When Artistic License is Unacceptable

On February 28th, 2014, the movie “Son of God” opened in theaters.  The film is simply a repackaging of the History Channel’s “The Bible” series. The promos for the movie demonstrate a complete disregard for the Biblical account of the events that took place. It is one thing to try to script moments in between Biblical accounts, but to completely retell events that are recorded in Scripture in an attempt to portray a different version of Jesus is reprehensible. One of the more popular scenes used for promos is the calling of Simon (whom Jesus renamed Peter according to John 1:42). I will not be watching the film. I questioned the authenticity of the film based on some of the individuals promoting it. However, lets just look at the promo I saw of Jesus calling Peter:

Yikes. For now, lets just ignore Max Lucado’s exegesis (from the film, NOT the Scripture) and focus on the film clips. By including the fishing event, I assume the film is at least inclined toward the Luke account. Let us look at what is recorded in Luke 5:

Luke 5:1-11 (ESV) 5 On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and He saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

Not a lot of text here, yet the movie manages to ignore and change every line. Jesus was teaching when he came to the boat. The crowd was pressing in on Him, so He asked Simon to put out a little so He could continue teaching. No, Jesus did not wade out into the water to compel Simon to let him into the boat (something Max exegeted from the film that isn’t in scripture). They knew Jesus was a teacher, because they heard him teaching and knew the crowd was there. Jesus gives Simon the name Peter. When Jesus told him to go into deep water, Peter did let Jesus know that they had fished all night with no results, but he obeyed. The bit that gets me the most is the clip they like to throw in at the end of most of their promos, where Peter asks Jesus “what are we gonna do?” and Jesus responds, “change the world”.  It may seem like a subtle thing, but Jesus didn’t come to merely change the world. He came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29-30). You see, as fishers of men, the disciples were not called to merely improve the social atmosphere, but to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of Salvation.

While we will undoubtedly have an impact on the world, it will not always look like a positive one, because our primary goal is not to “make the world a better place”; rather, it is to call those who are lost in the world to repentance so that in Christ they may have eternal life. The disciples, the Apostles, were persecuted. The early church faced horrific persecution. And we know that the Tribulation that is coming to the church before Christ’s return will be greater than ever before (Matt 24). But Jesus also had some tough things to say in Matthew 10:

Matthew 10:16-25 (ESV) 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

Matthew 10:34-39 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

The writers of the film went to great lengths to paint Jesus as a positive world changer. However, what He said of His purpose is far different. Jesus came to call sinners out of the world. That is going to divide the world in two: those who follow Christ versus everyone else who have rejected Him. The primary charge of the church is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We know that in Him, we are made free to do good works; however, that freedom is so that we can freely preach the Gospel, not so that our good works can become a goal on its own. A purpose-driven life doesn’t atone for your sins, repentance and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross does. Even if the church were capable of ending world hunger, that feat would not save a single person from the curse of sin. Only the Gospel is capable of such a feat. When you tell some random person, “you can change the world”, you are falsely elevating their level of impact in a humanistic attempt to motivate them to strive to be better than they are. Its one of those politically acceptable lies. However, when you say that Jesus came to change the world… you are diminishing and ignoring what He actually came for, and that is a tragedy of eternal proportions.

I’m sure some will be very emotionally touched by this film, after all it was very well produced by folks who know how work your emotions (that is what the film industry is excellent at… itching ears and all). I’m not worried about those who know the Scriptures and know the true Gospel. But how common is such a person in these days, even within the church? The Gospel that is presented in “Son of God” is a false gospel. The artistic license taken on this film is completely unacceptable. Not only are they ignoring and changing scripture, they got creative with the very words of God the Son, Jesus Christ. If you do take someone to see the film, please correct their false Christology as soon as possible by having them read the Word. What’s worse, is some might grow overly attached to scenes or comments that aren’t in the Bible, or are contradicted by the Bible… then you’ve got a real problem. Please pray for those who you know that are going to see the movie, or who have recently seen it. Challenge them to read their Bibles to get the real story.

May the Lord bless and keep you,
In Him,

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