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The Word Made . . . for Television?

Is there any greater book than the Bible? Is there any greater treasure than that Truth which has been handed to the Christian by God? Is there anything more relevant, more life-changing, more convicting, more comforting, than the very Word of God. No, beloved, there is not.


Photo: Wikimedia

Yet, for reasons that far exceed the rationale of the regenerate, there are those who seek to twist and change this great Word so that it might be more relevant, more exciting, more enjoyed by those who stand as enemies of its Author. In this sad and unfortunate quest for more, the Truth becomes untruth and any benefit that may be derived from this Word is lost.

One may rightly inquire, what more could possibly be desired? Is it adventure the reader seeks? What greater adventure is there than the story of a nation wandering in the wilderness for 40 years before being allowed to enter the land promised to them by God? What young boy does not delight to hear his father read to him the story of David and Goliath? Oh, yes, the Bible has adventure.

Perhaps you are of a more lyrical bent. Why, there is an entire book of poems to be enjoyed in the Psalms! And far from sharing thoughts of temporal whims, these Psalms proclaim and praise the very God Who inspired them.

Is it love you seek? Then that search is over when you open the pages of Scripture, for it reveals not a fleeting version of man's emotion, but the greatest love ever demonstrated: the love of a holy and perfect God extended to sinners.
 

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:13-14)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17)

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom. 5:6-11)

This great book is no ordinary tome to be perused, enjoyed once and then placed on the shelf for a rainy day. No, this is the very Word of God, and while it contains all of those elements described above, it is not to be enjoyed piecemeal, but in its entirety as it tells the story of redemption through Jesus Christ the Lord.

This splendid, God-breathed Word is not merely a thing to be observed, but a thing to be obeyed. It is sufficient for all matters pertaining to life and godliness.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)

Penned by men, yet inspired by the Holy Spirit, all that is contained within the pages of Scripture is true and trustworthy.

For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Pet. 1:16-21)

And so this magnificent work, this great gift from a holy God to His children, cannot be improved upon. Yes, to enjoy it, to learn from it, to be convicted by its truths, to be overjoyed by the salvation of which it speaks, one must open it, one must read it, one must understand it. But, oh, what reward the Christian gleans upon immersing himself in the pages of the words of his Lord, even if for a few moments!

Why, then, would anyone seek to enhance this already perfect Word? A valid reason cannot be imagined, except perhaps that one desires to share what he thinks Scripture should teach rather than what the Word truly says.

Here one cannot help but think of The History Channel's upcoming miniseries, The Bible, set to air on 3 March 2013. Praised by men such as Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes, the film is being called 'epic', which is indeed quite a claim. Produced by Mark Burnett of Survivor fame and his wife, Touched By An Angel star Roma Downey, already books, studies, devotionals and other resources are available based upon this production.

The FAQ section of The Bible website answers a question about which many may be wondering:

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Not only, then, were seeker-driven and Word Faith pastors such as Warren, Osteen and Jakes consulted, but others of questionable convictions like Erwin McManus, Craig Groeschel, Gabe Lyons, Samuel Rodriguez and others. Time and space prevent from examining here each of these names in depth.

 
The producers of The Bible even have consulted with Tom Peterson, founder and president of Catholics Come Home. The inclusion of Peterson is most interesting when one considers that the Roman Catholic Church preaches a false and deceptive gospel, having anathematized the true gospel as found in Scripture.
 
The official Board of Advisors for the miniseries also includes such troubling names as Richard Mouw and Miroslav Volf. One cannot help but wonder, with the consultation and input of so many differing theological views (albeit most of them liberal), can this production actually be an accurate representation of inspired Scripture?

Having viewed an extended preview (50 minutes in length) of the production, this writer would honestly like to ask the producers and consultants of this miniseries: Was the Bible itself consulted, or was this written using vague memories from stories learned in Sunday School years ago?

While the film no doubt will engage its viewers, creative license most certainly has been used. This can be seen in the story of Abraham as he prepares to sacrifice Isaac, yet stopped by God at the last moment, he turns and sees a lamb standing next to a tree. All the while, Sarah is seen running and calling frantically for Isaac as though she knows what her husband is about to do. As God Himself, through Moses, tells this story, however, Abraham, upon being stopped by God, raises his eyes to see "a ram caught in the thicket by his horns" (Gen. 22:13), and Scripture offers no indication that Sarah engaged in such a frantic search for her son during this time. Some may consider this a minor issue, but if such a small and simple detail has not been accurately followed, what other errors may exist?

This same creative license is quite evident when Jesus calls Peter to be a disciple. Jesus asks Peter to "just give Me an hour, and I will give you a whole new life." Later, Jesus asks Peter to come with him so that He may make him a fisher of men, to which Peter asks, "What are we going to do?" Replies Jesus, "Change the world."

Looking at the synoptic gospels, both Matthew and Mark record few details regarding the call of Peter, though both note that Christ says to him and to Andrew his brother, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matt. 4:19; Mark 1:17). Luke shares more particulars, however the story recorded in Scripture differs greatly from that which was presented in this preview of The Bible miniseries:

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Similarly, in the film, the Apostle Paul, upon his dramatic conversion, is baptized by Ananias so that he may "change the world in [Jesus'] name." To be sure, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is life-changing, and the apostles may have turned the world upside down with their message (Acts 17:6–7), but the mission of the apostles, and of Christians throughout the ages, is to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins and salvation through Jesus Christ (Luke 24:47). Men are only saved one soul at a time, and though those souls are saved on this earth and in this life, Jesus Christ Himself declares that His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).

So the curious viewer of The Bible may ask, how does Scripture relay the exchange between Paul and Ananias?

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus. (Acts 9:10-19, emphasis added)

“And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’(Acts 22:12-16)

Ah, but what does all of this matter? It is, after all, merely a television miniseries. Indeed. But what does one do when a church decides to take this television miniseries, with its creative and dramatic licenses, and use it as the theme of a sermon series? Rick Warren has decided to do just that with his new sermon series, History Makers. Based upon the brief description of the series provided on the Saddleback blog, one may wonder if the focus of these sermons will be Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2), or man's selfish need to feel 'extraordinary'.

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Is this not the ideal illustration of the tragic state of the visible church today? To base one's sermons upon a television show that purports to be about the Bible rather than to preach from the Bible itself seems ignorant and insulting at best. The deceived, professing Christians of today, however, would much prefer to hear the twisted truth of the Bible that scratches their itching ears rather than to hear the piercing truth that actually is conveyed through Scripture.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, (2 Tim. 4:3)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13)

God did not share His Word so that it could be relegated to a cable television show to be enjoyed with popcorn and soda. He did not compose 66 books so that they could be contorted to soothe man's worldly notions. So if viewing The Bible miniseries, do so with the true Bible in hand, and do not place any trust in the workings of men or in a Jesus proclaimed from the screen. Trust rather in the true, living and sanctifying Word (John 17:17) and Jesus Christ who is that Word made flesh.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the LORD is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the LORD are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the LORD is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the LORD is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the LORD are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.
(Psalm 19:7-11)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)