TWO CHRISTIAN LABELED MOVIES / SON OF GOD / NOAH / MEL GIBSON and the BENCHMARK

Son of God - The Film

 
I saw the movie Son of God with some friends from church.  They thought it was wonderful and as I sat in the theatre I heard people around me shedding a few tears.  Afterwards we went out to dinner...  The discussion continued and I felt that, as people of faith, they were merely gratified to see any Christian themed film on the big screen and being critical just seemed ungrateful.
 
For the number of Biblical errors and the degree of creative license taken I just couldn't agree.  So perhaps it would be more accurate to call this a Christian-themed film.
 
To compare Son of God in any way with the excellence of The Passion of the Christ... well, that would be a travesty. Our benchmark standard of excellence has to be the Mel Gibson film.
 
What offended me most of all was the actor chosen to play my precious Savior, Jesus Christ.  Diogo Morgado is a former model who was clearly cast for his appearance and not his acting ability. Many have since touted him as a sex symbol, something Jesus Christ never was.  
 
We have one and only one physical description of Jesus from scripture. I think this is telling that Father-God didn't think we needed more than one.  We also have the Shroud of Turin, which I personally believe is genuine and in no way suggests Jesus as dynamically handsome and drawing people to him by externals.  We have the wonderful story of Jesus as a boy, leaving his parents to caravan home without Him; returning to the temple to be "about my Fathers business." What we understand from reading the passage is that Jesus the boy had wisdom beyond his years, was fully aware of His destiny, and conveyed an honesty... truth being what drew people to him.  But again... no physical description of a cute, highly attractive, handsome boy.

In a prophetic vision Isaiah wrote of the coming Savior...  
Who has believed our message?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?  For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him (Isaiah 53: 1, 2).
 
Paul made no mention of Jesus being handsome. He heard much about Jesus' acts and ministry from James, Peter and John who along with Barnabas mentored Paul in the faith. Mark, who was not an apostle, may have known Jesus as a young boy and, as we know, spent years in Paul's company. For all these numerous first hand accounts from people who actually saw Jesus, walked and served with him during his earthly ministry it is very significant for what Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, did NOT say about Jesus' physical appearance. Paul merely records that Jesus was, "made in the likeness of men."  

Despite the lie of casting choices from people who should know better and what this misleads people to believe, what Jesus physically looked like was, in fact, important in that Father God chose to reveal His Son as being... ordinary, physically "unremarkable."  One all of us, whoever we were, could relate to. 

Jesus looked like a very average person, since he came FOR all men and all women; beautiful, ugly, average, scarred, disfigured...  He was about healing the internal scaring of sin and the new life and hope that only Jesus Christ can bring to desperate people; even those that do not know their deep need for new and fresh, eternal pasture.  I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly (John 10: 9, 10).   

When Paul says that Jesus came as a bond-slave what is meant here is a servant, one who came to serve, by a free exercise of will and choice; in this case for a divine, eternal purpose whose mysteries, for now, we only know in part. Paul writes that Jesus Christ...
 
...emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2: 7-9).  Read the remainder of the passage. 

I guess the casting agent in Son of God didn't get this memo.  The inference of the film, Son of God, went on to imply a certain magnetism in that confluence of physical appearance and inner magic, what casting agents call that "it" factor. The truth is that not one person was drawn to Jesus because He was handsome. They were drawn by the miracles He performed which pointed to Jesus being really and truly the Messiah, the true Son of God, the Savior of those who would trust Him.
 
Isaiah goes on to proclaim in what has become known as the picture of the suffering Messiah...
He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from who men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him (Isaiah 53: 3).      
 
 
A kingdom principal evidenced many times over through scripture is that we are not to judge by appearance. We are to test spirits, test words, test intention and motive not only in ourselves, but in others.  God does not bestow blessing and favor by any measure of externals and in fact he says that His power is perfected in weakness; at those times when we give up the performance scripts and cry out to God that we need Him.  Paul wrote:  And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness."  Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me" (2nd Corinthians 12: 9).
 
But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1st Samuel 16: 7). 
 
What is this power that works through the imperfections of men?  Jesus clearly told us to stand in His authority and exercise this power for purposes of healing, restoration, salvation, exorcism, deliverance and so much more. This message was lost in the film, Son of God. What was also missing was not one... not one incidence of Jesus casting out demons.  Given my own ministry and my concern for the rise of paganism in direct proportion to ignorance of God's word I find this a serious lapse. 

I'm not sure we needed another film that put scriptural authority on the back-burner.  Perhaps the problem was in how the director interpreted the script or the fact that the editing lacked or that this was admittedly pieced together with surplus footage.  I found it distracting for the several distortions and omissions.     

What did I like about this film?  I'm glad it was made and that it has had a good run in movie theaters all across this country.  This speaks volumes to those who might be listening.  I know that because of this film people will think about Jesus and perhaps some will reach for a Bible to read this powerful record of His life on earth for themselves.  The actor that played Pilate, Greg Hicks, was pretty wonderful.  He did an excellent job and I like how Pilate's dilemma was fleshed out in  this actor's interpretation of the part he played.   I'm not sure what other roles he has played, but he was professional and skilled with reams of talent.  And... as they say.  The camera loves him.   
 
"Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.  Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask; it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.  For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst" Matthew 18: 18-20). 
 
Truly, truly, I say to you he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do because I go to the Father.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.  If you love Me you will keep My commandments (John 14: 12-15). 

Jesus was approachable as He is today. His arms are wide open to all that will come.  I love the following passage for what it says, but also infers.  It was His mercy and compassion, this wealth of very great love for hurting people that transcended language and was the substance of communication. There was no chance whatsoever that this content of heavenly purpose could be upstaged by physical beauty. Hurting people looked into the face of Jesus and they knew... they just knew and in God's very great love for us in sending His one and only Son into a corrupted world, to a lost and corrupted people the proof of that love was seen in the miracles performed. There was not only physical healing, but eternal healing for the hungry soul. 

The news about Him spread throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all who were ill, those suffering with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, paralytics; and He healed them (Matthew 4: 24). 

It is the same today.  People of faith just know.  We've met Jesus, had a healing encounter, received eternal salvation and the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within every true believer and we know, what we know... Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Hebrews 11: 1). 
 
How does a movie depict what is impossible to quantify by externals.  How does film communicate transcendent power? Power that comes from on high through faith in Jesus Christ, and working through fragile humanity.  Certainly not in ways that fly in the face of scripture inviting us to leave our critical thinking skills and discernment gifts at the ticket counter. So let us enjoy a "Christian" labeled film, but lets not pretend it's more than it is.  For me, Son of God, was a disappointment and misses on too many fronts. I have no plans to buy it and, as to watching it for second time, I think I'll pass.  To imply it could be any kind of a teaching tool; well I'd pass on that too for there were just too many errors; not matters of interpretation, but errors.  
 
In The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson and his team succeeded to visual and evocative emotional authority.  This film would not have been made without God using him, despite all his human frailties.  Below is an excerpt taken from the Prospectus I wrote for Wood's End and my hope of making that book into a Christian film.  I'm in no way comparing my Wood's End screen play to that of Mel Gibson's, which was entirely taken from scripture. 


THE DISCRIMINATING

CHRISTIAN VIEWER


Excerpts from the Wood's End Prospectus

 Christian film, as an evangelical and educational tool to convey Christian messages and core truths, broke into the consciousness of many people with the release of Mel Gibson’s, The Passion of the Christ, which was released February 2004. 


Despite an aggressive secular attack, with attempts to label the movie anti-Semitic and an ironic criticism of its violence, given the level of violence in many secular films, the movie-going public remained unfazed in their enthusiasm making up their own minds.    

The Passion of the Christ stunned the secular movie industry; becoming the eighth highest grossing domestic film of all time.  Today, it is still the highest grossing non-English-speaking film of all time.    


Mel Gibson personally funded The Passion of the Christ.  He had no expectation of a huge commercial success.  He anticipated a limited release.  As secular pressure built and denominational expectations were heard from, a fire storm of publicity was unleashed.  Gibson was wise enough to capitalize on this.   The degree of opposition to some "Christian" films can be equated to the degree to which satan must marshal it's forces to oppose the eternal potential of film as a creative vehicle.     


Much of this controversy, both for Mel Gibson and the film itself, was media fueled as industry elites attempted to contrive conflicts even before the film entered post production.  Mel Gibson and his company, Icon Productions, soon realized they had a tiger by the tail.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8: 28). 

According to the Barna Group, much of the films’ success can be attributed to fervent support of churches crossing all denominational lines, “many of whom labeled the movie as one of the greatest evangelistic tools in history.” 
Wide acceptance of the film and its subsequent financial success can be attributed to a strict adherence to the scriptural accounts in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  The only quote not directly taken from the four gospels comes in part from Revelation 21: 5 and prophetically from Isaiah 2: 1-4.  And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  And He said, “Write for these words are faithful and true (Revelation 21: 5).”   
Even Gibson’s additional research, which contributed to the films artistic and historical excellence, sparked controversy.  This research informed the scripts setting in Roman occupied Palestine, accuracy in dress and customs, visual portrayal of the Hebrew religious elite of the day and daily life.  The same level of research, which would be applauded in any secular film, even this became a trumped up source of controversy in a veiled attempt to drive a wedge between various Christian denominations.
Fortunately, the buying public either saw through the propaganda or didn’t really care. The message sent to secular media?  People of genuine faith are less prone to manipulation by secular, elitist agendas than one might think. People of faith make up their own minds and all those efforts to get the Judeo/Christian community royally offended, in the expectation that The Passion of the Christ would bomb, dismally failed.   
 
NOAH with Russell Crowe
 
Above is an amusing and I'm guessing very apt review of Noah written by, Matt Walsh. I have yet to see this film so sharing this link for those who are interested. Had to smile at Matt's following remark...

"Naturally, we decided to spend it being pummeled by the blaring condescension of the most insipid, absurd, unimaginative, clumsily contrived piece of anti-Christian film making to come along since, well, probably just last week."

I haven't seen the film so maybe I should not comment on it.  I will however, because most Christians struggle to interpret portions of Genesis 6.  This being the case, I would have low expectations of an Atheist interpretation.  However, as someone recently told me, "I'm glad the topic was depicted because maybe people will think about scripture."  Another friend told me how "truly grieved" he was by the interpretation of Noah who was a faithful man of God. 

What I'm expecting is that Jehovah God is not in any way mentioned or lifted up.  I'm not expecting a Biblical depiction of the level of sin and world-wide judgment that scripture speaks of.  I imagine we won't see a true account of the Nephillim and satan's true intention of using these genetically engineered, demonic-hybrids to corrupt the DNA of man.  I'm told that in the film the Nephillim actually "help" Norah and are depicted as rocks.  When was the last time you saw a rock defile and rape a woman?  In truth, when scripture says that Noah was, "perfect in his time," what is meant is not that he was a perfect man, but that he and his family were free of Nephillim genetics imposed on the greater humanity of that time.  This was a threat to God's plan in the context of His creation / the DNA through whom the Savior of the Universe, Jesus Christ would be born; fully God and fully man.  ...so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2: 10, 11). 
Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds (Hebrews 2: 13, 14). 
Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by his scourging we are healed.  All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him(Isaiah 53: 4-6). 
For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved (Romans 10: 13). 

This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases (Matthew 8: 17). 
Also 1st Peter: 2: 24 / ...and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 

So I might or might not see the film.  If I do it won't because I purchased a ticket. 

About Mel Gibson


They say that Christian's shoot their wounded.  More often than not this is a lie of satan. I've been pretty wounded at times in my life and I've survived by the grace of God and the goodness of my Christian friends. I often think of Billy Graham reaching out to Jim Baker.

Anyway... recently I watched a documentary about actors and scandal and what was said about Mel seemed such a sad contrivance.  We are invited to judge him by the sad reality of alcoholism.   

I would guess that Mel Gibson's desire to do the Maccabees film as a next project and his pairing with a certain screenwriter was  a set up from the start by certain factions in the film industry. Sorry Mel, and I think today you know this all too well.  That man was never, I mean never, going to deliver any kind of finished screen play. I wonder what they paid him not to write?   

I know I'm not the only one praying for Mel Gibson.  I'd just like to remind my brothers and sisters in Christ to keep it up.  Because if this movie, The Passion of the Christ, were his only accomplishment in life, it would represent a huge victory. Not only were people saved - they are still being saved. Jesus came closer to a lot of lukewarm believers.  I myself was brought closer to Jesus in seeing what My Savior really and truly suffered depicted as it was... and for each of us.      

Mel Gibson also modeled the old adage that we are not to think like everyone else. Common sense, hard core actualities and every evidence at the time screamed...  The Passion of the Christ, made as it was in a dead language and entirely from scripture defied every preconception; that this film could not be made, would never be received, would fail to make a profit, was too Biblical, too Protestant, too Christian, too Catholic, too Jewish.  Oh yes, and at the same time we were invited to accept that it was biased against Protestants, Catholics, and Jews, racially slanted etc...  The opposition was frantic, satanic, chaotic and appealed to triggers of fear. That opposition failed.  

Enemies want Mel Gibson to fade into the woodwork.  Shamed and humiliated to never show his face. Hollywood, for the most part, do not shoot their addicts.  They raise them up, give them jobs as seen with Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey, Jr etc...  Perhaps it is true that certain segments in traditional film-making only shoot their Christian, conservative addicts.  
Someday I hope to make my film Wood's End.  If you're interested in helping please get in touch.  I have two budgets. One for filming on location in Boston and Western Massachusetts and one for filming here in Fayette County, TN.  All that remains is funds and casting.  And... when I think of casting I think of what my friend Brian Churchill said who filmed the actors we considered.  He said, don't look at type, don't look at appearance. We're looking for good acting and what gets conveyed through lens. That certain "it" factor. When we find the right actors we'll decide where they fit.  Sadly Brian Churchill passed away at age 43 on September 14, 2013.  I miss our many conversations about scripts and film in general.  His favorite topic of conversation. 

Interested in Christian film?  Call me: (901-417-4976)   

 

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