Dec 032013

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…

The Bible

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.

Kung Fu Angel]

Kung Fu Angel

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.

If you liked this post, please share using the buttons below. Also, you can to receive all future posts by email. Thanks for reading!

  • Graham Criddle

    Hi David
    Great post – and I agree that it was a good programme and I thought it really good to see this on terrestrial TV.

    I think it communicated the sense of the story very well and didn’t miss out much that was significant to the main story. The one thing I was surprised that wasn’t included was circumcision as a sign of the covenant between God and His chosen people. It would have been a useful way to ground this sense of “covenant” which was alluded to in other ways.

    But I want to push what you say about the “trust God” issue a little.
    Firstly – you are right!
    It is absolutely true that we so easily makes things us-centred and move away from a God-centred understanding. And God does remain faithful to us whether or not we trust in Him.

    But as God’s relationship with His people deepens they are called to act in a certain way. If they do they will stay in His blessing, if they don’t they will be punished, always with the offer of returning to that right relationship with God.

    So while God is faithful, for us to receive the blessings which flow from that we need to be obedient to what He has called us to be.

    If Moses hadn’t stretched out his hand over the Red Sea, would the waters have parted?

    So for the people to experience the trustworthiness of God (on some occasions – but not all) they had to be prepared to trust and be obedient to what He had called them to do.

    I think we are in agreement but just exploring the nuances of this a little further.

    (All comments made in the context of the story as developed thus far!)