In September 2006 a new religious movie premiered in South Africa, called Faith Like Potatoes. I say a religious movie rather than a truly Christian movie, because although it claims to be based on the life story of South African farmer and Charismatic evangelist Angus Buchan, it is not a biblically sound Christian film. As it is a South African film and not a Hollywood production, it will have more of an impact in South Africa than perhaps anywhere else, especially as it is being shown not only in cinemas, but in town halls and church buildings across the country. It has been selected for two international film festivals and will thus doubtless make some waves beyond the borders of South Africa, but even so it is not a “blockbuster” like certain religious movies of recent times, notably The Passion and The Chronicles of Narnia, and there is no need to write a lengthy critique of it. But what I write may be of help to some, who are given a confusing message of “Christianity” by this movie, and the book on which it is based.
What is the movie all about?
According to the movie’s website, it tells the story of Angus Buchan, “a Zambian farmer of Scottish heritage, who leaves his farm in the midst of political unrest and racially charged land reclaims [in Zambia in the 1970s] and travels south with his family to start a better life in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa. With nothing more than a caravan on a patch of land, and help from his foreman, Simeon Bhengu, the Buchan family struggle to settle in a new country. Faced with ever mounting challenges, hardships and personal turmoil, Angus quickly spirals down into a life consumed by anger, fear and destruction. [The movie] weaves together the moving life journey of a man who, like his potatoes, grows his faith, unseen until the harvest.”
After hearing the testimony of another farmer at the local Methodist church, Angus Buchan professed faith in Christ, in 1979. He then began the journey towards becoming, eventually, a Charismatic evangelist, who has now preached to multiplied thousands all over the world.
I have more than a passing interest in this story. Although we have long since parted ways, there was a time, many years ago now, when Angus Buchan and I were good friends. I was a young man, involved with the Methodist institution I had spent some years in but entering in my ignorance into the errors of the Pentecostal movement, and Angus was a farmer in a nearby town who had also professed conversion not long before, and who was preaching on occasions in the local Methodist church. I met him at a camp organised by the church, and we became friends, although he was quite a few years older than me. I started visiting him at his farm, spending time there with him and his lovely family, I preached at the youth service he used to lead, and we would often talk, out in the fields of his farm and into the night in his living room, about our plans, and what we believed the Lord might have in store for us in the future. At one time I even started to build a chapel he wanted to put up on his farm. When my wife and I were married, we asked Angus to lead the worship at our wedding.
But then our paths diverged. It was inevitable, for as he embraced the Charismatic movement and became increasingly involved in it, the Lord was opening my eyes to the unbiblical errors of Pentecostalism/Charismatism, culminating ultimately in my departure from it and utter repudiation of it. And in this can be seen the discriminating grace of God. Separation from all that the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement stood for was what I desired, whereas Angus wanted more of it. Truly, “there, but for the grace of God, go I.” God in His mercy set me free.
In addition, at the same time the Lord was revealing to me, through the study of His Word, the truth about the Great Whore, the Roman Catholic institution, and about the many harlot “daughters” of Rome. I tried to share these things with Angus, but he would have none of it. Like most Charismatics, he was convinced that there were many true Christian people in the Roman Catholic institution. Well has it been said that Pentecostalism is a bridge to Rome! For when the Bible has been set aside as the sole rule of faith and practice, as it has been within Pentecostalism/Charismatism, then the door has been swung open to embrace Roman Catholicism as being of God. Like Romanism, Pentecostalism does not view the written Word of God as the sole authority. Like Romanism, it permits other sources of authority: in the case of Rome, human tradition; and in the case of Pentecostalism, “speaking in tongues” and “prophecy.” Is it any wonder, then, that when Roman Catholics are seen to be “speaking in tongues”, Pentecostals and Charismatics rejoice, and welcome them as “brethren in Christ”? After all, if the Bible is set aside, and if being “one in the Spirit” (as they believe) is all that matters, how could they possibly reject them?