Keep Watch For The Theological Underpinnings Of Word-Faith Tenets In The History Channel’s “The Bible”

The_Bible_Series_-_Art_Preview_587x327Last night The History Channel aired its miniseries, “The Bible.” It is a miniseries produced by Roma Downey and Mark Burnett. Leading up to this miniseries there seemed to be a well organized marketing campaign to promote this series. The promotional efforts by The History Channel certainly grabbed my attention.

Besides the marketing campaign, the miniseries seemed to generate a lot of grassroots speculation, reviews, and anticipation from Christian leaders, bloggers, and the Christian community in general. CLICK HERE for a very worthwhile article by Rev. Joshua Scheer. Pr. Scheer sets forth 4-5 things to be on the lookout for when watching the miniseries.

In case you haven’t noticed, there has been a tremendous amount of dialog on the internet this morning assessing last night’s show. These conversations are very fruitful for the church, because they drive us back to the Word. With that said, this particular blog post is not an exhaustive review of last nights show. For a more thorough review, I direct you to Pr. Scheer’s comprehensive review of Episode 1 titled, “The Bible-Night One Review.”

800px-The_Crossing_fo_The_Red_SeaWhat I do want to address though is the theological underpinning of Episode 1. While watching Episdoe 1 I found myself struggling with how the characters related to God. It was as if the characters were constantly trying to generate and sustain their own faith by reminding themselves and others to keep the faith, that they must trust in God. Let me give an example. One of the scenes that really grieved me was right before Moses and the Israelites crossed the sea. In the episode Moses kept on yelling, “Keep the faith, be faithful, keep the faith, etc…” However, in Exodus 14:13-14 we read,

“And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

This seems subtle, but it really is not. Episode 1 seemed to point out the Israelite’s need for faith, faith that tended to be self-generated and faith that at times did not have a direct object. Whereas the scriptures show us how God gives signs and promises that ‘grant’ faith. In my humble opinion this emphasis in the episode is possibly due to the influence of the movie’s consultants. Several of the consultants have theological connections to the Word-Faith movement.

The Word-Faith movement urges the appropriation of faith through the making of a positive confession. Faith is seen as a power that is unconstrained by words. Otherwise stated, these words can produce reality: “The force of faith is released or activated by words. Faith-filled words put the law of the Spirit of life into operation.”[1] This energy of faith is only triggered by talking or confidently declaring what one wants and demands from God: “Your right confession will become a reality, and then you will get whatever you need from God.”[2] Conversely this means that negative words form negative realities.

The fundamental problem with the Word-Faith movement is that faith in one’s faith is futile. Faith must have an object. Furthermore, faith is not a self-generated work of mankind, faith is not sourced in mankind’s will or determination. Rather faith is a gift of God. Take note in Exodus 14:30-31 how and why the Israelite’s believed in God after the parting of the sea.

“Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses.” (See Also Romans 10:17 and Ephesians 2:8-9).

While the internet will be buzzing with possible historical inaccuracies and opinions on the acting of The History Channel’s “The Bible,” I do believe that a consistent theme may emerge throughout this series, the theological underpinnings of the Word-Faith tenets. Keep watch for this theological underpinning in the episodes to come.

PAX

 

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[1] Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Faith (Ft. Worth: Kenneth Copeland Publications, 1983), 16. 
[2] Kenneth Hagin, Right and Wrong Thinking for Christians (Tulsa: Kenneth Hagin Ministries, 1966), 30.

 

 

About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.

Comments

Keep Watch For The Theological Underpinnings Of Word-Faith Tenets In The History Channel’s “The Bible” — 33 Comments

  1. I noticed what you did – not only with Moses but with Abraham and everyone else. There were so many times that a character said, “We must trust God”, that it became noticeable to me. At first, it seemed like a good thing, but it soon developed a mantra-like quality. Instead of proclaiming what God would do, the emphasis became on what the character had to do.

  2. It really was painful to watch. One 14 yr old, one 15 1/2 yr old, & this 44 yr old, give it a D-. They lost us, w/Lot & Abraham. Ug, it really was awful.

    The rest of it, was just as you say. Yet, can anyone really say, it was a surprise?
    Not w/those who were involved w/this. No, not really.

  3. Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell of AIG says this, “The Bible” presents biblical history as real history in graphic, interesting, and memorable ways, it serves the same role in the twenty-first century as the cycle plays did in the fourteenth century. Though the public then was acquainted with the Bible, it was not widely available in people’s native tongues, and many could not read. Today, many people in the world are biblically illiterate even where the Bible enjoys wide circulation and despite the comparatively high rate of literacy.”

    Also I have notice in movies they always show full grown animals on Noah’s Ark, but Noah wouldn’t have taken the largest animals onto the Ark; it is more likely he took juveniles aboard the Ark to repopulate the earth after the Flood was over. These younger animals also require less space, less food, and have less waste.

  4. As Malcolm Muggeridge says, “Not only CAN the camera lie, it ALWAYS lies.” It seems to apply here.

  5. My major concern from this first presentation can be stated in a question. How would anyone know that these men (Noah, Abraham, and Moses) were God’s prophets?

    As I had more time to assimilate their poor portrayals, the more I realized that this was not done by accident. So using Pastor Joshua Scheer’s outline, (http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=27668), I applied some analysis.

    A) Higher-Criticizing:
    *Minimizing miracles:
    Moses did not preform even one of the signs he was given so “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Specifically, the serpent staff, leprous hand, or “blood on the dry ground.” Instead, as modern evangelists, he only rants “I have seen the LORD!” Maybe this works with Charismatics but it felt it was weak at best in the portrayal! If Aaron had not shown up and said “He’s my brother…”

    According to Exodus, here are the gifts Moses was supposed to use:

    “Moses answered, “But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” The Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A staff.” And he said, “Throw it on the ground.” So he threw it on the ground, and it became a serpent, and Moses ran from it. But the Lord said to Moses, “Put out your hand and catch it by the tail”—so he put out his hand and caught it, and it became a staff in his hand— “that they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.” Again, the Lord said to him, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” And he put his hand inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous like snow. Then God said, “Put your hand back inside your cloak.” So he put his hand back inside his cloak, and when he took it out, behold, it was restored like the rest of his flesh. “If they will not believe you,” God said, “or listen to the first sign, they may believe the latter sign. If they will not believe even these two signs or listen to your voice, you shall take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground, and the water that you shall take from the Nile will become blood on the dry ground.”
    Exodus 4:1-9

    * Creature higher than the Creator:
    Abrham also appears to have more compassion on Sodom than God does! God seems to be unconcerned and Abraham rattles off 50..40…30…20…10! But the fireworks have already started.

    2) Over-emotionalizing:

    The worst example was Abraham “Haven’t I done enough already to show my faith!” in reply to God’s personal, private relevation to sacrifice Isaac. Sarah was so upset and apparently had more wisdom than our crazed Abraham, that she could apparently run a three day journey and almost catch Abraham in the act of scarifice! How does the scripture describe this?

    “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.” Genesis 22:2-4

    De-doctrinalizing:

    As an example, the entire supernatural Covenant of God with Abraham in Genesis 15 is completely left out:

    “He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half” Genesis 15: 9-10

    The only intimation of Abraham “knowing God” in the movie is his looking at some stars and saying something lame as “I can’t count them all!” This implies that everything Abrham had for faith was only subjectively shown him. But what does the passage say?

    “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land…” Genesis 15:17-18

    4) Christlessness:

    Two of the best Christocentric concepts of the Exodus are the Passover and the Pillar of Cloud and Fire. Both were not present.

    *The Death Angel is shown as in the passover as some kind of strange gas warfare! Moses acted as scared as anyone as if he was truly unsure himself. What does the scripture say?

    “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt, and every firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the slave girl who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the cattle. “Exodus 11:4-5 which Paul clearly states that the Passover Lambs slaughtered are Christo-centric. “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
    1 Corinthians 5:7

    * Pillar of Cloud and Fire:

    When the Israelites were trapped between the sea and the Chariots the only thing the movie portrayed was a crazed Moses thashing the sea and creating very unsettling walls of water and then yells “Run for your life!” After getting really wet, everyone barely makes it over in about an hour or so and then Moses closes the sea up just in time to kill all the bad guys. What does Exodus say?

    “Then the Angel of the Lord who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.” Exodus 14: 19-20

    “And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic, clogging their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily. And the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.” Exodus 14: 24-25

    So the Christ, who was in the pillar, fought for Israel!

    Overall, we are left with a set of crazed prophets who believe that God spoke to them subjectively with no objective proof!

    This may be great stuff for Tele-Evangelists, Joel Olstein, TD Jakes, and Rick Warren, but not for those who want more solid foundations than the carzed rantings of some Crazies of the Past!

  6. Yes and it is brilliant as usual! He picked up on the “Purpose Driven Vision” that has Abraham and Moses “casting out their Vision” to others. So the entire Bible has been reworked into a Warrenite interpretation. History doesn’y matter. Doctrine doesn’t matter.

  7. @Dr. Ralph E. Spraker, Jr #9

    “History doesn’y matter. Doctrine doesn’t matter.”

    And your (and Chris’) point is?

    Just funnin’ you. After watching Moses tell Yul Pharaoh about his purpose, I couldn’t take any more. I’ll have to rely on BJS and Chris.

  8. This might be a bit ‘out there’ (sarcasm), but knowing what commercial, secular world media typically does with things biblical, and add to that the various, generally negative comments here and elsewhere, why would you want to continue watching such a production? It’s not like it’s going to get ‘better.’ My family and I did not watch, and we do not intend to watch the series.

    I suppose you could say you watched to be prepared to deal with the typical worldview (which most of us who are well catechized Lutherans are already well aware of, and wary of), and to be armed and ready for discussion with misled and confused friends and the like. But even in these situations, each time you face that type of encounter and questioning, I hope that you will go to the source of truth, your bible, you will attend bible studies, and you turn to your trusted and respected teacher, your pastor.

  9. I haven’t seen the show either, but I am curious as to what all they put in there. I’ve already had one congregant ask about something he heard had been taken out regarding the “first” woman that God made, so we’re going to sit down tomorrow and talk a little about the Jewish myths regarding Lillith, Adam’s “first” wife. Sounds like it didn’t make it into the show, but I still thought it was kind of funny, albeit strange, if it actually was considered for the show in the first place.

  10. @Caleb #13

    If you want a good review, read Chris Rosebrough’s program. Also some good stuff right here on BJS, your Bible-friendly website.

  11. Since Rick Warren was one of the theologians used by the producers of the TV series as a consultant, you can bet that Willow Creek and/or Saddleback will be promoting it.

    I sure hope that my LCMS congregation (a member of the Willow Creek Association) will not promote it.

  12. I sat down to watch the mini-series “The Bible” Monday evening on DVR. [I”m not one for commercials!]. I was skeptical, to say the least, knowing it was backed in part by good ol Joel Osteen, who is one of my favorite pidgeons when preaching. I need not go through the entire movie, but I found it interesting that when the two angels showed up at Sodom & Gomorrah there was a third robed figure there. I’m guessing that this was “God”. Same one who was there talking to Lot. Then of course we have Abraham and Isaac, who set out for the mountain. Not much of a mountain if you ask me, but maybe their budget only allowed for large hills. Regardless, again you see a robed figure standing telling Abraham to stop, when Genesis clearly tells us in 22:11 that the angel of the Lord called out to him from Heaven, not a hill. And I really found it interesting that Sarah made it to the mountain in a few hours, where 22:4 said it had been three days for their arrival at Moriah. Moving along, I am not sure of what translation they used, but I am reasonably certain all the versions do say, when Moses is standing at the burning bush, to take off his sandals, for the ground he is standing on is holy gorund. And let us not forget his wife Zipporah, because it seems they completely left her out, among other people! Oh, well…..you get what you pay for, and considering Osteen, who knows!
    Pastor Jeff Morey
    Trinity Lutheran Church
    Stockton, Ca

  13. @Steve Schaper #17

    There are quite a few LCMS congregations that below to WCA (Willow Creek Association). One reason they do it is to get a discount on local Christian TV or radio to broadcast their services or whatever.

    If you go to WCA, you can see which congregations belong, altho the list is a bit out of date.

    Not quite Unionism or Syncretism, but semi-Unionism, kind of like semi-Pelagianism, or being just a little bit pregnant. I mean “LCMS” has more initials than “WCA”, so it’s mostly Lutheran.

  14. Nicholas :
    @Lumpenkönig #15
    Chris Rosebrough said that Rick Warren is doing a sermon series on it.

    Is that ironic or what? Warren pretzel-twists the Bible into a Purpose-Driven odyssey, then does a sermon series on the program. I wonder if it ever occurred to him to do a sermon series on the Bible? Uh-oh–I smell another best-seller in the works. Titles, anyone?

  15. I am not in a really creative mode but I cannot resist an invitation like that so this is the best I’ve got:

    Purpose Driven Exodus

    Pharaoh Had No Purpose and He’s All Wet

    The Bold Testament!

    Kierkegaard, Purpose and Mt. Moriah

    Allright. That’s all I got. Charlie – give us something that is actually clever please.

  16. How about “40 years of Purpose?”

    Or “The Purpose-Driven Patriarchs”

    Noah, his life story (“I made God smile, and He gave me a purpose”)

    Exit-US! The story of Moses

    Unfair Pharaoh Meets the Purpose-Driven Tribes

    The Purpose-Driven Bible, complete in 46 Eisogetic Translations. A translation for every idea.

  17. Lumpenkönig :
    Since Rick Warren was one of the theologians used by the producers of the TV series as a consultant, you can bet that Willow Creek and/or Saddleback will be promoting it.

    Okay, I almost fell out of my chair.

    Did … did you just call Rick Warren a theologian?

  18. Mrs. Hume :

    Lumpenkönig :
    Since Rick Warren was one of the theologians used by the producers of the TV series as a consultant, you can bet that Willow Creek and/or Saddleback will be promoting it.

    Okay, I almost fell out of my chair.
    Did … did you just call Rick Warren a theologian?

    I think Lumpenkonig was saying that the producers said Warren was a theologian. Probably should have called him a “theologian.”

  19. @Joe Strieter #22

    Opps…Moses didn’t quite get to go to the “Purpose Driven Land” because:

    They angered him at the waters of Meribah,
    and it went ill with Moses on their account,
    for they made his spirit bitter,
    and he spoke rashly with his lips. Psalms 106:32-33

    The Model is a little Broke???

  20. Pastor Rossow & Joe,
    I’ve seen some mighty funny stuff, Pastor H’s parodies, etc. here at BJS.
    Pastor Rossow, that was the funniest thing, in so many years of being here, I’ve seen yet! PH thought it was a riot! He is still laughing, even w/Strep!!!
    Joe, 40 yrs of purpose, that’s why they had to march around that mountain for 40+ yrs, so I remember, lol.

    Wow, I forgot how funny & cheeky we all are, at times. This, is great fodder for the annuls, at least here, we think so.
    Kyrie & Lenten Blessings,
    Dutch, Thing 1 & Thing 2

  21. Maybe they should have called the series “My Bible” or “Our Bible.” I like “The Bible?????”

    or the “”RSV” Revisionist Skewed Version

  22. @Nicholas #27
    The late LCMS scholar Dr. Theodore Letis summed up Rick Warren quite well: http://www.holywordcafe.com/bible/resources/IRRBS-10-21-04.pdf

    Dr. Letis had it nailed. When Gerald Kieschnick was Texas DP, Texas district was on the membership roster of Willowcreek… on line, until enough people complained to take the district name off the list. (It didn’t change the practice though.) Kieschnick supporters still have “dual-memberships” in Willowcreek. Bill Hybels and Rick Warren are two peas in a pod.

    @Lumpenkönig #23
    Good point. One cannot serve two masters. I often wonder whether or not the WCA should be properly considered a denomination.

    “There’s no ‘there’ there.” No substance. Of course, you can say the same about much “CoWo” which shouldn’t surprise us.

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