Last night, Mel and I caught up on ‘The Bible’ TV series which started on Saturday night. In a few weeks this link won’t work, but for now it can be found here. We didn’t really know what to expect, but here are some of my reflections…
What a great show!
I think it’s fantastic that this show has been made, and that it has received the huge audience it has. Getting the biblical stories – and more importantly, the whole sweep of the Bible’s full story – out in a way that people can engage with is such a great thing to do.
It’s got people talking, it’s raised biblical knowledge, and it’s peaked curiosity.
One of the best aspects is that God was present!! A lot of film and TV versions of Bible stories seem to remove God, and just look at these as human stories. God is not part of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat at all. But the stories of the Bible cannot and do not make sense without God as the central character. The show doesn’t apologise for that.
Also, seeing the stories brought to life reminds us these are real stories about real people and the events would have affected them deeply. These are not just fairy stories about people who live in a fantasy world. Seeing joy and pain on the faces of the characters reminds us of the real humanity of characters like Abraham and Sarah.
Sure, there were some parts that were less good. We were confused by the introduction of kung fu angels in Sodom. There were some cheesy moments, and I felt some artistic decisions were based more on making ‘good telly’ than what best demonstrates the flow of the biblical narrative.
But you know what? They were making a TV show, so a lot of that is inevitable and I don’t blame them at all!
Trusting God: the wrong emphasis
It wasn’t long before Mel turned to me and said, “I’m detecting a theme here – you have to trust God.” And she’s right. At pretty much every key moment in the episode, the central character (either Abraham or Moses, this time) says or shouts ‘TRUST GOD!’ The take-home message of the evening was that if we trust God, He’ll come through.
I felt as though this emphasis skewed a major and important theme of the whole Bible, and especially the Old Testament. Why, Dave?! Surely trusting in God is important! Surely one of the great aspects of Abraham and Moses is that they DID trust God! Yes, of course. I’m not denying that for a second.
But this constant refrain – ‘Trust God’ – becomes a very human-centric theme. It is all about the characters and whether they trust God. In the biblical accounts of these stories, the focus is not on the trust of people, but the trustworthiness of God.
This contrast came into sharpest focus for me right at the end of the episode, when Moses comes down from Sinai with the 10 commandments and says this to Joshua:
“If we trust God, He will be true to His promises.”
That’s not quite right. That starts with us and makes God’s faithfulness dependent on ours. Time and again, the Bible says the opposite. It starts with God – he IS faithful whether or not we are. He isn’t true to us because we are true to Him. Rather, because He is true to us, we need never fear being true to Him.
It may sound like semantics, but I don’t think it is. Theology and the Bible start with God, not us. We are faithful because He is faithful.
Will I watch next week?
OF COURSE I WILL!! Like I said, I thought it was a fantastic show which can only do good in terms of raising the profile of the Bible. It opened up new and fresh conversations in my marriage about the Bible. It will do so in families, groups of friends, and churches up and down the country.
It can also point people to the truth at the centre of our faith, rather than what is normally in the public eye – the political machinations of the church in our country, and our failures.
And also, it’s a great show! I think there is a flaw in the ‘theology’ of the programme, but it is still a great show. It’s an interpretation, and no interpretations – books, TV shows, sermons – get it totally right. We must be like the Bereans of Acts 17 – eager to learn and grow, but careful to check it out against the original to see if what’s presented is right.
If you didn’t watch the show, do! Catch up, and then watch this week’s instalment. And then talk about it with someone!
What did you think of the first episode? Leave a comment below.