Yesterday someone on social media called me a liberal based on a position I took on artistic expression in presenting the Gospel to unbelievers. I’d never been called liberal before. But if that aligns me with those who would “become all things to all men to save some,” I welcome the categorization.
The genesis of the discussion was the third episode of the 12 part television miniseries “AD, the Bible Continues,” a sequel to the 2013 miniseries “The Bible.” It’s always dangerous (maybe even pretty foolish) to comment on something you haven’t even seen – but I did just that. I should mention that I have read the Christian Post’s weekly reviews of each of the three episodes – and all three reviews have been on the positive side. Still I kept my comments generic saying only that I hoped that the movie would elevate some unbelievers’ awareness of the Bible and lead them to ask questions. That’s what led some to brand my forehead with the title “liberal.”
In understanding the development of the film’s script it’s crucial to take into account that the producers of this and several other Biblically based movies, Roma Downey, Mark Burnett, and Richard Bedser are evangelists at heart. While these three recognize that believers make up both their core supporters and their core critics, I think their actual target audience is the unsaved. This is a fact that most of their critics either don’t know or don’t care – but it’s important.
Most of the “unsaved” know little to nothing about either the life of Christ, the doctrines of the Christian faith or the value of the moral law that we adhere to. That doesn’t give an artist license to twist Biblical truth. However, unlike the movie’s critics, I have no problem with Christian movie producers filling in the gaps where Scripture leaves off, for the purpose of artistic expression – as long as the “fill-in” doesn’t alter doctrine as specified in the written Word or make the story unrealistic or silly.
The Bible obviously doesn’t record the entire history of the early Church, nor does it provide every detail in the lives of its lead characters. Even the Gospel of John ends with this caveat: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” The purpose of what is written down was not to tell the whole story, but to lay a foundation for Jesus’ Church.
“The rest of the story” may never be fully known, but there is some room for creative but careful interpretation, provided it helps others understand and come to Christ. Documented historical events, archaeological findings, secular works of the same period, apocryphal books and other 1st century spiritual documents and tradition have all been used to better understand Biblical times and to put Holy Scripture in its proper context. For example, from Matthew and Luke we know that Peter = Simon settled in Capernaum, where he was living with his mother-in-law in his own house at the beginning of Christ’s public ministry. Peter was thus married, and Clement of Alexandria (2nd Century Greek theologian and head of the catechetical school of Alexandria), related that Peter’s wife died a martyr on the same day as Peter and that Peter had children who apparently did not marry. You’re welcome to accept that or not. It’s not going to affect your salvation one way or another. But it sure makes sense.