The Jesus Video
This video is frequently recommended as a tool for evangelism. It is based on Luke’s Gospel, and reports indicate that it is faithful to the text. The motives and integrity of the makers and users of this video are thus not to be questioned. However they are misguided, and the following arguments are intended to show why this video can be deeply offensive.
Firstly, the Lord is portrayed with long hair. According to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:14 long hair on a man is shameful (AV); the RV says that it is a dishonour, and the RSV that it is degrading. These varying translations indicate how strong a word Paul used. It follows from this that the perfect Man had short hair. The first artist to represent the Lord with long hair may well have been unwittingly influenced by Satan to present to the world a false picture of the Son of God. Satan has been remarkably successful because almost everyone has followed this example without thinking, and many, if not most, Christians are also taken in by it. When a universally held idea is contrary to the Word of God it is evidence of more than a natural mistake. It is not for Christians to perpetuate this fundamentally wrong view; when the Son was manifested in the flesh He was an honourable man, not a degraded man.
Secondly, we must consider the nature of acting. An actor is presented with a script, words on paper, and he has to turn it into a flesh and blood character. He has to interpret the role based on his training, his experience, his imagination, and so on. Hence different actors interpret the same roles in different ways. In this case the sinless Son of God is being filtered through the mind of a sinful man. It is thus not possible for an actor to represent the Lord, and the attempt is both spiritually and morally offensive.
Thirdly, far from using actors to present the truths of Scripture, history records that the early Christians would not have them in fellowship, because in their judgement the profession of acting was incompatible with a Christian way of life. They objected to actors not only because of the nature of the plays which were put on in the theatres, but also because of the nature of acting itself. Tertullian, for example, writing in the second century, had this to say about acting: “The Author of truth hates all the false. He regards as adultery all that is unreal. Condemning as He does hypocrisy in every form He never will approve any puffing on of voice, or sex, or age; He will never approve pretended loves, and wraths, and groans and tears.” Pretending to be different people during your working life is bound to have a bad effect on your mind.
We must now consider the argument that the video is ‘being used’. The unacceptability of this argument can best be illustrated with an example from Scripture. When Jeroboam the son of Nebat established the northern kingdom of Israel after the reign of Solomon he started a new religion, he deposed the Levitical priests and replaced them with priests of his own making. It was the outworking of this sin which led to the destruction of the Israelites at the hand of the Assyrians. It is recorded in II Kings 17 that the king of Assyria deported the population of the northern kingdom and replaced them with people from other parts of his empire. These people were the ancestors of the Samaritans. The new population were attacked by lions and attributed this to their failure to worship the God of the land. They therefore asked the Assyrian king to send them a priest to instruct them. The man sent to the new population was a false priest with a defective message. Nevertheless he was used by God to initiate a chain of events leading to salvation. The new Samaritans began as polytheists but gradually adopted a purer form of worship and became monotheistic; in the fulness of time some of their descendants were willing to listen to the Lord (John 4:39ff), and later they believed the gospel through the preaching of Philip (Acts 8:5 ft). This does not however justify the man’s being a false priest, nor does it justify his preaching a defective message. If God, according to His grace and power, uses something, this does not necessarily mean that the thing used is inherently satisfactory.
Summarizing: Although one does not question the sincerity of those using them, videos of this nature dishonour Christ; any attempt to portray the Lord is offensive; and using actors is a departure from the standard of separation set by the early church. The argument that the video is ‘being used’ is not valid, because in Christian work the end does not justify the means. None of the elect will be lost, and our responsibility is to present the gospel in a Christ honouring way, not in a Christ dishonouring way.
DAVID HANDS (Shrewsbury)
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