“The Chosen’ – from the Producer’s Viewpoint

If you would like to find out more about ‘The Chosen’ series, there’s an interesting article here. It’s actually an interview with Dallas Jenkins, the producer. Here’s one of the questions he was asked, along with his answer:

How would you contrast The Chosen with other dramatizations of the ministry of Christ?

Jenkins: A lot of Jesus projects are done like a docudrama. They take you from Bible verse to Bible verse, miracle to miracle, story to story — and they’re not intended to get deep into the people with whom Jesus surrounded himself.

Our show really digs in to its characters, making it as human and real as possible. Simon Peter was married, so let’s explore what married life was like back then. We know Simon’s personality from the text. How does it translate when he is at home with his wife?

One day on set, we were shooting a scene where they argue as a married couple. I remember saying to some people around me: “I’ve watched all the Bible shows, and I’ve never seen a married couple fight. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a married couple kiss in a Bible show. Or even a married couple at all in those shows!”

We’re taking the time to get deep into these stories. That’s the beauty of doing a multi-season show, as opposed to a 90-minute movie or a small miniseries. Then when the redemption or victory comes, you’ve had time to feel the desperation and need for it.

Note that the producer’s purpose was to “get deep into the people with whom Jesus surrounded himself”. It appears that this series will accomplish that purpose, and in all fairness, Episode 1 did just that. Having said that, the text of the Bible doesn’t go deep into the lives of the people who knew and surrounded Jesus. Therefore, much of the series has to come from ‘outside’ sources, from what we know of the history and culture of the day, as well as from the imaginations of the writers. I think that was done well also.

At the end of the day, the production value seems to be excellent, as is the ‘entertainment’ value. It would be interesting to find out how well it actually treats the redemption story.

At any rate, please don’t let me dissuade you from paying $30.00 to be able to view the entire series. If you want to discuss it, I’d be happy to host that discussion here at The Battle Cry, no matter what you think about it.

 

 

“The Chosen”– AngelVid TV Series

The Chosen is recently launched television drama based on the life of Jesus Christ. The series’ creators wanted to distinguish this new series from previous portrayals of Jesus by crafting a multi-season, episode-based story rather than a single film that depicts a single moment or attempts to depict his entire life. The series will portray Jesus “through the eyes of those who met him”.

When I first saw the Facebook advertisements, I confess I was not really interested in another film version of the life of Christ, for reasons I won’t explain here. They kept coming (thank you, Facebook algorithm). Even with an offer to watch the first episode for free was an insufficient inducement to dive in. Then I read some interesting Facebook comments, ranging from a couple that were extremely negative, to the majority that really loved the first episode, with some purchasing the next three episodes (more on that later).

So why not watch the free episode? So I did.

Here’s the opening disclaimer which was similar to those at the beginning of previous Bible based films.

“The Chosen is based on the true stories of the gospels of Jesus Christ. Some locations and timelines have been combined or condensed. Backstories and some characters or dialogue have been added.

However, all biblical and historical content and artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures. Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.”

The key phrases in the above disclaimer are “based on true stories”, “designed to support the truth and intention of scriptures”. “Viewers are encouraged to read the gospels.” might well have been followed by “….. if you are more interested in what is actually true”. Trust me.

If you hate spoilers, read no further.

The Episode 1 main biblical characters are Nicodemus, Peter & Andrew, Lilith/Mary Magdalene, Matthew, and Jesus of curse (at the very end of the episode). That they are actual characters in the Bible is definitely true. Most of what is told about them in the first episode is pretty much some of the material that was ‘added’ to the biblical account.

The episode follows three story lines. It begins with the Lilith/Mary Magdalene character as a small child who is often troubled in the night, and whose Father tells her to ‘read the words’, a reference to a passage in Isaiah. She appears off and on throughout the film, at the end having demons cast out by Jesus, but not as dramatically as the Jesus in the “Jesus, His Life” Mary Magdalene episode. I had to look up the ‘Lilith’ name, by which she is called until the very end when Jesus calls her ‘Mary’. Lilith was a winged female demon in Babylonian mythology. Her story actually appears in Hebrew mythology.

Next we see Nicodemus traveling down a dusty road with his wife, on his annual visit to Capernaum. It was during this visit that Nicodemus is called upon to perform an exorcism on a woman who was causing a lot of trouble. It was the Lilith character, and Nicodemus fails, setting up the deliverance by Jesus at the end of the episode.

We meet Peter and Andrew in an early form of ‘Fight Club’, or so it seems. They have a racket going. Peter does the fighting and Andrew controls much of the gambling going on. They are of course fishermen, but Roman taxes are driving them out of business. They are condemned by Nicodemus as unholy and wicked men because they go fishing on Shabbat.

Then we have Matthew, the much hated Hebrew tax collector. In the film, there is a scene in which Peter and Andrew appear at his tax collection window and they don’t have enough to pay their taxes and penalties, even though they filed numerous extensions (like with the IRS). The get out of paying (for now) because of a ‘deal’ made with Quintus, a Roman official.

Enough of the story lines. I left out a lot of the details, which were actually interesting, even though most of it was from the imagination of the writers. In the telling of the stories there was also a bit of well-planned suspense. It was hard to put things together during the film sequence, but if you know your Bible, you can see how things are tied together. The ending was intended to get you interested in watching more, for sure! If you like a good story, with some pretty good action, some suspense, and a good sound track, go for it – for a price

To ‘unlock’ the next episodes all you need to is pay $29.99 you can watch all of the episodes, get an exclusive DVD, a free devotional guide, and a FREE 3 month subscription to VidAngel, the streaming service hosting the multi-year series.

If you like this sort of entertainment, go for it. Judging by Facebook comments, may do. Some thought the first episode was REALLY good! One lady said she ‘was moved to tears’! I was hammered by one person who thought my saying I would review it for Biblical accuracy was being way too ‘negative’.

On the other hand, if you don’t think that wrapping a lot of fiction around characters of the Bible is appropriate for serious Christians, if you think that God’s written revelation to his children is worth far more than being used for entertainment purposes, don’t waste your money.

It’s up to you.

Turning Romans 8:28 into a Ball of Spaghetti

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I saw a Facebook post this morning that contained a short video clip, apparently taken from a Joel Osteen sermon, advertising Joel’s Podcast (available from iTunes). The above quotation is what he told anyone listening to the clip.

“On the other side of the difficulty is a new level of your destiny. If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good. Not some things, the good breaks, the promotion, but even the loss, the disappointment. The person that walked away, it wasn’t random, it was ordained by God.” – Joel Osteen

Although he didn’t quote any actual scripture passage, the obvious reference is to Romans 8:28, which claim that “all things work together for good.” Joel would have you believe that “If you keep the right attitude, all things will work for your good.”  Now that’s a nice thought, and a positive attitude (what Joel is teaching) helps, but is that what is actually taught in the Roman text? Let’s take a look, shall we?

 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

Joel maintains that:

1.  ALL things will work for your good and “the next level of your destiny” is the “good” (goal) for which all things work.

2.  All things are ordained by God, even the bad things.

What is true in the above? That all things work together for good and that God ordains all things.

What is NOT true? Well, just a couple of things.

1.  Joel is speaking to a very large audience, to every individual sitting in the former basketball arena turned into a ‘church’ (I use the term loosely), outlying ‘campuses’, as well as television/digital media viewers. The author of the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul, was speaking to a particular group of people, the Christians in Rome. He also spoke about a specific group of people, those who “love God and are the called according to His purpose.”  2. Joel defined the “good” in the “all things that work together for good”, as the next level of your destiny, even implying that since God ordains all things, He has ordained for you some sort of divine destiny, a concept NOWHERE taught in scripture.

He has a lot of company in that regard. There are countless faux preachers and teachers who make the Christian life all about us, and our personal aspirations and dreams for life in the here and now.

Scripture, however, tells us it is those who would give up their lives for His sake would find eternal life (Matthew 16:24–25; Mark 8:34–35), that the whole life of the Christian as a dying to self and living for and in Him who died for us (Galatians 2:20), and that if we want to be Jesus’ disciples we must DIE to self (Luke 14:27). Dear friends, these passages teach the exact opposite of searching for some personal ‘divine destiny’!

Sadly, the ‘divine destiny’ lie might be the most dangerous cancer eating away at today’s church. And it’s really not a new teaching at all. I think the journey to where we are now on began over 15 years ago with a book by a portly West Coast Pastor that was about finding your unique purpose in the world. That book began by saying “It’s not all about you,” but then talked ALL about you for the rest of the book! The mantra for much of American evangelicalism.

So what’s Romans 8:28-30 really about? I’m so glad you asked! Let’s look at it again.

28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Rom 8:28 – 30, ESV)

These passages are about God’s eternal purpose, NOT our temporal destinies! And anyone who teaches or preaches this dream destiny lie turns God’s eternal purpose on its head and has tricked thousands, if not millions of professing believers into dedicating their lives as Christians to pursuing their earthly ‘destinies’, and remaining trapped in this world, even as they are already citizens of a heavenly Kingdom and recipients of countless heavenly blessings!

Pray for all those who have been deceived. Prey also for Joel Osteen and all prosperity gospel preachers. They WILL be held accountable.

‘Jesus, His Life’ History Channel Series – One Blogger’s Observations

‘Jesus, His Life’ was a History channel multiple episode look at the life of Jesus, as told by the people in his life who were closest to him. Eight episodes were aired leading up to Easter told by Joseph, John the Baptist, Mary the Mother of Jesus, Caiaphas, Judas, Pilate, Mary Magdalene, and Peter.

 

I’m not going to reiterate all of the personal comments contained in the reviews we posted, but share three observations and try and answer one question

 

Observation 1

Pastor Gabe Hughes, whose review of the first episode strongly suggested that this series would miss the true message of the gospel – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, was right. There were only two significant mentions of sin in the series, at least that I could see, and I watched every episode. One commentator, Adam Marshak, told us, “John’s (the Baptist) message is simple; repent of your sins, receive Baptism, receive purification, and you will be saved.” Was he teaching ‘baptismal’ regeneration? If the answer is yes, he was presenting a false gospel, repudiated in both the Old and New Testaments. The second reference to sin was actually an excellent comment.  “There is nothing more important in Christianity than the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus defeats death, so he defeats sin, and his being raised to new life is about the promise to Christians that they too will be raised on the last day.” (Mark Goodacre)

 

Observation 2

The ‘gospel’ message presented was that Jesus was sent by God to save/fix everything that is wrong with the world, over and over again, by multiple commentators. In a word, ‘social justice’ is the gospel message delivered to the viewer. While matters of justice in society are addressed in the Bible, they are the natural result of Salvation, as believers are indwelt with the Holy Spirit and by that Spirit are urged to love & care for others in a myriad of ways.

 

Observation 3

In the episode covering the Last Supper, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many.”, using the Mark 4:24 reference. The Matthew 26:28 passage says, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. Probably not a really big deal, but certainly a missed opportunity to include the specific reason shed his blood.

 

Summary Observation

So from beginning to end, this film series completely MISSED presenting the gospel message that actually saves sinners – that Jesus died for the sins of His people, the very message the Angel bought to Joseph before the Savior’s birth.!

 

The Question: WHY?

 

Why do these sorts of films keep failing to share a message that can actually save sinners?

 

First of all, let me say that I completely understand why secular film makers, who are not themselves believers in Christ, would miss the true gospel. The Bible I read tells me that all unbelievers are lost and in bondage to sin, living in darkness, and in rebellion against their creator. I get that. Such a message won’t generate a large audience, or sell many tickets at the box office.

 

But why do professing believers keep failing to share the gospel that is about the problem of sin? Well I know why some do (Think Joel Osteen, the series producer). He told Larry King, during an interview, that he never dwells on sin. After all, we all know we sin and it’s not really necessary. In the same interview Joel said he sees himself as more of a life coach than anything else (like a biblical preacher?)

 

The series was full of commentators who were ordained ministers or, connected to Christian institutions. They didn’t share the genuine gospel either! This series doesn’t stand alone in that regard. The other productions mentioned at the beginning of this post were exactly same. This missing the gospel trends is also a prevailing characteristic of most offerings from Pureflix. I watched a fair amount of Pureflix offerings and finally stopped. They were too painful to watch.

 

I suspect this trend is based partly on the thought that if we just tell people how much Jesus loves them – wants to bless them in every way materially, and how special they are (God can’t even imagine heaven without us), they will find it really hard NOT to give their lives to Jesus, ask him into their hearts, walk an aisle, or repeat a special prayer, and all by making own ‘free will’ decision. In all fairness, there are many that believe that this is the BEST way to share the gospel. There was a time when I believed it myself. That was a LONG tome ago, before I read the Bible a few more times, and feel in love with the soul humbling doctrines of Sovereign grace.

 

The Apostle Paul tells us the true gospel is offensive to unbelievers, in their ‘natural’ state. The bad news about sin is deeply offensive to those who love their sin (all lost people). Paul also told us not to remove the natural offensiveness of the gospel (Gal 5:11, 1 Cor 1:17), yet we do, over and over again. Paul also proclaimed that he was NOT ashamed of that gospel (Acts 1:16). This offensive message is THE message that has the power to save sinners!

 

I see only two possible reasons for not sharing a gospel message that hits to the core problem we all have – SIN.  We might have been taught that we just need to ‘attract’ people to Jesus and talking about sin could drive them away. Or, perhaps we are just ‘Ashamed of the Gospel’, as John MacArthur’s book of that name presents to us so clearly.

 

Again, I’m not trying to be unduly harsh with the makers of this, or any other of today’s popular Christian film offerings. But for this this old soldier, if I fail to share the true gospel, and trust in the sovereignty of God to save His own, just as the Angel promised Joseph, I am either ashamed of the gospel, or I have a very low view of God.

 

As for this, and many other “Christian’ offerings from the entertainment industry, most are nothing more than ‘adventures in missing the point.’ It was true of the other Bible based offerings we have reviewed here at The Battle Cry. And it it’s true of most Pureflix offerings. It was true of every single one that I watched some of their productions.

 

A bit of advice. 1) Pray for God to open hearts to receive the ‘bad news’ and the ‘good news’. 2) Pray that He send His gospel to the hearts He opened to hear it. 3) Be ready to be the messenger and share the whole gospel, with gentleness and love. Take the conversation to the ‘bad’ news first, followed by the good news.

 

“He WILL save His people from their sins.”

_______________

In you didn’t have the opportunity to read an old guy’s reviews of the series episodes, here are the links:

 

Jesus, His Life, Episode 1: Joseph: the Nativity – Pastor Gabe Hughes
Jesus, His Life, Episode 2–John the Baptist: The Mission
Jesus, His Life, Episode 3: Mary, The First Miracles
Jesus, His Life, Episode 4: Caiaphas: The Raising of Lazarus
Jesus, His Life, Episode 5: Judas: The Betrayal
Jesus, His Life, Episode 6: Pilate: The Trial
Jesus, His Life, Episode 7: Mary Magdalene: The Crucifixion
Jesus, His Life, Episode 8: Peter: The Resurrection