Like Martin Luther, Alexander Campbell was too struck by the terror of the holy to abide the hypocrisy of the institutional church. A critic of sects, Campbell nonetheless became the founder of the Disciples of Christ, based on the principle that the Bible is the only authority for doctrine. WRESTLING WITH GOD is a fine film presentation of Campbell’s spiritual journey. When a shipwreck forbids Alexander and his family from following father Thomas Campbell to America, Alexander spends a year at seminary where he comes to realize that the church is awash in spiritual pride. Upon arrival in Pennsylvania, Thomas and he become united in a cause: to preach pure biblical salvation and to unite the body of Christ in the bond of peace.
Paul Mercier plays Alexander as a figure of passionate intensity and self-possession, and with a delightful Irish brogue. However, the film’s brevity and pace, focusing only on the most dramatic events, gives Mercier little opportunity to develop the character of Campbell and to express his range as an actor. Nevertheless, this is a beautiful and powerful film, masterfully directed and performed.