As we near the end of this four-five-part series about Discerning Biblical Fiction, let’s explore an even trickier topic. It’s a theme familiar to fans of the ongoing drama series The Chosen, whose fans have noticed two truths about the show. First: many people making the show are not professing Christians. Second: many people who act for the show are fairly attractive and charismatic sorts of folks.
In either case, how can Christians worship Jesus while they enjoy biblical fiction?
Discerning Biblical Fiction series
- Behold the Fantastic Purposes of ‘The Chosen’ and Other Great Biblical Fiction, May 3
- Biblical Fiction Isn’t Inspired by God, But It Can Inspire Our Imaginations, May 10
- How Great Biblical Fiction Adds Extra-Biblical Images Yet Honors God’s Word, May 17
- Sometimes Unbelievers Help Make Fantastic Biblical Fiction, So Let’s Thank God for Them, May 24
- Let’s Train Our Kids, and Each Other, to Enjoy and Discern Biblical Fiction for God’s Glory, May 31
10. What if non-Christian creators help to make biblical fiction?
Here’s a great “open secret” about biblical fiction stories across the ages:
Non-Christians always help make great biblical fiction stories.
For example, in movies, especially in the “old days,” famous non-Christian actors often helped make popular swords-and-sandals epics. Even today, many non-Christian actors are drawn to these movies. They may have some conservative or traditional beliefs, and they feel the movie connects them to these. Or perhaps an actor has a family member who suggested they appear in the movie. However, we don’t always know if the actor believes in Jesus Christ as her personal Savior.
Other actors (and other creators!) may join a biblical fiction project because they like the script or like other people who make the movie. Sometimes actors say they are Christians. Or they may emphasize their conservative beliefs in interviews.1
However, if the biblical fiction creators don’t specifically say they are Christians themselves, how should we respond? Should their lack of faith bother us?
God’s common grace means that non-Christians still perform good actions.
In the Bible, God says evil people can still do good things. This is called common grace.2 This is the same idea behind Jesus’s statement that evil people can be good parents (see Matthew 7:7–11). God’s common grace also explains the fact that even heathens can know some true ideas that are really about God (see Acts 17:22–34).
When we hear of non-Christians doing good things, we needn’t choose between saying, “They’re evil,” or, “Well, maybe they are actually Christians.” We can instead thank God for his common grace. God is active in the world. He helps people see his moral law (even if they aren’t Christians). Our Creator “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
God’s common grace means that non-Christians still make good things.
It’s okay and downright biblical for Christians to survey the world, see the amazing works by non-Christian creators, and thank God for giving his common grace.
Our non-Christian neighbors make amazing buildings. They practice good science to find incredible truths and build technology. Non-Christians write fantastic books and perform beautiful music—and they make amazing stories and movies.
Any church building likely had non-Christians help put it together. Churches hire non-Christians to help with designing bulletin art. Why? Because they’re good at it.
We should work with non-Christians to make amazing stories and more.
Non-Christians should not be members of a local church, unless they confess that Jesus Christ is their personal Savior and that they want to join the church.
But it’s okay for Christians to join nonbelievers making projects outside local church membership. This includes movies, music, and stories. Even better, it’s also a really great way for us to befriend these folks on the way to making amazing things!
Still, Christians are blessed with “insider” truth about why we create things.
When people make amazing things, they are glorifying God one way or another. Non-Christians still partly reflect God’s image in their creative acts, despite not knowing their Creator. But Christians have several big advantages of being in Christ.
We know the One who helps us fight the sinful ways we twist his creative gifts.
We also know the real reason that God wants us to make things. It’s not just for fame, artistic satisfaction, or to earn money. It’s for his glory! If you are a Christian, you have the gift of knowing that in whatever you do, you can “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:23–24).
11. What if we feel deep connections with non-Christian creators?
Because of God’s common-grace gift of creativity, creative people can make deep emotional connections with us. In movies, actors have lots of help from many other creative artists (such as directors, lighting artists, set decorators, cinematographers, musicians, special effects artists, and animators). In books, writers have help from their friends, editors, and readers who share early feedback to improve the story.
Especially if we’re not used to this power of imagination, it can be hard not to feel this deeply real emotional connection. Some biblical fiction fans may really like actors who play Jesus Christ (just as plenty of fans liked Charlton Heston as Moses). This is very typical of other fan communities—especially with good-looking actors!
Beware our own runaway imaginations! Only Jesus can fulfill these longings.
However, we must keep these feelings in perspective. Actors and other creators are just doing their jobs, often very well, and are not doing it for any of us personally. Actors don’t know us. In fact, some popular actors often have lifestyles (and even paid staff!) to ensure they keep their privacy. Some fans do let their imaginations run away with them. In some fans’ private lives, they may obsess in sinful ways over actors, perhaps even imagining themselves as best friends or lovers with an actor. Some fans, in real life, could even pose a risk to an actor’s safety and privacy.
As Christians, we know that we can only have this kind of deep friendship with Jesus himself. He is the most powerful Being in the universe. No other person, no matter how good-looking or talented, could ever come close. Jesus has also given us our family, spouses (or healthy romantic relationships), friends, and church members as real-life companions. Actors and creators bless us from a long-distance. But only these people in our immediate lives can actually know us, care for us, and be close.
Let’s praise God for non-Christian creators’ talents, and pray for them!
It makes sense for us to want to meet famous people or share with them how their creative gifts from God made us happy. Let’s be sure, however, to discern these impulses by using God’s word. Actors are not our lovers or best friends. They are not angels or gods. They really are just people, made in God’s image. One day they will stand as equals with us before God’s throne. They need Jesus just like anyone!
So let’s pray for that non-Christian actor. Pray that he or she will find the gospel, both told and shown by Christians who made that movie. (After all, they won’t hear of the gospel from us, but from those creative Christians!) Enjoy the non-Christian actor’s talent, and praise God for his gifts even to people who do not know him.
Coming this Monday, May 31, to finish this Discerning Biblical Fiction series: How can Christians respond with grace and truth whenever children or other Christians seem to be confusing biblical fiction with reality? How can be act humbly like children ourselves, receiving great stories, yet also train to compare those stories with the ultimate Story our Author is creating in reality?
- For example, some fans and supporters of The Chosen are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons. In fact, some of season 2 was filmed in a Bible-village attraction in Utah. Mormonism is a non-Christian religion, which many refer to as a cult. Its beliefs use biblical language, but are usually contrary to the gospel. Some Christians carefully suggest that members of the Mormon movement could be Christians. If this is possible, however, this would need to be in spite of Mormons’ on-the-record beliefs, not because of them. ↩
- To explore more in-depth about common grace and its applications for Christians working with non-Christians, see “What’s the Point of Common Grace?”, Hugh Whelchel, April 21, 2014, at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics. ↩