“The Chosen”– AngelVid TV Series-Updated

Last year about this time I watched the first episode of season 1 of the VidAngel TV series The Chosen. It was free. I posted my own thoughts about it here, as well as the producer’s perspective (Dallas Jenkins) here. Now that season 1, in it’s entirety is free (great marketing strategy) I have watched all 8 episodes, as well as summarized each episode. This post will not provide the episode summaries, but instead will provide this old man’s thoughts on the series as a whole. Let’s go.

Here again is the producer’s (Dallas Jenkins) ‘disclaimer’:

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However, all biblical and historical content and artistic imagination are designed to support the truth and intention of the Scriptures.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

That disclaimer is quite similar to many we have seen for Hollywood productions and is extremely significant. We’ll explain.

The Chosen Web page states the following, which is also very significant:

“The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.”

The episodes themselves follow several distinct story lines in each and every episode:

There is the story of Mary Magdalene, which seems to be the main story in Episode 1, where she receives deliverance from her demon(s). She also appears in the other episodes, traveling with Jesus and the disciples, and is presented more “fully” than in the biblical text.

Then we have the story of Nicodemus, Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin, who in the first episode is traveling to Capernaum on a teaching mission. His meeting with Jesus described in John, Chapter 3 occurs in the final episodes, while previous episodes build up to the John account.

He too is present in all of the subsequent episodes.

Then we have a story centering on Simon Peter, his brother Andrew, and Matthew the tax collector. The three meet in interesting circumstance in the first episode and like the other stories they are seem in all of the season 1 episodes.

And of course, we have Jesus. He delivers Mary Magdalene in Episode 1, calls his disciples to follow him, teaches children, heals the sick, and shows great compassion to everyone he encounters.

Format

Presenting several main stories throughout the series episodes was clever, and not unlike many secular television shows. Each episode is set up to get you interested in the next one. The first free episode last year was intended to encourage you to rent/buy the rest. Last year I watched the free episode only. I wasn’t about to pay for a LOT of fiction biblical fiction. I find scripture far more interesting. Offering all of last year’s episodes for free this year encourage you to rent/buy year 2 episodes. Good marketing.

The Producer’s Disclaimer

“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.”

This disclaimer heads off the ‘adding to scripture’ allegation, depending on how you define ‘adding to scripture’. Some viewers will accept that, others will not. Key terms are “Based on” and “artistic imagination”.

Similar statements have been made for other Hollywood and made for TV docudramas through the years. But should ‘artistic imagination’ be used to embellish biblical accounts? Your call. Also, I would estimate that the amount of scripture in the entire series probably wouldn’t add up to more than an hour of content, most of which was in the last two episodes. That might be too generous.

The stated purpose of The Chosen series:

“The Chosen is the first-ever-multi-season TV show about the life of Jesus. Created outside of the Hollywood system, The Chosen allows us to see Him through the eyes of those who knew him. No matter where you are at in your journey with Jesus Christ, this TV show is for you.”

More to follow on that.

Content

True to the disclaimer, much was added to the biblical account. After all, it was touted as being an in-depth look at Jesus from the viewpoint of those who knew him best. Since the New Testament accounts don’t provide that in-depth coverage, the best we can say is that those perspectives are probably accurate in some places but they might get it wrong in others.

There are a lot of segments that are made up out of whole cloth (artistic imagination). While they add a lot to the story lines, they place an undo amount of emphasis on certain aspects of the main characters, thus distracting from the life of Christ Himself.

The good news of Christ’s death for sin runs in the background, however much more time is given to His love and compassion, which is sadly similar to much of today’s evangelicalism. The serious issue of our sin before a holy God is not presented. Personally, I find that sad, but it’s entirely in line with the vast majority of today’s evangelicalism.

Issues

We are told by the producer, Dallas Jenkins, that “No matter where you are this is for you.” Yes and no. If you enjoy good clean entertainment, yes. Depending on where you are in your Christian walk however, it might not be for you. We’ll look at these issues from three perspectives.

New believers. While they have repented of sin and believed on Christ for salvation, they are still babes in terms of their knowledge of scripture. They could easily assume that all the added material (necessary for a series like this) is actually in the Bible. Their knowledge of scripture is minimal, for the most part.

Believers growing in their faith. These could be believers whose spiritual diet ranges from Facebook memes and favorite verse quotations to those involved in serious Bible study. By ‘serious’ I mean studying the Bible in context (immediate/surrounding section/book/whole Bible). They might suspect that some of the series’ content has been added to the text of the Bible, but might not. Some will even remember the disclaimer at the beginning. Some will be encouraged to more biblical research, but some will not.

Believers who really know their Bibles, having read (hopefully multiple times) and love serious Bible study (includes using different translations & good commentaries) for what is in the text and the author’s intent (human and God). They take the matter of salvation very seriously and find it sad, if not inexcusable that God’s hatred of sin and it’s eternal punishment all but missing from Season 1. There is a short mention early on, but you get no spoilers from me!

If and when they watch The Chosen they will immediately recognize most of what was added to the Bible narrative. They will most likely check out that which they are not sure of, like I did. Some might forget the early disclaimer and play the “if anyone adds to this book let him be cursed” card. Some will thoroughly enjoy it, others will be conflicted, and others will hate it.

Dans’ Personal Opinion

Jesus and the gospel message are far too important for cleverly presented stories, whether they are set in biblical times or the present. It bothers me If/when the message of the gospel that Christ died for the sins of men is diminished in any way. The gospel is a serious matter with eternal consequences.

In my opinion, the BAD news of the gospel, the problem of sin and eternal judgment, must precede the GOOD news, Christ’s substitutionary atonement for our sin. When a sinner truly recognizes the problem of sin, repents of that sin and believes in Christ, there exists true salvation. Whenever a sinner comes to Christ for his/her best life now, or any variant thereof, hell awaits a deceived sinner and Satan laughs.

Therefore, In my opinion:

  • The Chosen has good entertainment value. . .for Christians. It will be offensive to those who are living in rebellion to the God they know exists.
  • The Chosen is not a very good ‘standalone’ evangelistic tool. However, I do think it can be a conversation starter leading to a clearer presentation of the gospel. I’m not saying that no one can/will be saved watching it on their own. Many souls have been saved down through the centuries whose hearts have been opened by ‘something’, who became curious, and to whom a clear presentation of the gospel later provided.
  • If I apply the BIG question with which I approach Christian entertainment (Where’s the Gospel?), The Chosen series does a slightly better job than most Christian entertainment these days.

If you think that is a theologically ‘Reformed’ opinion, you would be correct. If you think it’s merely the opinion of one of those awful ‘Calvinists’, there’s help available and you can start here.

BTW, Todd Friel, over at Wrethed Radio recorded a Wretched Radio podcast after having asked for reviews of Season 1 episodes, discusses the reviews and the series in general. He did a good job. You can listen to that podcast here.

Have a blessed day!

Anti-Trump Hoaxes and Free WIll

A recent article at American Thinker titled An illustrated look at the evolution of the ‘inject Lysol’ anti-Trump hoax made a very interesting point about hoaxes in general. The article lays out the chronological timeline and associated media ‘events’ that falsely claimed that President Trump recommended drinking disinfectants to combat COVID 19. Here is the quote from the article:

“On Thursday, April 23, President Donald Trump ruminated during a press conference about the possibility that, just as disinfectants can destroy the Wuhan virus outside the body, there might be a way to destroy the virus inside the body. Within hours, the mainstream media was telling people the Trump was telling Americans to inject or ingest disinfectant to treat Wuhan virus.

After that, the internet was quickly inundated with “Trump said to drink bleach” memes. While there was factual pushback from conservatives, facts made no difference – the hoax was set in place. It will now be a smear against Trump’s name as permanent as the Charlottesville hoax.”

If you remember, the Charlottesville hoax accused the President of being a racist and praising white supremacists when all he did was say there were good people on both sides of debate about removing a Robert E. Lee statue. In fact, the President has condemned the white supremacist movement. No matter, the ‘racist’ label stuck like glue. The American Thinker article uses the current ‘disinfectant’ hoax to chronicle the phases through which hoaxes pass until they become recognized as fact in the hearts and minds of some of us human beings (the gullible ones). I highly recommend reading the article.

The part of the article that caught my attention the loudest was near the end of the article, where a “point of no return”, from which there is no turning back to reality, even when the actual facts of the case have been presented over and over again.

“This information (actual facts) will be unavailing. In connection with the Charlottesville hoax, Scott Adams has explained that, once the hoax is fixed, there is no way to displace it with facts. No matter how often he showed people the transcript in which Trump made it crystal clear that he was not calling white supremacists “fine people,” Trump haters could not recognize that information:

After a few years of trying to deprogram people from this hoax, I have discovered a fascinating similarity in how people’s brains respond to having their worldview annihilated in real time. I call it the “fine people” hoax funnel. When you present the debunking context to a believer in the hoax, they will NEVER say this: “Gee, I hadn’t seen the full quote. Now that I see it in its complete form, it is obvious to me that my long-held belief is 100% wrong and the media has been duping me.”

That doesn’t happen.

What happens, instead, is that people, when presented with the documented facts (unassailable videos and transcripts), will start making up facts that comport with their belief system.”

Having said all that, I present to you a question:

“IS there a similarity between the evolution of a hoax and the adamant assertion that fallen human beings still have a libertarian ‘free will’ that is exactly the same as was Adam’s free will before the Fall?”

I ask the question from having noticed that there is a widespread assumption in Christendom that the Fall of man had no effect whatsoever on the human will. That is to say that fallen men can ‘by nature’ choose Christ as Savior and Lord. In fact, NO amount of presenting the Bible’s view of fallen men, what they literally ’can’ and ‘cannot’ do, in and of their natural selves, will result in libertarian free will advocates even examining the issue! You can ask almost all ‘free will’ advocates if they have asked Scripture about the state of the human will after the fall, but they find the suggestion nonsensical. After, we all KNOW we have complete free will and natural power to come to Christ all on our own.

At the same time that ‘free will’ in matters spiritual is a foregone conclusion by most Christians these days. IS there a connection/similarity in this issue and the evolution of ‘hoaxes’ described in the American Thinker article? I’m not coming to any conclusions here, although the ‘free will’ assumption has been around for a long, long, time.

Food for thought………

 

“Blind” Minds?

2 Corinthians 4:4

“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor 4:4, ESV)

In a previous post here at The Battle Cry, The Apostle Paul, a Veiled Gospel, and Blind Minds we talked about three things Paul addressed in his second letter to the church at Corinth, a predominately Gentile church. In this post we’ll revisit one of those topics – the “blind minds” of unbelievers.

Our referenced passage speaks specifically of the minds of unbelievers being blind and unable to see and understand the light of the gospel. While I was working on the previous blog, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mental blindness of unbelievers extended beyond seeing the light of the gospel into other areas. Just how much of an impact does “the god of this world”, Satan, have on the mental capabilities (or lack thereof) of fallen man?

With those questions buzzing around in my head, and in light of all the craziness going on these days (political and COVID related), I decided to consult some good Bible commentaries. Of the commentaries I read, Albert Barnes seemed to address the issue in the most comprehensive manner. Here is his commentary on 2 Cor 4:4, speaking of the work of the “god of this world”, Satan:

(The god of this world) Hath blinded the minds of them which believe not – Of all who discern no beauty in the gospel, and who reject it. It is implied here:

1.  That the minds of unbelievers are blinded; that they perceive no beauty in the gospel. This is often affirmed of those who reject the gospel, and who live in sin; see the 2Co 2:13 note; Mat 23:16-17, Mat 23:26 notes; Luk 4:18 note; Joh 9:39; Joh 12:40 notes; Rom 11:7 note. The sense is, that they did not see the spiritual beauty and glory of the plan of redemption. They act in reference to that as they would in reference to this world, if a bandage were over their eyes, and they saw not the light of the sun, the beauty of the landscape, the path in which they should go, or the countenance of a friend. All is dark, and obscure, and destitute of beauty to them, however much beauty may be seen in all these objects by others.

2.  That this is done by the agency of Satan; and that his dominion is secured by keeping the world in darkness. The affirmation is direct and positive, that it is by his agency that it is done. Some of the “modes” in which it is done are the following:

a.  By a direct influence on the minds of people. I do not know why it is absurd to suppose that one intellect may, in some way unknown to us, have access to another, and have power to influence it; nor can it be proved that Satan may not have power to pervert the understanding; to derange its powers; to distract its attention; and to give in view of the mind a wholly delusive relative importance to objects. In the time of the Saviour it cannot be doubted that in the numerous cases of demoniacal possessions, Satan directly affected the minds of people; nor is there any reason to think that he has ceased to delude and destroy them.

b.  By the false philosophy which has prevailed – a large part of which seems to have been contrived as if on purpose to deceive the world, and destroy the peace and happiness of people.

c.  By the systems of superstition and idolatry. All these seem to be under the control of one Master Mind. They are so well conceived and adapted to prostrate the moral powers; to fetter the intellect; to pervert the will; to make people debased, sunken, polluted, and degraded; and they so uniformly accomplish this effect, that they have all the marks of being under the control of one mighty Mind, and of having been devised to accomplish His purposes over people.

d.  By producing in the minds of people a wholly disproportionate view of the value of objects. “A very small object held before the eye will shut out the light of the sun.” A piece of money of the smallest value laid on the eye will make everything appear dark, and prevent all the glory of mid-day from reaching the seat of vision. And so it is with the things of this world. They are placed directly before us, and are placed directly between us and the glory of the gospel. And the trifles of wealth and of fashion; the objects of pleasure and ambition, are made to assume an importance in view of the mind which wholly excludes the glory of the gospel, and shuts out all the realities of the eternal world. And he does it:

e.  By the blinding influence of passion and vice. Before a vicious mind all is dark and obscure. There is no beauty in truth, in chastity, or honesty, or in the fear and love of God. Vice always renders the mind blind. and the heart hard, and shrouds everything in the moral world in midnight. And in order to blind the minds of people to the glory of the gospel, Satan has only to place splendid schemes of speculation before people; to tempt them to climb the steeps of ambition; to entice them to scenes of gaiety; to secure the erection of theaters, and gambling houses, and houses of infamy and pollution; to fill the cities and towns of a land with taverns and dram-shops; and to give opportunity everywhere for the full play and unrestrained indulgence of passion; and the glory of the gospel will be as effectually unseen as the glory of the sun is in the darkest night.

___________

Albert Barnes (1798-1870) was an American theologian, born at Rome, New York, on December 1, 1798. He graduated from Hamilton College, Clinton, New York, in 1820, and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1823. Barnes was ordained as a Presbyterian minister by the presbytery of Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in 1825, and was the pastor successively of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey (1825-1830), and of the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia (1830-1867).

Some who read this might agree with Albert Barnes, some might not.  And although our passage does state ratherly clearly that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers”, i know of at least one reader of this little blog that will probably breathe his last breath claiming that Jews have blind minds, but Gentiles do not. He has reminded me of his opinion several times through the last few years.

Why Creeds? | The Cripplegate

“I don’t believe in creeds, I believe in Jesus.” That pithy declaration is an example of a creed. Any statement of a belief or expression of a conviction is a creed, even one that avers a total rejection of creeds, notwithstanding the irony and a comical lack of self-awareness.
— Read on thecripplegate.com/why-creeds/

An excellent article!