Thursday, May 16, 2013

Epic Miniseries Review: The Bible

My wife and I watched The Bible on the History Channel leading up to Easter this year, and we thought it was going so well that we pre-ordered it on Blu-ray. Though I would not make the purchase so eagerly now, I still think the program can be helpful in two regards. The first is as a means to doxology; I believe a born again Christian can watch the show and praise God for his work throughout human history. The second way this miniseries can be helpful is to expose a non-Bible-reader to some biblical themes. And though the series may be a good start, but it is by no means sufficient to understand God's redemptive plan, nor is it a suitable substitute for actually opening God's Word and personally reading it.

There are many incorrect details and very much artistic license taken on biblical history. Others have detailed the many flubs, including Andy Naselli, a blogger I enthusiastically endorse. I jokingly offered a bounty of $1 per identified error to men at church. If I had actually been serious, many could have used the prize to purchase their own copy of the show and had change left over for snacks. Despite these issues, some of the extra-biblical interpretation was moving. For instance, I found myself weeping when Jesus called Matthew, even if Matthew 9:9 wasn't the final screenplay (that one scene makes the purchase worthwhile to me).

My hesitation in endorsing The Bible Miniseries comes from two problems that I consider gravely serious:

1. After the resurrection, both Peter and Stephen say that Jesus "did not die."

It felt as though the bogeyman came and punched me in the gut as I heard these pillars of the church misspeak on an important theological truth. Producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett severely missed par when they allowed those statements. Jesus did die, and he had to die. Romans 6 shows what Jesus accomplished with his death: that sin would die and that death would die as we are buried and raised with Christ. If Jesus did not truly die, then he did not truly conquer sin and death and hell. In the same vein as Paul in 1 Cor 15:17, "If Christ [did not die on the cross], your faith is futile and you are still in your sins."

Perhaps the scripting can be forgiven since Jesus was shown to have actually died. But since there is so much biblical confusion and actual heresy that has followed this train of thought (saying that Jesus did not actually die), hearing an apostle and deacon say those false words is a deadly blow to the veracity of this show. This issue is overshadowed, though, by a far more egregious problem:

2. The story-line misses the point about WHY Jesus had to die

In reflecting back on the portrayed life of Jesus, what is made clear is that Jesus died to calm political tensions. Even if the interpretation isn't strictly from the pages of Scripture, they're probably true reasons and a part of the process that led to Jesus' death. Acts 2:23 shows that man played his part in the death of Jesus, but we're left wondering, "What was the point of all this?" If the television series answers for itself, it seems as if the vague answer, "Change the world." But how?!

The real answer, the point The Bible Miniseries missed, is that Jesus changed the world in his death and resurrection by being a ransom, a propitiation, an atonement. Man is wicked. The series showed this graphically, and it's one of those biblical truths we know deep in our hearts. We deserve God's wrath. But Jesus Christ, the Son of God, absorbed the wrath of God on the cross, satisfying justice and clothing us in the perfect righteousness of Jesus' life.

Jesus didn't change the world so that billions of people would run around on this planet to be his Facebook Friend. Jesus changed the world by changing hearts--by breathing life into the spiritually dead soul and giving Christians a hope of the resurrection and an eternity in loving relationship with God our Creator.

So, it's okay to watch this TV miniseries. And if it promotes discussion around the Bible and encourages people to actually dust off and crack open the holy book, then I might even consider this show a success. But it can't stop with the television screen. It needs to move to the pages of God's Word, and then that truth needs to move into our hearts. My encouragement would be to open up and read the gospel of Mark, and then find a Christian to discuss it.

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