A Review of “The Bible” series on the History Channel (Episode 2)
Last week I caught a barrage of friendly fire when I lit into “The Bible” mini-series on the History Channel. Apparently, a few deemed my approach to the show to be unwarranted, defending it by stating that it was presenting Biblical accounts – however inaccurate and Christless they might be – to millions of Scripturally uneducated people. So, to appease some of you, and redirect any censure that might come beaming my way, I will reserve my personal opinions, jokes, and scrutiny for only those wanting to hear it.
There is one element, though, that I believe must be addressed, as we strive to be Biblically minded theologians. Looking back across my pastorate I have encountered dozens of individuals who, as if struck with an original thought, conveyed to me that the God of the Bible is not the same throughout. That, in fact, Jehovah of the Old Testament is furious and hostile, while Jesus of the New Testament is amiable and gracious. They state candidly that they cannot worship and serve the God of Israel, while they have no problem lining up with the God of the New Covenant.
As I labored through the show last evening I tried to put myself in the shoes of someone who is unchurched, non-religious, unsaved. In doing so I came away turned off by a barbaric deity that murdered whole people groups because, apparently, He was sadistic and His people blood-thirsty. If you know me, you understand that I am not one for removing the gore and violence from the Bible. Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, and Judges are unapologetically gritty and saturated in savagery, but if you read these passages in their entirety you begin to understand why.
People are sinful – desperately depraved – and God is, to an unfathomable degree, holy. He detests sin, abhorring every act, word, or thought of wickedness. Every murder, every disease, every proud king, every fallen city spews not necessarily from the order of the Lord (though He is sovereign over them and sometimes uses these things in His grand purpose) but rather from the corruption of the human heart. The reason that the flood came upon the earth, that inhabitants of Jericho were destroyed, that the Philistines were massacred by Sampson, that Samson was blinded by his enemies, that Saul fell upon his own sword, that David had sex with a married woman and then murdered Uriah is for no other reason than that all of these men and women were rebelling against the God of glory.
“The Bible” series does not convey this. I have already heard from non-Christians who watched the show last evening who communicated this very problem. God seems like a vicious, cold-hearted brute, which sadly will only reinforce the popular opinion of our godless culture. Conveniently, though probably not intentionally, omitted from the two hour episode last evening were the beautiful promises and loving invitations that are strewn across the Old Testament. Passages such as Isaiah 55:1 or Jeremiah 31:3 desperately need to be heralded. Jehovah God is not a callous butcher, and Jesus is not a weak-willed, soft-gospel preacher. The God of the Old Covenant and the God of the New are one God: the righteous Judge and loving Redeemer. He is the same in the past, in the present, and in the future (Hebrews 13:8) and will never change. Redemption is the grand “meta-narrative” of all of Scripture, and “The Bible” sadly fails to communicate this foundational truth.
So, scorn me if you will for being the narrow-minded dude that I am, but I simply believe that this series may be doing much more damage than good in presenting a God that is barbaric and a redemption that is inconspicuous.