Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies?

Modern biblical films are not news reports describing a sequence of events.

With the release of the first trailer for Ridley Scott’s upcoming Exodus movie releasing this week and rumors of Scott producing a film about the life of David circulating, the conversation about Hollywood taking on the Bible is only growing.

If there’s one thing that the whole Noah controversy this spring taught us, it’s not that Hollywood is evil or has some secret agenda to destroy the Christian faith.

It’s that many of us are afraid of art.

As the Bible movies continue to pour in, it’s time we accepted that modern biblical epics are not news reports attempting to accurately describe a sequence of events. They’re not History Channel specials trying to recount exact historical events. They’re an artistic retelling of well-known stories.

What is it about art that scares so many Christians?

Art is About Exploring the Unknown.

Most modern American Evangelicals would tell you that “Truth” is important, and they're absolutely right. But one of the things I’ve come to learn is this: When it comes to art, something can be True without being factual.

We all know this already. We see examples of it in great fiction like Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia. Even Jesus used occasionally fanciful parables to illustrate Truth that wasn't strictly factual.

I’m not saying conversations about Truth aren’t important. Those types of questions help us define our human experience and navigate life. But we must learn that Truth and fact are quite different. The response of many Evangelicals to movies like Noah revolve around the question, “Is it factual?” And the answer is frequently, "No." That's important, and we need to acknowledge that.

But just because a biblical movie isn't 100 percent accurate doesn't mean the Bible's message is being intentionally distorted. Artists aren't always looking to delve deeper into the facts. A good artist will look deeper into the Truth.

Art often gives us a new glimpse into something so that we might experience it in an entirely new way. With fresh eyes and a fresh perspective. 

But we often reject art because it explores the unknown. Dealing in the realm of “fact” is safe. It makes us feel like we have a grasp on life.

But when those constructs are touched—even ever so slightly—we vehemently defend them. Not because we necessarily care about the facts but because those ideologies make us feel safe.

But when we come to recognize the immensity of God and the ways through which he might reveal Himself, we discover that He is revealed in a myriad of ways—far beyond our narrow expectations. Art becomes one of those vessels through which we can discover a greater depth and a fresh perspective.

Art is About Accessing the Unseen.

Art often gives us a new glimpse into something so that we might experience it in an entirely new way.

In the same way living a life built on “facts” is reassuring, living a life that is somewhat separated from the supernatural work of God is also safe and neat.

Let’s face it: The lives of the people in the Bible were messy. Following God meant being inconvenienced a lot—going to foreign lands, building an ark in the middle of the desert, shipwreck, imprisonment. But those people were full of power.

To someone who has built a wall around their physical existence and the supernatural, the unseen is uncomfortable. And art is all about accessing something beyond our senses. 

Art is About Reading Between the Lines. 

Our modern take on Christianity is fairly pragmatic. It's “What You See Is What You Get.”

But art isn't practical. Art is about seeing beyond what’s on the surface and into what’s deep in the heart of people and the nature of the universe. 

That’s a scary idea to someone who’s surrendered their willingness to be thoughtful, willing and discerning in the name of piety.

But the thing is, truly experiencing God is a lot like experiencing art.

God is not a “what you see is what you get” kind of God. God is “what you see is only the beginning.”

The Bible is explicit about some things, but not everything. And where the Bible is not explicit, a good artist can explore the Truth by reading between the lines.

Art is About Believing a Different Reality is Possible.

Since Jesus ascended into heaven, there have been Christians who have thrown their hands up in the air and said, “I’ll just sit here until Jesus comes back.” Today, we have defeatist phrases like, “the world is going to hell in a hand basket.” This kind of attitude—once again—is the easy way. It’s to say that “the ways things are is just the way things will always be, so I’m giving up.”

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But art flies in the face of this kind of helplessness.

The very root of creativity implies a belief in the possibility of change.

The very root of creativity implies a belief in the possibility of change. 

Even the artist with a perspective of defeat, hopelessness or death speaks against his own nihilism in creating a work. And many artists recognize their ability to make the world a better, more interesting and beautiful place by contributing their work to it. It’s the antithesis of the doomsday mentality. It’s to recognize that each of us plays a role in making the world a better place and that a better world is possible.

The beautiful part of all this is that—for a long time—there was tension my faith and my life as an artist. But as I’ve grown more acquainted with God, the more I recognize a deep parallel between my life as an artist and my life as a Christian. The things I discover in art and in the process of creating often point to “The Creator” (to use the Noah term).

The things we learn from art open us up to the depths of life with God and with others. Art reminds us that there are very real and true things that lie beyond our human comprehension and experience. Art reminds us to always keep searching and hoping. Art helps us hope and see a reality beyond our current one. And in creating, we actively participate in bringing that reality into existence.

This article was originally posted at colenesmith.com

Top Comments

Benjamin Van Arragon

1

Benjamin Van Arragon commented…

The reaction of the church to movies like "Noah" has less to do with fear of art and culture than it does with a healthy respect for the second commandment. The difference between a film adaptation of The Great Gatsby and a film adaptation of the Bible is that the Bible is not primarily a work of literature. It's God's self-revelation. We hold the biblical account of Noah sacred not because of its reproduction of historical detail, but because of what it reveals about the character and nature of the one true God. Christians rightly respond to "biblical" movies with caution and even harsh criticism not primarily because they "don't get the facts right" but because they risk presenting God in a way that is inconsistent with the way God presents himself. Christians must be very cautious about any art form that attempts to retell or re-depict what God has already told or revealed about himself. That's not the same as being "afraid of art/film/music" in general. But when art/film/music starts saying things about God that are inconsistent with what God says about himself, we are violating against God and God's explicit commands.

31 Comments

Laura Jane Hamilton

1

Laura Jane Hamilton commented…

Christians don't owe it to anyone to reconcile their faith with Hollywood movies. However I do agree that Believers should think outside the box when it comes to a lot of things that the bible touches on.

With regard to the genesis story, it is such a brief account of the events it describes. There's a lot of ancient literature out there that describes the same events in greater detail, such as the book of enoch, which I'm sure would have been researched for the Noah movie.

But let's be frank, Hollywood are corrupt and morally bankrupt, so it's important to be objective. But perhaps it's a good thing if bible stories are entering the headlines in the form of Hollywood movies. What a good excuse to bring up these topics in conversations?

At the end of the day, at least the Bible is becoming newsworthy and getting noticed.

Benjamin Van Arragon

1

Benjamin Van Arragon commented…

The reaction of the church to movies like "Noah" has less to do with fear of art and culture than it does with a healthy respect for the second commandment. The difference between a film adaptation of The Great Gatsby and a film adaptation of the Bible is that the Bible is not primarily a work of literature. It's God's self-revelation. We hold the biblical account of Noah sacred not because of its reproduction of historical detail, but because of what it reveals about the character and nature of the one true God. Christians rightly respond to "biblical" movies with caution and even harsh criticism not primarily because they "don't get the facts right" but because they risk presenting God in a way that is inconsistent with the way God presents himself. Christians must be very cautious about any art form that attempts to retell or re-depict what God has already told or revealed about himself. That's not the same as being "afraid of art/film/music" in general. But when art/film/music starts saying things about God that are inconsistent with what God says about himself, we are violating against God and God's explicit commands.

Freddy Zuru

1

Freddy Zuru commented…

It's funny how most Hollywood movies people consider garbage, but when it comes to the bible, we Christians are forced to accept it as "art" because they're taking "creative liberties". Honestly, this article is a joke, this perspective is pathetic. "We believe in God, but we're okay capitulating to society's perspective of the God they want, because maybe it'll promote the bible?" Nobody is going to take serious a faith that it's actual followers don't even believe/defend. Like other posters have mentioned, it's all about a money grab, and for Christians to willingly sacrifice truth in order to see a biblical name on a silver screen, it's a horrible trade off. Hollywood knows you'll pay for it, and it's the same garbage argument everybody uses "Relax, whats the big deal? Why are you upset?" Because nobody, including many Christians, seems to actually take their faith serious.

So congratulations on being just like everybody else in the world instead of standing up for what God's word says. Congratulations at pointing the finger at those who are faithful to God's word, I'm sure that takes much more courage than standing up and saying "This isn't right!"

Andrew Thompson

1

Andrew Thompson commented…

Wow, good read. I guess asking tough questions still gets under people's skin.

Kurt Vandagriff

1

Kurt Vandagriff commented…

I think you really need to go back and read your bible. Only Noah's immediate family was aboard the ark. The propose was two fold. To rid Gods non believers, and to be rid of the Giants. But as you find out from Moses, not all the giant's were eradicated. The big deal is today's youth takes everything they see on tv or at the movies as fact. Rather than read learn and make up their own minds. In essence they're being coherence to think a certain way the same way you would brain wash.

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