death surge” cannot satisfy Sol or stop his ongoing panic attacks.
It is at this point that Katy suggests that Sol talk to her pastor, Vinny, who very effectively shares his own testimony as a former inmate—suggesting to Sol that the overwhelming light he experienced in the tunnel was the love of Jesus, and that Jesus has chosen him to carry His light to the world. Now Sol understands that just as God sent His only begotten son to save the world, God also sent Sol’s son, Davey, with a message that will save Sol’s soul.
After this profound moment, Sol confesses that he is a sinner and gets baptized by Vinny in a river with Katy and the boys present. This is a clear presentation of the Gospel that will resonate well with many faith-driven moviegoers. Sol also apologizes to his family, and takes steps to begin pursuing Katy anew.
Eventually, Sol tells a reporter about his conversion to Christ, and when this big news breaks Norm fires Sol as a client and calls him a Bible thumper. To his credit, Sol doesn’t seem too fazed by the rejection. When Katy shares an idea for believers around the globe to light up the skies on Christmas eve—the darkest night of the year—with a cell phone app campaign called “Let There Be Light,” Sol suddenly understands another layer of Davey’s message to him in the NDE.
While some may see this turn in the story line—and well-known political commentator Sean Hannity’s decision to promote the app—as gimmicky, it echoes a similar social media campaign depicted in GOD’S NOT DEAD 2, which was well-received by many moviegoers.
On a more positive note, the scene in which Sol proposes to Katy to marry him again is heartwarming, and their boys’ reaction to the news is sweet. There are also several beautiful scenes that follow Katy’s cancer diagnosis at the end of the film that will stick with audiences long after the final credits roll.
Family Viewing Suitability
At 100 minutes in length, LET THERE BE LIGHT is rated PG-13 for some thematic material including alcohol and drug issues. To its credit, the writers show restraint by refraining from showing anything sexually explicit between Sol and Vanessa. And Sol and Katy’s wedding is depicted in a beautiful way, with Dionne Warwick honoring the couple with a song. Beyond this, the bold call to wake up and turn from darkness to light will appeal to many faith-driven moviegoers and their families.
In many ways, LET THERE BE LIGHT is a cross between GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 and THE CASE FOR CHRIST. Although it’s rather formulaic in many respects, it will nevertheless resonate with faith-driven viewers thanks to a comfortable story line, great music and redemptive resolution. And while much of Sol’s witty banter falls flat, the overall production values and writing quality represent a step forward for faith-driven films. Above all, as the story of the world’s greatest atheist coming to faith, LET THERE BE LIGHT offers moviegoers an encouraging and edifying film experience.