This summer I wrote an article called “Pretty pictures? Or lies,” about images of Jesus and movies about Him. Today I’m returning to this topic, because a friend reopened the discussion with me, and I’m answering her main argument in favor of them.
She argued that “Biblically faithful” films of Jesus’ life have led many people to Christ all across the world, and referred to the success of the 1979 Film “Jesus”, produced by The Jesus Film Project. (To see the statistics to-date gathered by the Project on things like languages into which the film has been translated, take this link. The statistics seem impressive, but that shouldn’t be of utmost importance.)
The Jesus Film Project slogan
Help Give “JESUS” to Everyone, Everywhere…
This is an invitation that’s hard to resist. But you can’t “help give ‘Jesus’ to everyone, everywhere,” unless you labor and pray that God’s Word is glorified throughout the world. And how can His Word be glorified by disobeying it?
1 And God spake all these words, saying, 2 I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; 6 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
An endorsement of the Project, and what it reveals
Rick Warren has put in a “good word” for the Project. At its website, he is quoted as saying,
“The ‘JESUS’ film is the most effective evangelistic tool ever invented.”
“Invented”, or rather “inventors”, is a term used negatively in a key passage of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Romans 1:30). When it comes to God’s Word and works, human “inventions” are nothing to boast about but rather to be ashamed of.
Who could possibly assume this role?
There is absolutely no man who qualifies to play the part of “Jesus”. Additionally, absolutely no one should ever put on a mask of “the Saviour”, for in doing so, he becomes a kind of antichrist who participates with the man of sin in deceiving the world.
What kind of fruit is this film bearing?
Since it is disobedience and rebellion toward God to make images of Him, including films, it cannot, despite the evidence of statistics, bear good fruit – this is impossible because Jesus has told us that,
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
So therefore, though the Project’s statistics are amazing, they cannot represent good fruit, and the real fruit of the Project must still be ripening on the bad tree.
Cumulative Exposures/Decisions Since 1979
Indicated decisions for Christ following a film showing:
more than 200 million
The issue of whether the film “works” as an evangelistic tool
Whether something seems to “work” (pragmatism) should hold no weight with Christians who believe the Word of God and desire to obey it. There are many genuine Christians who have a hard time seeing that anything can be of equal or greater importance than winning people to Christ. But obedience and truth and preaching the Gospel to the lost go hand in hand. You can’t divide them. God will not be mocked by our unbelief and disobedience.
4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.
Walking by faith, not by sight
The rest of the slogan of the Jesus Film Project is
Because seeing is believing…
However, this is the testimony of God:
1 Peter 1:7-9
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:
8 Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:
9 Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.
24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
May the Lord open the eyes of those dear Christians who are serving in a ministry, or supporting a ministry, that cannot be pleasing to Him no matter how zealous it is. It is a zeal, but not according to knowledge. We are called to do the Lord’s work in His way.