Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and TA, I have to confess to you guys that I thought you were a little off in your evaluation of The Passion of the Christ, probably because movies are one of my favorite forms of entertainment. However, I am rethinking my interest in The Passion. A good friend of mine bought the DVD, and he watches it once a week because he says it stirs up his love of Jesus and puts him in a spiritual mood. Somehow, this doesn’t seem right. What’s your opinion?”
Tom: Well, Dave, you know, I was told the movie would just go away after its theatrical release, but that was 2004, but 2005, Mel sold 12 million DVD’s, primarily to the evangelical church, and they are being used for Sundays schools, they are being used for discussion groups and Bible study groups and so on. Now that we are moving more to visual imagery rather than reading the Word, so it’s a problem, and I think it’s going to be a problem for a long time as the church moves away from the written of God to more visual approaches to the Scriptures.
Dave: Tom, we have to go by the Word of God, that’s the problem. And now, what do we have? The whole New Testament on video.
Tom: And the American Bible Society, their goal is to put the entire Bible on video.
Dave: So now, instead of—Jeremiah said, “Thy words were found, I did eat them; they were unto me the joy and rejoice in my heart.” We meditate upon words, and so forth. Not only are we getting some of these phony paraphrases like The Message that dares to shove God’s Word aside and in the place of what God has said, Eugene Peterson puts his own words, but now it’s even worse than that. Now we have a director interpreting, we have actors and actresses, we have scenes being set up, and so forth—this is not the Bible. We’re being taken away from the Bible. Furthermore Tom, I’ve heard so many, or I have read the quotes of so many evangelical readers who said, “But that film is so biblical!” Well, you could say it better than I can—it’s not biblical! There is so much in there that isn’t biblical, with serpents sneaking up on Jesus in the Garden, Him stomping them with His foot, Satan tempting Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Pilate’s wife giving linens to the two Marys and they are wiping up the blood, Jesus gets knocked over a bridge and dangling on a chain and there is Judas cowering underneath and he confronts Him, or a raven plucking an eye out of one of the thieves being crucified with Him, on and on it goes. Tom, tell us about St. Veronica, for example.
Tom: Well, growing up Roman Catholic, when we would go through the ritual of the stations of the cross, 14 stations of the cross, station 6 has to do with Veronica—nobody knows what her name is, she’s just called St. Veronica. “Veronica” means “true image.” But as the story goes—and it’s a story and you won’t find any biblical basis for it—but supposedly, when Jesus was on the Via Dolorosa, you know, the Way of Sorrows, carrying His cross, Veronica came out to hand Him her veil to wipe His brow, and supposedly, according to the church, the imprint of His face was left on this veil. And since then, supposedly, the veil is at the Vatican, but from the time of Veronica on—I think she was a myth—but from that time on this image was used as a source for the icons, for the Orthodox Church, and so on.
Now, let’s talk about icons for a second, and this is what really concerns me about this man telling us his friend is going to this imagery to have a more spiritual relationship with Jesus—he’s needing this visual imagery. Now, it’s interesting that Mel Gibson’s film company is called Icon Productions, and we’re seeing today in the church the use of icons as the Greek Orthodox use them. Now, you’ve been to Russian Orthodox Churches, Dave. This is the basis for their relationship with God through this imagery.
Dave: Tom, it goes contrary to the Bible. We discussed this when we talked about visualizing and images and so forth: “whom having not seen you love,” and now we are going to have some artist’s depiction of what he thinks Jesus looked like.
Tom: Or an actor.
Dave: Yeah, an actor doing—Oh my, this is not Jesus! And I’m going to watch this guy who said in order to portray Jesus, he had to have Jesus inside of him, so he took the Mass every day and ingested Jesus into his stomach, supposedly, because the priest had turned the wafer into Jesus body, soul, and spirit, etc. This is taking us away from the Word of God. I’ve heard people say, “Well, now since I have seen that film, now when I pray to Jesus, now I know what He looks like.” No, you do not know what He looks like, you are being led astray. One of the most powerful deceptions in the history of the church, yet is being praised by evangelicals as, you know, a wonderful aid to spirituality, to getting to know Jesus, getting to know God, getting to understand. But Tom, we have talked about it in the past, one of the worst things is the impression you get that it was the physical blows delivered, the beating, the scourging, that that’s what paid for our sins, and that simply is not true. We’ve talked about it a number of times so I won’t go into that again, but that’s not biblical. The Roman soldiers were not executing God’s judgment, God’s righteous, holy judgment upon Jesus for the sins of all the world. And the idea that the beating of a few moments would pay for the sins of billions and billions of people for all eternity that they would suffer in the lake of fire, simply is leading people astray.
Tom: You know, Dave, there are people out there that think the movie has come and gone. No, as I said, it has now become a staple of teaching within the church. But worse than that, we see through the emerging church, through the movement toward mysticism and the contemplative approach to Christianity, imagery, whether it be The Jesus Film, whatever it is, the whole idea here, folks, is that we are moving into visualization of one sort or another, and it’s contrary to the Word of God.
Dave: And it really undermines the true faith that God wants us to have in Him and in His Word.