Friday, April 4, 2014

Review of "Son of God"

A number of reviews have been written of “Son of God” and “Noah.” Because of the negative tone of most of the reviews, I at first determined not to see either of them. Both films have been out for several weeks, and after a number of questions and discussions, I finally decided that I should see them and write my own reviews.
The combination of previous negative reviews, as well as the general negative view I have of allegedly “biblical” movies coming out of Hollywood, made it a bit difficult to be totally objective. However, I determined to watch each film with an open mind, be as fair as possible, and give credit where credit was due. My reviews are based on what I observed in the films rather than just taking thoughts from other reviews.
Any movie based on a book of any kind must, of necessity, take a few “artistic liberties,” such as supplying dialog, filling in unknown details, compressing parts of the story, combining events, etc. Otherwise, a movie made based on three chapters of a book would be extremely short and would probably become a documentary, and a movie based on a long book would be far too long. Moviemakers are free to embellish and change stories to make them work on the screen. Even movies based on the Bible are subject such treatment, with notable exceptions such as “The Book Of Acts - The Visual Bible,” which is a word-for-word treatment of the book of Acts.
Even though I notice distortions from the original account when the Bible is portrayed on film, I tend to overlook certain things as long as violence is not done to important truth. It is vital that biblical doctrine not be compromised in the name of artistic license and that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ be lifted up and magnified. With those things in mind, I attended both films earlier this week.
“Son of God” started off in a very biblical manner, quoting specifically from John 1.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3,14, NKJV). This very clearly established the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ from the beginning of the film.
Surprisingly, baptism was pictured in the proper, biblical form of immersion. So often, it is pictured in a way that tries to keep everyone happy by not really showing the method used.
The fact that God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, could and did do miracles was made clear in the film. This is refreshing, in that the miraculous is often either missing or explained away when the life of Christ, or any biblical topic, is considered.
I must also mention that the film included the resurrection. So many treatments of the life of Christ either ignore or minimize the truth of the resurrection. Of course, without the resurrection, there is no salvation, and the Christian message becomes less than meaningless. Any film about Christ that ignores the resurrection ought to be totally ignored by believers, no matter how well-made it may be.
All of the events that make up the gospel were included – the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. While the gospel events were there, the gospel message is not there. A very key point is left out. Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1,3-4, NKJV). (Emphasis mine.)  Those words “for our sins” are an important part of the gospel message, and without them, there is no reason for His death, burial, and resurrection.
Sadly, it was not very far into the film when the whole purpose of the gospel message was misstated and minimized when Peter asked Jesus what they were going to do, and Jesus responded, “Change the world.” That is nonsense of the highest order. Jesus did not come into the world to “change the world.” He came, in His own words, to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10, NKJV). Paul later emphasized this same truth when he wrote, This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15, NKJV). As a matter of fact, some day Jesus will judge the world and destroy the world. It has never been the purpose of God to make the world a better place to live. Rather, his purpose is to call out a people for His name by saving sinners.
The film does not in any way make it clear why Jesus came into the world and why He had to die such a horrendous death. The concept that He died “for our sins” is missing.
When announcing the coming birth of the Savior, an angel of the Lord said to Joseph, And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21, NKJV). Saving His people from their sins is not mentioned in the film.
At the Last Supper …He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins”  (Matthew 26:27-28, NKJV). The words, “for the remission of sins” are conspicuous by their absence from the film. This leaves the viewer to wonder why His blood was spilled and why He needed to die in such a manner. It even could make one wonder why He needed to come to earth in the first place.
For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV). That message is totally missing from the film.
If an unbeliever were to see the film, devoid of any biblical knowledge, he would likely conclude that Jesus was a good man who thought He was God and who was executed for being a threat to the established religious order of the day. The parts about His deity, the miracles, and the resurrection would likely be lost on the unbeliever, because if the fact that He died “for our sins” is missing, the other things mean little or nothing. It all just seems to be the sad story of the persecution of a good man.
Obviously, everything Jesus ever said and did cannot be included in a film. All of those things are not even in the Scriptures. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written (John 21:25, NKJV). While recognizing that filmmakers must, of necessity, leave some things out, it must be said that WHAT is left out is of great significance. The entire message and emphasis of the film can hinge on what is included and what is left out. If the meat of the message is missing, a film loses its value as a representation of truth. Leaving out the whole issue of Christ dying to pay the penalty for sin is to soft-pedal the gospel by making it more palatable to sinful man. Sin is not a very politically correct issue these days, but that does not mean it should be ignored. As repulsive as the thought is to the human mind, sin is a reality that must be dealt with if people are to avoid condemnation. Following is an excerpt from another post I wrote:
"Sin cannot be ignored. Believers need to be reminded of the terrible state from which we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, and our response ought to be, ‘I will praise Him.’ Unbelievers need to be warned of the terrible results of sin and the necessity of coming to Christ as the only remedy for that sin. Churches that want to emphasize ‘the positive’ and ignore ‘the negative’ are doing a great disservice and really have no function of any eternal value. No matter how much a person’s life is improved here on this earth, it means nothing if the reality of sin and its consequences are ignored. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? (Mark 8:36, NKJV)."
There is the usual list of inaccuracies one can expect, and they only deserve to be mentioned in passing, because many of them do little to destroy the important truths. However, it does seem that accuracy in dealing with the biblical text is more important than filmmakers consider it to be. For example, anyone who has ever read the account of the birth of Christ knows that the wise men did not appear at the manger to see an infant but instead came several months later to a house where they saw the “young child.” Is that important? It doesn’t do violence to the gospel message, but it certainly speaks of sloppiness in the area of accuracy. We need to get our truth from the Scriptures rather than from Christmas cards.
Was one of the original disciples a woman named Mary (presumably Mary Magdalene)? Of course not. Why was this made a part of the story? I can only assume it was a matter of political correctness. This is not a way to do any kind of scholarly study of the Scriptures. Changing the story for PC purposes is not acceptable.
One event which clearly establishes the manhood of Jesus is what is called “the cleansing of the temple.” In the film, He turned over a few tables, but in reality, He made a whip, drove the moneychangers out of the temple, poured out their money, overturned their tables, and generally took charge of the whole corrupt situation. Perhaps this too was a little too much for the politically correct mind of the twenty-first century. I believe that Jesus was a tough guy. Portraying Him as less than that proves nothing.
Just as the cleansing of the temple was portrayed incorrectly, so was the feeding of the 5,000. The Scripture makes it very clear that the whole process was quite well organized. The film made it look like pandemonium. Is that important? Maybe. Maybe not. But why picture it in an inaccurate manner?
It is not made clear that Peter was not, in fact, the “rock” on which the church was built. Peter was a small pebble. The Lord Jesus Christ is a giant boulder. The church was built on the rock, not on the pebble.
During the second half of the film, there was far too much face time on screen for Mary, the mother of Jesus. I can only conclude that this was to appease those who would make it about Mary rather than about Jesus. Some exalt Mary to a position that she herself would never think to hold.
It is interesting that Judas was portrayed as some sort of victim who was coerced into betraying Christ. This seems like another attempt to minimize the whole sin issue. Judas was an evil man, a thief, a vile traitor, and a pretender. He was never really a true believer. He faked it, and Jesus knew it. He is called “The Son of Perdition.” Judas was not the poor, innocent, misunderstood individual the film shows.
Jesus looked surprised that Judas was going to betray Him. The truth is that Jesus never has been nor will He ever be surprised by anything. Jesus knew from the beginning who would betray Him, and He knew Judas was not a true believer.
When Jesus was praying, He said, “Spare me!” This is a bit much. What He actually said was, O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will (Matthew 26:39, NKJV). This Scripture shows a willingness to submit to the will of His Father. The film shows Him begging to be let off, as if He were trying to escape the cross. He never tried to escape the cross, as shown in John 12:27, where He said, Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? “Father, save Me from this hour”? But for this purpose I came to this hour.
If I were to watch “Son of God” again, I’m sure there are many more things that would catch my eye and my ears. However, I believe I observed enough to write this somewhat mixed review of the film.
Could this film be used as evangelistic tool? Absolutely… if an unbeliever whose mind is being opened to truth were to attend the movie with a believer who is ready to explain the truth, the film could be a very valuable tool in presenting the gospel. However, we can only hope that there is not a flurry of activity with study guides, etc. using “Son of God” as the basis for Bible study in churches and Christian schools. Such sometimes tends to be the case, and it is always detrimental to replace the Scriptures with other things. So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God  (Romans 10:17, NKJV).
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There are a number of reviews of “Son of God” online, both positive and negative. My review of “Noah” is found here.

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