Last night, the History Channel debut its anticipated miniseries “The Bible.” From the producers of “Survivor,” the 10-hour series tells the story of God’s word in a live-action format. With amazing cinematography and impressive use of technology, the first episode took viewers on a fast ride through the Torah, which is the first five books of the Old Testament and discusses everything from creation, Noah, the promise to Abraham, and the Exodus.
If the first episode is any indication, “The Bible” attempts to take an overview approach to telling the story of God’s love while focusing on several key stories. Should the remaining episodes keep with this plan, “The Bible’ will be an effective introductory resource for churches and communities that are attempting to share the story of God’s word with people who do not have a basic knowledge of the Bible.
Of course, “The Bible” comes with its critics and challenges. Some were frustrated with issues that existed in the first episode. Primarily these issues dealt with several inaccuracies and stories that were not effectively told. Some were glaring issues, such as adding Sarah to the story of Abraham’s final test, and others were merely adaptations to tell the story in a short time frame, for instance Joshua being named Moses’ replacement at the receipt of the Ten Commandments. For the most part, the issues were because the producers, Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, sought to use as much Scripture as possible, in a short period of time, while also taking use of their creative license.
As a pastor and theologian, I’m OK with the inaccuracies that exist in “The Bible.” If it was a theological discourse or a sermon, I might have some reservations. However, “The Bible” is seeking to be neither of the two nor should we expect it to be that. I don’t expect Burnett and Downey to be effective theologians any more than I expect Stephen Spielberg and Ben Afleck to be accurate historians. The series was never going to be something that would meet the complete approval of seminarians, theologians, and pastors near and far.
What it seeks to be is a resource that tells the story of God in a general way that appeals to a vast audience. An audience that has little or no understanding of Scripture. Here, the series, at least through one episode, does a great job. In this way, “The Bible” will be a great resource in helping people learn more about God’s word. In an age when many people, including those who are in our churches, have a limited knowledge of the Bible, “The Bible” can inspire people to open up the Bible, study it, and to ask questions that move an individual from the introductory to the deep. “The Bible” is the milk that, perhaps, can help a biblically illiterate generation seek the meat of deeper faith in Christ and knowledge of God’s word.
That is where pastors have a role in helping our people to understand not just this series, but the Bible itself. In loving and encouraging ways, we are called to guide our people to deeper levels of faith and understanding God’s word. We can use “The Bible” in our efforts in helping people take the next steps in their journey with Christ.
“The Bible” is not John Wesley’s 52 Standard Sermons or the latest writing from N.T. Wright, but it is a welcome tool in sharing God’s word in this visual age.