Some Thoughts About “The Bible” Miniseries

5 Mar

boy_reading_bibleThere has been a lot in the news lately about the new Bible miniseries that debuted on the History Channel Sunday night. The topic was trending on Yahoo yesterday and the series will undoubtedly continue to generate much interest in the next few weeks.

From what I understand, the series is produced by actress Roma Downey and her husband Mark Burnett, who is a well-known producer of many popular reality TV shows. Airing over ten hours, the series attempts to do what most Bible movies have not done, tell the overarching story of the Scriptures. Since this series is getting so much attention I think it is worthwhile to consider how to best respond as believers to this program.

First, a disclaimer. I do not have cable or satellite any longer so I will not be able to watch the program. So I am not going to be offering a critique of the first episode or anything like that. What I am proposing are some general guidelines to consider if you watch the series.

Now, what thoughts might guide us as we consider this series? First, we should not expect this series to usher in some kind of nationwide revival. Too many times we let ourselves buy into the hype, whether we’re living with purpose or wearing a bracelet or watching a Mel Gibson movie about the crucifixion or praying a Jabez prayer. So much in Christian culture is just like secular culture, it is market-driven and consumer-driven. Even really good stuff can be marketed to death. It is kind of scary to me that a book like Radical by David Platt, which is about sacrificial discipleship, can spawn a kind of cottage industry of products and videos and the like. It’s not Platt’s fault and the book is in many ways very good but the marketing in our Christian subculture is sometimes over the top. I am not saying that none of the things I referenced above have any value. I’m not saying that they weren’t helpful to some, it’s just that these trends are not all they are cracked up to be. So my first caution is to not give in to the hype.

On the other hand, let yourself through this series be drawn up into the wonder of God’s story in the Scriptures.
I have heard that the production values are excellent and that the telling of the stories is pretty good. Visualizing these stories can help us enter into them more fully. So by all means enjoy this series if you are going to be watching.

Use this series as an impetus to reading the Bible.
Take time to read the stories covered in the miniseries and other parts of the Bible as well. What if, for every hour of the miniseries you watched, you spent an hour in God’s Word? I think if you did that, you would be greatly enriched spiritually.

Be cautious about watching this movie with unbelievers until you have seen it all yourself. I would not want to expose someone to a movie about the Bible that I had not seen myself already, because you just never know how essential issues might be handled. You would hope that a movie about the Bible wouldn’t teach salvation by works, for example, but you just never know until you have actually seen the movie yourself. So if you are thinking of using this series as any kind of evangelistic tool, I would urge caution until you have seen it all. Otherwise, you may find yourself spending all your time correcting misconceptions rather than sharing the truth.

Finally, consider these questions as you watch . . .

Who is the main character in the movie? Is it the story of God and His work in the world, or is it the story of the greatness of people? Since the Bible is focused primarily on what God is doing as He works in and through people, a good Bible movie would have a similar focus.

Is salvation portrayed as a gift of God’s grace through the work of His Son Jesus received by faith, or is it viewed as something we earn through what we do or through the quality of our faith?

Does the story in the movie deviate in any significant ways from the account in the Bible? Are these deviations stylistic to enhance or clarify the drama? Are any deviations theologically significant?

Is the selection of stories geared toward conveying the big picture of God’s work in His Word? Or is the selection of stories geared toward the more spectacular stories so that the focus is on using incredible special effects in order to move people visually more than touching them spiritually?

None of the questions I have listed above is necessarily a reason to not watch the program. The last thing I would want to do is be one of those sour people who want to boycott something like this because it may be flawed or because I may disagree with the portrayal at some point. Every attempt to present the Bible on screen will be flawed. So I want to encourage you to be charitable but also careful as you watch this series. And most of all, go to the Word itself and let your love for God grow as you see His mercy, power and goodness on each page.

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