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+.


🎥 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.


Living UNbiblically: 4 Reasons CBS’s “Living Biblically” ISN’T (And Why Christians Should Watch it Anyway)

Have you ever had to stand by helplessly and watch as a friend – or maybe even your child – headed down the wrong path, seemingly oblivious to the right path that’s just inches away? You stand behind him, cheering him on, hoping and praying he’ll go the right direction, only to watch him make wrong turn after wrong turn.

That’s what it’s like being a biblical Christian watching CBS’s new sitcom, Living Biblically, currently airing Monday nights at 8:30 Central time.

Meet my new friend, Chip, the main character of the show. His best friend has recently died, and as a result, Chip becomes somewhat out of control – depressed, drinking, and not working. In the midst of this crisis, Chip’s wife Leslie arrives home one day, announces that she’s pregnant, and that Chip needs to snap out of it and get his life back on track. Chip decides that the way to become a good father is to start living “100% by the Bible”, carrying out every single command and obeying every law. He’s a lapsed Catholic, so he goes to a priest and asks for help walking through this gargantuan task. Father Gene laughs at him. Preposterous! Nobody can possibly live in 100% compliance with the Bible! But in spite of his doubts, Father Gene and his rabbi friend team up to serve as Chip’s “God Squad”- his spiritual advisors on this journey of living completely by the Bible.

Oh, Chip. Chip, Chip, Chip… I’m rooting for you, my friend, but you’re going the wrong direction.

I had high hopes for Living Biblically. Well, “high hopes” kind of like the hopes I have of winning the Publishers’ Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. It’s never happened before, but somebody’s gotta win. Maybe this time it’ll be me.

I want Chip to win. I want the viewers of Living Biblically to win. But, as of the first four episodes I’ve watched, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

Because Chip isn’t living biblically. In fact, he’s living most unbiblically.

The structure of the show is to take a different biblical command or two each week and have Chip attempt to walk it out in his life. Some of the commands addressed so far have been: love thy neighbor, thou shalt not worship false idols, don’t use foul language, and thou shalt not steal. Worthy and good commands, all. So what’s the problem?

Going against the grain

Being a moral person is good for society. It can even be beneficial to the person who is acting morally and to those  closest to him. But the title of this show is not Living Morally, it’s Living Biblically. And therein lies the rub. It is impossible to live biblically by simply extracting external behavioral commands from the Bible and attempting to implement them in your life completely divorced from the main theme of Scripture. And what is that main theme of Scripture?

You can’t live biblically. That’s why you need a Savior.

The Old Testament is a case study of an entire nation who –  even though they were chosen by God, even though they saw Him perform mighty miracles, even though He promised prosperity for obedience and calamity for disobedience – could not manage to consistently live by the commands He gave them. God graciously shows us through Israel’s example just how wretched and depraved we really are. We cannot pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps of good behavior. The Bible tells us…

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
Isaiah 64:6

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Galatians 3:10-11

as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God…For by works of the law no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:10,20

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
Galatians 2:16

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Romans 8:8

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
Titus 3:4-7

Over and over again, this is the message of the Bible: You need to be in right standing with God. It’s impossible to achieve that by your own law keeping and good behavior because attempting to keep the law and behave well in order to garner favor with God is sin in and of itself. Why? Because you’re attempting to circumvent God’s way of making you righteous – repentance of sin and faith in Christ’s substitutionary atoning sacrifice on the cross – and instead demand that He accept your way of making yourself righteous – law keeping and good behavior.

I’m sorry, Chip, but you just can’t be living biblically if you’re living completely against the grain of Scripture.

For all the wrong reasons

Why does Chip want to live biblically? Because he wants to become a good father to his child. I’d like to pause a moment and commend the creator of Living Biblically for making being a good dad one of the centerpieces of this show. In a day where television often portrays fathers as dispensable or bumbling fools, and in a real world in which fathers are far too often absent or failing, this is a much-needed, courageous, and admirable message to send. I applaud Living Biblically for boldly stating that fathers are both good and necessary, and that men need to strive to be stellar fathers and set a moral example for their children.

That being said, obeying God’s commands in order to become a good father, is, once again, not living biblically.

When I was in college, my degree program required a course in experimental psychology. If you’re not familiar with experimental psychology, it involves rats. Lots of rats. Rats running mazes. Rats pushing levers. Rats learning to modify their behavior in any way that will earn them a pellet of food.

Sadly, this is the rat race Chip, and so many Christians who go to “churches” that only preach self-help sermons full of life tips, are running. “Just modify your behavior to X and you’ll get Y.” In Chip’s case, X equals obeying biblical commands, and Y equals his desired goal of being a good father. But that’s not what the Bible tells us to do, nor how the Bible characterizes obedience. The Bible says:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.
The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
2 Corinthians 5:17

…we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16b

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:15

Obedience to God is not a quid pro quo in which your motivation for obeying is to get your own desired outcome. That’s what the Prosperity Gospel teaches, and God does not consider that obedience to His commands. Only Christians can truly obey God’s commands, because only Christians have been transformed by God into new creatures with the same mindset as Christ: to obey God simply out of love for Him and gratitude for all He has done for us. Those are the only circumstances under which striving to obey God’s commands is living biblically.

The heart of the matter

“Just go to church and be good. That’s enough,” Father Gene counsels Chip early on. Later, when discussing substituting what I’d call “Christian cuss words” for the real thing, Chip says, “It sounds unsatisfying.” Father Gene advises him, “It’s incredibly unsatisfying, but you’ll be doing the right thing.” Very bad advice, I might add, from someone who – claiming to shepherd the flock of God – should know better. It’s not “good enough” or “the right thing”, because, without Christ, Chip can’t be good and can’t do the right thing.

Chip, God can see right past your attempts at “being good” and zeroes in on your heart. He knows your thoughts: your lusts, your hate, your selfishness, your greed, your pride, and every other evil, sinful intent that crosses your mind. You might fool people with your external conformity to Scripture. You might even fool yourself. But you’ll never fool God. Your outward behavior isn’t enough for Him. He wants your heart.

For the Lord sees not as man sees:
man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7b

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Matthew 23:25-28

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
Psalm 51:16-17

If you want to live biblically, Christ has to clean the inside of your cup first by giving you the gift of repentance and faith in Him.

Twisted Scripture

The Bible says:

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,
a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of Truth.
2 Timothy 2:15

Living Biblically’s “workers” (i.e. writers and script consultants) who are handling the Word of Truth for this show have every reason to be ashamed, because mishandled and misappropriated Scripture abounds at every turn.

In episode 2, False Idols (hint to the writers- there’s no such thing as a “true idol”, so you can just call it an “idol” rather than a “false idol”), Chip comes to the conclusion that his phone is an idol, so he smashes it and lives life phoneless (at least for that episode). Why does Chip think his phone is an idol? Because it’s taking up too much of his time and attention. That’s not the biblical definition of idolatry. An idol is something that you lavish love and devotion on in the place of God. The command in Exodus 20:3 is “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Chip didn’t smash his phone because he’s grieved that he has sinned against a holy God by loving his phone more than he loves Christ (because he doesn’t know Christ). He smashed it in order to fulfill a biblical law so that he’ll become a better father.

In episode 4, Thou Shalt Not Steal, Chip realizes he has, on several occasions in the past, brought office supplies home from work for personal use, and that this violates the eighth Commandment. (I’d like to commend the makers of Living Biblically here for demonstrating that “Thou shalt not steal” isn’t just about armed bank robbery, as some seem to think; it’s about pens and paper clips, too.) Father Gene comes to the rescue once again with…out of context Scripture.

“Ezekiel 33:15,” Chip quotes (actually, it’s Ezekiel 33:15a and 16a, but OK) “…if a wicked man restores a pledge and pays back what he has taken by robbery…none of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him.” (Another round of kudos to the writers here: Chip seems to be quoting from a decent modern translation – not The Message or some other adulteration of Scripture, not the KJV, as though no reliable modern English translations exist. As nearly as I can tell, he’s using the NASB, though there might be another translation with identical wording.)

“Bye bye sins!” Chip chortles as he begins bagging up reams of copy paper and other assorted office supplies to return to his workplace. As if glibly restoring the items to the supply closet will wipe out this offense against God. The problems here?

First of all, though there’s much to glean from the book of Ezekiel, Chip is reading somebody else’s mail. Ezekiel was written to Old Testament Israel, not as instructions for New Testament Christians (or lost people either, as Chip is). Zacchaeus would have been a much better role model for Chip in this particular instance. Next, Chip has ripped verses 15 and 16 out of their immediate context. Verse 15 starts in the middle of a sentence, for goodness sakes:

14 Again, though I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, 15 if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live. Ezekiel 33: 14-16

This passage is not saying that simply returning stolen items will zero out your sin debt. Ezekiel 33 is a beautiful passage about true, from the heart, repentance that leads to walking through life in obedience to God. Indeed, the entire book of Ezekiel is God calling Israel to grieve and mourn over her sin (mainly of idolatry and forsaking the worship of God) and to return to Him. God isn’t calling Israel to rote obedience to random commands in order to actualize her own personal goals, but to the love and worship of God. If Chip truly wanted to live biblically, we would have seen him on his face in prayer, heartbroken over his sin, imploring God to forgive him.


There’s a lot that’s unbiblical about Living Biblically, but if you’re a Christian, I’d still recommend you consider watching itAs homework. Watch it as an apologetics and hermeneutics assignment. Get your Bible out. Which scenes and ideas match up with Scripture, and which don’t? Why or why not? Watch it to get a better grip on the world’s mindset about God, sin, and the Bible to help you in your approach to sharing the gospel. Maybe the show will even uncover some unbiblical ideas you’ve been holding on to.

In the final analysis, I applaud the creators and producers of Living Biblically for attempting something fresh and creative. It was a nice try, but Chip isn’t living biblically. To borrow from contemporary Christian phraseology, he’s living “moralistic therapeutic me-ism”.

Because unless you repent of your sin and throw yourself upon the mercy and grace of Christ to save you, you’ll never be living biblically.

Have you been watching Living Biblically?
Which scenes or ideas from the show have you found biblically problematic OR faithful to Scripture?