Last night I joined countless other Christians across the nation who tuned into Channel 9 to see the premiere of ‘The Bible’. I can’t say that I was expecting anything too theologically profound but I must say, I had a genuine interest in the programme. It seems it had caused quite the stir, even before it had begun. Via social media I was torn between two camps of my friends, those who implored me to support and those who were calling for a boycott. I’m not generally one to take sides and I definitely don’t need the opinion of others to set mine. But when one five week programme causes this much tension in my world, I guess it’s time to take notice. So at 9pm, I tuned in and dropped out of contact with everything else. It must be said, as a cinematographic feature, The Bible truly is of epic proportions! No cost has been saved in the making of this programme, that much is definite.
First of all, I have to say, attempting to create a chronological series of Biblical history seems insurmountable. Consider how impossible the task of writing world history into a succinct story would be. Well, there are so many nation groups with histories running concurrently, who would you focus on? It’s the same in the Christian world. With so many denominations fighting for emphasis, it would be impossible to please everyone. But I have always believed, there need be no imposed emphasis as the Word of God can surely stand on its own.
I think, as believers the best way to watch the series is to first question whether it’s something we would offer to our non-Christian friends or those who are only newly converted as a way to give them a better understanding of our faith? After watching one episode, I have to truly question whether I would. Pretending I knew nothing about the Bible, I watched The Bible unfold. What I was presented with was a confused, non-linear, jumpy remix of my favourite Bible stories set to the soundtrack of special effects and the world’s best orchestral tunes. Sure, it was a moving experience, but it left me only more confused and with a headache. And the worst thing is, I actually do know the Bible fairly well! What would my non-believer friends think of this?
After watching the programme, I had to seriously question, why would anyone believe these fairy tales? Heresy! How dare I question the infallible Hollywood! Well, let’s compile notes. I wrote a list of questions and assumptions I was forced to make after watching the programme:
1. Noah must have lived with Adam, that’s how he knew what happened.
2. Does God have His favourites? Why did He hate everyone so much that He drowned them?
3. God doesn’t want us to eat figs.
4. Adam and Eve only had two children: sons Cain and Abel. But why did Cain kill Abel?
5. How does Abraham fit in with Noah and Adam?
6. What’s the deal with Lot?
7. Seriously, Sodom doesn’t seem that bad. Why did God hate them so much?
8. Seems like Lot’s wife was unfairly punished. I mean, all she did was turn back. Who wouldn’t? Seriously FIRE JUST CAME FROM THE SKY! Who wouldn’t want to turn back and have a look at that?! Instagram that baby #punishofBiblicalproportions.
9. Abraham’s a jerk. First he has Ishmael, then he sends Ishmael out to die, then he decides to kill Isaac? What a dysfunctional family.
10. What happened to Joseph and his technicolour dream coat? And Jacob who became Israel? Isn’t he pretty important?
11. It must have been a pretty local flood that only took out Israel since Egypt seems to be fine when Moses comes along.
12. Why did Pharoah hate the Jews so much? I mean, they were just these nomadic nobodies and he had this massive kingdom, why did he have to kill all the babies? That seems a little unnecessary.
Looking at this list, I’m forced to conclude, God is impossible to please and really doesn’t care about humanity too much. He steps in every now and then to mess up our lives, punish us or test us but other than that, He’s pretty distant. Yet He has the nerve to ask us to build a relationship with Him? How about meeting us halfway! It’s not fair to insist we meet Your demands when we don’t even know what they are! If God’s like that, I don’t want Him.
Oh dear. If that’s my reaction, and I’ve been a Christian for many years, I don’t want to hear my non-Christian friends’ reaction. But, what would I have done differently to answer these questions? I’ve come to two conclusions:
1. The programme is obviously following Abraham’s lineage, but this neglects the path to Jesus. This is why it seems disjointed as stories appear out of nowhere with little effort to connect them. There needs to be some mention of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, in particular the importance of Judah.
2. What connects every story in the Bible together and shows the true character of God? One verse in Genesis 3. There has to be at least a mention of this verse to put the rest of the Bible in an eternal context.
Genesis 3:14-24, but specifically verse 15. Upon being sent from the Garden of Paradise for their disobedience, God tells Adam, Eve and the Serpent this:
“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head and you shall bruise His heel.”
Look at that. There is hope! Redemption is coming! God has a plan and He had it from the very moment we disobeyed because He is sovereign and benevolent! Do you see how this verse sets up the entire Gospel? Do you see that without this verse, the Bible becomes a tragic tale of God fixing our blunders without any care or plan for the future? This has always been His plan. Do you see how this verse answers all my questions? God is good. He is active and He has a plan for us!
I love Genesis. It’s my favourite book in the Bible. It is also one of the largest books in the Bible. That is, large in terms of the history it records. Some two thousand years exists within these first hundred pages. It’s a pretty important book don’t you think? But I would go so far as to say the first five chapters are paramount to understanding the entire Bible. And this leads me to my biggest disappointment regarding the series. These five chapters were condensed beyond recognition. I’m trying to work out why they did this. It seems to be a common assumption amongst Christians that Genesis – in particular the first 3-5 chapters – is too controversial and causes too much division, so we avoid them. Jesus is all that matters. Bring them to the Cross and the job is done. I for one am saddened by this. Yes, Jesus is the most important aspect of our faith! But we cannot get to Him without first setting the foundations. Why do we need Him?
Have you ever been told this: “Jesus died for me? Well, that’s nice but I didn’t ask Him to do that.” I have. What do you answer in this case? I think I made a botched job of it. Stuttered something about how sinful we are and left red faced. No, we didn’t ask for His salvation and we certainly don’t deserve it. Obviously Paul had hit this question in Romans 5:12-21. How does he answer it? He uses Genesis!
Romans 5:14 “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
Have you ever been told this: “I don’t need Jesus, I’ve been a good person. I mean, I’ve never stolen or murdered or anything like that!” I have. Do you see how Paul uses Genesis to answer this? We were born into sin ergo, we are sinful! We didn’t ask for Jesus’ salvation but we need it by virtue of the world we were born into. Isn’t this incredible? God is so good and He always has been – ever since Genesis and even before! He set it all up from Genesis 3:15.
So, knowing now that ‘The Bible’ programme is a little flawed, should we avoid it? Definitely not. Should we curse it on Facebook and shout our disapproval for it at every opportunity we get? Certainly not! What does this show the world? Hmmm. This is a movie about your book and you don’t want me to watch it. What are you hiding? No. This is a fantastic opportunity! For once in the history of Christianity the mainstream media is giving us a platform for discussion.
I don’t think my reaction to the programme was unique or necessarily bad. It forced me to question my faith and get some answers. Now when others come, I am equipped to discuss things with them. The hard work is already done for us. The world is eager to have spiritual conversations, don’t brush them off because you have a moral objection to the theological foundations of this programme or because Abraham should have been named Abram or because Samson’s hair isn’t long enough! It’s time for us to question and be questioned. It’s time for us to read the Book and know what is says.
The world wants to see how we’ll react to this but more importantly, the world needs to see Christians acting consistently in the knowledge of the Truth. Take this opportunity to define what you believe so that you may give an account for the hope that is within you (1 Peter 3:15).
Question your beliefs and keep the faith strong! Don’t waste this opportunity.
Yours in excitement of this God ordained opportunity,