An on-going debate: Is it wrong to make films about “Jesus” ?


This summer I wrote an article called “Pretty pictures? Or lies,” about images of Jesus and movies about Him. Today I’m returning to this topic, because a friend reopened the discussion with me, and I’m answering her main argument in favor of them. 

She argued that “Biblically faithful” films of Jesus’ life have led many people to Christ all across the world, and referred to the success of the 1979 Film “Jesus”, produced by The Jesus Film Project. (To see the statistics to-date gathered by the Project on things like languages into which the film has been translated, take this link. The statistics seem impressive, but that shouldn’t be of utmost importance.)

The Jesus Film Project slogan

Help Give “JESUS” to Everyone, Everywhere…

This is an invitation that’s hard to resist. But you can’t “help give ‘Jesus’ to everyone, everywhere,” unless you labor and pray that God’s Word is glorified throughout the world. And how can His Word be glorified by disobeying it?

Exodus 20

1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

An endorsement of the Project, and what it reveals

Rick Warren has put in a “good word” for the Project. At its website, he is quoted as saying, 

“The ‘JESUS’ film is the most effective evangelistic tool ever invented.”

“Invented”, or rather “inventors”, is a term used negatively in a key passage of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:30). When it comes to God’s Word and works, human “inventions” are nothing to boast about but rather to be ashamed of.

Who could possibly assume this role?

There is absolutely no man who qualifies to play the part of “Jesus”. Additionally, absolutely no one should ever put on a mask of “the Saviour”, for in doing so, he becomes a kind of antichrist who participates with the man of sin in deceiving the world.

What kind of fruit is this film bearing?

Since it is disobedience and rebellion toward God to make images of Him, including films, it cannot, despite the evidence of statistics, bear good fruit – this is impossible because Jesus has told us that, 

Matthew 7

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

So therefore, though the Project’s statistics are amazing, they cannot represent good fruit, and the real fruit of the Project must still be ripening on the bad tree.

Cumulative Exposures/Decisions Since 1979
 
Audience2:
billions
 
Indicated decisions for Christ following a film showing:   
more than 200 million

Source

The issue of whether the film “works” as an evangelistic tool

Whether something seems to “work” (pragmatism) should hold no weight with Christians who believe the Word of God and desire to obey it. There are many genuine Christians who have a hard time seeing that anything can be of equal or greater importance than winning people to Christ. But obedience and truth and preaching the Gospel to the lost go hand in hand. You can’t divide them. God will not be mocked by our unbelief and disobedience.  

Romans 3

4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

Walking by faith, not by sight

The rest of the slogan of the Jesus Film Project is

Because seeing is believing…

However, this is the testimony of God:

1 Peter 1:7-9

That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:

Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.

.

John 20:24-29

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.

25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.

29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.

May the Lord open the eyes of those dear Christians who are serving in a ministry, or supporting a ministry, that cannot be pleasing to Him no matter how zealous it is. It is a zeal, but not according to knowledge. We are called to do the Lord’s work in His way.

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21 thoughts on “An on-going debate: Is it wrong to make films about “Jesus” ?

  1. Hello GI – i must admit there have been some horrible renditions of the life of Christ that exist on film.

    Some of them are Catholic perversions of truth (such as “The Robe”) which placed more importance on false miracles, Jesus’ face imprinted on a piece of cloth then performing miracles, instead of Him… which are nowhere recorded in scripture. Even the movie “Ben Herr” was designed by Cecil B De Mills to be a story about a man who had suffered, but who also had a life before and after that period of suffering. in other words – an Earthly Christ like character, who would pity from the crowds while suffering, but eventually triumph in the end. That would seem to be Antichrist, seeing that once more, ‘Jesus’ is a background figure making only a couple of appearances, while the lead character is a worldly man who gains fame and fortune…

    Other Catholic backed movies placed the emphasis on ‘Mary’ as the Redemptrix, with ‘Jesus’ being more of a background character, whose main job was to do a little bit of preaching, then die, and then disappear, with “Mary” left behind to “intercede” with her son on behalf of humanity – very Catholic ideas indeed.

    My question would be, if there are so many poor/bad movies about Jesus, how then would you combat that poor/bad image of the Saviour, which mankind has made (either for false religious purposes, or purely for profit)?
    Also, I’m not too sure at all that the prohibition on making idols, necessarily applies to educational images, which aren’t constructed with any kind of worship in mind? What about children’s Bibles? Are they “idolatrous” too?

    Just asking…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Austin!
      You asked, “My question would be, if there are so many poor/bad movies about Jesus, how then would you combat that poor/bad image of the Saviour, which mankind has made (either for false religious purposes, or purely for profit)?”
      How to combat false images of the Saviour is an important question. Images of “Jesus” stay with us, so personally, we should avoid seeing these movies so we aren’t troubled by them. In respect to others, we should encourage them to be in God’s Word, to renew their minds, to know that Jesus can only be known through His Word. We also need to tell them that as believers we walk by faith not by sight. As far as how we combat these images in the eyes of the world, we should declare that they are false.
      You also asked, “Also, I’m not too sure at all that the prohibition on making idols, necessarily applies to educational images, which aren’t constructed with any kind of worship in mind? What about children’s Bibles? Are they “idolatrous” too?”
      The second commandment has two parts – that we aren’t to make, and that we aren’t to serve these things, so, yes, making them even for educational reasons is wrong, and therefore children’s Bibles and Sunday School materials that use “pictures of Jesus” are idolatrous. Your question reminded me of Deuteronomy 6, which explains how diligent we are to be in teaching and speaking about the Law (and this would also include the Gospel). It specifically mentions our children.
      Deuteronomy 6
      4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord:
      5 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
      6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
      7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
      We’ve been told and have believed that children need pictures and object lessons or they won’t learn. According to the testimony of God, His Word is enough – we are told to teach them His Word.
      Maria

      Like

  2. A big problem I see among the churches, is the need to be “trendy” or “cool”. I just read an article the other day talking about how many churches have abandoned traditional beliefs for the sake of “reaching out to the youth”. The problem with that is, all these false Jesus’ we feed today’s youth are not the true Jesus! They are being converted to a falsehood, and we aren’t doing the church any favors by converting people this way! People need to come to christ on his terms, not our own. Bringing nothing, we cloth ourselves with his righteousness. We can’t make it on our own, or by following false christs. He is the way the truth and the life. Let’s bring the youth to him, so they don’t fall away later on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dear Stephen R. Bellew, thank you for your comment about our youth! I agree – we must love them by teaching them the truth. God commands us to do this, and we must obey, so that they don’t come to a false christ, thinking they are safe when they are not. Yes, “bringing nothing, we clothe ourselves with his righteousness”!
      God bless you both!
      Maria

      Liked by 1 person

      • I believe the Lord is working to bring many back to the truth. I can see it in many places across the states, and I believe the scripture when he said “my sheep will hear my voice, and the voice of a stranger they will not follow” God is raising up men and women that hunger and thirst after the truth. I pray that his word continues, and many sheep are brought into the fold. Keep in the warfare:)

        Liked by 2 people

        • This is a word of encouragement to me – and all who love the Lord with love undying, for now so many are talking constantly about apostasy. Yes, keep in the warfare too! Believing good things about you because of His work in you,
          Maria

          Like

  3. M-
    Back in 04, I wrote an opinion of ‘the passion,’ remember when that movie was big? I waited long after till I was able to see it free, because I wanted to see for myself what the buzz was all about. Since we are in this world, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of things like this, so we can speak intelligently to others; sure many people can have eyes opened
    with even a poorly made movie.

    Anyway, I copied the link below, if u don’t want it just delete.
    Tkx-
    j

    http://thenakedtruth2.wordpress.com/?s=the+passion

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, thank you for telling me some of your experience with these things, Jack. The Passion was very moving – to put it mildly, and its portrait of the extent of human depravity in those who aren’t born from above was correct.
      I won’t remove the link, for this is a discussion and you should be heard.
      God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you dear sister. It can be painful and frustrating in dealing with a fellow Christian that is taken in by such things that saturate the world. But it appears that you are doing the right thing. To those around us, we can only share the truth of God’s Word and pray for them. Only God, the Holy Spirit can change their hearts. Please continue on gentle iconoclast.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Here is my quote about Christians celebrating X Mass:
    When you use error to exalt the truth then you have utterly destroyed the importance of truth. ~ Sherry

    I think it fits with using images of man’s idea of Him to share the Gospel, which is a servant’s worship to God and His Kingdom’s increase.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Maria, I am finding this truth that you are writing about to be very hard to combat. How to engage in telling the Truth of God’s Word about movies and books that seem godly and innocent yet they are full of deadly poison. Let me just tell you this first; I was one of those who was listening to these false teachers, preachers, reading their books, watching these movies and I am not real sure what happened to open my eyes to the truth but I am so thankful that they were. The recent movie “The Shack” has me so grieved in my heart that so many are accepting this as a message of truth when it is wolf in sheep’s clothing. Recently I shared a review about the Shack on my FB page and my family commented on how it was so great and that everyone should go see it. I said that it is not Biblical and to please read the article. Another person said on their page that they think it is “good entertainment.” Someone commented on their post that it is full of heresy then the husband of this person accused her of bringing division and made the remark of I wonder how many that are criticizing this movie has watched Fifty shades of Grey or Twilight. I guess my question is how do you speak the truth in love when it does seem to cause division esp on social media. I want to share the video that I found the other day on my FB page however, I am questioning if my motives are right. When should you say something and when should you just pray that God will open their eyes to the truth?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Godsgirl631! About getting taken in by false teachers and God’s deliverance from them, that’s my story too. When we’ve experienced this we become super alert, and we can pray that because of our failure we can help others.

      It’s good to speak up on FB. Sometimes it seems our voice is being drowned out but I think that people do hear and seeds are planted. Sometimes the good we do is undercut by an accusation, like the one the man made that accused people who object to The Shack of hypocrisy because they probably watched 50 Shades of Gray. Sometimes the accusation is false but occasionally it’s true. This hits home because I have and still do watch things like The Bourne Identity – violent suspense. We should examine our actions, seek forgiveness, repent and keep speaking up. However sometimes we’ve said enough and can be silent until another time. God bless you for speaking up and for seeking to please the Lord in all your ways!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that is so true on being super alert. You want to tell everyone around you to be alert and be vigilant!!!! It is so easy to get sucked in to this false teaching, because it is so entangled, if that would be the right word to use? with the truth it is difficult to spot it unless you have discernment and seeking the Truth through the word, God’s truth. We must be careful not to try to defend ourselves but to stand on God’s word and allow His word to be our defense. I am guilty of wanting to defend myself and I am also guilty of watching thriller movies and violent suspense myself. I appreciate your openness with me. Keep speaking the truth Maria.

        Liked by 1 person

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