The Bible Comes to Prime Time By Bob Waldrep
3-3-13, the Bible will be featured on the History Channel as a
"prime time" 10-part mini-series simply titled, "The
Bible". Though not the first time the History Channel has
aired programming related to the Bible, the producers promise this
one will be different. For, unlike past programs, they have said The
Bible is not intended to approach the Bible as an
"investigation" or "mystery" as the network has
done in past documentaries; but, rather to be a more straightforward
interpretation. Hopefully, by straightforward they mean accurate.
I have high hopes that it will be an accurate
representation, and after watching the previews, I am actually
looking forward to watching this series. However, the viewer should
keep in mind it is a docudrama, which means that "artistic"
liberties will surely be taken in the telling of the story. In
fairness, that is not unusual in historical documentaries and should
not be a reason for Christians to become overly alarmed.
Unfortunately, how far they go with these liberties cannot be
determined until after we have had a chance to view the broadcast.
So, should we be wary? Perhaps, but there are some,
seemingly, positive assurances being given that it is not only done
well, but is also fairly accurate - at least by Hollywood standards.
Producer, Mark Burnett - a very successful television producer of
such shows as Survivor, The Voice, Celebrity
Apprentice, and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader, to
name a few - is saying all the right things on the front end.
He points out their primary reference is the New
International Version of the Bible, which he goes on to say is the
version preferred by Evangelical leaders. In addition, they
established a Board of Advisors made up of Biblical Scholars who
provided their insight and helped to assure accuracy. A point Burnett
also includes is that they took on this project to provide updated
versions of classic older films which dealt with Bible stories, such
as the Ten Commandments, but can no longer match the special effects
generated in film today. (Huffington Post)
In interviews, he and his wife and co-producer, Roma
Downey (who starred in Touched By An Angel and plays Mary in
the series) have been consistent in mentioning these details, driving
home the point that they want to get it right, while insisting it
must also have dramatic appeal and the special effects available
today through CGI and other film advances. Both say they grew up with
the Scriptures and the Bible is an important to them and they want to
pass that along. Recognizing current data indicates fewer people are
reading the Bible, they maintain it is their goal to make it more
appealing and meaningful to a new generation of readers.
[To help with this goal a website was developed to
help Pastors and Churches utilize The Bible series in their
ministry. [The Bible Outreach] If you click on
the embedded link: "Watch a video from Mark and Roma" you
can see a brief clip of them talking about their motivation and hopes
for the film.]
Burnett and Downey also claim that they have become
deeply religious and this has, in part, led to their interest in this
series on the Bible. They have also expressed that they attend Church
regularly. Parade Magazine has a weekly feature titled
"Sunday With..." which asks celebrities to share
information about their personal lives, including what they do on
Sundays. In the February 24, 2013 issue, Burnett and Downey stated
that going to Church is part of their family's Sunday activities.
Everything sounds good thus far. The producers claim
to be committed to the Scriptures, deeply religious and active Church
attenders, and to be motivated by a desire to renew interest in the
Bible. They further claim, the script is adapted from a translation
of the Bible that is widely accepted in the Church and they have
enlisted the assistance of a panel of Biblical scholars to serve as
Advisors to ensure accuracy.
Catholic, Presbyterian, New Age, or Word Faith?
Even with all these assurances, there are a few things
I believe we need to keep in mind as we view The Bible. Let's
begin with the producers being deeply religious and committed to the
Scriptures. Burnett grew up in England, the son of a Roman Catholic
father and Presbyterian mother. Downey is from Ireland and was
raised, and claims to still be, a devout Roman Catholic. Regarding
Church attendance, she attends Mass at Our Lady of Malibu.
However, while discussing her Catholic faith in a
video interview with the Washington Post, she makes some interesting
comments about her view of God, stating, "I see God in everyone
and in everything [I have heard there are] two points of view - there
is no God, or there is only God; and for me there is only
God." [Watch the Interview] Such a
view is much more in line with New Age theology than with a biblical
view of God.
Perhaps she gained this new view of God from her
association with her Touched By an Angel costar, Della Reese,
who pastors a New Age Church. [Read Crosswinds' Just the Facts on Reese] When
Burnett and Downey were married, Reese was the Minister whom they
chose to officiate the wedding.
I think, without question, Reese has had an influence
over Downey's view of God, and possibly that of Burnett, as well.
However, even if she hasn't, Downey definitely has been exposed to
the New Age having earned a degree in spiritual psychology from the
University of Santa Monica (USM). (Charisma)
Lest one think this is a fully accredited four-year
university with degrees in several schools; it is not. USM only
offers an advance degree in "Spiritual Psycology". If there
is any question as to whether this is tied into New Age thought one
only has to look to the founder of USM, Roger Delano Hinkins, who
goes by the name, John-Roger. Hinkins, or John-Roger, is a prominent
New Age author and teacher.
Compounding this problem, Downey and Burnett also have
become close friends with televangelist Joel Osteen who is a popular
Word-Faith television preacher. [Read our article on Osteen] Perhaps,
Osteen's influence on Burnett, has led to some of his more recent
claims regarding the Holy Spirit and Jesus literally hugging him.
Such views line up more with a Word-Faith theology such as Osteen's
than that of his Catholic father and Presbyterian mother. (Outreach Magazine)
Burnett's and Downey's friendship with Osteen is such
that they have attended his Church and have been guests in his home. Burnett
even signed on to do a reality television show with Osteen in
2012. (Wall Street Journal)
This friendship also led to Osteen being one of the
Advisors on The Bible series. Which presents another problem;
the closest representative this Board has to an evangelical and a
Bible scholar is Southern Baptist, Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback
Church in California. [Click to see a full listing of Advisors]
Bottom line, I think it safe to say that even if
Burnett and Downey are Christians, they have been influenced by the
New Age Movement and, on some level, exposed to Word-Faith teaching.
For this reason Christians should watch this series with discernment,
but holding out hope that - whatever they really believe - they truly
do seek to tell the Bible story without imposing any theological
interpretations or bias. If they do, this could be a wonderful tool
for helping to raise a new interest in the Bible.
However, no matter which way it goes, rather than
complaining about it, let's use it as an opportunity to start a
conversation about the Bible and about Christ. If people watch it,
they'll be open to talk about it. Let's be ready to seize the moment
to connect in culture and share with those around us, our hope in
Watch The Bible Trailer