Letter of Appeal to Todd Friel: An Analysis of the new Biggest Question DVD

Todd Friel

The Biggest Question (by Wretched Radio) is a short film known for presenting one of the clearest, most straight forward presentation of the gospel. Just recently, Wretched released a new version of The Biggest Question, which, in Todd Friel’s observation, is suppose to be a better version than the already stellar original. This DVD can be found at www.wretchedradio.com, in the store section. 

Having heard this, I was excited for this project. I thought that the new version would perhaps improve on some of the minor issues with the first one by Todd, Kirk Cameron, and R.W. Glenn, and be an even more ideal, if not powerful, documentation of the gospel message to unbelieving receivers of the DVD. I remember when I saw the original Biggest Question for the first time last year at a church Bible study, I was blown away. It was, without a doubt, the greatest explanation of the gospel message, which covered everything from God’s attributes to an in depth discussion of repentance and faith. It even had a surprisingly helpful explanation of sanctification, which I had never seen in any evangelism DVD. All of these factors caused me to start giving out The Biggest Question DVDs to unbelievers, replacing the DVDs I used to buy from Living Waters (most specifically The Greatest Gamble).

I got my new Biggest Question DVD (by Friel, Ray Comfort, E.Z., and Voddie Baucham) in the mail and watched it immediately. However, this new version did not have the same impact on me than the original. In fact, I felt curiously umoved by the new version. It wasn’t, by any means, bad. It was a sound explanation of the gospel with great insights and exhortation to the unbeliever, but it just didn’t have that same sense of awe factor that I felt when I watched the original for the first time last year. The new version is pretty much a butchered down version of the original, with less heart and soul.

Biggest QuestionNow I’m going to analyze the pros and cons of both versions. The new Biggest Question has some features that were better than the original. For one, the production value was better. I’m speaking about the sets, and even the opening sequence that asked the question, “Why do we…” The opening was better not so much because of the questions, but because it introduces the film in a way that does not seem overtly “Christian” from the get go. The original version had Todd starting out with the question, “You went to church as a child, but quite frankly, not a whole lot of it made sense.” This was one of the features that could have been changed in the original, because if I were an atheist or even a Jew, I would automatically stop the movie because I know it is was going to proselytize me. The new version improves on this in that it starts the light dim before turning it up moments later instead of identifying the viewer as a former churchgoer, which is not true of some people.

The new version is also better than the original in its exposition of God’s Law and justice. Ray Comfort does the same explanation than Kirk, but adds the powerful verse of 1 Corinthians 6:9 to it. E.Z.’s explanation of God’s coming justice is also convicting and thought provoking. The ending exhortation for the audience to come to repentance and faith is also a highlight of this new version, which is more direct and clearly communicates the application of the gospel for an unbeliever. And finally, the new version contains both the English and Spanish, which makes it easier to give out instead of having to buy two separate DVDs.

However, the pros of the new version pretty much end here. Many features of the original were lost in the making of the new version. One of the best features of the original was the video montages (“O Sacred Head,” the doctor interview concerning the crucifixion, the “you are not too dirty” sequence, and the excellent “Jesus, I Love Thee” video). These video illustrations are what added emotional depth to this film. Without it, all we have in the new version is an endless series of lectures, each taking their turn. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it just doesn’t seem to communicate the depth and story quite like the original. The original was a little more creative and inspiring in this department, whereas the new version felt like it was merely going through the motions. Even the presentations by Voddie Baucham (an excellent preacher and theologian) seemed passive compared to the excitement and clarity of R.W. Glenn’s presentation in the original.

Biggest Question 2The explanation of the gospel, along with the illustrations and theological insight, seemed more interesting in the original. Some of these include Kirk Cameron’s illustration of sacrificial atonement and God’s kindness when he spoke about the adopted boy in Washington D.C., Todd’s explanation of Rahab the prostitute, and R.W. Glenn’s explanation of the cross (“done religion versus do religion,” the doctrine of imputed righteousness which results in one not having to feel like he is “better or worse” than others), which definitely hit home in a way that was somewhat missing in the new version. In a nutshell, the original version’s explanation of the atonement, propitiation, imputed righteousness, and repentance was more interesting in the original than in the new. It was also a little easier to follow. Voddie Baucham’s use of terms like “federal headship” and “active and passive obedience” can really fly over the heads of unbelievers who may not know what these terms mean. I can understand these because I am a Christian and a seminary student, but most people do not.

This is not to say that the original version is not without its cons. One of the feedbacks I’ve heard regarding the original is that it is a bit long. The new version capitalizes on this (although I think by cutting it down to 27 minutes, it is a bit too short now). The original version could have easily curtailed the discussion of Jesus’ beating and crucifixion, the false views of “accepting Jesus” (which the new version did wonderfully), and the discussion on the meaning of sanctification (because unbelievers are not quite to the point where they should be taught about sanctification. They need to be saved first). However, these quibbles are pretty minor compared to the overwhelming pros of the original.

In conclusion, I have mixed feelings about the new version. I suppose God will still use it to accomplish His purposes (since it is the gospel that is the power of God onto salvation, Rom 1:16), but I don’t think the film is as convicting, interesting, and moving as the original. Even the ending of the new version (“Why? Why would you reject it?”) with the closing soundtrack left me feeling clueless as to what to think of the gravity of the message I heard, in contrast to the inspiring close of the original.

It’s unfortunate that we may never see the original distributed again, partly because of the R.W. Glenn incident. But my appeal to Mr. Todd Friel and Wretched radio is, if possible, have the original available as an option or remake the new version so it contains the wonderful elements that made the original so good. Because as of right now, it is a good gospel DVD, but not a great gospel DVD. I don’t think I would have felt the same way about the Biggest Question had the new version been screened in my Bible study last year. I probably would have continued to buy the Greatest Gamble DVDs. 

Once again, this is not intended to be a harsh rebuttal of the efforts in putting together the new version (because I am giving them out to unbelievers as we speak). Just a suggestion for Mr. Friel concerning the merits of the original. Because if I were an unbeliever, I probably would be more impacted and be willing to consider the gospel through the presentation of the gospel through version one.

Your friend, Steve