With the movie Son of God releasing in theaters tomorrow, February 28, for the past two Thursdays I’ve been rerunning a three part series I wrote on last year’s History Channel miniseries, The Bible. This is the final installment. Son of God is Roma Downey’s and Mark Burnett’s movie about Jesus that is drawn from The Bible’s scenes pertaining to His life and ministry, as well as deleted scenes that did not make it into the miniseries.
5. The faulty theology of “The Bible’s” theological advisors is influencing and slanting the way God’s word is being presented.
Rick Warren’s twisting of Scripture to fit his “Purpose Driven” overview of God’s nature and character, Joel Osteen’s self esteem boosting and positive thinking, T.D. Jakes’ prosperity gospel and modalism (an unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity), and Roma Downey’s New Age spiritual psychology degree have crept into The Bible’s stories and subtly shifted the Scriptures’ real focus on sinful man’s need of God’s redemption to a “follow the leader and together we’ll change the world” paradigm.
Go back to the beginning of the series and watch it again, counting the number of times the word “leader” is used. Every major Old Testament character has been cast as a “leader,” and Israel’s prosperity or demise is portrayed as contingent on whether the leader was good or bad and whether or not Israel followed his leadership. This is not the message of God’s word. When Israel was obedient to God, she flourished. When she rebelled and chose idolatry, she crashed and burned. Kings, judges, and prophets had influence on the people, but it was Israel’s obedience to God Himself that was the hinge on which the nation swung.
It was especially disturbing to hear prophets such as Jeremiah and Daniel being cast as “leaders.” The prophet’s job was not to lead the people. The prophet’s job was to speak the words of God to the people and exhort them to submit to Him, just as pastors are supposed to do today. Leaders say, “Follow me.” Prophets say, “Follow God.”
Further, nowhere in God’s word does it say that Jesus came to “change the world,” or “change people’s lives,” nor does the Bible teach that Christians are to do these things. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Christians are exhorted, not to the lofty goal of “changing the world,” but to the abasing role of denying ourselves, taking up our crosses daily (Luke 9:23), being persecuted (2 Tim. 3:12), and making disciples (Matt 28:19-20).
Jesus did change the world, and He does change our lives, but this was a side effect of His life, death, and resurrection, not His goal. He was here to carry out God’s plan of redemption. The movie’s “change the world” mentality puts the focus on us. Scripture puts the focus on God’s sovereign redemptive purposes.
6. The glory has departed from “The Bible.”
From the beautiful picture of Jesus’ sacrificial death for us in the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, to the overwhelming mercy and forgiveness of God after David’s sin with Bathsheba, to the awe-inspiring, God given faith in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s refusal to bow to an idol, the glory of God, which fairly drips from the Scriptures, is achingly absent from The Bible. To be fair, I don’t think any movie could ever completely capture the same revelation of God’s magnificence that a Christian experiences when he sits down and interacts with the Bible as the Holy Spirit moves in and among the living and active words. But there are movies that have come much closer than this one has. The Scriptures are not just a collection of stories meant to inspire us to emulate their heroes. Rather, they reveal to us who God is; a different facet of His glorious nature and character in each story we read.
As I conclude these six observations about History’s The Bible, it is my hope and prayer that the overall effect of the series having been telecast will be a positive one for the Kingdom. For those of us who belong to Christ, may we use it as a springboard to share the gospel with the lost and encourage discernment and study of God’s word for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for ourselves.
*Just a note for future readers: This article was written during the week between episodes 3 and 4 of the miniseries. Episode 3 wrapped up the Old Testament and introduced the New Testament, covering Jesus’ birth through the calling of Peter. As I write, I have not seen episode 4 or 5.