Tuesday, March 4, 2014

A Response to the Critics of "Son of God"

The Son of God movie came out over the weekend, and there is already a lot of discussion swirling in some church circles about how faithful/unfaithful the script is to the text of the Scripture in the 4 Gospels.  Some are already decrying the movie because it takes some license in the telling of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Therefore, some critics are saying, we should avoid it.  It’s too new age! Jesus went into Lazarus’ tomb instead of calling him out! Jesus tells Peter they will change the world!  When Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper, he doesn't say it’s for the forgiveness of sins!  And these only scratch the surface of the transgressions.  There’s also a lot of contempt because Jesus is too “hot” – and all good Bible scholars know he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2 – ESV) 

I enjoyed the movie, but not because it was 100% accurate to the texts of the Gospels.  If that’s our standard for approval, it would be better to never see a movie, never participate in a Passion Play, never allow a children’s nativity.  After all, nothing but Scripture can be as accurate as Scripture.

Accuracy to the theology and texts of the Scriptures is to be desired, and it should be. We should want to be true to the Word of God, no doubt.  This movie changes the order of some events in the life of Jesus, and combines some others.  But that shouldn't be cause for keeping people away from the theater.  Yes, Jesus went into Lazarus' tomb in the movie, etc.  There were a number of areas that weren't accurate.  It was pointed out to me today that it's not even specifically stated that Jesus died on the cross because of the sins of the world!  I didn't notice that when I saw the movie.  Yes, the movie lacked some accuracy, to be sure.

But then again, so did the Children's Christmas Program we put on at my church this year.  Children were actually saying that if Jesus would live in your heart, it would make your heart sing, for cryin’ out loud! Where is that in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or the rest of the Bible?  And didn't they know that Jesus wasn't born on Christmas?  The nerve…  How closely did they portray what happened in Scripture?  They were off in some ways.  But we all applauded and welcomed their sharing of the Gospel story, you can be very sure of that.  We were proud of them, and took the opportunity to welcome others to receive the Gospel.  It was a good day.

Scripture is Scripture.  God's word written. And it becomes alive with the breath of its Author when the Holy Spirit speaks to us through it.  Nothing else is like it.  Let me repeat: Nothing. Else. Is like the Word of God written (meaning nothing else is totally accurate to the Scriptures because, well, they're not Scripture).  Not my preaching, not Billy Graham's, not the Children's pageant, not the millions of presentations of the Gospel by men, women, and children through the last 2000 (or so) years that have all lacked sometimes essential details or gotten other details mixed up.  Yet God redeems those presentations, and I and millions of others – maybe even you – have somehow entered into a saving knowledge of Jesus the Messiah - even with that lack.  

This movie is just a movie.  Don't judge it to the standard of evaluating Scripture.  Nothing but Scripture could stand up to that kind of evaluation. Its purpose was not to portray the scriptures 100% accurately, and how could it – even if the producers wanted to?  The standard is too high.

What it does, it does well.  It makes much of Jesus.  It is faithful to the Gospel relating to the teaching of Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection.  It adds in some dramatic details, etc.  But I don't see that as any big deal.  

I was a counselor at a summer camp which - on the last night of camp each week - portrayed the Gospel from Jesus' birth to his resurrection in a live drama we called the Christ Walk.  We counselors acted out scenes around the lake at the camp in costume, and were fairly faithful to the Scriptures.  I say "fairly faithful" because we did have a slew of inaccuracies, I'm sure.  We didn't get anywhere as close to accuracy as even this Son of God movie did!  We had some of the girl counselors following Jesus as disciples because we didn't have enough guys in the cast. We improvised conversations at times because we'd get off-script because that stuff happens at camp and you make the best of it. We omitted powerful (some might argue "essential") words and scenes because we only had a couple of hours to do the best we could.

But each week, there were kids who made decisions to follow Jesus that probably changed the trajectory of their lives.  I believe we depopulated Hell a little bit with our wooden, amateurish, mostly accurate-but-boy-am-I-glad-today's-critics-and-Christian-police-didn't-see-it production.  I'm proud to have been part of it.

Really, our “Christ Walk” was a mess when viewed through the filter today's critics are viewing Son of God.  And they know what they are talking about.  But like I said - we made much of Jesus. And kids took a step over the starting line of faith.  Every week.  I think heaven rejoiced over the fruit that came out of it.

I say go see the Son of God.  Enjoy a movie worth your time.  And please, take a non-Christian with you and then share coffee, lunch, dinner, or some wine afterwards and talk about it. Maybe you'll even be able to look at the Scriptures together.  It's potentially a wonderful tool to reach outsiders, and I hope there will be a lot of fruit that comes from doing just that. 

Lighten up, Critics.  The folks who made this movie have not confounded God, nor are His purposes thwarted. You have in this film a great conversation starter with the unchurched, which I think was one of the motives for making the movie in the first place.  No matter if it wasn’t – I stand with the Apostle Paul: 

But whatever their motive for doing it, the fact remains that the Good News about Christ is being preached, and I am glad.” – Philippians 1:18 (TLB)

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