HomeEvangelismDoes "The Chosen" Keep To The Spirit of The Text?

Does “The Chosen” Keep To The Spirit of The Text?

I made a comment on social media a while back about “The Chosen,” TV series, asking why Christian filmmakers feel they have to add fictional materials to their Gospel stories. The responses were interesting, to say the least. But now I’d like to take the conversation further. 

If you enjoy “The Chosen,” then that’s fine. Enjoy it. But have you noticed that some Christian producers that focus on the Bible have prefaced their presentations or explain their portrayals with sayings like this:

“The presentation attempts to tell the story in the spirit of the text.” 

This is usually said about such video portrayals that use a lot of “extra-biblical” material in their storytelling. They say it may not hold to the text as presented in the Gospels, but that they try to tell the story in the “spirit” of the text. As someone who has followed many Bible movies and used them in evangelism and discipleship all across the world, I’d like to make an observation. 

It is the Spirit that wrote the text. So, how can a producer claim to support the spirit of the text if he or she doesn’t hold to the letter of the text? Why add what is not there? If we don’t have the letter of the text, then we don’t have its true spirit. For the spirit of the text is found in the letter of the text. Everything else is speculation, not the history actually featured in the text. 

What about II Corinthians 3:6? It says the letter kills, but the spirit brings life. If you make your case for the spirit of the text over the letter of the text using II Corinthians 3:6, then you are making your argument against the letter of the text by using the letter of the text. Isn’t that ironic?

II Corinthians 3:6 is a reference to the Mosaic Law. It’s not referring to abandoning the letter of the text, which tells the story of Jesus and thus communicates the spirit of what he wants to communicate. What I am saying is that you can’t have the spirit of the text without the letter of the text. That is why adding to the story of Jesus is a problem. Movie-makers add to the story as if the story already in the text isn’t enough. But, God has used the JESUS Film, as one example, a movie that sticks to the text and the result is over 480 million saved. The LUMO films do the same, word-for-word, from the biblical text. The result of these presentations is that millions are coming to faith in Christ every year. Millions. Only staying true to the text is staying true to the spirit of the text, which saves. Otherwise, the unbeliever who watches such films has no way to understand what part of the presentation is the Gospel and what part is man-made entertainment. We should make every effort to make the Gospel obvious to the nonbeliever, the Gospel that can only be found in the letter of the text.

Tom Terry is head of Global Broadcast Strategy for JESUS Film Project and serves as General Manager of The Better FM, an online radio station for Asia. Tom is also the author of several books, including Bible studies and "Like An Eagle," his biography about living in Mongolia for ten years.
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