Entertainment, Mailbag, Movies

The Mailbag: Overview/Review of “The Chosen” (An Online TV Series on the Ministry of Jesus)

 

The “Review” section of this article contains SPOILERS.

 

What do you know about the TV series, The Chosen?

Overview (No spoilers):

From their website: The Chosen is the first multi-season television series about the life of Christ, as witnessed through the eyes of those He impacted. Directed by Dallas Jenkins (The Resurrection of Gavin Stone) and distributed by VidAngel Studios, The Chosen has grown to become the largest crowdfunded TV series of all time. (VidAngel is a Netflix and Amazon-based streaming service that allows you to skip distasteful content regarding profanity, nudity, sexual situations, and violence.)

In other words, if you’re familiar with the original content “TV series” Netflix creates and streams, it’s kind of like that, but it’s on VidAngel. You can also watch all eight episodes of the first season for free on The Chosen’s website, The Chosen app on Google Play or Apple (which you can also stream to your smart TV), and on YouTube. (I’ve posted the YouTube version of each of the eight episodes below in the “Review” section of this article, so you can watch them all right here if you like.)

From the extremely limited amount of information about his theology* available online, The Chosen’s writer/director Dallas Jenkins (son of Jerry B. Jenkins) seems to be fairly doctrinally sound in his beliefs. He is a Christian/inspirational filmmaker, and former Director of Visual Media and member of the Executive Leadership Team at Harvest Bible Chapel (James MacDonald’s former church), which has long had a reputation for adhering to a biblical statement of faith. Dallas was one of the leaders of HBC who attempted to bring about a biblical solution to the MacDonald debacle several years ago (read Dallas’ statement here). I spot-checked for connections between Dallas and several major false teachers and found none.

Update (7/12/20): Thank you to a kind reader who brought to my attention a recent interview of Dallas on a Mormon YouTube channel. Dallas seems to believe that Mormonism and Catholicism are both Christianity. You can listen to the short version (with Todd Friel’s commentary) here (starting at 45:00) or the entire interview here. You may also wish to compare (fairly, objectively, and discerningly) Dallas’ comments in the interview with his comments (below) at the end of this article. It is one thing to use the products and services of a non-Christian company. It is another matter to personally believe, as a Christian, that false religions are Christianity and that adherents of those religions are brothers and sisters in Christ. If these revelations of Dallas’ beliefs prevent you from watching The Chosen, that is certainly understandable, and I would encourage you not to sin against your conscience by watching it. However, these revelations do not somehow magically change the actual content of the episodes, nor my evaluation of said content. In other words, I biblically evaluated what I saw in the episodes, so the remainder of this review stands.

There is an accompanying devotional to the movie entitled The Chosen: 40 Days with Jesus. I’ve read the sample available at Amazon (the endorsements {Liz Curtis Higgs isn’t someone I’d recommend, I’m not familiar with any of the others}, the foreword, and the first three devotions). It’s not Bible study, so don’t expect it to be. Bible study is reading and studying the text of the Bible. It’s a devotional. It’s like having a Hershey’s Kiss for a mid-afternoon snack. It’s quick and sweet and enjoyable, but it’s not sitting down at the table and eating a substantive, well-balanced meal of Bible study. For a “Hershey’s Kiss” it’s not bad. It uses Scripture and the Bible characters in the show to point the reader to Christ. The first three entries lean heavily on Mary Magdalene, which, I would guess, is because she is one of the first characters introduced in The Chosen.

I watched all eight of the episodes in season 1 of The Chosen, and several of Dallas’ commentaries, interviews with actors, and behind the scenes videos. For the most part, I thought The Chosen was very good, biblically and cinematically. The costumes, sets, scenery, visual effects, sound editing, and acting were all top notch from my perspective. I even like the theme song. It is, overall, true to Scripture when portraying something recorded in Scripture (Although, as in nearly every Bible movie, there are minor details that are changed when it seems like it would be just as easy not to change them. For example- an episode portrays Jesus standing in Peter’s boat to preach when the biblical account clearly says He sat. When it’s right there in black and white, why not follow it?). When “filling in the blanks” (fictionalized character development and events not recorded in Scripture) it was mostly (except for a few notable issues which I’ll describe in the “Review” section below) consistent with biblical principles and practices as well as first century Middle Eastern culture.

Some things I really appreciated about The Chosen:

🎉 The common vernacular. You’ll hear characters using very 21st century American words and phrases like, “I’ve got this,” “lucky guess,” “OK,” “guys,” “No kidding,” etc. It might interrupt your suspension of disbelief for a second, but it’s a good reminder that Jesus and the disciples didn’t walk around speaking stilted King James English. They spoke whatever was the first century Aramaic/Hebrew equivalent to today’s common man’s vocabulary.

🎉 The characters in The Chosen look and sound Middle Eastern, as they should, rather than looking European and sounding British.

🎉 I know this is hard for some Christians to accept, but Jesus, being fully human (in addition to fully God) and being made like us in every respect, probably cracked a smile and kidded around with his friends (in a totally holy and biblical way) every now and then. The disciples most likely did, too. I appreciated the moments of appropriate humor in The Chosen that serve to remind us that Jesus, Peter, James, John, and all the rest were real, normal human beings.

🎉 I’ve watched a lot of Jesus movies, and I really believe that The Chosen is the best overall portrayal of Jesus – His looks, mannerisms, personality, spiritual life, teaching, relating to others, the whole ball of wax – that I’ve ever seen. “Reverently realistic” is the way I’d put it.

Overall, I would give the first season of The Chosen a B or B+.

Caveats:

🎥 I can only comment on what I’ve watched. As of the writing of this article, I have only seen season 1 of The Chosen, because that’s all that has been released.

🎥 *Dallas Jenkins is a filmmaker, not a pastor or Bible teacher. As such, I regard him, his theology, and his work more along the lines of a Christian fiction author than a pastor or teacher.

🎥 As with any Bible movie, you must hold The Chosen at arm’s length with the thought constantly in your mind: this is not the Bible, this is a TV show. Whatever you see in this series might be a reasonable imagining of how a biblical event happened, or how a biblical character acted, or it might have happened in a totally different way. Don’t take what you see in The Chosen as “gospel” (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Something I’ve been very concerned about as I’ve read and heard viewers’ responses to The Chosen is repeated remarks like, “I came to know Jesus better through this show.” Unless the person saying this means that the show inspired her to pick up her Bible and study it, and that’s how she came to know Jesus better, this is a very dangerous statement. The Bible is clear that we come to the knowledge of Christ and His Word through Scripture. The Chosen (as I’m sure Dallas Jenkins would agree) is not Scripture. It is not breathed out by the Holy Spirit, it is neither infallible nor inerrant, and the actor portraying Jesus in the show is not Jesus. You cannot get to know Jesus better through The Chosen because the person you’re seeing on the show isn’t Jesus. We must never derive our doctrine or practices from any source except the Bible.

🎥 The Chosen isn’t for you if you…

…hold to the belief that depictions of Jesus are a Second Commandment violation. (Although, in episodes 1&2, “Jesus” does not make an appearance until the last five minutes or so of the episode, if your conscience allows you to watch up until that point.)

…are offended by anything that is not straight, word for word Scripture.

…are offended by the thought of Jesus kidding around with His friends and doing other normal, non-sinful, things humans do.

…have a difficult time separating fact (the Bible) from fiction (much of The Chosen).

If you fall into any of these categories, please do not watch The Chosen.

Review (Spoilers start here):

As I said, I thought The Chosen was pretty good overall. I’ve made a few brief remarks on each episode below. Some of my remarks showcase a problematic issue in that particular episode, but that doesn’t mean I disliked the entire episode. Generally speaking, if there’s something in an episode I didn’t comment on, I either liked it, could take it or leave it, or it somehow escaped my attention. I thought the content of each episode was biblically consistent or plausible unless otherwise noted.

Every night last week, Dallas Jenkins hosted a livestream of each episode, with his commentary (and interviews and extra video features- all of which you can skip if you like) prior to and following the episode. The videos below are the YouTube videos of those livestreamed episodes.

Episode 1:

This series focuses on Jesus’ ministry years, rather than being a chronological biography of His whole life. Jesus doesn’t appear until the last five minutes of episode 1 (as an adult) when He drives the demons out of Mary Magdalene (who has been living under the assumed name “Lilith”). We meet Simon and his wife Eden, Andrew, Nicodemus and his wife Zohara, Matthew, and assorted Roman soldiers and townspeople. It was nice to see the wives brought into the story, and I enjoyed the interactions between the husbands and their wives. All of the action and dialogue takes place before Jesus arrives on the scene, and no one but Mary interacts with Him in this episode, so nearly everything we see is fictionalized.

Prior to Jesus healing Mary, Nicodemus is called upon to exorcise Mary’s demons. I strenuously doubt that actually happened, but it wasn’t overtly unbiblical.

In a couple of interviews with Dallas Jenkins, he mentioned that they decided to play Matthew as having Asperger’s Syndrome – a choice which doesn’t conflict with Scripture outright, but one I find very strange as there’s no indication anywhere in the Bible that Matthew had any sort of disability. Dallas attributes this creative decision to the fact that Matthew is depicted in Scripture as a “numbers guy,” “meticulous,” and because he chose a job that made him a social outcast. Well…OK, but those things don’t automatically point to the autism spectrum. The majority of people with those traits are not autistic.

If you’re familiar with Asperger’s, you’ll recognize the characteristics. If you’re not, the actor underplays it enough that Matthew just comes off as a high strung, socially awkward germophobe. I could be way off base here, but it feels like the Asperger’s aspect was added to Matthew’s character either for the purpose of manufacturing diversity to appease audience members whose worldly worldview centers around such things, or to be an inspiration to people on the autism spectrum (Dallas mentions in one interview that one of his own children is autistic). Either way, if either of those reasons are actually the case, they are spiritually inappropriate motives when it comes to portraying anything biblical, or even just a historical character. We don’t bend the Bible to make it more appealing to a particular audience.

And finally, is it just me, or does the actor who plays Matthew look exactly like actor David Krumholtz (Bernard in The Santa Clause)? Sorry if you can’t unsee that.

Episode 2:

James (Zebedee), John, James, and Thaddeus make their first appearances in this episode.

When Nicodemus questions Mary Magdalene about the identity of the man who healed her, she tells Nicodemus, “His time for men to know Him has not yet come,” implying that her healing, which was portrayed as private (only Mary and Jesus present) took place before Jesus’ first public miracle at the wedding at Cana. (This is discussed further in episode 5.) This is biblically plausible. The Bible does not indicate when Mary’s healing took place nor whether or not it was done in public. The Bible also does not preclude Jesus having performed (unrecorded) private miracles or healings prior to his first public miracle.

Jesus again shows up in the last few minutes of the episode, inviting Himself to the Shabbat (Sabbath) dinner Mary Magdalene – a single woman – is hosting in her home. Also present – James (not Zebedee) and Thaddeus – already disciples (“students”) of Jesus, and Barnaby and Shula, a man and woman who are friends of Mary’s. When they all get to the table, Jesus invites Mary to lead the ceremony prior to the meal. Mary demurs and says, “No, now that you are here, you must do it.” Jesus replies, “Thank you, but this is your home, and I would love for you to do it.” Mary reads Scripture, leads prayer, and offers the blessing. While we need to keep in mind that this is not a portrayal of a Christian woman violating the principles of 1 Timothy 2:12, I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that this would have been consistent with first century Jewish culture and practice. Rabbis (as Jesus is referred to in this scene) were held in high regard, and the household would have considered it an honor and a blessing for a visiting Rabbi to lead the Shabbat ceremony. Furthermore, it would not have been a woman’s place, culturally, to lead men in Scripture reading, prayer, and blessing.

Episode 3:

Jesus camps out alone in the countryside prior to calling His disciples. That’s not really indicated in the Bible, nor is having a band of children coming to visit every day, but…OK. His interactions with the children are charming and realistic.

Jesus as a craftsman/carpenter is completely plausible and consistent with biblical archaeological and anthropological evidence. In fact, it is probably more accurate than the Bible’s rendering of “carpenter” due to the narrow way we define that term. Jesus likely also engaged in stone masonry as lumber wasn’t plentiful in that region, and buildings and homes were usually mudbrick or stone.

Jesus teaches the children the Lord’s Prayer, which does not conflict with Scripture, nor is it implausible. We know that as Jesus traveled around and encountered various people He repeated His teachings. We may only have a certain teaching of His recorded once in Scripture, but that doesn’t mean He only taught it once.

Episode 4:

John the Baptist is brought into the conversation, but doesn’t appear until the last few minutes (Early on, The Chosen seems to have a habit of introducing major characters in the last few minutes of an episode.). He has already been arrested and Nicodemus goes to visit him in prison. I doubt that really happened, but it’s not outside the realm of possibility/plausibility.

Jesus calls (consistent with the Luke 5 account) His next disciples: Simon, Andrew, James and John, and we see the miraculous haul of fish (you’ll probably want to watch the behind the scenes footage near the end of the video about how they accomplished this special effect – it’s fascinating). Simon’s plaintive statement, “We’ve been waiting so long for You,” brought me to tears. We’ve been waiting so long for Him too.

Matthew – perpetually recording everything in his journal – witnesses this scene at the seashore, which is not indicated in Scripture but, again, isn’t outside the realm of possibility/plausibility, either.

Update (7/12/20): For some reason, episodes 5-8 have been removed from YouTube. You may watch these episodes for free at VidAngel by clicking on “Episode 5, 6, etc.” below.

Episode 5:

love how Eden, Peter’s wife, is portrayed when he tells her he’s going to quit fishing and follow Jesus full time. This is a godly woman who loves and supports her husband and wants nothing more than for him to follow the Messiah.

Mary Magdalene – a single woman unaccompanied by a close male relative – traveling with a bunch of men to the wedding at Cana is unlikely in the extreme. It would have been completely culturally, if not morally, inappropriate and her virtue – and Jesus’ intentions – would have been impugned by others.

One of the objections I had to The Bible miniseries several years ago was that the writers felt the need to appease a feminist American (and, sadly, evangelical) culture by elevating Mary Magdalene to the same position and level of personal and ministerial intimacy with Jesus as the twelve disciples – in essence making her the “13th disciple”. I am concerned that as The Chosen progresses, it may attempt to do the same thing, and this is the major reason I rated this series as low as I did.

See what I mean? This is the banner pic for The Chosen’s social media pages.

Having Mary constantly hovering around with the Twelve is not the way either she or the disciples are presented in the gospels (if she had been as close to Jesus as she is portrayed in The Chosen, we would likely hear more about her in the text of Scripture). There was the “inner circle” of intimacy with Jesus: Peter, James, and John. Then came the next closest circle, the remainder of the Twelve. Finally, there was a larger crowd of men and some women who followed Jesus regularly. This last group is the group Mary and the other women who followed Jesus would have fallen into, not in the circle with the twelve disciples.

Certainly Jesus elevated the general prestige and worth of women, but He did not elevate them to the position of social and cultural equality with men as American culture does. That would have been a stumbling block to nearly anyone observing or interacting with Jesus and would have been a major distraction from His ministry.

All of that being said, The Chosen does depict Mary Magdalene as being soft-spoken, humble, and meek, befitting a woman of her time and culture, not as a brash, raging femi-nazi.

Toward the end of the episode, Simon and Jesus kid around about Andrew’s lack of grace when it comes to dancing. (There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. It was brotherly and endearing.) Simon then asks Jesus if He would change Andrew into a better dancer, and the words the writers put into Jesus’ mouth were, “Some things even I cannot do.” Now, in that context, the writers may have meant to convey that Jesus was just making a witty remark and that, in fact, it was not part of His mission to transform Andrew from klutz into Fred Astair. But I think that was a poor choice of wording. It’s contextually untrue (because Jesus was certainly capable of making Andrew graceful), and it’s understandably going to offend Christians to hear “Jesus” say He’s unable to do something.

The wedding at Cana is beautifully, and as far as I can tell, authentically portrayed, and the depiction of Jesus changing the water into wine is consistent with Scripture.

Episode 6:

Again, Mary Magdalene is traveling on an overnight trip with what appears to be about six or eight of the Twelve. As I mentioned in my remarks on episode 5, this would have been completely culturally inappropriate and is not consistent with the way Mary and the disciples are presented in Scripture.

In the portrayal of story of the men who bring the paralytic to Jesus, while men are the ones actually carrying the paralytic on a litter, Tamar, a woman (a self-described friend of the paralytic), leads the way, and it’s made clear this is all her idea. When Simon attempts to stop the entourage from pushing their way through the crowd to Jesus, Tamar is the one who pleads with him, and Mary Magdalene reproves him (which would not have been her place in that culture). Moments later, Tamar is the one who comes up with the idea of going up to the roof, and Mary Magdalene assists her. Once the hole is made in the roof, Tamar calls down to Jesus and asks Him to heal her friend, and Jesus says to her, “Your faith is beautiful.”

As with the insertion of Asperger’s into Matthew’s character, this clunky insertion of women into the biblical narrative where there are none feels like a blatant attempt to play to a 21st century feminist audience. And in this instance it does conflict with Scripture. The Luke 5 account is clear that men (v.18) brought the paralytic to the place where Jesus was. Those men (v.18) were the ones “seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus.” When it was impossible to get through the crowd, those same men (v.19) were the ones who decided to go up to the roof and let their friend down through the hole. And when they did, Jesus looked at those men (v.20) and affirmed their faith. The writers have erased a faithful group of men from this story in order to exalt women. That’s not being faithful to Scripture, that’s pushing an agenda- whether their own, or that of the segment of their audience they hope to placate.

Let’s be clear- there’s more than one way to be ashamed of the gospel, and “modernizing” it to fit the world’s sensibilities about diversity and feminism is one of those ways. I dearly hope The Chosen’s writers will recognize that, whether they meant to or not, this is what they’re doing and that they will correct their course in future episodes.

Episode 7:

This episode starts off with a scene you might not recognize if you’re not thoroughly familiar with the Old Testament. It’s Moses crafting the bronze serpent, which Jesus later tells Nicodemus was a type and shadow of His redemptive death on the cross. The depiction of Jesus’ meeting with Nicodemus is beautifully played with utmost clarity and fidelity to Scripture – much of the dialog drawn verbatim from John 3. I was again brought to tears imagining a faithful servant of God waiting so many years for the Consolation of Israel and finally getting to meet Him face to face. For me, this was the best scene of the entire season.

When Jesus calls Matthew from the tax booth, Gaius reminds Matthew of all he’ll be leaving behind – wealth, position, protection – if he follows Jesus. It was a striking reminder that the disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus, and that we should be willing to do the same.

Episode 8:

Love, love, LOVE the opening scene in which Jacob – digging the famous “woman at the well” well – tells his new Canaanite friend about God, “We didn’t choose Him. He chose us.”. This is exactly right. Dead in our trespasses and sins, we don’t choose God. We can’t choose God. He chooses us and rescues us out of our sin. It’s great that the writers are bringing the Old Testament into this “New Testament” period of time, because, even though we encounter Him on the right side of The Book, Jesus lived His whole life and performed His entire ministry in the Old Testament mindset and milieu. Everybody was basically still living in the Old Testament – their Bible, their history, their culture, their practices, everything was still very much Old Testament.

In the scene between the woman at the well and her husband, and the scene in which the Pharisees arrived at Matthew’s house during dinner, it was helpful that The Chosen fleshed out the Jewish/cultural attitudes toward sin and sinners. I think sometimes when we read the biblical account, we don’t get how horrified and disgusted the Jews were by sin – particularly the sins of others.

Nicodemus bringing in the story about Hagar’s experience with God in the wilderness – “You are a God who sees me” – lays the foundation for Jesus to be that God who sees women (and, indeed everyone) in this episode. Jesus’ interaction with the women in this episode – Peter’s wife Eden, her mother, and the woman at the well – were lovely, consistent with Scripture, and exactly what we would imagine to be characteristic of Jesus. This type of interaction between the Jesus character and women is completely sufficient to demonstrate Jesus’ love for and value of women. There is no need to present Mary Magdalene in a culturally inappropriate, stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb way in order to prove that point.

 

Overall, I think The Chosen, season 1, is an enjoyable historical dramatization of Jesus’ early years of ministry. If you choose to watch it, I would encourage you to do so with an open Bible, to make sure that everything you believe comes from the text of Scripture rather than from The Chosen. Happy viewing!


If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

Entertainment, Movies, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies

I recently received the kindest e-mail from a sweet lady at a movie subscription service – sort of a “family-friendly” version of Netflix – asking me to write an article pointing my readers to the movie subscription service (hereafter: “MSS”) as a resource for whatever issue I was addressing in the article:

I am hoping to hear your advice on some ways to relay valuable lessons to others in a post on your page. Maybe you have used a book or a movie to help someone better understand how to deal with bullying. Or maybe you have used parables from the Bible to demonstrate how to deal with a tough situation. We would love our movies to be a resource for your readers to utilize as a tool, since we have many relevant Christian movies and shows.”

This is a brilliant and creative marketing/publicity strategy, and I really admire whoever it was at the MSS who came up with and implemented this idea. It’s grassroots, it reaches their target audience, they get to harness the creativity and energy of the bloggers they contact, and it’s free. Very smart.

Nice people, smart marketing, a variety of attractive products, the desire to help others, a company built on wholesome morality- what’s not to endorse, right? And if they were selling hand cream or light bulbs or waffle irons, I’d agree.

The thing is, when you sell something, that product is supposed to correctly fill a need your potential customers have. You sell hand cream to people with dry hands, light bulbs to people wondering why they’re sitting around in the dark, and waffle irons to people who want to enjoy breakfast in their jammies rather than driving across town to IHOP.

But this MSS is not selling you the right tool for your problem. Though I’m sure they have the noblest of intentions, they’re attempting to sell you a waffle iron to rake your yard with: movies as theology.

I like movies. I watch them all the time with my family (at home- have you seen the price of a movie ticket lately?!?!). But movies are for leisure time fun and entertainment, not for proper instruction on how to live a godly life or the way to solve personal problems, and certainly not for what to believe about God, as we’ve recently seen with The Shack debacle. When Christians have issues, questions, and problems, we don’t go to the movies, we go to the Bible.

God’s word is the primary source document for Christians. It is the authority that governs our thoughts, words, and deeds. It is the sufficient answer to any question we might have about life and godliness. Above any other advice, instruction, help, or input, we need the Bible, and we can rest assured that its counsel is always right and trustworthy since its words come straight from the lips of God.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s try it the MSS’s way. Let’s say you do have the problem of being bullied. And let’s say this MSS has a good movie about a character in similar life circumstances to yours who overcomes being bullied. So you watch it, hoping to get some advice on how to handle your own problem. You’re a Christian, so, by definition, you want to address the situation without sinning, in a way that pleases God, and, hopefully, in a way that is conducive to sharing the gospel with the bully.

How do you know whether or not the character in the movie overcame her bullying problem in a godly way? That’s right- you have to open your Bible, study it, and compare what she did in the movie with rightly handled, in context Scripture. So why not just go straight to the Source and spend the hour and a half you invested in the movie studying Scripture instead?

Another issue with watching movies to learn how to solve your problems or teach you how to live rightly is that doing so subtly trains you in poor hermeneutics. It trains you to follow the example of a character who is just as broken, sinful, and unwise as you are instead of looking directly to the perfect, holy, infallible instruction of God Himself. Which is often the way people incorrectly read the Bible.

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Like a movie, descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus. All of which is the same reason we should not be watching movies – even “Christian” movies – as a resource for godly living.

“But,” the kind MSS lady would probably reassure me, “our MSS also has non-fiction videos of pastors and Bible teachers that could be helpful.” And indeed they do. There are a handful of documentaries on missionaries, some of the Reformers, current moral and societal issues, and Bible teaching that look like they could be solid. The problem is, they’re mixed in with the likes of Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, Henri Nouwen, Greg Laurie, a plethora of Catholic leaders, and even those who don’t claim to be Christians like Betty White, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace. The few videos with good teaching are combined with many that teach worldly ideas, signs and wonders, mysticism, Bible “codes” and “secrets,” false prophecy, faulty eschatology, and other false doctrine.

It’s a great example of why God tells Christians we’re not to receive false teachers nor to partner with them, as, sadly, this MSS has chosen to do. Mixing biblical truth with false teaching confuses people. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

When a little bit of truth is mixed in with the false, how are we to know which is which? We have to do exactly what the Bereans did with Paul- examine the teachings against Scripture, accept what matches up and reject what doesn’t. Again, why spend the time and confusion searching for, hoping you’ve found, and watching a video you’re not sure will teach you biblical truth when you could simply pick up your Bible, study it, and confidently believe what God says about the issue instead?

There are some good, clean movies on this MSS that would make for an enjoyable evening of family fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But for instruction in holy living and resolving the dilemmas of life in a godly way, we need to use the right tool for the job: the Bible.

Rake your yard with a rake, not a waffle iron.

 

Entertainment, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Has the Bible Changed What You Watch?

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at MichelleLesley1@yahoo.com,
and let’s chat about it.

Has the Bible Changed What You Watch?
by Leslie

As a young married couple, my husband and I got in the habit of watching a particular TV show. Almost every week we tuned in to laugh at the antics of its characters for a half hour. We watched it without any conviction or qualms. At that time, it was simply a funny show.

Fast forward about fifteen years when this same show started to air again in re-runs. But now we were a little wiser. We were more grounded in Scripture. And we were more discerning. And so when we tuned in a few times for old times’ sake, we were most uncomfortable. We finally realized that the fornication and other sin that we were subjecting ourselves to for a few laughs was most definitely an offense to our Holy God. We turned it off and haven’t watched it since.

The same thing happened with a very popular 80’s movie. We had fond memories of watching it ourselves as teenagers and so one Sunday afternoon we turned it on for our kids. A few minutes into it–after listening to the characters take our precious Savior’s name in vain with appalling regularity– my husband turned it off.

This is a great example of how the Bible has changed us and what we watch. Has the Bible changed you and what you allow to enter your heart and mind through your television or the movie theater?

There has been a kind of strange dynamic over the past thirty or forty years with Christians and entertainment. This is probably due to a number of factors, including biblical illiteracy and our deep love for the world. But whatever the reason, most Christians have grown extremely comfortable watching sin on a screen with horrifying regularity.

If anyone dares to mention this trend as troublesome, they are immediately labeled a legalist. But is this legalism? Is the gray area of entertainment as gray as we would like to believe?

The more we study the Word, the more we understand that it is truly our grid for all of life. While we often focus on it being the grid through which we run pastors and Christian authors, it should also be what we use to evaluate all things worldly, as well.

God has made it clear in His word what is sinful. Passages like Galatians 5:19-21 help us to understand what God hates—

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

If God hates these things, why do we think it is okay to watch things that are filled with them? Sexual immorality and sorcery are two of the most popular things on TV and in movies today and yet many Christians enthusiastically watch them, claiming no conviction in this area.

But if we know God hates it, shouldn’t we hate it, too? Is our claim of having no conviction an honest one?

Inevitably, when this topic of entertainment comes up, the idea of Christian freedom comes up with it. And, yes, how wonderful it is that we are free in Christ! But Paul shows us what this freedom really means in I Corinthians 10:23—

All things are lawful for me,but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

So just because we can do something does not mean we should do it. Is it helpful? Will it edify? These are important questions to ask ourselves regarding entertainment.

And in Romans 6:1-4, Paul explains this idea of Christian freedom for us even further-

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Grace means we walk in new life! Bound to sin no longer, we long to live a life that is pleasing to God.

This is not about a set of rules (legalism) but rather about how we go about pleasing the Lord with the choices we make every day. I Corinthians 10:31 gives us some insight—

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

And Colossians 3:17 says something very similar—

And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Whatever we do. All things. Do you notice there is no exception for entertainment? Even our entertainment is to bring God glory.

And so these verses cause us to ask: Are we pleasing the Lord with the things we are watching?

If we are honest with ourselves, we will see that much of what passes as acceptable entertainment for Christians today does not fit under these guidelines.

The more I have studied the Word of God, the more I have come to understand how the Gospel affects all of my life. If we are approaching our Bible Study with a submissive heart and a desire to obey what we read, it should be changing us in a myriad of ways–including our entertainment choices.

While we do have great freedom under Christ, it is not the freedom to sin but instead it’s the freedom to break the chains of sin and to live a life of holiness. Why, as believers, do we long to keep this close contact with the sin that ensnares by putting it in front of our eyes and participating in it vicariously?

This is not a popular topic to write about and I confess that I don’t always like it myself. Honoring God with our entertainment is difficult in this day and age. But it can be done with some careful research of shows and movies before we watch them–along with the fortitude to turn the TV off or to walk out of the movie theater when we should.

May we have boldness and a heart to please God as we seek to honor Him with what we watch!


Leslie has been married to Eric for 29 years. They have four grown kids, three in-law kids, and are now enjoying being grandparents. Leslie’s desire is to develop a love for the Word of God in her readers, along with teaching them to run all of life’s experiences, challenges, and choices through its grid. You will find her at Growing4Life.net.


ALTHOUGH I DO MY BEST TO THOROUGHLY VET THE THEOLOGY OF THE BLOGGERS WHO SUBMIT GUEST POSTS, IT IS ALWAYS POSSIBLE FOR THINGS TO SLIP THROUGH THE CRACKS. PLEASE MAKE SURE ANY BLOGGER YOU FOLLOW, INCLUDING ME, RIGHTLY AND FAITHFULLY HANDLES GOD’S WORD AND HOLDS TO SOUND BIBLICAL DOCTRINE.
Entertainment, Movies, Sanctification

Don’t Get Your Theology from the Movies

I recently received the kindest e-mail from a sweet lady at a movie subscription service – sort of a “family-friendly” version of Netflix – asking me to write an article pointing my readers to the movie subscription service (hereafter: “MSS”) as a resource for whatever issue I was addressing in the article:

I am hoping to hear your advice on some ways to relay valuable lessons to others in a post on your page. Maybe you have used a book or a movie to help someone better understand how to deal with bullying. Or maybe you have used parables from the Bible to demonstrate how to deal with a tough situation. We would love our movies to be a resource for your readers to utilize as a tool, since we have many relevant Christian movies and shows.”

This is a brilliant and creative marketing/publicity strategy, and I really admire whoever it was at the MSS who came up with and implemented this idea. It’s grassroots, it reaches their target audience, they get to harness the creativity and energy of the bloggers they contact, and it’s free. Very smart.

Nice people, smart marketing, a variety of attractive products, the desire to help others, a company built on wholesome morality- what’s not to endorse, right? And if they were selling hand cream or light bulbs or waffle irons, I’d agree.

The thing is, when you sell something, that product is supposed to correctly fill a need your potential customers have. You sell hand cream to people with dry hands, light bulbs to people wondering why they’re sitting around in the dark, and waffle irons to people who want to enjoy breakfast in their jammies rather than driving across town to IHOP.

But this MSS is not selling you the right tool for your problem. Though I’m sure they have the noblest of intentions, they’re attempting to sell you a waffle iron to rake your yard with: movies as theology.

I like movies. I watch them all the time with my family (at home- have you seen the price of a movie ticket lately?!?!). But movies are for leisure time fun and entertainment, not for proper instruction on how to live a godly life or the way to solve personal problems, and certainly not for what to believe about God, as we’ve recently seen with The Shack debacle. When Christians have issues, questions, and problems, we don’t go to the movies, we go to the Bible.

God’s word is the primary source document for Christians. It is the authority that governs our thoughts, words, and deeds. It is the sufficient answer to any question we might have about life and godliness. Above any other advice, instruction, help, or input, we need the Bible, and we can rest assured that its counsel is always right and trustworthy since its words come straight from the lips of God.

But just for the sake of argument, let’s try it the MSS’s way. Let’s say you do have the problem of being bullied. And let’s say this MSS has a good movie about a character in similar life circumstances to yours who overcomes being bullied. So you watch it, hoping to get some advice on how to handle your own problem. You’re a Christian, so, by definition, you want to address the situation without sinning, in a way that pleases God, and, hopefully, in a way that is conducive to sharing the gospel with the bully.

How do you know whether or not the character in the movie overcame her bullying problem in a godly way? That’s right- you have to open your Bible, study it, and compare what she did in the movie with rightly handled, in context Scripture. So why not just go straight to the Source and spend the hour and a half you invested in the movie studying Scripture instead?

Another issue with watching movies to learn how to solve your problems or teach you how to live rightly is that doing so subtly trains you in poor hermeneutics. It trains you to follow the example of a character who is just as broken, sinful, and unwise as you are instead of looking directly to the perfect, holy, infallible instruction of God Himself. Which is often the way people incorrectly read the Bible.

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are two main types of Scripture: descriptive and prescriptive. Like a movie, descriptive passages describe something that happened: Noah built an ark. Esther became queen. Paul got shipwrecked. These passages simply tell us what happened to somebody. Prescriptive passages are commands or statements to obey. Don’t lie. Share the gospel. Forgive others.

If we wanted to know how to have a godly marriage, for example, we would look at passages like Ephesians 5:22-33, 1 Corinthians 7, and Exodus 20:14,17. These are all passages that clearly tell us what to do and what not to do in order to have a godly marriage.

What we would not do is look at David’s and Solomon’s lives and conclude that polygamy is God’s design for marriage. We would not read about Hosea and assume that God wants Christian men to marry prostitutes. We would not read the story of the woman at the well and think that being married five times and then shacking up with number six is OK with Jesus. All of which is the same reason we should not be watching movies – even “Christian” movies – as a resource for godly living.

“But,” the kind MSS lady would probably reassure me, “our MSS also has non-fiction videos of pastors and Bible teachers that could be helpful.” And indeed they do. There are a handful of documentaries on missionaries, some of the Reformers, current moral and societal issues, and Bible teaching that look like they could be solid. The problem is, they’re mixed in with the likes of Joyce Meyer, John Hagee, Henri Nouwen, Greg Laurie, a plethora of Catholic leaders, and even those who don’t claim to be Christians like Betty White, Frank Sinatra, and Liberace. The few videos with good teaching are combined with many that teach worldly ideas, signs and wonders, mysticism, Bible “codes” and “secrets,” false prophecy, faulty eschatology, and other false doctrine.

It’s a great example of why God tells Christians we’re not to receive false teachers nor to partner with them, as, sadly, this MSS has chosen to do. Mixing biblical truth with false teaching confuses people. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

When a little bit of truth is mixed in with the false, how are we to know which is which? We have to do exactly what the Bereans did with Paul- examine the teachings against Scripture, accept what matches up and reject what doesn’t. Again, why spend the time and confusion searching for, hoping you’ve found, and watching a video you’re not sure will teach you biblical truth when you could simply pick up your Bible, study it, and confidently believe what God says about the issue instead?

There are some good, clean movies on this MSS that would make for an enjoyable evening of family fun, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But for instruction in holy living and resolving the dilemmas of life in a godly way, we need to use the right tool for the job: the Bible.

Rake your yard with a rake, not a waffle iron.

 

Entertainment, Marriage, Movies, Throwback Thursday

Throwback Thursday ~ “No Greater Love”– Movie Review

Originally published March 21, 2011

I stumbled across this movie at my local library a few days ago, and, boy am I glad I did.

Jeff and Heather were the “lucky ones”.  Best friends from childhood, high school sweethearts, and married by 22, they were inseperable soul mates.

After the birth of her first and only child, Heather Baker (Danielle Bisutti) fell into a deep depression.  Hopelessly lost, she did the unthinkable– she abandoned her husband and her infant son –and vanished.  Jeff Baker (Anthony Tyler Quinn) was forced to raise their son Ethan as a single father.

Ten years after his wife’s disapperance, Jeff is finally ready to move on and is on the verge of marrying his new girlfriend.  His world, however, is dramatically rocked when Heather shockingly reappears in the most unusual place.
(From the “No Greater Love” web site.)

If you liked the movie Fireproof, you’ll almost certainly like No Greater Love.  The acting is much better, and so is the production quality.  Of course, that’s to be expected when a movie is made by a professional studio hiring professional actors rather than by a church using mostly church members as actors.  (That’s certainly not a dig at Sherwood Baptist Church.  They did a fantastic and admirable job with both Fireproof and Facing the Giants –both of which you should see, if you haven’t already –it’s just that professional studios and production companies have the resources and budget to put together a more polished product.)

The storyline of No Greater Love is unique and endearing, but believable.  The only thing I found to be a bit of a stretch was, well, how do I say this without giving too much away?  Let’s just put it like this: It can take a long time and a lot of difficult, painful emotional work for the most Godly among Christians to forgive someone who has wounded them unfathomably.  Generally speaking, one would expect that, for a similarly wounded unsaved person, forgiveness would probably come much more slowly and with even greater difficulty.  But I suppose there are exceptions to the rule.

Theologically, this movie is right on target.  Director, Brad Silverman, says in his commentary on the movie that his goal was to be as theologically correct as possible, and I think he nailed it.  To be honest, one of the reasons I picked up this movie was to see if there were any false doctrine or theology in it, so I was on the lookout for Biblical error.  None to be found as far as I could tell.

Does No Greater Love overtly share the Gospel, spelling it out step by step?  No.  That’s your job and mine, not the job of a movie.  I think, primarily, this is an entertaining movie which reinforces Biblical truth that Christian viewers (should) already know.  But it would also be a great movie to share with unsaved friends as a conversation starter for sharing the Gospel in detail.

For more information on No Greater Love, visit the web site and “like” the Facebook page.

No Greater Love is available for purchase at:
Lionsgate Studios
ChristianBook.com
Amazon.com