To See or not to See? The Bible TV Series

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Commercialism is a conundrum for the Christian community.  Obviously, we need to get the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and we need to be equipped to do it.  But, where do we draw the line?

Then there’s the question of the quality of the products produced. As my friend, J.S. Park, blogged, buying into stuff simply because they have been made by Christians is pretty dumb.  That results in poor quality that ends up grossly misrepresenting our awesome God.

Then there’s the problem of biblical accuracy whenever Hollywood gets involved with sharing the Gospel.  The Word of God must never be altered so that His message rings loud and clear, and they just can’t help putting their own twist on things.

So, should we buy into this TV series on the History Channel or not?

We did. Here’s why.

Despite what the NY Times says, it is a quality production (At least the clips that I’ve seen).  Let’s be fair, just as there is bias from Christians in favor of Christian things, there is often bias from the secular world in opposition to it. If a Christian movie is done poorly, I don’t mind saying so.  If it’s done well, let’s call it what it is. That clip with Abraham and Isaac is very moving, exploring the great pain that must have been experienced by both father and son.  It may not be the best thing out there, but it’s certainly good.

There’s that pesky problem with accuracy.  When I first viewed the clips sent to us I was perturbed by the things I saw that aren’t in the Bible, like Sarah figuring out Abraham’s plot to sacrifice Isaac and running to the mountain to try to prevent it. Then I read that it’s based on a novel called The Bible that is a story based around the facts. That made it a bit easier for me to swallow.  Then I read the devotionals that come with it (though we didn’t buy into them), and saw that they followed the stories in the movie but give the Biblical, accurate accounts. Even better.

Then I remembered a literary technique I learned at a Christian Writers Conference last year.  When writing non-fiction, it’s an acceptable – and educationally beneficial – to interject what could have happened based on the facts of the story. It’s called historical fiction and it helps us to interact with the Truth. So many of us claim that it’s terrible when the History Channel does it, but Max Lucado has been doing it for years and we’ve never said boo about it. In fact, we love it and buy his books like crazy. And he’s not alone. Many of the best Christians authors speculate on what people could have felt in Bible stories. I hope to be one of them some day.

Randy, the Senior Pastor at our church, and I had a long chat about whether or not to use the History Channel series this Easter. The deciding factor was that it could be a great connection to get people back into church or even to come for the first time. He preaches truth every Sunday on the episode to be aired that evening using a video clip from it. Besides, how many times did Jesus accommodate someone’s faith in Him even though they had a poor grasp on Who He actually is?  Jesus got them to commit to him first, then he improved their knowledge of Him.

Sounds like a fine modus operandi to me.

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12 thoughts on “To See or not to See? The Bible TV Series

  1. Bridge to Engineering…we agree!! As I said to one of my friends…at the very least it is attracting the attention of many people who may not be into actually reading the Bible. Maybe it will break some pre-conceived ideas and inspire people to investigate further. The weekly themes do a great job of hilighting the overall message of the Bible: God’s holiness and His plan of redemption for us.

    • Attracting attention to Jesus Christ . . . what a great idea! I’ll bet there are some preconceived ideas that will be challenged, and I hope they come to our church to ask those questions.

      Hey, was that a reference to Star Trek? Maybe I should start doing something like that at work when I call the office for some much-needed direction.

  2. I tend to think accuracy matters when it comes to the Bible. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t need the Bible at all. We could use little bo peep and make some spiritual parallels and then throw in a few wise sayings and presto: church service in a ziplock baggie. Nope. The Truth matters too much to toy with. Can God use anyone or anything -including devils and different gospels? Sure. Should we accept, condone, and promote them when we encounter them? Absolutely not. We must expose them for the heresy that they are. I’m with Paul on this one: a different gospel is always a false one. http://apprising.org/2013/03/01/the-history-channels-bible-miniseries-mishandling-of-gods-word/

    • Do you find Max Lucado a heretic, then? Often he writes stories that expand on scripture making assumptions that the Bible doesn’t comment on to make the Bible’s point.

      I liked your last blog post. In it you do much the same thing with David’s comment to Saul by paraphrasing “Dude! You’re making yourself look terrible by by chasing me all around the countryside . . .” It’s a tool you use to clarify your main point about this passage. You’ve changed what David actually said, but it’s not heresy. And, I must restate, this Bible Series is based on a novel, so it’s not intended to be accurate to the letter.

      Ken Silva, the author of the article you’ve liked to, has a very strong opinion that’s based on a very short preview for the 10 hour series that he saw while in a movie theater. He even admits his prejudice: “I already conceived in my mind as I watched those scenes that whoever had put those things together had a particular agenda and they were going to take God’s Truth, His Word, and use it like modeling clay or silly putty to form it into something else, to edit it, to make it into a tool that they could use for their own purposes.” How can he not see his hypocrisy? Clearly, he has an agenda as well, doesn’t he?

      Maybe he should actually watch it before condemning those who’ve worked so hard to produce it. From what I’ve seen, God IS the focus of the story. I’m not saying we can preach using the Mini-series as our text, I’m saying that we should be okay with using it as a tool to bring out the truth of the text.

      As always, thanks for your comment, Lori.

      • I hear you. I personally don’t like max lucado for these same reasons. I don’t think quoting the scriptures verbatim and then later restating them in my own words is the same as leaving the scriptures out and changing them into something altogether different is the same thing, though. To each his own, I guess. IMHO, if ppl would rather get their spiritual answers from the history channel, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren than the Bible, the church, and those who are actually true expositors of the Word like Piper, MacArthur, Sproul, or Zaccharius, it’s quite telling about where we are as a culture. Ears are itchy and the media loves to scratch. Just my opinion of course. 🙂

  3. Great post, and thanks for the shout-out.
    I’ve read Walter Wangerin Jr’s Jesus, which is a re-telling of the gospels, and so much of it is flowery prose with historical fiction. But I found myself weeping over and over. While these kinds of licenses can go bad, sometimes the essence is perfectly captured in a moment and you’re transported there.

    • Yeah, I’ve seen people take too many liberties, too, and it bothers me greatly when it happens. I’m just glad for people who can do it well because, as you’ve pointed out, God uses it for His honor.

  4. I loved the Jackie Chan Gladiator angel in the Sodom scene. I’m not treating the series as a strict interpretation, just a modern translation for food for thought or discussion starters. As far as “Bible” or “Christian” renderings go the production is 13X better than most. The torn human component in the Abraham-Isaac story, and even the Pharoah-son account, was pretty touching.

    We could be watching Zombies (I do) or Desperate Housewives (I don’t), nothing wrong with watching a Bible narrarative; pure gospel preacing is up to the church not the producers of this series.

    • I like your approach, Bryan. Let’s use it as a way to get people interested in talking about the real thing. Emphasizing the human element helps to show that the Bible is relevant, that there was pain and sorrow back then as well as now. If people are moved by the story, there’s a chance they’ll want to know more.
      (By the way, I’m totally impressed that you watch Zombies.)

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