History Channel’s The Bible miniseries recently took Hollywood by storm, surprising everyone with it’s overwhelming commercial success. In a related article, media consultant Phil Cook suggested that believers in Yeshua need to get behind Christian and Christian-themed films without being critical with regard to Scriptural accuracy. Of course, we ought to be excited and supportive whenever the Good News is being broadcast to and consumed by millions of people. But what if the message being broadcast and consumed is not the Good News according to Scripture? The following is an analysis of Mr. Cook’s argument, and how it demonstrates the influence of expediency—”doing all the good we can without due attention to the way in which that good is done.”
Mr. Cook’s main point is that there can be room in a Bible-based film for creative license, and Christians should not nitpick a film’s script, story and depiction of characters, thereby robbing it of its greater purpose.
The portrayal of King David might not have been what you expected. The dialogue on the road to Damascus might not have been rendered exactly as it’s given in the biblical text. Did Jesus carry the whole cross or just a beam? Does everything about this have to be perfect?
But beyond details that are unclear or absent from Scripture, what about the more substantial subject matter that is explicitly portrayed in Scripture? Does it “have to be perfect?” For example, why did the film-makers portray Yeshua’s death as something necessary to satisfy the Roman and Pharisaic political struggle, rather than for mankind’s universal need for atonement from sin? For what reason did they inject this speculation into the story, especially at the expense of the truth?
In defense of what could be considered serious tampering with the Word of God, Mr. Cook nevertheless lists several “good” things that have come out of The Bible:
Now… we’re seeing a sea change in the way Christians are portrayed [in the entertainment industry].
Christians who were once afraid to discuss their faith at the office are now finding that talking about the Bible is actually cool!
[M]illions of people are now watching Bible stories, buying the DVD and reading the book. How can this be a bad thing?
But can we really consider shortcutting and bypassing Scripture as truly legitimate means to these allegedly “good” ends? Indeed, even “millions of people… watching Bible stories” can absolutely be “a bad thing” if what is being taught and portrayed is but a shadow of the truth of the Scriptures. It is expedient to convey a version of the Good News that will not offend, or will be more readily acceptable to an unbelieving audience. It is disingenuous to portray the Good News as something other than it truly is, hoping that, eventually, people might learn the truth—perhaps, after they hear such “good news,” and are “saved.”
Paul has a stern warning in Galatians 1:6-9 for those who proclaim another “good news.”
I [am in] wonder that you are so quickly transferred from Him who called you in the grace of Messiah to another Good News (which is not [really] another), except [that] there are certain [ones] who are troubling you, and wanting to pervert the Good News of the Messiah. But even if we or a Messenger out of Heaven proclaim “good news” to you different from what we proclaimed to you, let him be bound with curses on himself! As we have said before, and now say again, if anyone proclaims “good news” to you different from what you received, let him be bound with curses on himself!
When it comes to film making and storytelling, making minor concessions for the sake of time and the most effective use of the media is one thing. But to suggest that filmmakers only have to preach “Jesus,” but are free to compromise the explicit teaching of Scripture when it suits their cinematic needs, is an example of expediency. Preaching Jesus is indeed “good,” but it must never be at the expense of His very own Word.
Mr. Cook says, “If we’re going to impact the world, we need to stand together. We can nitpick each other’s projects until Jesus comes, but when He arrives, He won’t be happy with the result.” Really? Will He be “happy with the result” if we are standing together, supporting each other as we proclaim our own versions of “another Good News”? The truth is, we have the Book, so we are without excuse when we change or ignore what it says for our own purposes. Perhaps, while we’re waiting for Jesus to come, He would prefer we just listen to the Director, and stick to the Script.
The premises in this article concerning the sufficiency and supremacy of Scripture are based on concepts from Kevin's book Bearing the Standard: A Rallying Cry to Uphold the Scriptures.
Shalom Kevin. As always, yours is the voice to be trusted and you had perfect timing sending this message forth.
I recently spent a good deal of time crying and agonizing over my “poor attitude” in not being able to get excited over this unscriptural film. I had the same problem with the “Bible” mini series. I kept blaming myself for being so “dogmatic” and “pious” and all the other lies the enemy could concoct, but finally had to just say, “NO”. If you are going to tell a Bible story, why would you distort it in any way?
After struggling in prayer, I finally realized, it isn’t me that is wrong, it is the very notion of thinking you can “preach” lies in place of Scripture in the name of “Christian film making”.
I wept, ” why can’t I be like George Hachey, (below) or my cousin who “loves to see religious movies” or the rest of the world who loves the emotional high they get from religious dogma rather than truth as given by the Holy Spirit?”
Surely the Holy Spirit is not in the business of confusing us with church “doctrine”. Seems kind of dangerous to think we that we need to improve on His work. What is the worth of a “conversion” if it is not based 100% of the Word of Yehovah?
Anyway, after much soul searching and looking to Messiah, I now understand that such a compromise is not in me simply because I know the Truth.
Blessings Kevin. You never fail to bear the standard.
I am so glad I received your e-mail today. I too have been troubled over the new film, “Son of God”. While I believe that producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey are truly sincere in their faith, and in their efforts to bring the life of Jesus to the big screen, the fact that Newsweek Magazine, and the rest of the liberal news media, as well as Hollywood, are singing the praises of this new movie raised a red flag in my mind. I felt there was something not quite right about it. Then, I read in interview with Roma Downey about her new film, in which she said that she and her husband decided to “leave Satan on the cutting room floor.” Downey claimed that they wanted all the focus to be on Jesus.She was also concerned because of last year’s reaction by the liberal news media to the miniseries, “The Bible” in which the actor portraying Satan resembled President Obama. Yet, how can she and the producers of this new film truly portray the life of Jesus and not mention Satan, when Jesus went to the cross specifically to destroy all the works of the enemy, thus fulfilling the wonderful promise of Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her Offspring. He will bruise and tread your head underfoot, and you will lie in wait and bruise His heel.”
In these perilous times we are living in, people are desperately searching for the truth and need to know that there is forgiveness for their sins and eternal life only through and in Jesus, our loving and merciful Lord and Messiah, and that He is alive, and seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and, that He is coming soon to claim His bride. But, they should also be made aware that Satan is alive too. And he is not only a lying and deceiving force of appalling wickedness, but, in his own words, from the Book of Job, he “has been wandering to and fro through the earth and walking up and down on it” from the very beginning. To me, by leaving out Satan’s essential role in the story, they are actually appealing to his vanity and his legitimacy as the destroyer of the souls of mankind.
The consequences are clear for those that add to or subtract from the Word of God. People need the truth not someones “I’ll do it my way” interpretation of scripture. People who do not want the BOLD truth and who choose to compromise that truth are perhaps not among the “called” or “chosen” ones. Yehsua is VERY clear that they will say “LORD,LORD” and Yeshua will say ” I did not know you”! Harsh, perhaps to some, but to Love God is to obey him and to take away from His Word is NOT Loving Him no matter what twist people choose to put on it. We are the created Not the Creator, therefore, who are we to say that we know better than He who Created us?
As Christians we are to set a higher example, but we are not perfect and we fail sometimes. We strive to continue to improve by the guiding of the Holy Spirit. Learning each day what the Bible says and what it means. There are millions that don’t believe and are searching and I feel any film is a start and then it is up to us to point out the errors and direct them to the truth. Hide it under a bushel? NO! The Holy Spirit works in us. He worked in Paul. I cannot sit idly by and have Hollywood and the Media continue to spew out garbage and then not support an effort to tell the truth, even if that effort is not perfect.
Shalom Kevin, Thank you for quoting Galations, and the person quoting Duet.- do not add or take away from HIS WORDS-a stern warning. When you misrepresent, and strip the very Jewishness of the Messiah- who was the Word/Torah made flesh, and forget He came only to the lost sheep of Israel, and that Salvation is of the Jews, and forget to tell those of the nations that they were grafted into the commonwealth of Israel, and there shall be one flock, one shepherd, and if you are arrogant toward the natural branches-our Jewish Brethren, then G-D Himself will cut you off. If you present a macho, great- looking super-hero who fails to speak these things, and the truth, that sin is transgression against G-D’s Commandments( lawlessness) and that we must repent, and walk in the same manner as our Master walked–that the gate is narrow, and the path will be difficult– then you will have a false Gospel to the nations, and produce false converts- who cannot provoke our Jewish Brethren to Jealousy.