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The Independent Critic

Josh McDowell, Allen Williamson, John Klicka
Cristobal Krusen
68 Mins.
Echolight Studios

 "Undaunted" a Real Life Docudrama From Josh McDowell 
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Josh McDowell could have just rested on his laurels. A world renowned apologist, humanitarian and author, McDowell is known around the world for a ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ that has allowed him to reach 70 million young people while authoring over 120 books.

There's really no reason that McDowell needed to look back.

Or was there?

Undaunted: The Early Life of Josh McDowell, a docudrama based upon his early years recently released on DVD through EchoLight Studios, provides an extraordinary gift to Christians because it shares vividly and honestly how McDowell's disturbing childhood helped to shape his spiritual journey.

If you're looking for a traditional cinematic experience, Undaunted will prove to be disappointing. The film is a "docudrama" in the truest sense of the word. McDowell is a steady presence throughout the film, providing a narrative thread that ties the film's various scenes together. Initially, McDowell's narrative is a tad distracting because it almost seems too detached given the depth of the life experiences that McDowell is sharing.

Then, suddenly it all makes sense.

These are life experiences that McDowell has lived with his entire life, most likely sharing in select settings along the way. This is his "testimony," if you will, his own way of sharing with a wider community the stories that led up to his own accepting Christ and becoming who he is in Christ.

McDowell grew up in a home with a violent, alcoholic father and a physically challenged mother. As if this wasn't enough to endure, McDowell endured several years of sexual abuse at the hands of a farm hand before finally gaining the size and courage to stand up to the man at the age of 13. The shame from his childhood experiences pushed McDowell away from God, and by the time he was an angry Agnostic who sought conflict with every Christian he encountered. It was one such encounter that served as a benchmark in McDowell's life - He'd confronted a small group of campus Christians when one basically challenged him to disprove the resurrection. McDowell accepted the challenge. He traveled around the world scouring sacred text after sacred text, but instead of disproving the resurrection he found faith and hope.

McDowell has a wonderful knack for making his journey both authentic yet accessible, perhaps the grand result of his having lived a long life of faith and now being able to look back over the years with a refreshing genuineness. Undaunted is dramatic without possessing a hint of the maudlin, and McDowell shares his experiences with hints of of emotion that give you a glimpse into the simple truth that years later even his most tragic life experiences continue to inform his ministry.

Undaunted may not necessarily appeal to the non-Christian nor the non-Christian abuse survivor, but it proves to be a remarkably honest resource for survivors of faith who've far too often experienced difficulty within their faith communities and within their relationships with God. While Undaunted isn't graphic, McDowell doesn't hold back in dealing with the truth of his childhood experiences. Neither, however, does he dramatize for the sake of the cinematic experience.

Quite simply, Undaunted is a bold and courageous film from one of contemporary Christianity's most familiar voices. It's valuable, because it's a reminder that there's always hope beyond our life experiences and because it also reminds Christians that we will have our challenging life experiences. I couldn't stop thinking about the Amy Grant song "Better Than a Hallelujah" while watching Undaunted.

Better than a hallelujah, indeed.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic  
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