The new movie The Son of God opens in theaters today…
I make no secrets about my dislike for “the Hollywood agenda” when it comes to the moral direction our society continues to engage. But when it comes to movies about Jesus and His Church, I can no longer sit quietly under the guise of, “at least they’re talking about Jesus,” without offering a serious warning.
The Orthodox Church throughout history has fought courageously to maintain the truth about who we know Jesus Christ to be, as that truth was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the Holy Apostles. We have defended the truth of Orthodoxy down to single letters when the meaning of who Jesus was and is might be misunderstood by the faithful. We have maintained this truth, “once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1.3) through the holy and sacred tradition of the Church.
We would not sit quietly when Arius spoke falsely of Christ, and we cannot sit quietly when contemporary “theologians” under the guise of producing Hollywood blockbuster movies, as these movies are often times fictional representations of the Gospels and early history of the Church. This is nothing new, of course, as Hollywood has a long tradition of altering history for big screen for affect, while defending their actions in “the name of entertainment,” and warning viewers they are not responsible for educating our children.
I remember growing up being warned, “You can’t trust a movie with the facts. You have to read the book!” Teachers were, and probably still are, very good at forming questions that required knowledge of the book rather than just the movie. We can all think of movies where multiple characters from the book were blended into single portrayals on the big screen. So what makes us think this is not also happening when the Bible is produced on the big screen?
The reading of Scriptures is a crucial part of every Christian’s spiritual journey, but there are verses which don’t flow well, for the big screen. If movies were limited to just the written verses, the classic “Ten Commandments” would have been much shorter a movie and Charlton Heston would have been much less famous. I noticed the last time I watched the movie, (and I LOVE the movie) I had my Bible open. What was said in two verses in my bible was more than thirty minutes on the screen. How? Fiction and fantasy is the only way.
But it isn’t only the fictional additions that we must be concerned with. The Orthodox Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, has been interpreting the Holy Scriptures since they were first written (speaking specifically of the New Testament) and the Sacred Tradition requires us to “stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (2 Thessalonians 2.15) We must be extremely careful anytime we hear the Holy Scriptures interpreted by anyone, including within the Church. Are the interpretations consistent with the Teachings of the Holy Apostles? Are they in line with the understanding of the Church Fathers, who themselves were loyal to the teachings of the Holy Apostles when they first sanctioned the Bible with Canonical Authority.
If you plan to watch this new movie about Jesus, or Noah opening March 28th, then I caution you to sit with your spiritual father afterward about what the movie teaches. The visual impact of the movie will make it difficult for you to “forget” the incorrect teachings in favor of the Church, but prayer and the guidance of the Holy Spirit will help as well.
I suppose, from my vantage point, these two movies might comprise a new attack on the Church, since they are being released during the Great Lenten journey while we are seeking a closer relationship with God. Many will flock to the movie theater “seeking a deeper relationship” rather than finding it in the Church. What they are likely to find is partial truth and fantasy about a god who is not the same as The God who revealed Himself to the Church.