I have always loved to read. Yet, for as long as I can remember, I’ve loved movies as well. I guess I just enjoy a good story. So when asked: Did you like the book better or the movie? My answer has typically been: Yes! I think of books and movies as two totally different things. They tell the same story two different ways. I don’t go into the theater expecting the movie to be true to the book. So I ‘m not usually the guy pointing out the errors in the movie version of a novel.
But, over the years, I have drawn the line at one book: The Bible. I just can’t treat movie versions of the Bible as equally enjoyable as reading the actual story itself. Nor do I expect any movie to be an accurate portrayal of a particular story in Scripture. How can it be? But now, I find myself questioning if we even need a movie version in the first place–and if we (Christians) should support the efforts.
I remember watching The Ten Commandments as a child every year it came on television. Even when my own children were younger, I continued the tradition. Why? I knew the movie was filled with errors and extra-biblical information, but it didn’t seem to matter. At least they tried to portray a Biblical story! I also remember being 12 years old and watching the Jesus of Nazareth television mini-series along with most American Christians. Again, much was added that was false, and much that was true was left out. There was the wildly popular Passion of the Christ in which churches across the country rented out movie theaters, using it as an evangelistic tool. Now, we have two major Bible movies in the theaters: Son of God and Noah, both claiming to communicate the meaning of the Biblical stories. This time, I refuse. I would rather just read the book.
Now, I know these, and others, are very different films, so I’m not trying to lump them all together. Some have more redeeming qualities than others. And Noah is clearly the most unbiblical of them all. But where they are similar is that they all must take liberties to transition from the brevity of the Bible story to the full-length tale of a movie. Dialogue has to be added. Real historical figures with little descriptions have to be created and even invented. Gaps have to be filled. Author’s intent has to be interpreted. So these films all have to add significantly to the inspired, inerrant, holy Word of God! Therefore, they will always fall short of telling the true story.
Maybe this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. Again, it makes me wonder why we Christians even want to watch these movies. Are we just seeing how close they get to the truth? Are we looking for the errors; watching for the “artistic liberties?” Or, are we just happy that the Bible story is “good enough” to warrant a movie, so we try to support it? Maybe we are just fine with a movie “based on a true story” just like any other historical work. Again, at least the “message” of the Bible is getting out there.
But to state the obvious: The Bible is different! The Holy Spirit inspired human authors to only include parts of individual stories, not the entire story. The parts that are revealed to us are given for a reason. They force us to focus on what’s important in the story and not get caught up with what is not. This is what every good storyteller does–tells the story as HE means to tell it. And God is the Master Storyteller!
So it doesn’t matter how Noah got all those animals in the ark, even if inquiring minds want to know. It doesn’t matter what the eight people talked about on the ark, or how they kept the animals from eating each other. All that really matters is that humans deserve death for their sins and God has mercy and saves those on whom He puts His favor. And, that the only right response to the grace of God is obedience to God. Is that the message of the movie Noah? If it isn’t, why would we support it?
So, when it comes to movies “based” on the Bible, JUST READ THE BOOK. And when you want to know more of the story, read it again.