It doesn’t take a long and strenuous evaluation of the evangelical church to render the conclusion that we are living in the midst of a high definition entertainment “Jesus” culture. If there was ever a need for growing discernment it’s our present day. In recent days, we have seen the release of a movie titled Son of God. Additionally, a movie titled Noah stirred up much controversy by skewing the storyline of Noah’s story as revealed in the Bible. We have also seen the release of another movie titled, God’s Not Dead which has been largely embraced by the evangelical community. In a day where we are seeing many religious films released and eschatological books written about “blood moons” – what should we learn from this pattern? Someone once remarked, “sex sells” and they were right, but so does religion!
A new movie has just been released titled, Heaven Is For Real. This movie is taken from the book Heaven Is For Real that was released back in 2011. The book was written by a man named Todd Burpo who happens to be a pastor. The book tells the story about his son Colton, who allegedly visited heaven at age 4 while being operated on following a ruptured appendix. One thing is for sure, people are talking about these films and books at work. Pastors are being asked about these movies and popular books. Christians in general will be asked about these “blood moons” and heavenly visitations, and we must be prepared to give an answer.
As we think through these movies and best selling books, it would be wise to ask God for growing discernment and remain fully committed to the sufficiency of Scripture.
Increased Religious Conversations
As we think through the popularity of these movies and books, it clearly opens up opportunities to discuss the details with non-believers. When non-believers want to focus on the flood and the wrath of God, we have a wonderful open door to talk about the covenant of grace that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. If we are prepared, we can move a conversation with a skeptical co-worker from the flood of Genesis 6 to the love of God as revealed in John 3:16.
Opportunities for Spiritual Maturity
Within the church, certainly many of the members of our church will view these movies and it’s probable that they will have mixed reviews. If we use these opportunities wisely, we can take these movies and books as opportunities to educate our people on the main point of Noah, biblical eschatological boundaries, Christian discernment, and biblical sufficiency. As a church, we must be progressing in our sanctification and spiritual maturity.
Lack of Discernment
There is really no way around it. The popularity of movies on Noah, Jesus, blood moons, and a heavenly visit by a 4 year old boy point to the lack of spiritual discernment prevalent within the evangelical church. We hear it in songs on the radio, “Just Say Jesus” and when someone claims to be a Christian – we in the American evangelical church often give them a free pass to say many outlandish things in books and movies that don’t square with God’s Word. Are we afraid of hurting people’s feelings? Are we as Christians called to be “nice” to people even when they violate the Word of God?
Decline in Commitment to the Sufficiency of Scripture
The American evangelical community has long suffered on the battlefield of the sufficiency of Scripture. The largest denomination of evangelicals (The Southern Baptist Convention) once went to battle on the inerrancy of God’s Word. By God’s grace, they won that battle. However, as we take a closer examination of the issues, it’s quite clear that we are losing the battle on the sufficiency of Scripture.
About the Movies
The main thing to remember when movies are made is that they are designed to make money rather than to honor the sacred text of God’s Word. If we were to ask most Christians about their position on the cults of Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in many cases the conversation would move toward the publications of these cultic groups. For instance, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the Book of Mormon are both extra-biblical literature that add to God’s Word. We as Christians deny that any other word is necessary since the Word of God is sufficient. However, when it comes to books written about a 4 year old little boy that went to heaven and had a conversation with God and then came back to tell his story – we seem to have mixed reviews. Did God leave something out of His Bible? Do we need another special revelation? The answer is simply – no. Therefore, on the basis of the sufficiency of Scripture, we must reject the validity and necessity of Heaven Is For Real. After all, we know it’s for real because God has already sufficiently communicated that in a book – the Bible.
Regarding Heaven Is For Real, I agree with Tim Challies’ remarks from his review of this book:
If you struggle believing what the Bible says, but learn to find security in the testimony of a toddler, well, I feel sorry for you. And I do not mean this in a condescending way. If God’s Word is not sufficient for you, if the testimony of his Spirit, given to believers, is not enough for you, you will not find any true hope in the unproven tales of a child. This hope may last for a moment, but it will not sustain you, it will not bless you, in those times when hope is waning and times are hard. So reject this book. Do not read it. Do not believe it. And do not feel guilty doing so.
We must remember that God inspired a book to be preached rather than a movie to be watched. One thing that I’m constantly aware of with the growing technological world is that high definition images can compete for the attention of people in a far greater way than black print on white paper. In short, books have become boring while images and graphics have become popular. Is God’s Word not enough? We must be called to remembrance that God inspired a book and desires to reveal Himself in printed words rather than exquisite graphics and high definition films.
About the Blood Moon Craze
John Hagee has led the charge up the best seller’s list with his book titled, Four Blood Moons: Something Is About to Change. The main premise of his book is based on the big historical events that have taken place in Israel’s history during the cyclical blood moon phases. The problem with his book is twofold. First, Hagee is right to point out some of Israel’s historical moments have taken place during these blood moon phases. However, it’s also clear as we survey history, the overwhelming majority of these blood moons have not been connected to any major historical event in Israel’s history. In fact, far more blood moon cycles have resulted in more normative than abnormal events in Israel’s history.
Secondly, Hagee and all of the other prophecy preachers seem to be leading people to look to the sky and the signs of our changing world for Jesus’ return. That is a clear violation of Scripture. Rather than looking to the sky for Jesus’ return, we should be carrying out the Great Commission and doing the work of our Father until Jesus’ return. Remember the disciples who viewed the ascension of Jesus into heaven? They were gazing into the sky! According to Acts 1:10-11, two angels appeared next to them and gave them this command: “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” The point is clear, as Christians and Christian preachers, we are to be doing the work of our Lord until He returns rather than studying blood moon cycles.
We are living in a culture that emphasizes experience over the exposition of God’s Word. The real issue at stake in all of the religious movies and blood moon books is the sufficiency of Scripture. Is God’s Word enough or must we depend on a movie to do our evangelism? Does faith come by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ? Should we be exploring astronomy and charting cycles of blood moons or should we be preaching the good news and doing the work of the Lord? Is the Bible sufficient? Are the prophecies of Daniel and Joel enough? Is the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John enough? Must we add to it?
As we think critically about these matters, we must be balanced and discerning Christians. We must use open doors to share the truth of the Bible with an ever growing secular society. However, as Hollywood and celebrity pastors continue to compete for our attention, we must exercise our discernment wisely and stand firm upon the holy, infallible, inerrant, and completely sufficient Word of the living God.
Pastor Josh Buice
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You may find David Platt’s words from Secret Church helpful.