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.

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, those 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.

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 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 this is what they’re doing and 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 virtually slap the audience in the face with a culturally inappropriate, stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb woman as the 13th disciple in order to prove that point. It smacks of desperation.

 

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.

Discernment, Mailbag

The Mailbag: Celebrity Christian Hot Takes (Driscoll, Graham, Groeschel, Lewis, Lucado, Piper, Vallotton)

 

I get lots questions about whether or not certain pastors, teachers, and authors are doctrinally sound, and whether or not I would recommend them. I mean, lots. And, can I just say- that’s really encouraging to me. When someone asks that question, it demonstrates a) that she knows there are teachers out there who wear the label of “Christian” yet teach unbiblical things, and b) that she doesn’t want to follow one of those teachers. Having interacted with scores of professing Christian women who don’t even rise to that basic level of discernment (i.e. they blindly believe everything that calls itself “Christian” actually is), that’s huge, and I love it.

If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed the Popular False Teachers & Unbiblical Trends tab (in the blue menu bar at the top of this page). All of the articles and entries on that page exist because someone (usually more than one person) asked whether or not that teacher is doctrinally sound. I wish I were able to write articles on every teacher I’m asked about so I could provide you with more thorough resources, but it usually takes me several days worth of research and writing to properly assemble even the shortest of those articles, and with a family to care for, and other responsibilities, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day.

All of that means that I have to pick and choose which teachers to write about (which is generally whoever is most popular and most people are asking about) and resign myself to the fact that there are teachers I’m probably never going to get around to writing about (few have heard of them, they’re not popular in my audience demographic, they’re dead, it’s uber-obvious they’re heretics {Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, etc.}).

Recently, I’ve been asked about a slew of teachers I’m probably not going to write articles about, not because they’re not important, but because they don’t influence as many people in my audience as other teachers do. So I thought what I’d do from time to time is gather up a few and just give a quick “hot take” – a thumbs up or thumbs down as to whether or not you should follow them – based on what I already know without researching them and/or no more than a five minute Google search.

I’ll be using the criteria outlined in my article Is She a False Teacher? 7 Steps to Figuring it Out on Your Own. If you ever need to know whether or not you should avoid a certain teacher, I would encourage you to use this article as a guide, and research him or her for yourself. Vetting teachers is not difficult, it’s a skill every Christian needs to develop, you shouldn’t just take my (or anyone else’s) word for it that someone is or isn’t a false teacher, and I won’t always be around. So if you’re interested in any of these teachers, consider these hot takes a jumping off point for doing more research on your own.

👎Mark Driscoll A definite thumbs down. Mark Driscoll is demonstrably apostate. He was charged with spiritual abuse (mostly anger, treating people poorly, abuse of power – things like that) at his former church, Mars Hill. He refused to go through the biblical process of church discipline his elders tried to enact, and instead quit and fled to another state. He now associates and yokes in “ministry” with New Apostolic Reformation heretics.

Billy Graham– Not someone I’m going to go around proactively recommending, but not someone I’d call a false teacher, either. I would categorize him as “generally OK-ish, but there are much better, stronger teachers you could be listening to instead”. I’ve read his autobiography and listened to several of his sermons over the years. Although I think some of his methods were biblically unwise, the basic content of his sermons and the gospel he preached was biblical overall. But you need to remember that Billy Graham was an evangelist, not a pastor, which means you’ll get the basics of the gospel by listening to him, but not much else. And if you’re already saved, while you never outgrow your need to hear the gospel, that’s not all you need. You need to grow and mature in the Word, and be taught the full counsel of God.

A couple of reasons many people wonder about Billy Graham’s theology have to do with his ecumenism (he basically embraced just about everyone who wore the label “Christian” – including the Pope) and his universalist statements (most widely known via his 1997 interview with Robert Schuller). Additionally, his daughter, Ann Graham Lotz, credits her father with heavily influencing her theology, and she is not someone I’d recommend.

👎Craig Groeschel– Nope. When Chris Rosebrough has done this many Fighting for the Faith segments and sermon reviews on somebody, take it to the bank- that’s not somebody you should be following. And then you’ve got things like: Craig preaching at this Hillsong conference (which also featured Bethel Music leaders), preaching with Joel Osteen at a conference hosted by Lakewood, he’s spoken at Joyce Meyer’s women’s conference, he lets women and false teachers preach at his church, including Christine Caine (whom he calls “one of the greatest preachers of all time”) and Steven Furtick (who says in this clip that Groeschel’s church has influenced Furtick’s church {Elevation} “probably more than any other church”.)

Also, if you use the YouVersion Bible App, you might want to know that it was developed by Craig Groeschel and his church, and is still owned by his church (Life.Church), which is one of the reasons it’s not one I recommend when people ask me about Bible apps.

C.S. Lewis For fiction, you’re probably OK. I read my children the entire Narnia series with no real problems. I know sound brothers and sisters who have found Mere Christianity and other CSL books to be helpful, but, honestly, if you really want to study theology, I’d encourage you to steer clear and find better sources. There are questions as to whether or not he believed in evolution, universalism, the inspiration of Scripture, and penal substitutionary atonement.

👎Max Lucado– No. He recently embraced Jen Hatmaker as a guest on her podcast. He has preached at Lakewood (Joel Osteen), affirmed Bill Johnson (Bethel), endorses Beth Moore, wrote the foreword for Christine Caine’s book, Undaunted, etc. And the church Max pastors, Oak Hills Church, is egalitarian.

And then there’s this quote from Max during an interview with Preaching.com: I really enjoy listening to Joel Osteen. I think Joel has a unique assignment in his ministry, and that’s to cast a wide net. He’s got a different assignment and a different gift mix than, for example, a John MacArthur; and I enjoy listening to John MacArthur equally; but you can see that they’re two different types of preaching. I enjoy Joel because I think his assignment in ministry is to encourage people, and we live in a day that is so discouraged, discouraging. I enjoy John MacArthur because I think—it seems to me—his assignment is to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding. He’d be more like a Beth Moore or a David Jeremiah; I think we need that, as well.

I’m sorry, but do you really want to be taught the Bible by someone who someone who is so undiscerning he can’t tell the difference between Joel Osteen, Beth Moore, and John MacArthur? That he thinks Joel Osteen and John MacArthur just have different gifts and different preaching styles? And that Beth Moore, like John MacArthur, has an “assignment to equip the church with very detailed biblical understanding“?

John PiperJohn Piper’s books, sermons, and blog are mostly fine, and while I disagree with him on several points of theology, I certainly do not consider him to be a false teacher. But he’s not somebody I’m going to proactively recommend, either. Here’s how I’ve answered readers in the past who have asked me about John Piper:

While I consider Dr. Piper to be a generally doctrinally sound Christian brother and agree with him in many aspects of theology, he is not someone I proactively recommend for a few reasons:

1. Dr. Piper is a continuationist. I usually limit my endorsements to cessationists  because I believe this is the biblical view of the gifts. (I do not consider otherwise doctrinally sound continuationists to be false teachers, however.)

2. I’m concerned about Dr. Piper’s associations and partnerships with false teachers (which violates 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, Romans 16:17-18, and 2 John 9-11). First he appeared to embrace Rick Warren when he interviewed him and invited him to speak at the Desiring God conference in 2010. More recently, he has been a featured speaker at events like the Passion conferences where he has shared the stage with Christine Caine, Priscilla ShirerBeth Moore, and Judah Smith.

3. Dr. Piper’s complementarianism seems muddled at best. On the one hand he will go so far as to say that Christian women should not be drill sergeants and police officers (the Bible mentions nothing of the sort), yet on the other hand he joins in ministry with the aforementioned Caine, Shirer, and Moore who – in addition the the false doctrine they preach – all actively and unrepentantly violate clear Scripture by preaching to men. It’s quite confusing.

I’m not going to warn people away from John Piper as a false teacher, but I can’t, in good conscience, recommend him either.

👎Kris VallottonAbsolutely not, no way, no how. Kris Vallotton is the “Senior Associate Leader of Bethel Church and co-founder of Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM)” which means he is a New Apostolic Reformation heretic, not a Christian, and certainly not someone any other Christian (or lost person, for that matter) should be following. Read more about the blasphemies and heresies of Bethel.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I Sue?

 

I know the Bible tells us not to sue someone, but are there situations where this may be OK?

I have a long term illness caused by bad medical advice given to me by several doctors. I know there are many many others who suffer like I do from the same thing for the same reasons. Because of my illness I have lost my job, friends, and the ability to do things I used to do and enjoy.

While I have never been one to sue someone or take legal action I am considering it in this situation. I am not doing it for the money, but so that awareness can be brought about so maybe others will not go through what I am going through.

I know if I go forward it will be a difficult journey for me and may cause some disruption with the doctors who treated me. I have been praying about it and am going to look into Christian counseling as well, but I have learned a lot from following you and would like to hear what you have to say as well.

Great question. First let’s look at exactly what Scripture says about this:

When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! 1 Corinthians 6:1-8

So, the Bible doesn’t make a blanket statement “not to sue,” but not to sue certain people for a particular reason. The idea Paul is trying to convey here is that Christians, of all people, ought to be able to work out their differences among themselves. We’re the people who have God-given wisdom for such things, not lost people. So, when Christians drag each other into a worldly court over something that they ought to be able to work out in godly love, humility, and repentance (or at least ought to be able to have mediated by a pastor or elders), it tarnishes the name of Christ and makes the church look foolish. It’s better to just absorb the loss than to do that. So what this passage is teaching us is that it is a poor witness to the world for Christians to sue one another rather than to work things out together.

Now, I realize this isn’t your particular situation, but I’m going to throw it out there for everybody else who’s reading. The passage above does not say this, but I think the Bible would also support the idea that, in most cases of personal grievance, Christians probably shouldn’t sue lost people either. Your neighbor accidentally planted her garden six inches over your property line? You babysat for a couple down the block and they never paid you the agreed upon amount? You had been planning a special anniversary dinner for you and your husband for weeks and the restaurant messed everything up? Try to imagine what these people might think of Christians or Christianity or your church if you sued them, and, conversely, how counter-culturally surprising it might be to them if you didn’t sue them. Would a lawsuit open or close a door for you to share the gospel with these folks? Would you be carrying out Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek, to overcome evil with good, and to repay no one evil for evil, but to bless and do what is honorable? When we make decisions like this, we need to be sure we’re putting Scripture, the name and renown of Christ and His church, and the spiritual good of the other person ahead of ourselves and any benefit we might gain. God is our provider, not the tort system. And, of course, it should go without saying that Christians should never sue others on the basis of dishonesty (ex: faking injuries after a car accident) or in an effort to greedily “get rich quick”.

However, the way our legal system and our laws work in the United States, there are, unfortunately, some instances in which a lawsuit is the legally sanctioned proper channel to go through in order to secure services or for two entities to iron out the details of a fair settlement between them, and this process carries no more ethical implications than, say, filling out a request for services form. This is often the case between insurance companies in the event of a car accident, for example. This can sometimes be the case with a business or entity that is obligated to provide you with a particular service or remuneration. It very much depends on the situation, the laws of your state, the company’s policies, etc. In a case like this, I would recommend setting up an appointment with your pastor for counseling on the biblical aspects of the situation, and consulting with a reputable (preferably Christian) attorney for legal advice.

In your case, it sounds like your goal is to prevent innocent people from suffering at the hands of negligent doctors, and a lawsuit can be one way to do that. I cannot give you a definitive yes or no as to whether or not a lawsuit would be the biblical thing to do in your case, but here are some things I would encourage you to do and consider as you prayerfully make your decision:

•Pray through and consider the Scriptures I’ve linked to above as well as others that will help you examine your heart to be sure your motives moving ahead are godly, not retributive.

•If you’re married, be sure you’re submitting to your husband regarding any action you might take.

•Assuming you’re a member of a biblical, doctrinally sound church, make an appointment with your pastor (preferably, or, barring that, a Biblical Counselor, which is different from a “Christian counselor”) for counsel on all of the biblical ramifications of filing a lawsuit and any other actions you might be considering taking. Counseling is part of his job, he can take the time to walk through all of the details with you, and it is he whom God has placed in the position of shepherding your soul.

•Contact a reputable, preferably Christian, attorney (your pastor may be able to recommend one) who can explain all of the processes involved in filing a lawsuit, and might also be able to give you some more effective alternatives. Discuss all of this with your pastor and get his counsel on it.

•Is there another way to accomplish your goal of protecting and helping other victims and potential victims? What about a local ministry to others with the same illness? What if you wrote a book about your experiences? Perhaps an online ministry and information clearinghouse – a blog, website, Facebook group, etc. – that could reach even more people than a lawsuit could? Brainstorm some ideas with your pastor, husband, or close friends.

If there is any way to avoid a lawsuit while still protecting others, I would recommend exploring that possibility.

Additional Resources:

What does the Bible say about lawsuits / suing? at Got Questions?

Forbidden Lawsuits by John MacArthur

Alliance Defending Freedom


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Regrets…I Still Have a Few

 

I know regret should lead us to repentance. My question is: After repentance and salvation what do we do with regret? Is it sinful to continually experience regret? Is it just a consequence we must live with? I feel like I’m being swallowed up by it the more I read the Bible, which is not the end of the world, but I just want to handle it correctly.

Great question. I think correct context and semantics can help us out a lot here.

The verse you’re referring to is 2 Corinthians 7:10 (which I have linked in context in your question above):

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

There are several concepts at play here between your question and the verse, and we need to be sure we’re not conflating them: regret, godly sorrow or grief, shame, and guilt.

When we American English speakers say, Frank Sinatra-style, “Regrets….I’ve had a few….,” what we mean is that there are things we’ve done in the past that we wish we hadn’t done, and that if we had it to do over again, we would do things differently. Every Christian has had incidents we feel this way about, whether they took place before or after we got saved. If your love for Christ and your growing understanding of the blackness of sin have led you to regret rebelling against Him, that’s not a bad thing. What would be bad is if you had no regrets. When we look back on past sins, we should always do so with an attitude of regret for having committed them.

But doesn’t this verse say repentance leads to salvation “without regret”? Yes. But that phrase doesn’t mean we’ll never look back at our past sins and wish we had obeyed God instead. Read the verse in context. Paul had written his “severe letter” rebuking the Corinthian church for their sin. It cut them to the heart in godly sorrow over their transgressions and they joyfully repented, never once looking back and wishing for their old way of life. Even with the hardships and persecution many first century Christians faced, they never, for a single moment, regretted turning from their life of sin and following Jesus. (I think we could all say a hearty “Amen!” to that!) That’s what “salvation without regret” means- we don’t regret casting our lot with Christ.

Another aspect of this verse and question we need to address is this: The verse doesn’t say our regrets produce repentance that leads to salvation. It says “godly grief”, or “sorrow,” or “sorrow that is according to the will of God,” is what produces repentance that leads to salvation. There’s a big difference.

Regrets are more in line with the “worldly grief” mentioned at the end of the verse, which produces death. Even lost people like Ol’ Blue Eyes can look back over their lives and recall their embarrassing or jerky behavior and the choices they made that hurt others or themselves, and they can wish they hadn’t done those things. Why? Because of the natural consequences of sin. He got caught. He lost his job or his wife or a friend.

He had to pay the piper, and he didn’t like the looks of the bill.

Not a thought to the Lord whose laws he broke. Not a twinge of guilt and shame for committing sins that crucified the Savior who loves him. No fear and trembling at the feet of a thrice holy God of wrath who has the power to cast him into Hell for all eternity.

That is godly grief. It’s a grief that goes vertical first…

I have offended a high and holy God.

Woe unto me, for I am a man of unclean lips!

Against Thee, and Thee only, have I sinned.

Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.

Oh, wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

…and then, springing from that godly grief, seeks horizontal forgiveness from and reconciliation with others.

When godly grief over sin produces repentance, repentance leads to salvation. And when Christ saves you, a transaction takes place in God’s legal system in which Christ absorbs the shame, guilt, and penalty for your sin, and God, the righteous Judge, rules you not guilty.

But what can you do when you’ve been genuinely saved and you look back at your past sin not only with regret, but also feeling the weight of guilt and shame? I think maybe that’s the heart of what you’re asking.

You have to hold on to what you know to be true according to God’s Word over and above what you feel. God’s Word is objectively trustworthy. Our feelings are not. Our feelings can be fickle and fleshly. Subjective and deceptive. We have to tame those feelings like wild horses with the bit, bridle, and spurs of Scripture, and rein them in or turn them in the direction God wants them to go.

So what do we know to be true about feeling guilt and shame for our past sin?

• Whatever we may feel, the fact is that, in Christ, we are not guilty, and our shame has been removed:

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus…who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:4,8

“Fear not, for you will not be ashamed; be not confounded, for you will not be disgraced; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the reproach of your widowhood you will remember no more. For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called. Isaiah 54:4-5

• It isn’t God who is leading us to feel a way that doesn’t line up with His Word. Satan is the only one who makes false accusations against Christians:

And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. Revelation 12:10

• It is not God’s will for us to focus on the past, but to move forward like the Christians we are, keeping our eyes on Jesus:

But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. Philippians 3:13b-16

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

When you look back on your former life and are overwhelmed by guilt and shame, remember the words above are from the very lips of God Himself. Remember that you were guilty and covered with shame, and let that knowledge lead you to thank, praise, and worship the One who took your sin and wretchedness upon His own shoulders. Who absorbed your punishment, your blame – and set you free. Free to honor and obey Him. Free to glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.


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.

Mailbag

The Mailbag: Should I Say, or Should I Go?

 

My family recently left a church that was embracing more and more New Apostolic Reformation false doctrine. However, we have many friends and family still attending. I’ve tried to lovingly point out that the church is teaching false doctrine, but I have been completely shut down. I don’t want to leave my loved ones where they are, but I feel they don’t want to see or hear the truth. They tell me they’ve searched the Scriptures and feel they are right. They also talk a lot about the feelings and experiences they have had and that, in their eyes, proves it’s God moving. My question is, how much should I engage with them? Should I just walk away and pray or keep talking with them about it?

It’s so heart-wrenching to love someone who blindly rejects the truth. We kind of “get it” on a spiritual level when that person is an atheist or just your run of the mill lost person, but if the person is a self-professed Christian – who is supposed to believe, love, and submit to God’s Word – it can seem especially baffling and difficult.

So how do we handle situations like this? Let’s back all the way up to the very foundation of the issue for those who haven’t yet faced this situation.

We have to start by making sure we have the correct understanding of what’s going on here. Every human being, whether he knows it or not, lives in two worlds: the physical world of everyday “real life” (tangible things, people, and decisions we consciously see,) and the spiritual world (where God moves and works and where demons try to thwart Him by stirring up chaos in the world) that we can’t see and that most people aren’t even aware of.

So the first thing we have to recognize in a situation like this, is that this is primarily a spiritual battle, rather than a tangible one. The fact that, in the physical realm, you clearly recognized the false doctrine in this church and acted upon that knowledge by leaving is the fruit of what God did in your heart in the spiritual realm. The things your loved ones have said to you and their decision to stay in an apostate church in the physical realm is the fruit of the fact that they are deceived, hard of heart, and probably unsaved, in the spiritual realm.

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared,
1 Timothy 4:1-2

A spiritual realm problem requires a spiritual realm solution, and only God – not us – can effect true change in the spiritual realm. He must change the hearts of your loved ones. And until or unless He does, you can talk to them until you’re blue in the face and they will continue to dig their heels in.

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
John 6:44a
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:14

So the number one thing you should be doing in this situation is to pray. Ask God to intervene and do the work in their hearts that only He can do. Ask Him to open their eyes. Ask Him to woo them toward studying His Word. Ask Him to save them if they aren’t saved.

And while you’re down there on your knees, pray for yourself and ask God to help you study hard to understand His Word about this situation, and to give you the wisdom to know when to speak up and when to keep silent. Because, while God is the One doing the work, He works through His Word, using instruments like you and me to accomplish His work, much like a doctor uses instruments to perform surgery.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Ecclesiastes 3:1,7a

Once you’ve asked God to guide you and give you wisdom, believe His Word and trust Him to do so. If you’re with one of these loved ones, and the time seems right to say an appropriate, biblical word, take a second to get your demeanor and tone in order, and then say it.

But, as you’ve said, you’ve already tried to talk biblical sense into your loved ones and they have rejected it. Now what? Should you just walk away and pray, or keep talking with them about it? Yes. There’s actually room for both in situations like this. Let’s take a look at a few biblical passages:

And behold, a man came up to [Jesus], saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,  Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples…
Matthew 19:16-23a
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
1 Peter 3:1-2
If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.
1 Corinthians 7:13-15

What do these passages have in common? They all help us to understand that:

  • not everybody we share the gospel with or impart biblical truth to is going to accept it.
  • we are under no obligation to chase people down or badger and nag them to death with biblical truth once we’ve shared it (and this may even do more harm to our cause than good).
  • it’s OK to share the truth and then back off for a while while, praying fervently, loving well, and setting a godly example.
  • it’s OK to let people to walk away from the truth once you’ve shared it.

It is perfectly OK to say to people who are hostile to the truth, “I love you and I’d like to share more of what the Bible says about this with you. If you’d ever like to talk more about it, just let me know. Now how about a piece of pie?”

And Jesus even goes further than that:

Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Matthew 7:6

In Jesus’ day, dogs were not the cute little domesticated pooches we smooch on today. They were wild beasts more akin to a pack of coyotes or wolves. Pigs were the epitome of unclean animals and can be pretty violent when provoked. Jesus used these animals’ violence and uncleanness to represent lost people (regardless of whether or not they call themselves Christians) who respond in blasphemy, unbelief, and anger to the Pearl of Great Price. He’s saying that if you know a person has a history of acting this way and is likely to act this way again (e.g. Paul, prior to conversion), or if you’ve laid out biblical truth to someone and she responds with blasphemy, anger, and unbelief (e.g. your loved ones) it’s OK to climb out of the pig pen or the dog pound (or don’t get in there in the first place), take your pearls, and go home. God is demonstrating to you through this person’s behavior that He has not, at this particular time, softened this particular person’s heart to hear and receive what you’re saying. If He does soften that person’s heart in the future (as evidenced by her distinctly undoglike and unpiglike behavior) you can share the truth with her then.

Every person is different. Every situation is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of when to engage and when to keep silent. And that’s actually a good thing. That keeps us in prayer, completely dependent on the Lord and His Word for guidance.


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.