A.D. – The Degradation Continues Episode 8

When I watched Episode 8 the first time, I almost turned it off after the first five minutes. It began so badly I might have titled this episode something like ‘The Degradation Picks Up Speed’. I started watching it again today, this time more attentively and listening for a few things Pastor Ted Giese mentioned in his podcast review at Issues, Etc., which you can find here. I think the Pastor would give me good marks for listening ‘carefully’ (as he put it) since I had indeed picked up on some of the same specific things he discussed and found problematic, both historically and biblically inaccurate.

Here’s the play-by-play and a caution – it might make you dizzy.

The episode opens with Caiaphas telling a Temple soldier that he will be accompanying Saul and his party to Damascus from Jerusalem.

Now to Pilate’s palace and a morning after scene with Caligula and Agrippa in the middle of the previous night’s debauchery artifacts. Pilate’s wife Claudia is incensed at the sight.

Over to Saul’s departure from Jerusalem, which was conveniently witnessed by a small boy who reported Saul’s activity to Peter and the gang hiding out in a cellar, with a couple of the disciples feeling like cowards for Phillip having left for Samaria alone.

Back to the palace, where Mary Magdalene (MM) meets Joanna and tells her Jesus is alive. Although A.D. is mostly from Acts, Joanna is only actually mentioned a couple of times in the book of Luke and presented as the “wife of Chuza, steward of Herod,” that is, Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. The Joanna of the latest episode seems to be patterned after Joanna in Luke. Nevertheless, MM and J appear several more time together in Ep. 8.

Back to Saul motoring on foot toward Damascus for a moment and then back to the palace where Claudia is commiserating with Tiberius. At this point Tiberius extends an offering for a posting of Pilate to Rome, to the delight of Claudia. The stipulation is that Pilate would play a part in separating Caligula and Agrippa.

Back to Saul and company sitting around a campfire at night and Saul complaining about the followers of Christ.

Back to Jerusalem to see the Disciples leaving the cellar, no doubt because Saul has left town.

Next we have a scene in which Agrippa and Caligula are relaxing in a sauna when Pilate enters and ends up almost slitting Caligula’s throat because of “C’s” insults.

Back to Saul on the road to Damascus (feel like a tennis ball yet?). The Temple soldier’s horse seems to get frightened about something and collapses, throwing off the soldier. The soldier ends up leading the horse, who is still skittish about something.

Back to the palace where Pilate is complaining about Caligula and Claudia relays the offer for a post in Rome for helping separate C & A.

Now the scene changes to where Phillip is baptizing in Samaria and Peter and the gang show up. Everyone is really ecstatic. Of course, Simon is hanging around with his assistant. In this scene Phillip blurts out “Today we commit ourselves to Jesus”. (as if reuniting with P & the boys prompted it).

Back to the palace again where we find Joanna under suspicion. MM and Joanna’s husband come to her defense. Agrippa hits on Joanna but is busted by Herodias (Agrippa’s sister), who tells him to leave her alone.

Back to Saul on the road to Damascus. He argues with the temple soldier. Clouds move over and the sky darkens. A glowing Jesus, who also seems to be giving off a mist of some sort. Saul is blinded and told to go to Damascus. Pauls screams at Jesus “What do you want me to do?” and is helped to his feet and led off to Damascus, now blind.

In Damascus now – a street scene. Barnabas overhears a conversation about Saul being in Damascus and goes off to alert Ananias.

Back to Samaria where Simon the sorcerer is sharing his ‘testimony’ of how he was baptized and wants to hang out with the disciples.

Over to Damascus where Barnabas is telling Ananias of Saul’s arrival in Damascus.

Back to Samaria where Peter and John are preaching in the street where is the laying on of hands and giving of the Holy Spirit. Many are healed, some without the laying on of hands, apparently suddenly having faith and being healed. John preaches that people are to repent, have faith, and ‘accept’ Jesus into their lives.

Meanwhile, back in the palace, Tiberius hands Pilate the official orders to a post in Rome, C & A are separated by Tiberius leaving Jerusalem, taking Caligula with him. C & A are really mad.

Back in Samaria, Simon tries to buy the Holy Spirit, is chastised by Peter and slain by God, seemingly in the same manner as Ananias and his wife in an earlier episode. Peter actually pleads with God so spare Simon’s life.

Back in the palace Agrippa catches Joanna praying and Claudia is having night dreams and visions.

Back in Samaria Jesus appears to Ananias and tells him to find Saul in the street called Straight. Over to Paul, who rips off his eye bandages and cries out for Ananias. Ananias finds Saul and heals him.

Back in the palace, Joanna is brought into ‘court’ about her praying. Her husband says she has fits now and again and MM says she will watch over her.

Back in Damascus, Saul (now Paul?) testifies to his companions that he saw Jesus, wants to make amends and will be baptized. He asks his companions to also be baptized.

Caligula assassinated Tiberius in Rome and goes back to Jerusalem, where at the end of the episode he revokes Pilate’s posting to Rome and demands obeisance as the new Emperor.

Next we see Paul, Ananias and Barnabas where Barnabas is suspicious of Paul, but becomes really happy when Paul is baptized and ‘accepts’ Jesus. Ananias tells him he has been chosen to preach among the Gentiles.

Back to Jerusalem where the Temple soldier has returned and tells Caiphas of Saul’s conversion. Paul shows up at the temple doors and against objections of Barnabas and enters to preach.

Caligula’s return to Jerusalem speech and end of episode.

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I found it interesting that we are introduced to what is termed by some as ‘decision theology’ or ‘decisionism’, meaning that in the process of a person’s salvation/coming to faith is ‘accepting’ Jesus into one’s heart/life. An individual ‘accepting’ Jesus with a free-will decision is the final determining act that results in salvation. In other words, Jesus died to make possible the salvation of men, but it is the free-will decision of men that seals the deal. This is contrary to scripture that tells us that salvation is not of man’s will but is by God’s mercy (Rom 9:16).

Sadly, decisionism seems to be a prevailing theology in today’s evangelicalism. However a meritorious act by man cannot/will not bring about salvation, as it is not only clearly spoken against, we are also told that salvation is by grace through faith (both of which are gifts), so that no one can boast.

I’ll say no more at the moment, but leave you with food for thought.

Expository Preaching: Cheating & Easy?

At least that is what Andy Stanley said in a recent interviewclip_image002
when asked what he thought about preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible. That is his first of two reasons why he does not believe in expository preaching.

It is obvious that Andy Stanley has never preached verse by verse through any book of the Bible because if he had, he would never make that statement. It is a challenge to give the true and real meaning of the text as intended by the author and as understood by the original recipients when you have to consider such things as historical background, the meanings of the original languages, the literary context, etc.

What is cheating because it is easy is what Andy engages in, topical sermons where you find verses to hang on your petty human thinking so that you meet the “felt needs” of people.

“In what more resembles “sermonettes for Christianettes”, casual discourses are becoming increasingly focused on massaging “felt needs” rather than allowing the biblical text to expose real needs.” – Steve Lawson(Famine in the Land)

Furthermore Andy does not believe in verse by verse preaching because that is not how you grow people. Andy is right. Ok now, just breathe for a moment and recuperate from what you just read. Andy is right in that simply preaching the Word is not how any person grows people. If you want to grow people, then follow Andy’s pattern. But if you want God to grow people, follow the pattern of the early church.

So how did the early church grow?

Answer: The conviction of the Holy Spirit and the sovereign call of God:

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.” – Acts 2:37–41

Answer: Simply the Lord:

And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:47

Answer: The Word of God

“But many of those who had heard the word believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.” – Acts 4:4

“And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.” – Acts 6:7

And why did the word of God continue to increase?

“And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” – Acts 6:2-4

Andy Stanley must consider himself above the early apostles who considered it “not right” to give up preaching the Word. Instead of devoting himself to the ministry of the Word like the early apostles, Andy has devoted himself to “growing people” through marketing the seeker-sensitive way.

It would behoove Andy Stanley, and anyone else who is not committed to expounding the Scripture verse by verse, to heed the following prophetic words!

“To an alarming extent the glory is departing from the pulpit. The basic reason for this gloomy condition is obvious. That which imparts the glory has been taken away from the center of so much of our modern preaching and placed on the periphery. The Word of God has been denied the throne and given a subordinate place. Where such exposition and authoritative declaration of the Word of God are abandoned, Ichabod, the glory has departed, must be written over the preacher and over the pulpit from which he preaches.” – Merrill Unger

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HT: No Compromise Radio

‘A.D. The Bible Continues’: Fiction and Fact

From CT magazine:

In the seventh episode, the historical fiction overwhelms the text.

Peter Chattaway/ May 19, 2015

Alissa’s Note: A.D. The Bible Continues began airing on Easter Sunday, and during its run, Peter Chattaway recaps episodes as they air. Recaps involve spoilers, especially if you’re not familiar with the Bible story.

Episode 7: ‘The Visit’

A.D. The Bible Continues has been walking a fine line from its very first episode, balancing its adaptation of the book of Acts with fictitious subplots that are based very loosely on secular history. But the seventh episode just might be the first one in which the fictitious storyline overwhelms the biblical material; there is so little to work with here that it’s hard to imagine anyone basing a Bible study on this installment. And to make matters worse, the historical fiction is utter bunk.

clip_image001The central storyline in this episode is the arrival of the emperor Tiberius and his nephew Caligula in Jerusalem. To say this whole subplot is preposterous would be an understatement; the historical Tiberius spent most of the last decade or so of his life living on the island of Capri, off the coast of Italy, and he could barely be motivated to visit the Italian mainland, much less any of the Roman empire’s more distant territories.

What’s more, even if Tiberius was inclined to visit Pontius Pilate in person, it is doubtful that he would have made the trip inland, through hostile territory, towards Jerusalem; it would have made more sense to do business in Caesarea, the administrative center on the Mediterranean coast.

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The episode actually hints at all these things, however inadvertently: Tiberius tells Pilate Judea is a "minor province," which makes you wonder why he thought it worthy of a personal visit in the first place, especially if he is thinking of removing Pilate from his post, while Pilate’s wife Claudia tells Tiberius the best thing about Jerusalem is that it is only "one day’s journey to our home on the coast." So why not meet there, then?

Anyone familiar with the legends and history surrounding these characters will also marvel at some of the missed opportunities here. For example, around this time, back in Italy, Tiberius had just executed a traitor named Sejanus who appears to have been an associate of Pilate’s; you might think this would give Pilate all sorts of extra reasons to be apprehensive about Tiberius’s visit, but the episode never brings it up.

Similarly, there is ">a legend that traces the origins of coloured Easter eggs to an encounter between Mary Magdalene and the emperor Tiberius—so when the Mary Magdalene of this series gets a job working in Pilate’s palace, just in time for Tiberius’s visit, you wonder if this episode might play on this legend somehow. But no, it doesn’t (and Cornelius, who recognizes Mary Magdalene, tells her never to come back to the palace, so that might be the end of that).

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The biblical section of the episode is fairly brief, and covers Philip’s visit to Samaria and his evangelism there, including the baptism of Simon the Magician, who wonders why becoming a Christian hasn’t instantly given him the power to perform miracles like the ones Philip has performed (Acts 8:4-13). But this subplot is left hanging, and will presumably be resolved when Simon meets Peter in some future episode.

Meanwhile, Peter and the other apostles are left spinning their wheels: they gather, they hide, they even confront Saul in the street when he’s alone, but nothing comes of the encounter. The impression you get is that the filmmakers wanted to give these characters something to do instead of just forgetting about them for an episode or two, the way they seem to have forgotten all about the Zealots for now. But the scenes with Peter and the others end up feeling like just so much narrative padding.

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Saul, meanwhile, continues his persecution of the Christians even after Caiaphas tells him to cut it out for the duration of Tiberius’s visit. (Caligula, for his part, doesn’t mind the mayhem in the streets and personally chokes a Christian to death.) The episode ends with Caiaphas tricking Saul into thinking that Peter has gone to Damascus, just to get Saul out of the city. That’s not exactly how Saul leaves Jerusalem in the Bible, but in any case, it seems pretty clear that we’ll be witnessing a major turning point in the next episode.

A.D. The Degradation Continues

Episode 6 Highlights, in order:

1. Stephen’s mother has a fit as the wrapped body of Stephen is carried through the streets of Jerusalem.

2. Paul shows up at the desert camp of the Christians and preaches against the new movement.

3. Stephen is buried.

4. Caiphas discusses the pain the Jews are experiencing with his father-in-law(?) who wants Caiphas to stop persecuting the Christians.

5. Back to Paul preaching in the Christian camp against the new movement. Peter and Paul face off and argue about prophecy.

6. Paul is invited to sit on the Sanhedrin by Gamaliel(?).

7. Caiphas converses with Herod and gives him a gift, I guess demonstrating the political environment.

8. Paul tells Caiphas wife he has been preaching against the ‘movement’ in the Christian camp.

9. Mary Magdalene sternly counsels Peter in the Camp.

10. Paul asks Caiphas for ‘authority’ to continue preaching against Christianity.

11. Peter and John return to Jerusalem to preach in the city.

12. Paul shows up with ‘authority’ to continue his persecution, Paul and Peter face off again and Christians are arrested by Jewish religious leaders.

13. Pilate and his wife discuss Caiphas and Pilate wonders about the closeness of his wife’s relationship with Caiphas’ wife.

14. Pilate prays to ‘Minerva’ concerning who should be high priest.. Some interesting coin flipping takes place and Caiphas continues as high priest.

15. Paul gets sealed documents authorizing his persecution of the Christians, shows up again in the streets (better dressed), recruits a mob and distributes weapons and armor. They invade Christian homes, beating folks and making arrests. Paul and Peter face off again.

16. Paul and his mob head for the Christian camp. Everyone leaves, but Peter stays. Oil is poured in a trench that encircles the camp, that seems to have been dug for just such an occasion. When Paul & Co are inside the camp Peter sets the oil on fire, glares and shouts at Pauls, and leaves the scene. The end.

In terms of biblically accuracy, this might have been the worst of the lot so far. While it’s true to the biblical account that Paul had papers of authority to persecute Christians, the entire rest of the episode was pretty much ‘filling in the blanks’ left out of the Bible.

Why do I call it ‘The Degradation Continues’? Maybe because this entire series has been an adventure in missing the point of the message of the Gospel. My God and Savior deserves better.

Christian Military Fellowship

Christian Military Fellowship is a unique ministry IN the military rather than just TO the military. I’ve been connected to CMF for a little over 30 years. They connect military believers worldwide, have a powerful prayer network, and give away Christian growth resources, including the discipleship material that followed me wherever I went and that I now use when God provides the opportunity to help young soldiers grow in their faith. If you have ever been in the military, or know anyone currently serving, would you pass along a good link?  The most unique thing about CMF is the lack of paid field staff, like larger ministries. The field staff is made up of men and women in uniform sharing the gospel and making disciples. That’s one of the reasons I connected to CMF – to become a government paid ‘missionary’ in uniform. I would be able to take the gospel to places a Chaplain might never be able to set foot.

via Christian Military Fellowship.