David Nilson at The Gospel Coalition put his punctuation on the History Channel’s The Bible series with a concluding essay. Here is how he ended his piece:
“The Bible might not excel as an education tool, at least it isn’t brazenly heretical. For an American cable TV drama, that’s probably the best we can expect.”
That’s just sad.
There are three thoughts in that sentence that I want to pursue a bit further.
–not excel as an education tool
–the best we can expect
Let’s look at the stance that the tv series does “not excel” as an education tool. The opposite of excel is “bad, failing, imperfect, indistinguished, inferior, poor, second-class, second-rate, unnoteworthy, unworthy”. So if we plug any of the antonyms in his sentence we can say of the series instead ,
‘The Bible might be unworthy as an education tool.’
‘The Bible might be inferior as an education tool.’
‘The Bible might be bad as an education tool.’
Then there is the notion that ‘At least it’s not brazenly heretical.’ CARM defines heresy as “A doctrinal view that deviates from the truth, a false teaching.”
Brazen means bold and without shame. So we can translate his phrase by saying, “At least the false teaching is not too bold.” That’s like saying, ‘at least the manure I’m eating is not too pungent.’ Not too brazen? Like, we can mange living with its discomfort, as opposed to something that would really anger Jesus?
Too often we forget how devastating false doctrine is. It is an infection that destroys. It is a lion who devours and kills, not a cuddly kitten who accidentally scratches us as it reaches for the yarn.
And the best we can expect? I might agree with that, as long as he understands that none of the front-people involved with developing the series are saved. In that case, we can say with certainty that we never expect the world to present biblical truths with integrity or correctly. I think of James 4:4 here-
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”
If he believes the people offering theological oversight such as TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Rick Warren and the producers Roma Downey and Mark Burnett are saved, then saying “at least it’s the best we can expect” is a sad indictment on our expectations of the glory and beauty of Jesus. Even in this polluted world, especially because the world is polluted, Jesus shines through His ambassadors, missionaries, witnesses, people. For any Christian who submits to His will and works, we can expect great things, because He is great.
In the same essay, the author states that the production values were great. The movie looked good. And the music was pleasing too! It sounded good.
Words like these help us lower our standards on the height and majesty of Jesus. It sinks us into a pit of slime we eventually become used to. People, don’t become used to it. Satan is the master of incrementally lowering our standards. Just a little bit here and there, flash over substance. I’m reminded of the pivotal scene in the 1987 movie Broadcast News, where Albert Brooks tries to convince Holly Hunter that the important moment in her life had arrived. The moment where we make a choice to accept a little bit of flash to satisfy the flesh, or to sacrifice and stick with substance.
It’s the scene where Brooks, playing Aaron, tells Hunter that the object of her affection (Tom) represents everything that concerns her about the journalism profession’s downward slide. He says, “Tom, while being a very nice guy, is the Devil. He will be attractive. He will be nice and helpful. He will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation. He will never do an evil thing. He will never deliberately hurt a living thing. He will just bit by little bit lower our standards where they are important. Just a tiny little bit, coax along, flash over substance.”
Looking good and sounding good are not enough. IS it good? It is only Good if Jesus is in it.
So, did the series “The Bible” meet your expectations? It depends on where your standards are.