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Critics ask, 'Where is the faith in "The Fault In Our Stars"?'

Published: Monday, June 9 2014 2:30 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, July 28 2014 10:57 a.m. MDT

This image released by 20th Century Fox shows Ansel Elgort, left, and Shailene Woodley appear in a scene from "The Fault In Our Stars." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, James Bridges)

James Bridges, Associated Press

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"The Fault In Our Stars," released Thursday, is receiving high praise for its portrayal of two teens struggling through cancer treatments while falling in love. Like John Green's novel of the same name, the film has captured the imaginations of young adults across the country, spawning a major Twitter presence and more than a few tears.

USA Today reported that the movie "had a near-flawless" opening weekend, "stunning analysts with a No. 1 debut." "The Fault In Our Stars" earned $48.2 million, with an 82 percent approval rating.

But critics still question whether the film, like the book, does enough with the faith themes inherent to tales of love and loss.

In a Patheos blog on the book from 2012, Ethan Bartlett wrote about his disappointment that the novel sidesteps "old-fashioned religion," but acknowledged the importance of stories that ask the right questions.

"In a society whose answer to mortality is often to ignore it, or try to reverse it, Green has written an honest, searing, searching novel which forces its readers to ask two of of the most important questions: What happens after death? And what should we do in the meantime?" wrote Bartlett.

Brett McCracken echoed that assessment in his review of the film for Christianity Today. " 'Stars' is in part a film about this question of all questions: Why does suffering exist, and why does it seem so arbitrary and unequally dispersed?"

McCracken continued, " 'Stars' doesn't get bogged down in theodicy. At the end of the day (the film) accepts suffering as an inevitablity of life, something that touches all, even the greatest men who ever lived. Even God."

In summary, the film asks faith-based questions without offering explicitly faith-filled answers, even though the man behind "The Fault In Our Stars" once considered a career in ministry.

"Green has made no secret of his Christian faith. … After studying literature and philosophy at Kenyon College, he applied to divinity school but instead got a job as a chaplain at an Ohio children's hospital," reported McCracken.

John Green recently shared his thoughts on the unique pain of ministering to sick children in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek. Discussing Esther Earl, the young woman who inspired the novel, Green said, "The truth of illness, even among really young people, is that while it is unfair … they can also have very rich, full lives. You don't have to have a long life to have a good life."

Ansel Elgort, who stars in the film alongside Shailene Woodley, shared a similar thought on The Daily Beast. "Just because you live 20 years or 100 years doesn't make it less meaningful. They're both short amount of times. So all we can do is just live in that time, whatever time we're given," he said.

Email: kdallas@deseretnews.com Twitter: @kelsey_dallas

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