Reviews

Concerns with “The Chosen”

John Goodell

Last week, someone in my congregation asked me about The Chosen, whose proponents claim that it “allows you to see Him through the eyes of those who knew Him”.  This piece expresses my concerns and provides some positive feedback. I’m hopeful it serves my congregation and that it might help others, too.

I have no doubt The Chosen is a work by people who want to serve Jesus and help people.  I believe the creator of the show, Dallas Jenkins, proclaims to be a Christian.  I have no reason to not believe this is true. I acknowledge that the series teaches many true and good things that are in the Bible.  Moreover, I also have no doubts that a person could learn something about Christianity by watching the series and that God can use anything with truth in it (see Balaam’s donkey). But I have some concerns that I think make the series more of a danger than a help.

Here are my concerns:

1) Ties to Mormonism

Although Jenkins has a Christian testimony, his partners in the film are a collection of Mormons, Roman Catholics, and Jews. The executive producer is a Mormon, the production company is Mormon-owned; clearly, the work is in partnership with Mormons. Jenkins, when responding to the levied criticism for working with Mormons said, “We love the same Jesus… I will sink or swim on that statement.” This is a problem. Mormons do not believe in the Trinity but believe in many gods. In fact, they believe one day you can become a god in their system.  “Jesus” in Mormonism is the brother of Satan. At its root, Mormonism is also a works-based religious system. This religious system has historically (without controversy) been considered a cult.

This, in my mind, makes the series dangerous. I believe this danger falls under the warning in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1. While Dallas Jenkins may be a Christian, his view here about Mormons is not a Christian one. There is no way the Mormon “Jesus” and the Jesus of historical Christianity are the same. For someone to not have discernment here disqualifies them from having any ministry teaching people about Jesus. For the reasons listed in point one alone, I would not recommend that anyone watch this series.

2) Extra-Biblical Material

While the series does represent the biblical teaching accurately some of the time, it puts words in Jesus’ mouth that are not in the Bible, and the words are sometimes controversial pertaining to their accuracy in representing the tenor of Scripture. The series fills in a lot of space between the lines of Scripture and takes quite a bit of liberty to do so.  One’s theology of Jesus cannot help but come through in these scenes.  Some of these space-filling scenes are dangerous in my view. Here is one example: At one point the man playing Jesus answers a disciple’s question relating to a truth Jesus would know, and “Jesus” answers, “What does your heart tell you?” as though that’s a reliable place to find the truth.

This is not biblical teaching. But this is taught in the Book of Mormon. I can’t tell you how many times after exposing the errors of Mormon teaching I have heard something similar: “After asking God if Mormonism is true, I got this feeling deep within that it is true.” At the end of the day, this is where Mormon theology leads. Yes, red flags should be going up. There is a warning in Scripture about adding to God’s words. Sometimes it is helpful for a teacher to help fill in the white spaces verbally, but this must be done with great care to not add to or contradict Scripture. It cannot be done liberally or without qualification.

3) The 2nd Commandment

While some disagree with whether using the film for learning, teaching, and worship is breaking the 2nd Commandment, it is a point worth considering. Let’s acknowledge there may be disagreement on this point. A part of the 2nd commandment is to protect us from false images of God. God wants to reveal Himself in words, not pictures. We live by faith, not by sight. Someday our faith will turn to sight but not until we see Him face to face. While the Bible does speak to us in word pictures and to our imagination, it is God’s words doing this. It is God’s inerrant Word that is shaping our imagination about who Jesus is by God’s words. In a film like The Chosen, it is the creators of the film that are presenting us with a picture of Christianity that is visual and based upon their imaginations. This is dangerous in my opinion. Also, people are claiming that the film helps them know Jesus better and that their worship of God is more meaningful because of the series.

I would say this is exactly what the 2nd commandment forbids, using images to worship God. The bottom line is that God has revealed Himself to us in words, not images. Yes, Jesus took flesh and became visible, but it was a perfect representation and God-given.  We have no warrant to replicate this image for our edification. Any representation of Jesus in images today will fall short of accurately representing Him. Visual images affect us differently than they do when they are communicated through words. Visual images do not necessarily go through the mind—they can affect us immediately and go straight to our emotions. The Bible says, “Faith comes from hearing” (Rom 10:17; 1 Cor 1,2). I hope you understand the concern.

Viable Concerns

I could go on with other issues I have with The Chosen. But, I think this should lay out viable concerns about this series. We must realize today, that in our age of entertainment, Christians grow in their desire to be entertained rather than dig deep into their Bibles. It would be wise to recognize this tendency in our culture and the in which we live. There is a place for entertainment, and we as Christians are always looking for good, clean entertainment. But I don’t think The Chosen fits this category. We must be willing to test all things by Scripture (1 Thess 5:21). I realize that doing this may seem narrow, judgmental, unloving, what have you. Though because of our tendency toward idolatry and the easiness in which we can be deceived, we must be Bereans (Acts 17:11).  If you share my convictions on The Chosen I encourage you to stand upon them, and when you’re asked about your perspective, do so with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Tim 2:25).

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