Discover the Shocking Truth: Is First Reformed Really a Christian Movie?

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First Reformed, the 2017 film directed by Paul Schrader, has been praised for its stunning cinematography and exceptional performances. However, beneath its beautiful surface lies a deeper question that has sparked controversy among both moviegoers and theologians alike: Is First Reformed really a Christian movie?

The film tells the story of Ernst Toller, a pastor of a small Dutch Reformed church in upstate New York, who grapples with questions of faith and morality after encountering a troubled environmental activist. The movie explores complex themes such as redemption, faith, and environmentalism, all while challenging traditional Christian beliefs.

But what does it mean for a movie to be “Christian”? Does it need to have explicit references to Jesus or the Bible? Or is it enough for a film to explore spiritual themes and moral questions? In this article, we’ll delve deeper into the themes of First Reformed, examining what it means for a movie to be “Christian” and whether or not First Reformed fits that definition.

So, buckle up and get ready to explore the deeper meaning behind First Reformed. Whether you’re a fan of the film or simply curious about its themes, this article will reveal the truth about whether or not First Reformed is really a Christian movie.

Unveiling the Hidden Messages in First Reformed

First Reformed is a complex movie with hidden messages that only a few people have been able to decode. Through meticulous research, we have discovered some of the hidden messages that the director, Paul Schrader, embedded in this movie. Below, we will unveil some of the hidden messages in First Reformed that you might have missed.

If you thought First Reformed was just a movie about a pastor struggling with his faith, then you might be missing the point. The movie is a commentary on many things, including environmentalism, politics, religion, and more. Keep reading to learn about the hidden messages in First Reformed.

The Environmental Message

Climate change, pollution, and the environment are major themes in First Reformed. The movie is set in a small town in upstate New York that is struggling with the effects of pollution and climate change. The church that the main character, Reverend Toller, oversees is an old church that has fallen into disrepair due to a lack of funding. The environmental message in the movie is clear: we need to take care of our planet before it’s too late.

The Political Message

  • First Reformed has a political message about the dangers of extremism. Throughout the movie, we see characters who are willing to go to extreme lengths to get what they want. Whether it’s the eco-terrorists who are willing to kill innocent people to make a point, or the radical right-wing group that Toller confronts, the movie shows us the dangers of extremism and the importance of finding common ground.
  • The movie also comments on the role of religion in politics. Toller’s interactions with the radical right-wing group show us the dangers of using religion to justify extremist political views.

The Religious Message

First Reformed is a movie about the struggles of faith. Toller is a man who has lost his faith and is struggling to find meaning in his life. The movie explores the idea of a crisis of faith and how it can affect people’s lives. Additionally, the movie comments on the role of religion in society and the way that it can be used to control people.

If you want to know more about the hidden messages in First Reformed, keep reading. We will reveal more about the movie that you might have missed.

What Critics Are Saying About the Theology of First Reformed

First Reformed has been a polarizing movie since its release. While some praise it as a deeply spiritual and thought-provoking film, others criticize its portrayal of Christian theology.

One of the central themes in the movie is the idea of environmental stewardship, which is a departure from traditional Christian views. Some critics argue that the movie promotes a form of pantheism, while others see it as a call to action for Christians to take better care of the earth.

The Positive Reviews

  • Spirituality: Many reviewers have praised the movie for its exploration of spirituality and faith. They argue that it offers a nuanced and complex look at the relationship between religion and environmentalism.
  • Acting: Critics also laud the performances of the cast, especially Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of Reverend Toller. They argue that he delivers a compelling and nuanced performance that adds depth to the character.
  • Direction: Paul Schrader’s direction has also received praise for its minimalist style and attention to detail.

The Negative Reviews

  • Theology: Some critics have taken issue with the movie’s portrayal of Christian theology. They argue that it strays too far from traditional views and promotes a more pantheistic worldview.
  • Depressing: Others have criticized the movie for its bleak and depressing tone. They argue that it offers no hope or redemption for its characters or its audience.
  • Pacing: Some reviewers have criticized the slow pacing of the movie, arguing that it can be difficult to sit through at times.


Regardless of whether you agree with its theology or its message, First Reformed is a movie that demands attention. Its exploration of spirituality and environmentalism is sure to spark discussion and debate. It’s a movie that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

The Controversial Ending of First Reformed Explained

First Reformed is a movie that deals with heavy themes such as environmentalism, faith, and the human condition. The ending of the movie has been the subject of debate and interpretation among critics and viewers alike. Some found it to be ambiguous and open-ended, while others saw it as a powerful conclusion to the story.

The movie’s director, Paul Schrader, has stated that the ending was meant to be symbolic, with the final scene representing the possibility of redemption and hope. However, there are different interpretations of what exactly that redemption entails and how it relates to the movie’s themes. In this article, we will explore some of the most common interpretations of the ending of First Reformed.

The Role of Environmentalism

  • One interpretation of the ending is that it represents the triumph of environmentalism over religious dogma. The final scene, which depicts a barren landscape transformed into a lush garden, can be seen as a metaphor for the potential of human action to heal the planet.
  • However, others argue that the movie is not necessarily promoting environmentalism as a replacement for faith, but rather suggesting that the two can coexist and even enhance one another. The main character’s journey towards environmentalism is presented as a spiritual awakening, and the final scene can be interpreted as a vision of a world in which faith and environmentalism are in harmony.

The Possibility of Redemption

  • Another interpretation of the ending is that it represents the possibility of redemption for the main character, Reverend Toller. The final scene can be seen as a vision of what the world could be if Toller chooses to embrace hope and renewal instead of despair and destruction.
  • However, others argue that the ending is not necessarily optimistic or redemptive, but rather ambiguous and open to interpretation. The final scene could be seen as a dream or hallucination, rather than a literal depiction of reality, and the movie as a whole could be seen as a meditation on the impossibility of finding meaning and purpose in a chaotic and unjust world.

The Relationship between Faith and Despair

  • Finally, some have interpreted the ending as a commentary on the relationship between faith and despair. The main character’s struggle with despair and suicidal thoughts throughout the movie can be seen as a reflection of the existential crisis facing many people of faith in a world plagued by environmental destruction and social injustice.
  • However, the final scene can be seen as a symbol of hope and renewal, suggesting that even in the face of despair, there is still the possibility of finding meaning and purpose through faith and action.

Overall, the ending of First Reformed is a complex and controversial subject that has sparked many debates and interpretations. Whether one sees it as a symbol of hope, an ambiguous and open-ended conclusion, or a commentary on the relationship between faith and despair, there is no denying that it is a powerful and thought-provoking finale to a deeply philosophical and challenging movie.

How First Reformed Challenges Traditional Christian Beliefs

First Reformed is a thought-provoking film that challenges traditional Christian beliefs. The movie is a commentary on modern society’s relationship with religion and how it is evolving. Director Paul Schrader is known for his work on existential themes and his unique perspective on faith is evident in this film. Here are some of the ways that First Reformed challenges traditional Christian beliefs:

The role of the Church: The film questions the role of the Church in modern society. The Church is shown to be more concerned with maintaining its own existence rather than serving its congregation. This is evident in the portrayal of the megachurch, which is shown to be more like a business than a place of worship. The film also raises questions about the authority of the Church and the role of the pastor.

Environmentalism: First Reformed emphasizes the importance of environmentalism, which is not traditionally a part of Christian doctrine. The film highlights the impact of climate change on the world and the need for Christians to take action. This is represented by the character of Michael, who is an environmental activist, and his relationship with Reverend Toller.

Redemption: The film explores the idea of redemption and how it is achieved. Reverend Toller’s journey towards redemption is the central theme of the film. However, the movie challenges the traditional Christian idea that redemption can only be achieved through faith in God. Instead, it suggests that redemption can be achieved through other means, such as self-sacrifice and activism.

The Critics’ Response

The Critics’ Response to First Reformed has been mixed. Some critics have praised the film for its thought-provoking commentary on religion and its challenging of traditional beliefs. Others have criticized the film for its bleak tone and its portrayal of the Church.

The Legacy of First Reformed

First Reformed’s legacy is still being felt in the film industry. The movie has been cited as an example of how to challenge traditional Hollywood storytelling and themes. It has inspired other filmmakers to explore existential themes and challenge traditional beliefs. The film’s impact on the cultural conversation around religion and environmentalism is also notable.

The Impact of First Reformed on Modern Cinema

The 2017 film “First Reformed” directed by Paul Schrader has had a significant impact on modern cinema. The film explores the complex themes of faith, despair, and redemption in a thought-provoking and unconventional way that has resonated with audiences and critics alike.

One of the most significant impacts of “First Reformed” has been its influence on independent cinema. The film’s critical acclaim and box office success have encouraged more filmmakers to explore unconventional themes and experiment with different cinematic styles.

The Use of Silence and Stillness in Filmmaking

One of the most striking aspects of “First Reformed” is its use of silence and stillness. The film’s slow pace and minimalist approach create a sense of tension and unease that adds to the emotional impact of the story. This technique has since been used by other filmmakers to great effect, creating a new trend in modern cinema.

Exploration of Complex Themes in Film

“First Reformed” tackles complex themes such as environmentalism, faith, and despair, in a way that challenges traditional storytelling conventions. This approach has inspired other filmmakers to take on similar themes and explore them in unconventional ways, resulting in a new wave of thought-provoking films.

A New Generation of Filmmakers

“First Reformed” has also inspired a new generation of filmmakers who are pushing the boundaries of traditional storytelling and exploring unconventional themes. This new wave of filmmakers is bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to the world of cinema and is helping to shape the future of the industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is First Reformed A Christian Movie?

Yes, First Reformed is a Christian movie, although it challenges traditional Christian beliefs. The movie centers around Reverend Ernst Toller, played by Ethan Hawke, who struggles with his faith and grapples with questions of life and death. The movie addresses themes such as redemption, despair, and faith in God, which are central to Christianity.

What Are the Themes of First Reformed?

The themes of First Reformed include the struggle with faith, redemption, environmentalism, and the relationship between spirituality and politics. The movie explores the conflicts that arise when one tries to reconcile religious beliefs with the realities of modern life.

What Makes First Reformed Stand Out Among Other Religious Movies?

First Reformed stands out among other religious movies due to its unconventional approach to Christian themes. The movie challenges traditional beliefs, offering a more nuanced and complex perspective on faith and spirituality. Additionally, the film’s unique visual style and excellent performances by the cast make it a must-watch for any moviegoer, not just those interested in religious themes.

Can Non-Christians Enjoy First Reformed?

Yes, non-Christians can enjoy First Reformed, as the movie addresses universal themes such as despair, the search for meaning, and the struggle for redemption. The movie’s exploration of these themes is not limited to Christian beliefs, making it accessible to a broader audience.

How Does First Reformed Challenge Traditional Christian Beliefs?

First Reformed challenges traditional Christian beliefs by presenting a more nuanced and complex perspective on faith and spirituality. The movie tackles issues such as environmentalism, political activism, and the role of religion in modern society, which are often overlooked in traditional religious movies.

What Are Some Similar Movies to First Reformed?

Some similar movies to First Reformed include “Silence” by Martin Scorsese, “Calvary” by John Michael McDonagh, and “A Serious Man” by the Coen Brothers. These movies also explore religious themes in unconventional ways, challenging traditional beliefs and presenting a more complex view of faith and spirituality.

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