Earlier today I got an email from a group of college students from the Midwest who asked this question: How are we as Christians supposed to process, respond to, and view biblical epic films in light of Scripture?

I think that's an important question. Last year saw two major Hollywood-produced epics (Noah and Exodus) plus Son of God, an edited-down version of The Bible TV miniseries. I'm not even sure how many are slated for 2015, but I know for certain that there are multiple adaptations from the Old and New Testaments en route, a sort of revival of the “sword-and-sandal” mid-20th century heyday. (That spate of biblical epics is far more complicated than we often assume; I wrote about it six years ago for Christianity Today.) If the subject interests you, the best person I know to read is our contributor Peter Chattaway, whose blog is a treasure trove of information on Bible movies past and present. I don't need to tell you that the reception of Noah and Exodus was mixed from Christians, with everything from four-star reviews to accusations of heresy. That means the students' question is important for more than just a class assignment. I'm not a theologian or a philosopher, but here is how I think about it. (Please forgive my lousy Greek.) First, I have to think about what a work of art is. The definition I've been working with for some time now is this: art is the cultural artifact—the thing that humans make—that requires both maker and audience in order to complete it. It has both form and content. More on that in a moment. This isn't a definition of good art, mind you—just art generally. But it suggests that if I make a painting and hide it under my ...

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Watch This Way
How we watch matters at least as much as what we watch. TV and movies are more than entertainment: they teach us how to live and how to love one another, for better or worse. And they both mirror and shape our culture.
Alissa Wilkinson
Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today's chief film critic and assistant professor of English and humanities at The King's College in New York City. She lives in Brooklyn.
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