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 Tom: I have heard you two complain that people have objected to some of your books without having read them. You’ve said that their pastors have told them not to read your books and you question how they could truly know the books were problematic when they hadn’t read them for themselves. Now it seems you are doing the same thing yourselves regarding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. I’ve talked to people who won’t go see The Passion, based upon what you have said and written about it. Don’t you think you are being hypocritical? I’d like to hear your reasons why not.”
Tom: Dave, just a little historic background: The Seduction of Christianity—I remember lots of people getting right in my face complaining about the book and I said, “Well what’s the complaint? Show me where we’ve erred and we’ll certainly correct it.” And they would say “Well, I haven’t read the book.” And then it really surprised me. That was The Seduction of Christianity and dealt with hyper-faith and charismatics, hyper-charismatics and so on and it wasn’t that I expected that, but we knew that some of the pastors were going to be on a diatribe about the book. But you got the same reaction to What Love is This? from a group of people that we would expect to be a little bit more astute and would have read the book to complain about it.
Dave: Well, Tom, of course people are welcome to their opinion, but I don’t think they should express an opinion about a book that they haven’t read. Now, you have not expressed an opinion about Mel Gibson’s film without going to see it. I went to see it myself—which I rarely ever go to a movie, but I thought I had to for this particular one, so we’re not complaining. Somebody wants to say that they don’t like our books or their books are not biblical—Tom, we’ve often said we are open to criticism. Please! Anything that I’ve written in the newsletter, what I’ve said in speaking—if I have not been true to the word of God, let me know! It would be a favor. I would not consider it an attack, okay?
But now we have another situation here. The person who writes the letter says, “Well then, we’re hypocrites because we’re causing people to not go and see the movie because of what we say about it.”
Tom: (Laughing) I don’t know how effective we’ve been that way…
Dave: No, I don’t think so.
Tom: …given the popularity of the film, but anyway.
Dave: But I think that’s a false accusation. I mean, we’re not telling people don’t go to see it. You want to go and see it, go and see it.
Tom: Yeah, but we don’t recommend it.
Dave: We certainly don’t recommend it, but there are a lot of things that we wouldn’t recommend. So if a person comes to a conclusion on the basis of a factual analysis of the film, by those who have seen it and they are open to other analyses, other reviews, by people who love it, okay? If a medical doctor tells me something is wrong with LSD or marijuana, and so forth…
Tom: Mm-hmm, or designer drugs or something.
Dave: …right. I don’t have to try them to check it out for myself. Look, you can’t know everything. I’ve never been to China. I’ve seen pictures. I’ve read books about China and so forth. I didn’t suffer under Hitler, but I’ve read many accounts of people who did. I think I can come to a fairly good understanding of what it was like under Hitler. So we have given our opinion on the basis of seeing this film—you’ve seen it more than once—then if someone wants to come to a conclusion on that basis, I think that’s valid.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, I have a slightly different way of looking at this. We do present information; people can read the information. But when they get into a dialogue—and lots of times it turns into an argument—and it can be very difficult because movies are emotional things; they play with your heartstrings. They can move you any which way, persuade you with all kinds of devices, which is part of the medium. It’s part of what we like about it, and part of what can be a major problem with it. But if I hadn’t seen the film, but I read Showtime for the Sheep, for example, the book would give me enough questions to ask the person. In other words, I don’t have to be dogmatic. “Well, this is what I believe because T.A. McMahon said this.” If T.A. McMahon raises some points about the film, that can give me information to question a person as to why they like it.
For example, they said, “Well, it’s been used of the Lord to bring many people to Christ.” Now, that’s something that be challenged, and it can be challenged on the basis of some information that the book presented with regard to the film. I can ask questions. So, you know, there are many ways to approach it, but I agree with you, Dave, that you don’t have to go to see the film. There’s enough information out there that I think is legitimate at least to arm you with questions to ask people who enjoyed the film.
Dave: And Tom, I’ve been saying this for years long before this film came out, about the Jesus film, the Jesus video, other movies where you have an actor portraying Jesus. Now this is the most radical thing we say, and Tom, I’ve never had anyone challenge me on this. I’ve never had anyone say, “Dave, you are wrong.” It is biblical for some actor to pretend to be Jesus, even though Jesus said, “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” Even though Paul said, “Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.” Oh, it’s perfectly okay for some human being to pretend to be Jesus upon the screen. And then you hear people as they go out of the film, they say, “Oh, now I know what Jesus looks like,” or they get the impression that this is Jesus. This is a false Jesus. Tom, I would like someone, somebody listening out there, please deal with that, okay? I think this is an abomination. And furthermore, we have the word of God. Not only do we have these bad paraphrases like The Message, by Peterson, but we’re getting farther, and farther, and farther away from the Bible. Pretty soon we don’t have the Bible anymore. We have a portrayal of, you know—you’re the film make—some director’s idea….
Tom: Or his vision.
Dave: …of what this is supposed to mean and we are losing the Word of God by which we are saved and by which we live.