Christian MediaEngaging Culture

How Christians Should React When Bible Movies Miss The Mark

I’m taking a risk here, since I received so much criticism for recommending Christians see the movie Noah. But as Hollywood attempts more movies based on the Bible, we need to do more than just complain when they miss the mark Biblically. The truth is, some of these movies will be hit and others miss. Hollywood isn’t a Christian institution so for us to expect Biblical fidelity in all their movies is simply not realistic. Just to complain about it doesn’t help change the situation. Instead, here’s what I’d recommend:

1. Absolutely let’s preview films and tell Christians (especially families with kids) what’s in these movies.  I’m all for reviews and recommendations that let people know what’s there so they can decide for themselves whether to see it or not.

2. We need to actually see the movie before we criticize.  I’m a firm believer that to criticize a movie, book, TV program or other endeavor without actually seeing it is intellectually dishonest. Christian leaders do it all the time and I believe it really hurts our credibility outside the Christian bubble. If those leaders were honest, they’d admit they’re mostly doing it to stir up the faithful to help fundraising, but when it comes to making an impact in the culture, it’s not helping. If you hear negative things about a movie or TV program and want to avoid it personally, that’s fine. But before you mount a public petition drive, boycott, or campaign against it, you need to know what you’re talking about.

3. Even when the movie isn’t Biblically accurate, think about using it as an evangelism tool.  Does the God of the universe shudder when a filmmaker gets it wrong? Doubtful. Millions of people are seeing these movies, so I’d rather seize the opportunity to use them for sharing the gospel. Take a non-believing friend and then have coffee and share the real story with them. In Acts 17, pagan philosophers at Mars Hill didn’t scare Paul away. He ran right toward them and graciously made an impact for the gospel.

4. I’d like to see the Christian community criticize less and begin raising up our own filmmakers, writers, and producers to go into the industry.  Let’s focus less on making explicitly “Christian” films and more on getting Christian thinking into mainstream movies. I’m thrilled with the success of a few movies like “God’s Not Dead,” but they’re largely seen by the choir, and I question whether that is influencing the culture. I’m talking about the same strategy the gay community used in Hollywood and it was brilliant. They helped find talented gay filmmakers, developed relationships with major studios and TV networks, mentored them, and helped fund their projects. And just look at their results.

5. Finally (and here’s a novel idea) let’s pray for Hollywood.  If we really believe that God answers prayer, what if we started encouraging Christians to pray for the most influential industry on the planet?  For help, start with the Hollywood Prayer Network.  What if we started praying for the thousands of dedicated believers working inside the industry everyday? (Especially those who are working with the studios to influence these filmmakers of Bible movies to be more accurate.)  I think that would have far greater results than boycotts, petition drives, and criticism.

If we’re going to impact today’s culture, we need to have a strategy, not a just an angry reaction. Stay tuned to The Influence Lab for more….

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46 Comments

  1. Well said and good advice Phil. I went to see NOAH and while it definitely was not a biblical movie, i went for the entertainment. I would rather see a movie like that or Gods and Kings than a poorly done “Bible-based” movie which claims accuracy to Scripture. I checked out the link for praying for Hollywood. Is Larry Poland’s ministry still going?

  2. “Let’s focus less on making explicitly “Christian” films and more on getting Christian thinking into mainstream movies”

    I could not agree more. Amen and amen.

    My quip is usually thing, Jesus rarely told “Bible” stories, but often told just stories. A lady who loses a coin. A shepherd who loses a sheep. A father with two sons. A sower sowing seed.

    They have *become* religious bible stories to us, but they were just stories of people of the day.

    That is what Hollywood does today. They tell stories.

    Some times (Frozen, Schindler’s List, Wreck it Ralph) it is a VERY Biblical story.

    Again, I cannot agree more, let’s focus less on making explicitly “Christian” films and more on getting Christian thinking into mainstream movies!

    Simon L Smith
    http://www.reelparables.com

  3. Phil I wholeheartedly agree with your assessment in this article. Jesus called us to be “salt” (Matt. 5:13) Actual salt has three important properties. It PENETRATES, PRESERVES, and PURIFIES. If we want better movies, music, books we need to set our sights on invading the world with the message of Jesus through more than just telling people what’s wrong with what they do but show solutions. What I mean is illustrated by what I have tried to teach my children as they were growing up. Both of them are inclined musically and have played instruments and sang in church since they were very young. As much as I encourage them to be open to God using their gifts in the church I have also told them not to rule out God using them in the secular world in music also. I think we need to see such occupations almost as being missionaries to another country. We need Christian singers, songwriters, television/movie producers not necessarily making a religious movie but demonstrating it is possible to sing, write song, write books, produce movies and television shows that showcases these talents influenced by our walk with God. Our Christian experience needs to penetrate society. If it does it will preserve the important things and purify the things that need to be cleaned up.

  4. The closest to a really-well done Bible adaptation I can think of is The Gospel According to Matthew, silent and black and white. But even that one portrays Jesus in a sentimental style at two key moments. And though it errs much, I still greatly love The Ten Commandments. The point is this: (a) is God’s character seriously distorted, or (b) is the doctrinal truth of scripture seriously compromised? If no on both of those, then the movie is a Maybe and I’ll judge it on aesthetics. But we don’t have to actually see a movie to know if (a) or (b) happen, we can get that from trailers and promotional pieces.

  5. I completely agree.

    Personally I enjoyed Noah a great deal. It was bonkers but entertaining. Gods and Kings however, I didn’t like – not because it was theologically inaccurate (which frankly I don’t give a monkeys about), but because it was so utterly dull (a few good plagues notwithstanding). I mean, how can you have a Moses movie where he doesn’t say “Let my people go”? It’s like a Star Wars film where no-one says “May the force be with you.”

    Here’s my full review, in case anyone wants to hear more: https://simondillonbooks.wordpress.com/2014/12/30/exodus-gods-and-kings/

  6. great read, this article was well thought out and researched which i appreciate, so i fully agree we should be praying for Hollywood. but in all my research i have found that Christians that are “lukewarm” or possibly church goers instead of spirit lead believers have enjoyed these movies (gods and kings and Noah in particular) and there approach has simply been the different angle at how these stories could have gone down in real life, in other words rationalizing the bible.. i love Ridley Scott’s movies, Gladiator possibly being one of my all time favourite. Christian Bale is another actor i love to watch, but an atheist producing christian movies is a recipe for disaster, these movies distort God’s nature – for an example the movie “prince of Egypt” was a movie that was done brilliantly, but Ramses was never the ruler during Moses time, although i fully get that its the easiest name for us English speakers to get right, therefore an understandable theological mistake that doesn’t detract from the nature of God is acceptable. with regard to Paul’s example of rushing to the pagans for the sake of the gospel – i agree we can use movies like this, however we live in a very post modern age, and most people think their view is right and often don’t want to seek the truth (not in all cases), but the people that love the word of God, have reviewed it quite badly. im not sure we should just accept filmmakers distorting God for their profit, the trailer (gods and kings) was incredibly misleading, and when a society starts explaining God (supernatural and illogical) in a natural and logical light, the christian faith is under attack. im not against watching movies like this, but i am aware that Paul mentions that some have shipwrecked their faith. and we should look to protect those who might be affected negatively. may God bless you and keep you, may his face shine upon you. Amen.

  7. Aronofsky’s “Noah”

    http://musemash.tumblr.com/post/79845349511/noahs-powerful-international-trailer-can-be

    *
    Mon., Jan 19th, Fathom Events presents “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus” with a documentary screening of the origins of the Exodus and then a discussion with a panel of experts on their views of Moses and the Exodus. This is in response to the Exodus: Gods and Kings movie and is a wonderful opportunity to hear Christians relating their faith to film. Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at http://www.FathomEvents.com.

    http://www.fathomevents.com/event/patterns-of-evidence-the-exodus

  8. Great post, Phil. Hit the nail squarely on the head, and #4 is one the church needs to tattoo on our collective foreheads. The only thing I would add (which has become a personal pet peeve) would be that, IF (big if) you are going to criticize a movie or it’s makers (after you’ve seen the movie, of course), do it in a spirit of love, Godly instruction, and compassion. Going on a tirade on social media about how “such-and-such” producer or director is “going to bust Hell wide open” for the way they produced, envisioned, or interpreted a Bible story only serves to reinforce the negative stereotype in our culture of Christians being hate-filled and intolerant. I believe you’ve said it before (paraphrase), that expecting a non-Christian to be 100% accurate in the telling of a Bible story is pretty unrealistic.

  9. That’s was my thoughts exactly!!!! I was mad sitting in the theater, not because of the film Exodus, but at all my friends who almost convinced me not to see it, it was a great inspirational film.

  10. I know a christian in hollywood just starting to make a series of bible based movies. I agree, let’s pray for hollywood that they make a turn for the better instead of worse.

  11. I for one do not see it to be Hollywood’s job to be “biblically faithful,” or however you want to put it, but to tell a story. The story can help us see the Bible’s story in a new way, and, that just might be what we need to do.

  12. Agree with all the points but for me no.4 is key, if we are not creating the authentic version of the bible, the least we can do it’s say thank you to Hollywood for trying.

  13. I have heard many complaints against the Noah movie. However, consider that the story of Noah is also covered in the Islamic Qu’ran. From a cinematic point of view… I like to have divergent texts brought in to bring depth to a story. After all… it is entertainment, not theology.

  14. Aronofsky’s “Noah”

    http://musemash.tumblr.com/post/79845349511/noahs-powerful-international-trailer-can-be

    *
    Mon., Jan 19th, Fathom Events presents “Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus” with a documentary screening of the origins of the Exodus and then a discussion with a panel of experts on their views of Moses and the Exodus. This is in response to the Exodus: Gods and Kings movie and is a wonderful opportunity to hear Christians relating their faith to film. Tickets are available at participating theater box offices and online at http://www.FathomEvents.com.

    http://www.fathomevents.com/event/patterns-of-evidence-the-exodus

  15. “Let’s focus less on making explicitly “Christian” films and more on getting Christian thinking into mainstream movies”

    I could not agree more. Amen and amen.

    My quip is usually thing, Jesus rarely told “Bible” stories, but often told just stories. A lady who loses a coin. A shepherd who loses a sheep. A father with two sons. A sower sowing seed.

    They have *become* religious bible stories to us, but they were just stories of people of the day.

    That is what Hollywood does today. They tell stories.

    Some times (Frozen, Schindler’s List, Wreck it Ralph) it is a VERY Biblical story.

    Again, I cannot agree more, let’s focus less on making explicitly “Christian” films and more on getting Christian thinking into mainstream movies!

    Simon L Smith
    http://www.reelparables.com

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