Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Bible According to Hollywood

In light of the "Son of God" film out in theaters, I thought it would be fitting to post a portion of the
article by The Berean Call called: The Bible According to Hollywood. My motivation isn't to be a "debby downer" but to bring to light the importance of staying true to God's revealed Word. If you truly love the Lord and His Word, you wouldn't want Him being misrepresented in any way. That is my motivation here.

Question: How does a biblical movie satisfy the necessity of biblical accuracy?
Answer: It doesn’t, and it can’t—and the reasons are many. Here’s a short list:

1) A movie takes what God has directly communicated in the Scriptures and makes the visual translation of what He said dependent upon what is in the minds and the craft of a film production crew (writers, director, cameramen, art director, actors, and a host of others).
2) Other constraints that determine what shows up on the screen have to do with budget, locations, weather, and the inevitable “Murphy’s law” of filmmaking, which states, “If anything can go wrong, it will.” Those are hardly “let’s be true to the Scriptures” considerations.
3) Any movie must begin with a screenplay. The Bible cannot be translated into a biblically accurate movie because nearly all movies need dialogue, which the Bible provides only in limited situations. Hence, the screenwriter (whether he is a believer or not) has to supply the dialogue to maintain story continuity, which means that he must add to the Scriptures, thus including false information. “Adding to the Scriptures” is forbidden by God’s Word (Proverbs:30:6; Revelation:22:18-19). A few such productions try to avoid some of the translation problems by incorporating only those words that are found in a particular Bible version. This is greatly misleading because it gives the false impression that the production is more accurate. More accurate than what? A movie is, first and foremost, a visual medium. When a person exits a theater after watching a powerful movie, I can almost guarantee that it will be the images that he will leave with, not the words.
4) “Biblical” movies are an assemblage of false images and scenes. Not one frame is accurate. Yet The Passion of the Christ was lauded by many highly regarded evangelical leaders as “the most accurate biblical movie yet.” Yet ?—as if the film medium were capable of a progressive movement toward truth? No! Suppose that I were to watch a video by someone who claims that he has produced a documentary featuring my family. After watching the video, I tell him that he has gotten a few things right but that everything else is wrong: yes, my wife’s name is Peggy; no, she doesn’t weigh 300 pounds. Yes, I have five children; no, they are not all girls. Yes, my kids are excellent athletes; no, they are not on the synchronized swimming team.                                                      
I’ve been told all too often that my concern for accuracy misses the fact that God can “use” these movies. Some have said, “Admittedly there are problems, but…but…the Lord can use a movie to get people interested in reading the Bible,” which, by the way, was a stated goal of the History Channel’s The Bible . Should I likewise conclude that the inaccurate documentary of “my family” might get some people interested in knowing my real family? Would they be disappointed that my kids are all very good runners but that my three sons are not huge fans of the “sport” of synchronized swimming? What happens when the multimillions who might be motivated to read the Bible because of all the Hollywood drama, effects, dialogue, and compelling music realize that it’s not in the “book version”?                                                    
A similar situation occurred when the Bibleman (a character playing off the popularity of super heroes Batman, Superman, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.) video series and tour, through the “wisdom” of marketing, attempted to get pre-teens excited to read the Bible. They found that if the kids even bothered to look at the Bible at all, they were disappointed at not finding the fleshly excitement in the written Word that they had loved in the video.
5) There are many more aspects unique to the medium of film that work against the translation of the Bible into that means of communication. Through this art form, one is attempting to convince the audience that what they are seeing is believable. Shooting a scene in the place where the actual biblical event took place may help its accuracy, but often, if that location doesn’t quite satisfy what the film director believes an audience will accept, then it’s “on to a more ‘believable’ location.” For example, The Passion of the Christ , featuring Christ’s crucifixion in Israel, was shot mostly in Italy.
6) This point may be the most serious error. Those who have played the character of Jesus in Bible-based movies from the last century on have all portrayed false Christs. Many spoke words that Jesus never spoke and misrepresented the character of the biblical Jesus. In a made-for-TV movie, as one example, Judas questions the Jesus character regarding his actions in clearing the moneychangers out of the Temple. Jesus’ reply was that he blew it. This is a misrepresentation of the perfect, sinless God/Man. Yet, tragically, that—along with all the other misrepresentations of Jesus—are the only representations that millions upon millions around the world may ever see or hear about the One who came to save them from their sins.
7) Finally, the problem isn’t only for the lost worldwide, but it is also a stumbling block for many evangelical Christians, even those with a reasonable amount of biblical discernment. I spoke at a conference about a year after The Passion of the Christ had its theatrical release. As I sat chatting with a group of young adult believers, Mel Gibson’s movie somehow became the topic of our conversation. I listened, somewhat uncomfortably, to their glowing praises of the film and wondered how I might make an important point without seeming to be “preaching” to them. Then the thought came to me, Why not give these somewhat biblically literate Christians a Bible quiz of sorts? Having seen the movie a couple of times and written a book on the subject, it was easy for me to describe eight scenes in detail. The quiz part was, “Tell me which of the scenes are found in the Bible and which are not.” The consensus of the group was that five were biblical and three were not. To their shock, they only got three correct; all eight were either from Mel Gibson’s movie-making mind or the mystical nun’s book ( The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ ) to which Gibson had looked for more content in creating his script. I have great concern for our upcoming visual generation.
Ignorance of the visual medium with regard to so-called biblical productions is a serious problem among evangelicals of all generations. Without the support of evangelicals, whose churches bought out theatres so that their sheep and guests could view the film, Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ would have been a box-office flop. In Showtime for the Sheep? , I could have filled nine pages with endorsements from evangelical leaders for this production that Gibson described to Christianity Today as “his very Marian movie.”
Yet the lack of discernment continues to abound. Here is a list of some of the advisors/endorsers for the History Channel’s The Bible , most of whom were thrilled with the series’ “biblical accuracy” or “bringing the Bible to life”: Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, Nicky Gumbel, Luis Palau, Tony Campolo, Erwin McManus, T. D. Jakes, Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals, and Jim Daly of Focus on the Family (details of their endorsements, as well as more endorsers can be found at http://www.outreach.com/the-bible/about.aspx).
As overwhelming as this lack of discernment may seem in the church today, it has only just begun as Hollywood continues with its mistranslation of the Bible for Christians. Pray that the Lord’s people will take to heart His words of warning: “Take heed that no man deceive you.” Only the habit of daily reading God’s Word and living it out will equip us with the discernment necessary to avoid being deceived.   TBC


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