In an analysis of the AD miniseries, Pastor Randy White on the “Standing For The Truth” podcast split a theological hair so fine that is doubtful that even an angel could dance across it. He insisted that a drama or a painting of a Gospel event is not a presentation of the Gospel.
At best, according to White, such is merely the presentation of an historical event even if integral to the Gospel. As justification, White invoked the Apostle Paul whom White alleges did not rehash these events but went on to emphasize Christ crucified and risen as the Savior of the world.
St. Francis is attributed with saying preach the Gospel and if you must use words. Though with the anti-Catholic attitude often elicited in the consideration of this drama, it is doubtful his admonition will be positively considered.
An important question to consider here is what is this pastor really concerned about. At times, it sounds primarily to be about the job security of the professional clergy and their relevance in the context of the missiological encounter.
No balanced person in favor of the series is saying that exposure to the drama is all that is required to drag the soteriological ball into the end zone of salvation.
If God did not intend our faith to be founded on a basis of history, why were we given the Gospels?
Perhaps of even greater curiosity would be why bother with vast stretches of the Old Testament at all?
For while many Christians insist that they abide by all of Scripture, they'd probably tell you that while scarfing down pork barbecue with a big mess of crabs.
Pastor White insists that, in terms of outreach, the believer is better off going to one's neighbor and sharing what Christ has done in your life.
That might have been an effective approach in a previous era. However, for better or worse, this is an era where the visual will likely have as much impact on the individual as the conversationally verbal.
Furthermore, I am not particularly all that interested in what Jesus has allegedly done for you per say, especially if there is little chance of distinguishing that from transient indigestion (the old Mormon burning in the bosom) or fluctuating biochemistry.
I for one, if I was an unbeliever, would be more concerned if the objective historical accounts detailing the Crucifixion and Resurrection actually happened and the conclusions drawn by the eyewitnesses and their immediate contemporaries universally binding irrespective of ones temporal circumstances.
In his exposition, Pastor White asserted that dramatic presentation of these events are just so problematic in that the possibility exists for the director, playwrite, or screenwriter to leave things out or to embellish that which ought to be downplayed.
But isn't that also true of sermons and testimonies as well?
What pastor hasn't invoked Scripture in ways to buttress their own opinion or interpretation to appear as if it was handed down at Sinai as part of the stone tablets?
Perhaps an even greater danger are those eagerly plying the techniques of the “Look What Jesus Has Done For Me” School Of Evangelism.
That approach might be able to draw in a number of the hurting.
But sometimes those accounts are so fanciful that a fledgling faith or even one that is longstanding could suffer profound harm if the individual exposed to these stories does not experience the intervention of God in such a tangibly overpowering or life-altering manner.
Though a single sin is sufficient to alienate the individual from God for eternity, not everyone's life was as screwed up as the average drug addict, wife beater, or pornstar.
Granted, those that have not fallen into these temptations should not go around like the proud Pharisee displaying for applause how grateful they are that they are not like other men.
But that said, shouldn't the church also be just as cautious in the other extreme that lavishes increasing rewards and benefits such as book deals and speaking engagements upon the repentant reprobate that can craft the most titillating tale of carnality and debauchery provided Jesus rushes in at the last second to rescue to rescue the teller from utter damnation?
With the brand of Christianity most openly opposed to the AD Miniseries, there is no winning. Such critics seem to enjoy playing an unending game of vocational gotcha in condemnation of those not part of the ministerial in crowd.
For example, it is claimed rightfully so that all talents should be utilized in honor of the Lord and for the furtherance of His kingdom in pursuit of the lost.
However, as soon as a believer or even those inclined to a traditional brand of spirituality attempt to do so through a modality or medium that might be morally acceptable but which might not be suited for a traditional church service, these hypertraditionalists rank among the first to poopoo such artistic efforts.
Pastor Randy White in the broadcast went out of his way to denigrate the accompanying DVD and online studies released in conjunction with the miniseries.
He insisted that the true pastor needs nothing more than his Bible, and not the Internet, to prepare a sufficient sermon addressing these kinds of matters.
Interestingly, was it not the Internet that Pastor White turned to to warn those beyond the boundaries of his own congregation of the allure of seductive entertainments?
In criticism of the AD miniseries, often those the most rigorously opposed have seemed to have more to say about those either producing or promoting the drama than about the actual contents of the narrative.
For example, of particular concern is not only the Roman Catholicism of Roma Downey but that the particular strand that she is an adherent of borders upon the New Age in terms of its beliefs and practice.
But ought the primary concern to be instead the extent to which these might have infiltrated the dramatic presentation?
Pastor White and the Standing For The Truth hosts were noticeably critical of reputable Evangelicals that decided to promote or endorse the miniseries.
Particular ire was directed at pastor and Christian broadcaster David Jeremiah.
White insisted that any good David Jeremiah might have accomplished is undermined and perhaps even nullified by the questionable alliances and affiliations promoting this production.
Does this also apply to Pastor White in terms of his questionable affiliations as well?
At his website, Pastor White admits to being a Southern Baptist though a disgruntled one.
Does he not trust God enough to come out of and to be ye separate if that is the advice he seems to bestow upon everybody else?
Admittedly, the AD miniseries was far from perfect.
However, in this day where the culture is declining more and more to resemble the era in which this disputed narrative takes place, one would think certain Evangelicals would be a bit more pleased that there are a few in the entertainment industry at least willing to consider the only cure for this spreading decadence even if they do not agree to the details around the edges.
Frederick Meekins is an independent theologian and social critic. Frederick holds a BS in Political Science/History, a MA in Apologetics/Christian Philosophy from Trinity Theological Seminary, and a PhD. in Christian Apologetics from Newburgh Theological Seminary.