Early in the project, “The Bible” miniseries producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey – both life-long Christian believers and successful secular entertainment figures – sought advice from noted pastor and author Rick Warren, who offered:
- Tell the Story. The Bible is a love story, not a documentary; take some chances.
- Let the story stand. The Bible explains and defends itself; don’t worry about building that into your production.
- Pray “Use me.” Ask God to use you to tell His story.
The day before “The Bible” premiered, Warren sat with the producers in a live online preview and equipping session for pastors and teachers, and opined that 1950s-1960s era Bible mega movies and even the vaunted but decades-old “Jesus Film” are occasionally “wooden” in their use of direct scriptural dialogue. Warren was enthusiastic about freshening the Bible’s “movie” images.
Listening to Downey and Burnett, it’s obvious that their hearts are sincerely with Christ. Extensive video previews focused heavily on New Testament Jesus stories, and I have to tell you, the beauty and emotion of the new video repeatedly had me near tears. I challenge any believer not to choke up when Jesus lovingly calls tax collector Matthew to be a disciple or tenderly saves and forgives Mary Magdalene.
The first episode March 3 surveyed Genesis (Creation, Noah, Abraham, etc.) and Exodus (Moses). I noticed it was powerfully done, a lot was left out, and some obvious story license had been taken. But the love story is intense and intact, and I was gratified – thrilled, really – that “The Bible” was suddenly the hottest topic in the country.
It’s what we pray for as Christians, isn’t it, to share God’s word and to have our increasingly lost culture gain familiarity with and enthusiasm for exploring the Bible? Well, here is a great chance. The major secular news and entertainment media raved about “The Bible’s” story, fabulous production and high ratings. Yet, I was astonished at concurrent social media slams and snarks from Christian quarters: this story was omitted; that angel was embellished; “TV” can’t get anything right, etc.
Whoa, folks! I am reminded of the learned and faithful Apollos, the oft-mentioned associate of the Apostle Paul. When Aquila and Priscilla perceived rough spots in Apollos’ enthusiastic preaching, they didn’t berate his faith; they taught and encouraged him. So I have this message for Pharisaical Christian critics who are unlovingly posing and arrogantly promoting their superior Bible expertise: Stop it.
Instead, love the opportunity “The Bible”provides to explain “the way of God more adequately” (Acts 18:26). And relax. Like Warren said, the Bible can defend itself.