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In 2004, Hollywood discovered the potential behind movies based on the Biblical account. Mel Gibson's, "The Passion of the Christ" domestically grossed $370,782,930 at the box office. According to BoxOfficeMojo, this is the 25th highest ranking movie of all time. The movie's success generated excitement in the air. Exhilarated commentators hypothesized about the potential that Biblically-based movies could generate in the future. With this newfound discovered audience, talk of making plans for more Biblically-based movies started to float in the air.
Fast-foward to 2013, The History Channel experiences success with it's Biblically-based 10-hour miniseries, "The Bible". There's no wonder social media was filled with comments about the program considering it averaged 10 million viewers throughout the weeks it aired. The program's appeal, however, was by no accident. Roma Downey, a producer involved with the making thereof, sat down with Bill O'Reilly for an interview. She told O'Reilly how they made the movie so that it would be, "cool", and appeal to people like "impatient teenagers who rarely read"(Nilsen). The movie, in spite of its phenomenal viewership, had its fair share of critics that didn't appreciate some liberties and inaccuracies portrayed accordingly. It seems that some people have the audacity to expect a Biblical story to stay fairly close to - well, the Bible.
In 2014, we are about to add two more movies to the shelves of the Biblically-based cinematic library. Debuting, February 28th, we will see the story of Jesus as it is told through, "Son of God". A month later, March 28th, a blockbuster cast starring Russell Crowe, Ema Watson, and Jennifer Connelly will grace the big screen to tell the story of, "Noah". Both movies are receiving their fair share of promotion and both presumably (on my part) have the potential to do rather well at the box office.
It will be interesting to see how Hollywood will treat these Biblically-based movies. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Roma Downey, the film maker of "Son of God" says;
"We prayed -- from the beginning of this project, we prayed that we would -- that we would be able to tell the story effectively, make those emotional connections, and tell the story truthfully."
If Roma Downey's hope comes to fruition, it will be wonderful to witness the "Son of God" give an accurate Biblical account as it displays the Gospel for all to see. If, however on the other hand, Downey's goal goes down in flames; and instead of seeing a true account of the Gospel, we see a perversion designed to tickle ears, entertain Barbarians, and make the Bible "cool"; it will be a disappointment for all that had higher hopes of glorifying God.
As the time of this writing, the internet is already filling up with discussions about these movies prior to their release. Are they going to be be true to scripture or are they going to be blasphemies? I recall reading a word of warning somewhere telling others to see one of these movies before exposing their children to them - in case they are full of error, etc. No matter how these movies treat scripture, however, I see Biblically-based movies as a ministerial opportunity. If a movie handles scripture appropriately, then we can use it as a springboard into a discussion about the Gospel when discussing it with others. If a movie is laden with error, then we can use it as a springboard into a discussion about the Gospel when discussing it with others. By highlighting the strengths of these movies or by condemning the errors found in these movies, we can advance the Gospel one way or another.
In order to bring the light of the Gospel, however, it is imperative for us to use righteous judgment and to discern the word appropriately. In spite of some objections coming out of the bleachers that tell us that its not our place to "judge", we must persevere in testing each spirit to see if it comes from God. Unfortunately, some people never read the Bible. The only thing they know about scripture is from they hear others say; from what they read in comments on the internet, or from what they see take place in the movies. Being ambassadors of God, it will be our place to correct these people in love. These movies can prove to be wonderful opportunities to teach discernment, expose error and to give others grace as we share the love of God with them through His word.
One last thing to consider may seem to be obvious but worth stating nevertheless. No movie; regardless of how well made it is, no matter of the star-filled cast it contains, no matter how many tickets it sells at the boxoffice; is a suitable replacement for God's written word that we find in the Bible. The temptation for some may be to use these movies in lieu of scripture or Bible reading. It is my hope that this never takes place in our churches. With short attention spans, cinema is much more exciting than a written word on a page. What we shouldn't forget, however, is that the word on the page is the living word of God. This is the word that transforms lives and the word that we transmit when we broadcast the Gospel. If the movies encourage others to immerse themselves into the word, it will be a day of rejoicing. If on the other hand, the movies tempt others to learn Hollywood scripture as opposed to the real thing, it will be a travesty.
I am inclined to see each movie and evaluate them according to scripture. There may be others, however, that for whatever reason cannot watch these movies in good conscience. To them, I say, God bless you - stay true to your convictions so long as they are being used to glorify God. One man eats food for the glory of God and another abstains for the glory of God. The important thing is that each is doing what he does, for the glory of God.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Wade C. Davis