Why the movie “Fireproof” offers unbiblical and BAD marriage advice

One of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage. Fireproof was released in September of 2008 and it became an instant hit in churches around the country. The “love dare” and many other books and marriage teaching materials spawned from this movie and some churches to this day still use this movie to teach advice about marriage.

Movie Synopsis

Fireproof features Kirk Cameron in the lead role as a firefighter named Caleb Holt. The movies shows right from the beginning a strained relationship between Caleb and his wife Catherine. He is short with her and she is disrespectful with him.  Eventually Catherine says she wants a divorce and they go through the divorce process during the movie. Caleb talks to his father who had become a Christian in recent years and his father tells him of marriage troubles his mother and he had.  He offers to send his son something that he wants him to try before he gives up on his marriage.

It must be pointed out that neither Caleb nor his wife Catherine are Christians at the beginning of this film.

Caleb receives a handwritten journal that is later referred to as “The Love Dare” and it gives Caleb 40 days where each day he must working on his marriage with most days asking him to do something kind for his wife.  In the middle of the movie when Caleb feels his efforts with the love dare are not working his father uses his failed efforts to bring him to Christ.  Then after becoming a Christian he redoubles his efforts despite his wife basically spitting in his face the entire movie only for her to accept him back at the end of the movie.  She becomes a Christian because of the change she saw in him and they renew their wedding vows as Christians.

So now we will dive into the problems that make “Fireproof” a movie that Bible believing Christians should reject.

The chain of events that lead to the breakdown of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

Most Christian reviewers of the movie as well as the people who produced the movie itself want your primary focus to be on Caleb’s wrong behavior and not Catherine’s. There is only one small scene in the movie where a Christian nurse confronts Catherine’s sinful emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital. Catherine’s behavior is seen simply as a wife’s natural reaction to a mean and self-centered husband and we are supposed to believe Caleb’s behavior came out of thin air.

Caleb says the problems started about a year earlier. So now I will present what I think were several problems that lead up to breakdown of their marriage based on several key statements made in the first two arguments of the movie.

Here is the chain of events that eventually lead Catherine to seek divorce from Caleb:

  1. A year earlier Catherine comes to Caleb asking for him to use part of his savings for his boat to pay for a new hospital bed and wheel chair for her disabled mother who is living in a nursing home and Caleb refuses to part with any money from his savings feeling that he works hard as a firefighter and after saving for years deserves to get his boat.
  2. Catherine reacts to his refusal by going to work full time as an administrator in a local hospital. Caleb tells her that if she is going to work full time then she will need to help pay the bills in the house while he will continue to pay the house payment and their two car payments.
  3. Catherine begins spending much more time with her mother on the weekends in addition to working full time and Caleb becomes frustrated by his wife’s neglect of him and her home.
  4. Caleb begins looking at porn at some point and Catherine starts sexually denying him and tells him that she won’t give him sex while he looks at that “smut” and she would not compete with it. She later tells him that he has lost all honor in her eyes because he looks at porn.
  5. Catherine’s bitterness toward Caleb over her feelings about him being selfish with his savings, his looking at porn and his not doing enough in helping with the affairs of the home leads to a very disrespectful attitude toward Caleb.
  6. As could be expected in any marriage that has experienced these types of issues there is also a complete breakdown of even the most basic communications between the couple.
  7. Caleb gets frustrated with Catherine’s disrespectful attitude and he finally let’s her have it. He yells at her in frustration and gets in her face telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she has been after she has spent several minutes smarting off to him.   She goes from being a defiant and disrespectful wife all of sudden to a fearful victim who begins to cry in fear.  She tells him “I want out” and thus begins Caleb’s and Catherine’s journey into divorce.

It must be noted that beside Catherine’s neglect of her home, her sexual denial of her husband and her highly disrespectful attitude toward him she compounds her sinful behavior by beginning an emotional affair with a doctor at the hospital where she works.

The sins that Caleb and Catherine each committed

Caleb acted selfishly in not wanting to part with any of his savings for his boat to care for the legitimate needs of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair.

Catherine began to grow bitter at Caleb for his selfishness with his savings and at the same time decides to put her mother’s care ahead of her duties to her home and her husband.

Catherine’s comment acknowledging she has been sexually denying her husband and that she would not “compete with that smut” (the porn he had been looking at) also reveals a sinful heart of pride on her part.  While much our current culture (including Christian Churches) teach that a man must have eyes only for his wife this concept is not supported by the Scriptures (see my post “10 Hard Truths Christian Wives must accept about their husbands and porn”).  Even if it were sinful for him to be looking at porn and it was required by God for him to focus all his sexual thoughts and energy on her it still would not be right for her to sexually deny him.

Could Caleb have helped more around the house with his wife working full time and helping to care for her mother on the weekends? Probably.  But there is an argument to be made that unless a husband asks his wife to work to help support the family and if she decides on her own that she needs/wants to work then he has no obligation to help her with the duties of the home.  In essence she as decided to pull “double duty” – to work outside the home while fully keeping up with her duties to the affairs of her home.

In either case it appears that Catherine has also been woefully neglectful of her home.   There is also another question regarding whether or not she should have been spending all those weekends with her mother at the nursing home.  Did they not have nurses to care for her mother?

Even though Caleb was not a Christian man he worked many hours as a firefighter and expected and had grown accustomed to his wife being the keeper of the affairs of the home. This is a natural instinctive expectation for any man in regard to his wife even without knowing anything about the Biblical commands for wives to occupy this role. Our society has tried to reprogram men to be “joint keepers of the home” with their wives but this reprogramming has still not taken affect with a lot of men. The refrigerator and cupboards being stocked, meals being made and his laundry being done were all things Caleb had come to expect from Catherine.  Then when she went to work that began to change.

I believe this change in Catherine’s neglect of her home was due to several factors.  She believed that since she had to work due to her husband’s selfishness with his money that she was no longer going to take care of all the affairs of the home.  He was going to have fend for himself – he deserved that for how he had been treating her.  She also decided that her mother’s needs were more important than her husband’s wishes. Even if she was right about all the wrong things he had done – her wrong behavior in reaction to her husband’s behavior caused a destructive spiral of sinful behavior in their marriage that eventually lead to their divorce proceedings.

Right behaviors that could have prevented the collapse of Caleb and Catherine’s marriage

First Caleb could have realized the true need of Catherine’s mother for a hospital bed and wheel chair and sacrificed his dream of a boat to help her mother’s real need. This would have strengthen her love for him. But rather than do what was right Caleb acted selfishly and refused to help her mother.

However, Catherine could have chosen to act to both preserve her marriage and at the same time help her mother at the same time.  She could have taken the difficult road of fully taking care of the needs of her home and working full time at the same time.  Would this be tiring for her? Absolutely.  But then she would have been fulfilling her duty to her home while at the same time helping her mother. Another thing to remember is Catherine and Caleb had no children so really Catherine’s duties to her home would not have been as burdensome as if they had children.

Caleb could have chosen to be more discreet about his porn use and least given his wife the perception that he was not looking at it anymore after she caught him the first time knowing how much it hurt her feelings.  He seems to be have had little regard for being discreet about his porn habit.

Catherine felt great emotional pain regarding her husband’s porn use as she felt she was to be center of all his sexual thoughts and that she should not have to compete with images or thoughts of any other women on the part of her husband. But even with her hurt she could have decided to act in a right way and not drive him to look at porn further and also increase his frustration toward her by sexually denying him.

Caleb tries to save his marriage

At first both Caleb and Catherine just want to pull the eject level because of hurts they each feel they have suffered at the hands of the other.  But then Caleb’s Dad convinces him to fight for 40 days to save his marriage using the love dare journal.

Caleb while not being a Christian yet out of respect for his father decides to give it a try. In the beginning he is doing these things expecting his wife to notice and then apologize for her behavior and they could make up and cancel the planned divorce.  But as he does each kind thing toward her she becomes more and more hostile instead believing his actions are not based on genuine changes she would like to see.

This is where we get into some unbiblical concepts and misapplied biblical concepts that are introduced by the love dare and Caleb’s father.

Fireproof confuses God’s unconditional love with God’s conditional affection

Many Christian men and women do not know that God has two kinds of love for us. There are certain actions God performs toward us that are completely based on God’s unconditional love for us. His salvation for us is chief among these actions and this passage is used in the movie to refer to God’s unconditional love:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8 (NIV)

This passage is used as central theme in teaching Caleb to unconditionally love his wife.  Now should a man unconditionally love his wife? Absolutely.  That is what all men vow to do when they take a woman as their wife.

However when a man vows to unconditionally love his wife he is vowing to unconditionally provide for her, protect her, care for her when she sick, lead her, forgive her when she sins against him, show her kindness, teach her, discipline her and sacrifice himself for her.

When Caleb refused to take money out of his savings he was not sacrificing himself for his wife’s true needs as he should have.  When he became a Christian he realized what that meant to sacrifice himself for his wife and took the money out of his account and paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair.

But the Bible shows that God’s affection for us is in fact based upon our affection toward him:

“No, the Father himself loves you BECAUSE you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” – John 16:27 (NIV)

The word here in the original language for “love” is different than the word used in Romans 5:8 in regard to love.  This word could be translated as “affection” so it could read as this:

“No, the Father himself shows affection for you BECAUSE you have shown affection me and have believed that I came from God.”

See my post “Why doesn’t my husband love me anymore?” for more on this subject of unconditional love and conditional affection in regard to both God’s love for us as individuals, his love for Israel and a husband’s love for his wife.

Getting back to Fireproof – they teach that God only has one kind love and it is always unconditional. In the view of fireproof a husband is not only to unconditionally love his wife by providing her, protecting her and sacrificing himself for her but is also called to perform unconditional acts of affection toward her.

The message we get from Fireproof is that a man should do things like buy his wife flowers, make her romantic dinners, clean the house and a host of other acts of affection despite his wife’s continued sinful behavior including complete and utter disrespect, a generally critical and hostile spirit, neglect of her duties to the home, sexual denial and even an emotional affair.

The Biblical truth is that while God calls husbands to unconditionally love their wives he does not call them to unconditionally perform acts of affection toward them in spite of their rebellious and sinful behavior or to cause them to turn from their sinful behavior.

What did God do in the Old Testament when his wife acted in rebellion against him, disrespected him and she became unfaithful like Catherine did here in this story?

“41 They will burn your houses with fire and execute judgments on you in the sight of many women. Then I will stop you from playing the harlot, and you will also no longer pay your lovers. 42 So I will calm My fury against you and My jealousy will depart from you, and I will be pacified and angry no more. 43 Because you have not remembered the days of your youth but have enraged Me by all these things, behold, I in turn will bring your conduct down on your own head,” declares the Lord God, “so that you will not commit this lewdness on top of all your other abominations.” – Ezekial 16:41-43 (NASB)

From Ezekiel and many other Old Testament passages we can see just how God handles a rebellious wife.  He brings her conduct on her head. He disciplines his wife.

Notice in this next passage from the book of Isaiah how God removes his blessing from Israel because of her rebellion:

““What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?

Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones?

5 “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard:

I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed;

I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground.

6 “I will lay it waste;

It will not be pruned or hoed,

But briars and thorns will come up.

I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it.” – Isaiah 5:4-8 (NASB)

God did not continue to bless Israel and do even more for her and perform unconditional acts of affection toward her while she was in her rebellion. God’s example as a husband to his wife Israel is in DIRECT contradiction to what Fireproof advices husband’s to do with a rebellious and unfaithful wife.

But didn’t God show that he would “allure” Israel back to him?

Often times Hosea and the prostitute God called him to marry are brought up to bolster Fireproof’s approach to the rebellious and unfaithful wife. But if you closely examine the story of Hosea you will see that God had Hosea take a prostitute as his wife who was later unfaithful to him and he took her back to show that AFTER Israel repents and turns from her wickedness God would remove his discipline and restore her blessings and her rightful place as his wife.

For more on the subject of a husband disciplining his wife see my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.

Fireproof does get it right about a husband confessing his sin to his wife

God calls husbands to confront sin both in themselves, their wives and their children. But before a husband can confront his wife’s sin he must confess his own and make it right.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” – Luke 6:42 (NIV)

Caleb did do this with his wife in the movie after he became a Christian. This is something the movie actually gets right.

I do though think it was silly in the movie that he paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair and he did not tell her about it. He could have used that as a powerful moment to let her know how sorry he was for being selfish with his money and that he had paid for her mother’s hospital bed and wheel chair to demonstrate his repentance.  It could have avoided prolonging their problems and if she would have never thought to ask who actually paid for it they may have continued with the divorce.

Fireproof teaches the false doctrine of “Happy Wife Happy Life”

During an exchange early in the movie before Caleb’s conversion he is talking about how is respected everywhere he goes except in his own home.  His fellow firefighter tells him that he has been there before his wife not feeling respected and it was a rough place to be. His friend tells Caleb that ultimately his marriage problems were not about his wife’s disrespectful attitude toward him but rather it was because of his mistreatment of her.

He offers this advice that he learned in marriage counseling “Your wife is like rose, if you treat her right she will bloom but if you don’t she wither and die”. This is the essence of “Happy Wife Happy Life” that is taught in both secular marriage counseling and sadly in most Christian marriage counseling in our society.

Today marriage counselors often say that most marriage problems come down to the husband’s treatment of his wife. If the husband would just love his wife as she desires to be loved and do whatever she wants their marriage will be great and in return she will love him and be the best wife to him.

But this is blatantly false.

God calls Christian husband’s to make their first concern to honor God with their lives and to model the relationship of God to his people in their marriages. In keeping with that primary goal of marriage husbands are called to sacrifice themselves not for their wife’s happiness – but rather for her holiness:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” – Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)

In most Christian churches when they teach on the sacrificial love that God calls Christian husband’s to emulate with their wives they stop abruptly at “gave himself up” but they never explain for what purpose a husband is to give himself up for his wife. The primary purpose of a husband’s sacrificial love for his wife is to make her holy not to make her happy.  In fact often times a husband will be called to make leadership decisions that his wife disagrees with but he believes are in the will of God.  This might make her unhappy. He might have to confront his wife for some sinful behavior she is doing and this will definitely make her unhappy.  But the goal is his wife’s holiness, not her happiness.

Now is it wrong for a husband to try and make his wife happy where he can? Of course not.  If what his wife is asking for would not conflict with what he believes God would have him do then by all means he should do it.  If a husband were presented with the same scenario with saving for some boat or other unnecessary thing and a true need arose for a close family member he should sacrifice his wants in these kinds of cases.

Now there is also the case of a selfish wife where is she is very demanding of her husband’s time and money on a regular basis and not for legitimate needs like a hospital bed and wheel chair for her mother.  Men need to be careful in these cases to not spoil their wives.

See my previous post entitled “Does the Bible teach “happy wife happy life”?” for more on this subject.

I have personally seen the damage that the Fireproof movie has caused in marriages

When Fireproof was released in September of 2008 I was in the midst of my divorce from my first wife. My story in many ways mirrored the story of Caleb but in some ways it was different.

First let me state the biggest difference is that my wife and I were both professing Christians and we both had attended church for most of our lives. When I say “professing” I don’t mean that I did not truly believe because I have truly believed in God since I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior at the age of seven years old.  But by “professing” I mean in my opinion I am not sure that my ex-wife was ever truly a genuine believer.  I cannot say for sure that she is not a Christian as only God knows that.  But the fact that she has rarely graced the door step of a church in years and the way she has lived her life since our divorce has not given me any cause to think her faith is genuine.

But the reasons for the breakdown in our marriage were similar in some ways to Caleb and Catherine and different in many other ways.

My first wife thought I worked two much – I worked a full time job and a part time job to support our big family with five children. Unlike Caleb though I was not tight with the money and pretty much anything my wife wanted she got if we had the funds. In fact in many ways I was too soft on her as she was an extremely lazy woman with a princess mentality.

Like Caleb I also had a habit of viewing pornography although it did not affect my desire for my wife in the least bit and for all of our marriage until the last year of it we had sex several times a week. At the time though and for most of my life I condemned myself on a regular basis for viewing porn and I ask God’s forgiveness and her forgiveness on a regular basis. After my divorce from my first wife God finally revealed to me that my self-condemnation for viewing porn was misplaced and that I could view some type’s porn guilt free as long as it did not lead to obsessive behavior or affect my desire for my future wife.

Now the reason that our sex life decreased rapidly in the last year of our marriage was not due to my porn habit or any decrease in desire on my part for my wife.  The decrease came because for the first time in our marriage she began to sexually deny me.  At first it was only a decrease in our relations and then eventually she started to flat out deny me.

What I eventually came to learn is that she had been having an affair with another man for the past year (which completely explained the change in our sex life). She cited my working too much and my history of viewing porn as her primary reasons for the affair. She felt that she should have been the only woman that I desired to see naked and she should have been the center of all my sexual focus and really my life’s focus.  She wanted to be number one in all areas of my life and she felt she did not occupy that position based on me putting so much into my job and my viewing porn.

I started attending a support group at a church for people facing the possibility of divorce or actually going through divorce. The director of that group was a huge fan of what was at the time new “Fireproof” approach to handling the wayward wife.

He actually told me that I needed to do what Caleb did in the movie and compete for my unfaithful wife. He convinced me for a time that my porn use was just as unfaithful to my wife as he being unfaithful to me with this man she had been sleeping with for the past year.  Many good Christian men have fallen for this false comparison as I once did.

I did what Caleb did and I apologized to my ex-wife in tears on my hands and knees.  I begged her to return to me and that I would treat her like the “jewel” she was if she would just give me another chance while I knew she was still seeing this other man.

For a time following this horrible Fireproof advice I was given I convinced myself that my ex-wife was not truly the lazy and the self-centered princess that she truly was.

But then I realized very quickly what this man from this church support group was saying was wrong and that I was trying to convince myself of a lie. Was I the perfect husband? Certainly not. Did I work too much at times and was I neglectful of her at times? Yes. But what I did certainly did not justify what she did.

Did God win back his unfaithful wife by performing acts of affection? No way! He brought down the house on Israel because of her sin. My ex-wife and other Christian men who had unfaithful wives saw their wives emboldened in their unfaithfulness by the example of the Fireproof movie.

It was their husband’s fault not theirs and their husband’s needed to win them back.  What heresy! What an utter and complete false teaching this is!

Yes the story of my first marriage did tragically end in divorce and with her quickly marrying the man whom she had the affair with.  It was interesting that not long after our divorce before I married my first wife she realized the mistake she made and this guy was not all he acted like he was and she wanted me to consider taking her back but of course there was no real repentance for what she had done. I told her NO WAY and even if I remained a single Dad for the rest of my life that would have been better than being with a wife like her that I could not trust.  About two months after that I met the women who would later become my future wife.

As I have written on this site in other places my second wife is a good Christian woman and she certainly has more character and is a far more trust worthy person than my first wife ever was. She truly loves my children and has been a great step mother to them.

But I came to realize that she was indeed a “rebound relationship” not long after we were married and I realized all the differences between us we had overlooked even while both being Christians with her feminist upbringing being a big red flag I overlooked.  But I have learned a lot from my first marriage and this second marriage has taught me a great deal as well.  We have our rough days and she and I both struggle with certain sins.  I still struggle with working too much at times as my wife will attest to. I have tried to carve out some time together and we try and schedule date nights (something I did not do in my first marriage).

But we do love one another and care for one another and we try to do our best to make it work despite there still being many conflicts of marriage philosophy in our marriage. And to answer the question everyone will ask in the comments – is my wife still a feminist? Yes but not as much as she was when were first married.  Over the years through our many discussions (some more gentle and others more heated) God has worked through me trying to teach her God’s Word on this subject and she is not the same person she was when we were first married.  But we still have a ways to go and sometimes my wife will have relapses and revert back to her old feminist attitudes and it gets tough during those days.

In my first marriage I never disciplined my wife and I did not confront her sinful behavior until the end of the marriage when it was too late. I provided for my family but I did not lead in all areas the way I should have. But in this marriage I have learned to stand up and lead and sometimes do the difficult task of confronting my wife’s sinful attitudes and behaviors while admitting I have some sinful habits and behaviors myself too.   It’s not that I don’t still struggle with disciplining my wife and my kids – because I certainly do – but at least now it’s happening.

Conclusion

We have demonstrated that one of the biggest of problems with the Fireproof movie is that it turns marriage into an idol. People are exhorted to do just about anything to save their marriage.  God does NOT call us to enable sin to save our marriage.  Our faithfulness to God and his will and design for our life is the most important thing.  Some marriages cannot be saved due to unrepentant behavior on the part of one or both spouses.

Do I think Kirk Cameron and those who produced this movie had good intentions toward helping couples to save their marriages and stem the tied of divorce? Yes I do. I think Kirk Cameron is truly a man of faith and so are the people who produced this movie and they were sincere in the beliefs about what they thought love in Biblical marriage looks like. But sometimes Christians can be sincerely wrong.  Egalitarianism is evident even in the movies theme phrase “Never leave your partner behind”.  Despite modern misconceptions about what Christian marriage looks like the Bible never ever refers to marriage as a partnership.  It calls a wife a husband’s companion but never his partner.  Instead the Bible refers to marriage as a patriarchy.

Contrary to Fireproof’s motto “Never leave your partner behind” – God did in fact leave his wife Israel behind after he disciplined her and  she failed to repent of her rebellion and unfaithfulness toward him and then he divorced her.  He tells us in the New Testament that he has taken on a new wife in the form of the Church to make his first wife Israel jealous and one day Israel will repent and be restored as his wife in addition to the church.

I am surprised it took me so many years to write my feelings about this movie but now I am glad that I have.  I hope that Christians will realize that while there is some good in Fireproof the good DOES NOT outweigh the bad.  It completely distorts how God’s unconditional love works and neglects the discipline of God and his conditional affection.

Advertisements

32 thoughts on “Why the movie “Fireproof” offers unbiblical and BAD marriage advice

  1. One question that I have: is the movie just about saving a marriage, or is it more about two people coming to Christ? I agree that it would be a mistake to use this movie as marital advice for two people who are already Christian. Sure, having Caleb own up to his own mistakes and misdeeds would make sense in a Christian marriage, as you pointed out, and I’m not sure if there’s any type of marriage where it makes sense for a husband or a wife to conceal the thing that they did to make up for past selfishness. But given that neither Caleb nor Catherine was a Christian at the beginning, I think that the actions that Caleb undertakes have less to do with just making Catherine happy and more to do with convincing her that Christianity is the right way. He demonstrates to her (and by extension, the audience) that Christianity has made him more selfless, more generous, and more merciful. Before, it sounds as though he and Catherine were both just out to score points against one another rather than to solve problems. After, it sounds as though Caleb became more dedicated to solving a problem rather than to “winning,” and his behavior converted Catherine, which is the more important thing than saving their marriage. The other point is that it’s incredibly unlikely that a woman who is not Christian is going to respond positively to any attempts to enforce Christian marriage roles. And even if she does, so what? She’s still not a believer, and God probably won’t care if she was submissive or not in her marriage is she doesn’t believe. Plus, her husband has failed to convert her because he’s only focused on getting her to submit. Finally, submission is far more likely to come after conversion than before it.

  2. I agree, Alex, but unfortunately a lot of men are more focused on getting their wives to submit than they are about bringing her to Christ. Something about being a good example to the children (while ignoring that they are likely to see through the whole charade d/t children’s uncanny ability to detect hypocrisy in the home).

    However, I was extremely frustrated when watching this movie (I’ve seen it about 2-3 times with different people and have always had the same reaction). It angered me that Catherine seemed to get a free pass for her behavior, and that the only person in the movie who would confront her on her emotional affair was the “uncool” older nurse who had a very obnoxious manner and came across as very nosy. It also angered me the way she spoke about Caleb to her co-workers. I’m a firm believer that problems in a marriage should stay in the marriage to the extent that they can and when intervention is necessary, extreme caution and wisdom must be put into who we choose to go to for help. Coworkers are almost never a good place to start. It also angered me that Catherine never apologized to Caleb for her disrespect or her emotional affair (if I’m remembering correctly, in their reunion scene, she does say she’s sorry but doesn’t explain what she is repenting of).

    However, like Alex was pointing out, this movie wasn’t about how Christians should or shouldn’t treat each other in a marriage. It seemed very unfair to me that Caleb was the one doing all the work but sometimes people will need to give their all even when others are not. A 50/50 marriage is a dying one. Each person should give 100% even when the other person is not. And that’s a lesson that is completely foreign to America in general. I would very much like to see a movie done from a woman’s perspective where it is she who tries to win back her husband and who puts effort into a marriage which her husband has checked out of. I think they tried to do that at the very end when Caleb’s dad tells him that his mom did the Love Dare on him and not the other way around, but I think the concept that this isn’t about a husband always being wrong and that a woman can and should also take responsibility for her issues would be much more thoroughly flushed out with a whole different movie.

  3. Anna, I haven’t seen the movie, but I could very well believe that it’s frustrating.

    “It angered me that Catherine seemed to get a free pass for her behavior, and that the only person in the movie who would confront her on her emotional affair was the “uncool” older nurse who had a very obnoxious manner and came across as very nosy.”

    Yeah, this seems like a point where they could have acknowledged that Catherine was also in the wrong and put some emphasis on Caleb’s behavior slowly inspiring her to reform.

    “It also angered me the way she spoke about Caleb to her co-workers. I’m a firm believer that problems in a marriage should stay in the marriage to the extent that they can and when intervention is necessary, extreme caution and wisdom must be put into who we choose to go to for help. Coworkers are almost never a good place to start.”

    100% agreed. If you absolutely must go outside the marriage for help, then the last place that you should go is to people who only know you really well and only know your side of the story.

    So basically, I can see why it came across as frustrating and one-sided. It sounds like they were trying to show the power of conversion as well as give marriage advice, and the two messages to really mixed in there.

  4. While I don’t think the movie was anywhere close to a total waste. There were definitely redeeming factors. One of the main ones being the difference in Caleb’s behavior before and after conversion. Before conversion, he goes through the love dare basically as something he needs to check off the list for the day (pretty sure that was an actual line in one of the scenes). Afterwards, he puts his heart into it because Jesus has given him a new heart, a new outlook on life, and a new love for his wife. So that part I thought was beautifully done.

    And I still think it did a good job portraying that in a marriage, sometimes we will need to give 100% even though the other person isn’t giving their’s. If everybody waits for the other person to be good first, or to apologize first, etc. nothing will ever improve.

  5. “And I still think it did a good job portraying that in a marriage, sometimes we will need to give 100% even though the other person isn’t giving their’s. If everybody waits for the other person to be good first, or to apologize first, etc. nothing will ever improve.”

    Definitely true. And a lot of the time, apologizing first is all that we need to do to get our spouse to soften their heart and apologize as well.

  6. “Even if she was right about all the wrong things he had done – her wrong behavior in reaction to her husband’s behavior caused a destructive spiral of sinful behavior in their marriage that eventually lead to their divorce proceedings.”

    truth. this is so hard to teach women.

    ———————————————————————————–

    “She could have taken the difficult road of fully taking care of the needs of her home and working full time at the same time. Would this be tiring for her? Absolutely. But then she would have been fulfilling her duty to her home while at the same time helping her mother. Another thing to remember is Catherine and Caleb had no children so really Catherine’s duties to her home would not have been as burdensome as if they had children.”

    yes … and she is young and healthy in the movie. she could easily take on all of this.

  7. “Your wife is like rose, if you treat her right she will bloom but if you don’t she wither and die”.

    one cannot make another happy, no matter how well they treat the other. this puts all the responsibility on the husband for the wife’s own personal choices in her life.

    can any person bloom if treated right? sure. but people can bloom even when crushed, and they can bloom when not treated well. and they can wither and die when treated well. actually, when you crush a flower, you release its fragrance.

    my late mentor set me straight on Romans 12:18. I thought it meant that I had to live at peace with everyone, leaving out the first part. the first part is critical:

    “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

    – it will not always be possible.
    – I can only do my part.

  8. “But then I realized very quickly what this man from this church support group was saying was wrong and that I was trying to convince myself of a lie. Was I the perfect husband? Certainly not. Did I work too much at times and was I neglectful of her at times? Yes. But what I did certainly did not justify what she did.”

    gosh … I totally get this.

    ——-

    “My ex-wife and other Christian men who had unfaithful wives saw their wives emboldened in their unfaithfulness by the example of the Fireproof movie.”

    very sick. we cannot allow anything to embolden us except the very Word of God – and NOT taken out of context.

  9. I have nothing good to say about this movie. It focuses on the husband and makes it clear from the beginning that he is the bad guy in need of change and makes the wife seem like a victim of circumstance. The film is intended to be used as a tool to guilt men into submission. The accompanying book is about as useless as can be. From experience I can tell you that if you are a man who decides to utilize it, it will more likely creep your wife out than bring you closer together. I suppose the story could be about the husband coming to Christ, but the fact that the film is like a giant commercial for the book makes that tough to swallow.

    My advice to men: Stay away from this mess and, if you must watch it, don’t watch it with your wife.

  10. I have had similar issues as the nice guy in my marriage with a “happy wife, happy life” mindset. Believe it or not, but neither of us were happy and we both decided that things needed to change. She thought that meant me taking the love dare, but instead, I found the manosphere and my Christian views became similar to yours.
    I haven’t changed her views on marriage and she regularly gets upset that I’m not following her romantic plan or other evangelical tropes, but I think she’s starting to see that her other examples for marriage aren’t working out as well as she thought and that I may actually be on to something.
    Also, I initially thought this movie was a little corny but really good Christian marriage advice. Only after I started reading Dalrock and his breakdown, that I realized how much damage it is doing.

  11. Guys –

    what movies would y’all recommend that most accurately portray marriage as it should be? are there any out there?

  12. Ame,

    Best marriage movie I ever saw that I think every Christian couple should watch is called “The Quiet Man” from 1952 staring John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. People mock that movie today but I think it truly shows how God meant marriage to be and the roles of husband’s and wives. It also shows what courting looked like too.

  13. Larry,

    If you’re familiar with any of the stuff that is produced by the Kendrick brothers, you’ll see the same pattern: “supplication to the wife as path to redemption”.

    Rollo has been saying for quite some time that the Feminine Imperative has replaced the Holy Spirit in the last generation of Christians, but it’s Donal Graeme who wrote a very profound post about it:

    https://donalgraeme.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/the-mammon-trap-replacing-the-holy-spirit/

    The Kendrick brother are not to be trusted as reliable witnesses and agents as it concerns the true nature and purpose for man and woman as it concerns marriage between Christians.

  14. “The Quiet Man” is a great film, and should be watched by everyone if only for the fact that it is such a good movie! Great on screen chemistry by Wayne and O’Hara. You don’t see anything like that on the big screen anymore, I don’t care who is up there.

  15. Alex,

    Your question:

    “One question that I have: is the movie just about saving a marriage, or is it more about two people coming to Christ?”


    Here is how the movie has been marketed since it first came out in 2008:

    “Use this movie to help strengthen marriages and couples in your church and community. FIREPROOF is an unprecedented opportunity to communicate God’s design for relationships. Start making your plans now!

    Statistics show that almost half of people in the U.S. will divorce at least once in their lifetime. Research shows that when things get difficult, people first look to the church for answers. Your church can provide the answer and offer hope and healing for couples in your church and community with a wide array of marriage resources. Plan a message series and a date night event at theaters on opening weekend (September 26-28)!”

    http://www.fireproofmymarriage.com/churches.php

    They equally apply the principles in this movie to Christian, non-Christian and partially Christian(where one spouse is Christian and the other is not) marriages. As I said in the post I have witnessed this up close and personal when I was going through my divorce.

  16. A few years ago, during a low point in my life, I read a book that instructed me to look toward my wife as my ‘spiritual compass’, and that my relationship with her was a direct reflection of my relationship with Christ. If she wasn’t happy, He wasn’t happy. I fell for it at first until it started to kick in that my wife was just as messed up as I was, so how do you follow a broken compass?

    The last time I saw that book it was burning in my fire pit. No man should ever suffer to read it and go through the confusion I went through. Books like ‘The Love Dare’ come off as something intended for both husbands and wives, but they aren’t. They are intended to be used to grind husbands into a submissive powder by reinforce the church endorsed idea that men are scum, and without women we can have no redemption. That goes directly against scripture and is not borderline blasphemy – it IS blasphemy.

    Once you turn Christianity into a business, be it books, movies or music, it’s very easy to turn away from the gospel of Christ and turn into the gospel of gain.

  17. AnnaMS,

    Your Statement:

    “However, like Alex was pointing out, this movie wasn’t about how Christians should or shouldn’t treat each other in a marriage.”

    Perhaps that is how you personally interpreted the movie but as I pointed out to Alex with a link and knowing from my own personal experiences in churches as well it is indeed applied to how Christian couples should treat each other in marriage.

    Your Statement:

    “I agree, Alex, but unfortunately a lot of men are more focused on getting their wives to submit than they are about bringing her to Christ.”

    I believe you are framing this conflict incorrectly. This is not about men “getting their wives to submit” but rather about Christian men doing what they believe they are called by God to do. If you believe that a husband is simply a leader with no authority or responsibility to correct sin or compel those under him to follow his leadership to follow him then your approach would make sense. In fact this is exactly what Fireproof calls Christian men to do – it tells them to occupy what the Bible describes as the role of the woman in marriage.

    The Bible says this:

    “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” – I Peter 3:1-2 (NASB)

    Fireproof says this:

    “In the same way, you HUSBANDS, be submissive to your own WIVES so that even if any of them are unsaved or saved but not living according to God’s Word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their HUSBANDS, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.”

    So getting back to the real conflict – yes we have a real dilemma here. God wants us to do what we can to win others to Christ, but we also are never to sacrifice our faith in doing so. The love dare would actually work fine for a woman(like it did for Caleb’s mother) because it calls on the spouse to be submissive to their spouse. But it conflicts with what God calls men to do in the home with BOTH their wives and their children. A woman is not called to confront her husband’s sin, while a husband because he is not only her leader but her authority and he has responsibility for her IS called to confront her sin.

    What if Fireproof ended differently?
    What if after Caleb’s conversion he sat his wife down and apologized to her for his selfish and sinful behavior toward her. He then even tells her about that he bought her mother the hospital bed and wheelchair as proof of his repentance. She still tells him she needs more time(knowing in the back of her mind she is having an emotional affair with the doctor at the hospital).

    So Caleb patiently waits hoping and praying that his wife will come to Christ being kind and gentle and not confronting her about anything.
    Then as in the movie – he finds the note from the doctor. He confronts the doctor.

    Now the story changes from the movie.

    The doctor tells him he will win his wife’s heart and he does not deserve his wife back.
    His wife finds out about him confronting the doctor and tells him to please leave him alone.
    She tells him she needs time and she loves the doctor and is not sure she loves him anymore.
    Eventually she begins sleeping with the doctor and let’s Caleb know their relationship has progressed, but she is “still not sure” and wants him to wait for her and she wants to see if Caleb will continue being kind to her or return to his old ways.

    What should a Christian man do in this situation? Tolerate sin in an attempt to win his wife to Christ? Should he abdicate his role as a husband to confront his wife’s sin in order to bring her Christ. I think not.

  18. That sounds like a straw man of what Anna and I were saying. We weren’t saying that he should tolerate an affair or let his wife get away with everything. Instead, we were saying that a wife who isn’t Christian isn’t going to see any reason to follow biblical precepts for marriage and that the husband should actively try to steer her towards belief before getting her to embrace a biblical role. If she decides to submit but not to believe and the husband remains content with that, then he’s failed.

  19. Alex,

    Your Statement:
    “That sounds like a straw man of what Anna and I were saying. We weren’t saying that he should tolerate an affair or let his wife get away with everything. Instead, we were saying that a wife who isn’t Christian isn’t going to see any reason to follow biblical precepts for marriage and that the husband should actively try to steer her towards belief before getting her to embrace a biblical role. If she decides to submit but not to believe and the husband remains content with that, then he’s failed.”

    Alex you added a bit of a strawman in here – I never said if he gets her to submit that he could remain content with that. My argument is that is it not an either or but rather a “both”. I think where our argument truly lies if you agree with the Fireproof approach to a man trying win his wife to Christ is about timing.

    I believe if a man is a new believer he should initially take the soft and gentle approach. He does not have to drop everything on her in one day. But here are some things that will have to change sooner rather than later one a man is awakened to his role:

    If his wife is spending them into bankruptcy he will have to cancel her credit cards(at least the ones in his name).
    If she is speaking to him disrespectfully in front of their children he will have to address that.
    If she tells him to do something with his job(quit a job, take a different job) that he disagrees with he must make a stand.
    If she is telling him to do anything financially that he believes is wrong he must take a stand.
    If she is telling him to do anything with the kids that he disagrees with he must take a stand.
    If she is sexually denying him at some point he must make a stand.
    If she is carrying on an affair with another man at some point he must make a stand.
    If his wife has converted him into her maid/cook then at some point he must make a stand.

    Call it “making her submit” or call it “a husband standing up and leading” but a Christian husband can not tolerate any of this in order to appease his wife so she may come to Christ as it makes a mockery of marriage.

  20. BGR, I should definitely have phrased it that Fireproof wasn’t mainly about how Christians should or shouldn’t treat each other in a marriage. Definitely, Caleb’s treatment and attitude toward Catherine changed when he became saved and actually put his heart into what he was doing. But the majority of the movie was about what changed in Caleb’s life that led his wife to Christ and the fact that we are nothing apart from Christ. Was it really the Love Dare that worked or was it Caleb’s new attitude? Cuz until his attitude changed, the Love Dare wasn’t accomplishing squat. For me and Tobias to take the Love Dare as an idea for us I think would be a woeful misapplication as it wasn’t really meant for marriages like our’s, so context is important.

    Also, there are things that men, regardless of whether they are Christians or not, should be able to do. Things like not having their money be spent on frivolous activities, or not being cut off from sex (assuming they are married). These ideas aren’t just filed under ‘Christian leadership’. A bunch of non-Christians do them. Although I still think that the point about making sure that the kids see their mom respecting their dad is really going to be more about the kids seeing their mom ‘respecting’ their dad and that is hardly going to positively influence them. It might however completely turn them away from the entire point that man looks on the outside but God looks at the heart or they might come to believe that behavior in public is all that matters. Because as long as mom appears to be behaving (especially in front of the kids), that is good enough. And kids will see right through that. It might make a man feel better about himself, but to the extent that he is missing the point entirely, it is to his shame that that does so. If a man can’t put up with some disrespect in an attempt to keep the focus on God and not on how he deserves to be treated, than that is also to his shame. Now you might ask how much a man should have to put up with, and I would not be able to answer as that is an individual situation between a man and God. But at the point where it becomes about him and not about God (who is far more concerned with reaching the wife’s heart than He is whether or not the man is being disrespected or not), he has missed the mark. He should not be focusing on ‘both’ but should be focusing on winning her to Christ because that is what is important for eternity. There is a difference between making a wife submit and not giving her money that she asks for. I’ve had people ask me for money and I’ve said no (I have also said yes on occasion), and it was never about forcing somebody else into submission.

  21. @BGR,

    To piggyback off of Anna, I do think that most of the issues that you specifically addressed are all issues that could be addressed outside of a Christian context. I’d argue that you can’t have fully biblical marriage without a fully Christian marriage. On the other hand, most people, Christian or not, would agree that a husband should stop his wife from bankrupting the family, even if it means cutting her off from money if she can’t stop spending. Maybe the husband can’t disable her credit cards because they’re not in his name, but he can move his salary into an account that she can’t access. Most people too tend to agree that parents shouldn’t argue with one another or cut each down in any way in front of their children. So again, they would support a husband objecting to his wife being disrespectful to him in front of their children. Most people wouldn’t support a wife who tried to get her husband to quit his job. Many people too are beginning to again appreciate the importance of sex in marriage. I’ve seen a lot of non-Christian material working on this issue. While they don’t argue that it is a biblical obligation, they do promote things like “maintenance sex” and help the partner with the lower sec drive, especially the wife, get herself in the mood more often. As they point out, many women can increase their libidos by making an effort to better understand what their arousal feels like and by fantasizing about sex and masturbsting more. And of course most people would advocate for divorce in the event of an affair. Basically, I think that men could make a stand for those issues even with a non-Christian wife.

  22. This hits a big one with me. About a year ago my wife and I were having problems. We went to the pastor of her church and we both talked of our problems. Even when I trued to bring up Scripture to validate my points he would cut me off and explain that he didn’t need my interpretation because “believe me I’ve probably study the Bible quite a bit and there’s no way you’re going to convince me of anything different. ” OK, fine. Anyway we never addressed the issues I had with my wife and I needed to love her more and be as servant leader and he had a great movie he wanted to give us. It even had a book to accompany it. The title, Fireproof. As we start going through it, I’m thinking, and even tell her so, that I’ve already been doing these things. But now she has to go through them too and that helped her realize some issues as well. As a marital aide, the book is better than the movie because it does address wife related issues. But the movie was bull.

  23. Just Some Guy,

    I believe that the modern church being poisoned by feminism and romanticism(not to be confused with the art era) has massively abused and twisted the servant leadership model that Christ showed us to tear out roles and duty in marriage and replace the heart of marriage with feelings and emotion.

    This is where Fireproof falls flat on its head.

  24. ive been going through some conflict with my wife and my mom has been trying to get me to see that movie. its really funny how i found this website and particular article on it. i have prayed for help from the lord on it and its working bc i am sincere about wanting the help from him.
    ive always known the slant of womens rights over mens. it really bothers me how upside down the world system is opposed to the biblical blueprint of it all. ive been called everything in the world by women when i dont give them their way and even when i did lol. mostly i give them my all and ask them for something and they put me off and refuse. i guess ive been an easy win and havent made them earn and respect and be thankful for a man who can be frighteningly transparent w his feelings.
    its amazing how women in abusive relationships pray that they find a “good man” and when they do find him they lose all respect for him bc he is a….. good man.
    imagine that

  25. Mark,

    What you are going through is very common and we see it all the time. A woman starts off with an abusive guy who is a looser, does not work(so she has to support him) and runs with other women. She divorces him and later finds a great guy that works hard and tries to make her happy only for her to compare him to her first husband every time he disappoints her. This is the fickleness of the female mind my friend. Women often don’t make logical comparisons as men do. Whatever their feelings are at a given movement – that is truth for them.

    I am also glad you found this article and yes while the marriage philosophy of Fireproof is a little bit of Biblical truth mixed with a lot of feminist and worldly views of marriage.

  26. “She divorces him and later finds a great guy that works hard and tries to make her happy only for her to compare him to her first husband every time he disappoints her. This is the fickleness of the female mind my friend. Women often don’t make logical comparisons as men do. Whatever their feelings are at a given movement – that is truth for them.”

    That’s not fickleness or a deliberately illogical comparison. It’s one of two things. It’s either actual PTSD, which means that the mundane actions of another person trigger a flashback to their traumatic experience, or it’s simply a fear that they don’t actually know how to find a non-abusive partner. If they were deceived before or if they had bad judgment before, it’s hard for them to believe that the same thing won’t happen to them twice. Neither of these things are the husband’s fault, but they’re both quite different from simple fickleness or illogical comparisons.

    Furthermore, how is fearing that your second spouse will be abusive like your first any different than men who were cheated on or sexually denied by their first wives will experience the same thing with their second wives? I realize that you’ve managed to overcome any doubts and insecurities that you got from your experiences with your first wife and thus don’t worry about your second wife committing adultery, but you have to realize that that’s not typical for men or for that matter women, unless they take time to recover and are disciplined enough to train themselves out of negative thought patterns.

  27. @Mark,

    “its amazing how women in abusive relationships pray that they find a “good man” and when they do find him they lose all respect for him bc he is a….. good man.”

    If this is what you’re experiencing with your wife, then the only solution for her is counseling. It sounds like she’s developed warped ideas of what proper love and care is. Abusers typically convince their victims that they’re mistreating them for their own good, and your wife may have internalized this idea. So, on some level, she may believe that you don’t love her because you don’t control her. Alternatively, she may feel that the only way to keep you from becoming controlling and abusive is to refuse you anything. She may no longer be certain about what’s a reasonable, biblical request from you and what’s not.

    Also, you don’t actually have to anyone absolutely everything that they want in order to be loving and non-abusive.

  28. The last sentence should read, “Also, you don’t actually have to *give* anyone absolutely everything that they want in order to be loving and non-abusive.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s