We may get negative comments on this post, because there are many movies about the Bible and biblical themes that we have not seen, and that’s what we’re going to talk about. But we’re not really going to talk about the movies themselves. We’re going to talk about reactions to them.
Periodically people make movies that have something to do with the Bible. The most recent one is Called Son of God. Here are some of the reviews from people who have seen it.
The following links to a fairly long and detailed review, but it is definitely worth reading.
Someone on fb posted this link, and almost immediately got a response that the reviewer must have come looking to find fault with the movie. Michael responded with a quote from the reviewer: (emphasis added) “Prior to entering the theater today, I went in with an open-Bible-mind and open-Spirit-heart. I hoped that this movie was better than the miniseries, but alas, it was not.” Michael also said, “I have not seen the movie, but I do pray that this is an honest statement.”
Kenneth R. Morefield of Christianity Today said, “Watching Son of God was not a dreadful experience, but it wasn’t a particularly inspirational or entertaining one, either.”
Dove Awards said, “This is a movie with a message. It will take you on a powerful, compelling and, in the end, spiritual journey.”
Martin Tsai of the Los Angeles Times said the movie “has the feel of a ‘midseason clip show’. If ‘The Bible (the History Channel series from which this film was made) was CliffsNotes for the Scriptures, Son of God is the cheat sheet. The two-hour film condenses about four hours of what already was hasty television, and it all winds up a little dramatically static.”
The New York Times’ Nicolas Rapold said, “Son of God runs through the scriptural greatest hits of the Passion with the reliability of a Sunday reader … undermining the mysteries of Jesus with the blandness of the filmmaking. … ‘Son of God’ may have hit the mark if part of the goal was to create a portrait flat enough to allow audience members to project their own feelings onto the screen.”
Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “the film does thoroughly succeed in one important regard: offering a coherent, viewer-friendly account of the life of Jesus Christ. The movie flies by despite its 138-minute running time, a holy CliffsNotes that packs in all the greatest hits. Never again will a Sunday school student get lower than a C-minus on this material.”
Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post “’Son of God’ is nothing if not sincere, its earnest retelling of Jesus’s life story resembling a gentle, pop-up book version of the New Testament, its text reenacted for maximum reassurance and intellectual ease. Don’t expect to see a great film, or even a very good one. Whether you discover a meaningful channel with which to continue your walk with the film’s protagonist, however, is strictly between you and your god.”
Christian Blogger Mike Blackaby said, “It’s just good to have a well-made Christian film out there that gets people excited and interested in Jesus. Here is my bias rearing its ugly head. You’re never going to make a movie about Jesus that pleases everyone, and I’m so tired of the Christians who slam any Christian movie that does not line up with their ‘infallible’ interpretation of how these events went down. So what that Jesus here is kind of portrayed as a surfer-dude hippie, sticking it to the Roman Empire and the Jewish Pharisees? There is going to be artistic interpretation in every work of art, and the producers of this film are not creating a tract, trying to replace Scripture, or writing a theology text book. They are making a movie with the hopes of renewing an interest in Jesus for an American culture that could really use that right now. To that, I say, ‘props to them’. If you’re putting your hope in this movie to fulfill the Great Commission, then you’re misguided.”
These reviews come from believers and unbelievers. We could share many more, and point out that both sides seemed to find technical problems in the presentation and other weaknesses that make the movie flawed at best.
The thing that really stood out about comments from believers, however, was the split opinions. Some thought it was wonderful and saw no fault. Some admitted some imperfections but believed it could be used for God’s glory. Some saw too many flaws, including Scriptural inaccuracies, and recommended avoiding the film.
Our daughter Victoria, who has not seen it but was responding to some who made the charge that it was ‘just a movie’ or that those who pointed out problems were prejudiced, said, “Film producer Mark Burnett says his soon-to-be released movie Son of God will have a wide impact for Christian evangelism as modern technology brings the film about the life of Jesus to remote areas of the world.
“‘We believe in the decades to come, people in remote places will find Jesus through watching this movie on their iPhones,’ Burnett told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
Victoria continued, “He wanted this to be a message, a doctrinal one that people might watch or see that they would not otherwise pay attention to. But because they do not know the truth or have rejected the truth presented in a different form, I just think that it is very important that the movie present God in the way God wanted Himself to presented, not in a way that is open to the viewers’ interpretation. God does give 4 different presentations of Jesus, through the gospels. I think we just need to be careful of praising those who present Christ, His message, and the Bible in a different light than God intended. (Rev 22:19)”
There was that curious reaction hinted at above, though. One believer would state what he saw as flaws, and another would either say, ‘It’s just a movie, lighten up,’ or leap to the defense of the movie, saying it was a great film and would be greatly used. Along with that opinion would very often come a ‘shame on you’ to those who dared to critique what they saw as the film’s shortcomings. The reviewer would be accused of coming in with an agenda or being prejudiced to dislike it before hand. In some cases, other reviewers called anyone who didn’t love the film idiots.
Many reviewers, believers and unbelievers, admitted that they thought that the film would do very little to convince unbelievers, though the makers clearly stated that they intended it to convince the unsaved in remote places. Believers are flocking to it, even reserving whole theaters to ensure it is the only thing playing there. It is doing well commercially. But who is it reaching? It seems like mostly Christians are seeing it. If the unconverted are watching it, they are not, for the most part, ‘going public’ about being persuaded.
If films like this do not persuade unbelievers, what is their purpose? Christians clamor for clean, family-friendly films, and especially love the idea of those based on the Scriptures. Hollywood rarely listens, churning out films that are often the antithesis of what Christians want to see. They promote the occult, explicit sex, lurid violence, and in one recent Oscar-nominated case, drop the f-bomb over 500 times. But, now and then, it seems Hollywood may be listening when a film like Son of God comes out.
The problem with such films is that they produce division in the body of Christ. Some will say we’ve got that backwards – that certain Christians become divisive when every one of “us” ought to praise and encourage the moviemakers for trying. Christians ought to unite in supporting the attempts to make family-friendly and biblically-inspired films, even if they are not perfect. Those who can’t do that are insulted, attacked, and marginalized.
This sounds disturbingly familiar. It is what liberals and atheists do when they want to dismiss criticisms of Secular Humanist teachings. Richard Dawkins has an Anglican minister friend whom he chastises when the sermons references Adam and Eve as if they are real people. This minister already accepts evolution, but that isn’t enough for Dawkins. The man must not teach any of the Bible as if it is true. Dawkins happily insults and attacks anyone foolish enough to accept that ridiculous book, the Bible.
Now we have two camps of Christians. One stands for the Word of God and says Hollywood must not present a watered-down, incomplete, or downright inaccurate version of the historical events in the Scriptures. But these brothers and sisters in Christ are insulted, called names, and marginalized, by who? By other believers. That second camp will praise and promote anything that has any crumbs of biblical content. It’s true that God can use His Word, even if the vessel of its presentation is flawed. But why attack those who want to purify that vessel? That’s being divisive – to say those Christians should shut their mouths and not criticize.
Is it possible that the world puts out these films to be provocative, as well as to make a buck off the faithful who will flock to see the smallest bit of Bible on the screen? Do they do it to force wedges between the brethren? Do they goad those who must speak out against corruption, and likewise prompt other believers to be ‘more accepting, more loving’, when what they are really doing is rejecting their own fellow believers in favor of that which is not truth?
‘Divide and conquer’ is a very old maxim. And the divide widens with every new ‘biblical’ film that comes out. Christians should be one in the Spirit, but also one in the Truth. Please, consider carefully. Who is really being divisive?
Image from moviepilot.com
3 thoughts on “The ‘Son of God’ Movie: Reflections on Christian Division — Post by Michael J., Mary C., and Victoria Findley”
very thoughtful and balanced article. After reading the comments on the SOG Facebook page, its downright prophetic.
Thank you so much for commenting, Angel! This has been percolating in our minds for so long.