ADDRESSING CONCERNS OVER "SON OF GOD" FILM
By Marsha West
March 16, 2014
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. ~Eph 5:11
Not surprisingly the movie “Son of God” has created quite a stir in the Christian community. Before I gave the theater my money I read several reviews, blog posts, Facebook comments and viewed TV interviews of husband and wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey promoting their film. Roma is a familiar face to many and is best-known for her role on the successful TV show “Touched by An Angel.” Mark Burnett is the executive producer of a string of hit TV shows such as "Survivor," "The Voice, “Celebrity Apprentice," "Shark Tank," and he has won several Emmys.
When I first heard that another full-length feature film about the life of Christ was coming to the silver screen, I was skeptical for several reasons. First, Mark and Roma are Catholic and I was concerned that the movie would be produced from this perspective; a perspective that in many cases I disagree with.
Second, I learned that Roma earned a degree in “spiritual psychology” from the University of Santa Monica, a private graduate school founded by New Age spiritual and self-help quack John-Roger. P.J. Miller is not being flippant when he asks:
What do you call someone who is a student of new age psychology and spiritualism? Do you call them new agers? Do you call them seekers? Would you dare call them Christian? Well, if you’re Roma Downey, then yes, you would call yourself all the above. (Source)
Third, a movie trailer shows Jesus asking Peter to follow Him. Peter looks skeptical and asks Jesus what they’re going to do. Jesus grins and replies “Change the world." Well, no. Jesus never said those words to Peter! Here’s what Jesus actually said:
While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mat 4:18-20)
Jesus commanded -- Peter and Andrew dropped what they were doing to follow Him. (More on this in a moment.) Another clip shows a woman sitting in a boat on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus and the apostles during the storm where Jesus walks on water. But according to Scripture there was no woman in the boat:
Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. (Mat 14:22)
In the movie Mary was the woman in the boat. But why would they have a woman in the boat when Matthew informs us that the disciples/apostles got into the boat. Mary wasn’t one of the twelve disciples/apostles – no woman was!
Finally, S. Michael Houdmann revealed in his review of the movie that, “the reason for Jesus' death and the meaning of His resurrection are completely missing. The fact that Jesus' death is the atoning sacrifice for sin is not mentioned at all (1 John 2:2).”
As I said, “Son of God” has elicited a great deal of controversy as did Mark and Roma’s “The Bible” miniseries produced by LightWorkers Media, a company owned by them. This “heretical and blasphemous” program aired on the History Channel last year. "We knew when we were shooting,” said Downey, “that the Jesus portion of our 'Bible' series was special and we shot much more footage and we've re-edited many more scenes into a stand-alone feature film called 'Son of God.'" I don’t have the space to tackle the “The Bible” brouhaha. I will say, though, that several highly controversial pastors sat on the Board of Advisors. They include Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Richard Mouw and Samuel Rodriguez. (For more on “The Bible” go to Resources below)
The Son of God?
“Son of God” opened on February 28, so by now a lot of folks have had the opportunity to view it in theatres and many more will have it streaming into their living rooms in a few months. Naturally, reviews were quickly written, some good, some not so good. (You’ll find links to the reviews at the end of this piece.) Suffice to say that in a short amount of time a lot has been said about the film.
Many of you won’t be surprised to learn that Mark and Roma asked Saddleback Church founder Rick Warren to help spread their version of the “good news.” He happily agreed. “I've seen most of the films produced about Jesus in the past 50 years,” said the pastor, “and ‘Son of God’ is the best. We're excited Jesus is back on the big screen, and we're going to fill the theaters. I want every other faith leader in America to do the same.”
So – why would the man who is affectionately called “America’s Pastor” agree to promote a film that its critics describe as outright unbiblical?
Not only did Warren endorse the film, according to the Baptist Standard staff report :
Pastor and author Rick Warren partnered with LifeWay Christian Resources to release a Bible study related to the Son of God movie from 20th Century Fox, which hits theaters Feb. 28.
The small-group curriculum resource by Warren, Son of God: The Life of Jesus in You, is a companion piece to the movie produced by husband-and-wife team Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.The six-session study features video clips from the movie and videos from Warren explaining Jesus’ teachings and their impact on people’s lives. Topics include baptism, temptation, suffering, death, resurrection and ministry. (Source)
As a Southern Baptist preacher, Rick Warren knows perfectly well that the Roman Catholic Church holds to the view that it is the one true Church. Thus, any church outside the RCC is anathematized (excommunicated, cursed or damned). The Protestant Reformers held the view that the RCC’s gospel is not a gospel that saves; therefore the RCC is apostate. Anyone who rejects the true gospel – we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone – is an unbeliever. Period. Warren also knows what the Bible teaches regarding believers going into partnerships with unbelievers:
Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness. (2 Corinthians 6:14)
Here’s the thing. Not everyone who professes the name of Christ has a true saving faith. What about Mark Burnett and Roma Downey? Do they have a true saving faith? Let’s examine the fruit.
Popular pastor and author Mark Driscoll’s church bought out 3,500 seats. In 2013 he and his wife shared a stage with Mark and Roma at Resurgence 13. Driscoll later remarked:
We watched the world premier trailer for The Son of God at the conference, and the footage choked me up as I thought of the millions of people who will hear about Jesus through this project. I am so encouraged by God’s work through this couple. (Source)
The connection between the Passover sacrifice (Exodus 12) and Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) is not made. The fact that Jesus' resurrection proves His victory over death and sin and guarantees a resurrected eternal life for all who believe in Him (1 Corinthians 15) is nowhere to be found. -- S. Michael Houdmann
Another endorser of the film was “Social Justice Christian” Rev. Jim Wallis. In my column Liberalism created the culture of evil and death, part 3 I wrote:
This man wears many hats. He is the founder of Sojourner’s Magazine, speaker, author and activist. He’s also President Obama’s “spiritual advisor.” This alone speaks volumes. Rev. Wallis insists that he’s an evangelical Christian even though he has abandoned the biblical gospel for the “social gospel.” He believes he’s on a mission from God to assist the poor and oppressed to bring forth the Kingdom of God on earth.
When this purveyor of the false social justice gospel was asked for advice by the couple, he gladly gave it to them:
What won me over to the whole series was the clip about Jesus meeting Peter, the fisherman. In a Washington, D.C., premiere of “The Bible” series a few weeks ago, I had wonderful conversations with Mark and Roma. Mark asked me if they were right to have Jesus say that he wanted to change the world. Those words are not literally in the scriptures, but it seemed to him and Roma that’s exactly what Jesus was talking about. Absolutely correct, I told them both. And we went through the first few chapters of Mathew which demonstrate that truth. I love the clarity and courage of the statement from Jesus in “The Bible.”
Sunny Shell disagrees:
Christ came into the world to save sinners from the righteous wrath of God, which is the just penalty for our sins. He never said He came to change the world. He said He came to transform people by giving them new hearts and new minds through repentance and faith in Christ alone. (Source)
The Examiner listed the names of churches and organizations that distributed tickets for a so-called "Theater Take-Over":
Joel Osteen, pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Tex., who is distributing 8,000 tickets donated by an anonymous donor; Jerry Falwell, Jr., of Liberty University which has more than 12,000 students; Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch which has 18 campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Oklahoma; Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles with over four million members and Miles McPherson of the Rock Church with weekly attendance of more than 10,000 in San Diego, Calif. (Emphasis in original - source)
In an article that appeared on Fox News, Mark and Roma wrote:
In all our combined years in the entertainment industry, we’ve never seen anything like this kind of grass-roots support for a project. It is truly miraculous.
So, too, is the unprecedented depth and breadth of those who have endorsed the film. Pastors like Rick, as well as scholars and faith organizations, have graciously supported our effort to share this story of our Savior – though they belong to different denominations, adhere to varying theological doctrine, worship God in their own unique ways.
Bishop T.D. Jakes of The Potter’s House in Dallas said “the audience will be enthralled, encouraged and inspired.”
S. Michael Houdmann was not enthralled by the movie. In his review he writes:
The Son of God presents a Jewish Messiah who is crucified, dies, comes back to life, and commissions His followers to spread the word. But why did He have to die? What is the meaning of the resurrection? What is the message the apostles were supposed to proclaim, and why was it worth dying for?
More from the Fox News article…
Joel Osteen of Lakewood Church in Houston called it “an epic work that touches the heart.”
The Catholic Archbishop of Los Angeles Jose Gomez says it’s “a very important movie because it gives us the opportunity to realize God’s presence in our own lives.” (Source)
Certainly there are by now “Church leaders” that are sincerely shocked to find out that they endorsed a movie produced by New Age Catholics. Here’s more proof from a 2010 article Roma Downey Happy Out of the Spotlight that shows she’s an advocate of New Age/New Thought spirituality:
Says Roma, who lives in Malibu, ‘My kids go to school about a 40-minute drive away. I’m open to the group’s opinion about what we listen to on the way there. On the way back, I get my own selections — books on tape by Eckhart Tolle, Tony Robbins…My husband says I’m so self-realized I’m practically levitating.’
For those who are unfamiliar with Eckhart Tolle, he’s a New Ager. A few years ago Tolle paired up with Oprah Winfrey to do 10 online classes on XM Satellite radio on his blockbuster book “A New Earth: Are You Ready to Be Awakened.” Oprah and Tolle took participants through his book chapter by chapter. Regrettably, a large number of professing Christians took the class!
Human Potential guru and "coach for success” Anthony Robbins once said: "My definition of success is to live your life in a way that causes you to feel tons of pleasure and very little pain." Evidently no pain is experienced after completing a barefoot firewalk, a self-empower technique Robbins’ teaches to get an otherwise sane person to walk on a bed of burning hot coals during his “Unleash The Power Within” seminar. On this video you’ll hear the sound of drums beating and the crowd chanting “YES! YES! YES!” as Robbins whips them into a frenzy in preparation for the firewalk.
Roma appeared on “psychic medium” John Edward’s TV show and allegedly spoke to her deceased mother. What does the Bible have to say about consulting a medium?
And he burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. (2 Kings 21:6)
Well, it’s apparent that Roma, who says she loves the Bible, is unaware—or doesn’t care--that God says consulting a medium is evil.
Later she collaborated with Edwards by providing a CD to accompany a book he wrote:
Roma prays the entire rosary on the beautiful CD that comes along with this book. It’s quite lovely and gives you the special opportunity and a unique spiritual closeness to Roma to be able to pray right along with her as if she was right there at your side.” (Source)
So now you know a bit about two New Age gurus Roma Downey looks forward to listening to each day and an occultist she collaborated with. The worldview of these men is as far from Christianity as the Earth is from Pluto.
P.J. Miller sat listening to Jim Bakker introduce Mark and Roma on Bakker’s TV show and recalled “their previous work on the History Channel’s The Bible and how they managed to literally re-write the Bible itself, and presented another gospel message altogether. I was captured by their … aggressive but subtle attempt to portray themselves as ‘believers’. The sappy spiritual love fest that permeated on set showed me that something was indeed changing within Christianity, and that something was another Jesus being introduced to the masses.”
Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. (Mat/ 24: 23-24)
After several weeks of due diligence I’ve decided that “Son of God” is not a film I wish to see. In addition to the concerns I have included in this article, my research has turned up many more -- way too many to incorporate here. Most troubling is the astonishing lack of discernment shown by some of our so-called Christian leaders. The Son of God I serve is best described in the Bible which is the inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. Inspired means that God moved through the writers to convey to those who read it the words He wanted us to hear. So to change the words that Christ spoke is prideful and wicked.
It’s unfortunate that those who are unfamiliar with the biblical Jesus and see this film will not come away with a clear understanding of His mission here on Earth.
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
“Son of God” Reviews
‘Son of God’ Is Most Certainly Not the Son of God by Sunny Shell
Son of God Review by S. Michael Houdmann
Is the Son of God Biblical by Ben Kayser
“The Bible” Review
History Channel’s ‘The Bible’ Exalts Man Over God by Sunny Shell
Jim Wallis Produces Commentaries for “The Bible” by Stand Up For The Truth
Religious leaders of all stripes endorse Son of God by Stand Up For The Truth
New Age/New Thought Movement
Rick Warren and Joel Osteen acquiesce to Oprah by Marsha West
A subtle and dangerous shift in Christianity by Marsha West
Rick Warren’s ‘Son of God’ Study Kit by Stand Up For The Truth
Rick Warren and Teaching of Demons by Ken Silva
Still Keeps Us Apart? by Michael Horton
Rome anathematized itself at the Council of Trent