Friday, February 17, 2006

The Lack of Biblical Discernment
... a call for prayer and repentance

Martin Luther once said, “I would rather preach the truth with too great a severity, than to ever once act the hypocrite and conceal the truth.”

I fully agree.

But those words ring hollow in our contemporary ears today don’t they? Preach the truth with severity? A hypocrite is one who conceals the truth? Luther was unfamiliar with the tactical methodology of being seeker-friendly, emergent, clandestine, or stealth with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such language in the 21st century seems almost visceral, arcane, passé, and to some… unchristian.

God has not stuttered beloved, but has spoken clearly in His Word. His Word is sufficient for all matters of life and godliness. There is nothing lacking; it thoroughly equips us for every good work (Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:3-4, 16ff; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). But evangelicals have lost their confidence in the Scriptures; and because of displaced affections and loyalty they are “stuttering” when they enter the public arena. Why is that? Is it to further their own name or protect their audience? Is Larry King really that intimidating? (Hardly, he is the King of the shallow, softball interviews). Are box office receipts, retail sales and profits the prime incentive and motivating factor in how bold we are in mainstream media for the Lord? Are some just plain ashamed of the gospel; trying to widen their “Jabezian coastline” and therefore—don’t want to offend any potential “buyers”? Have the pragmatics of our own methods eclipsed our biblical duty and privilege?

Examine Everything
The Apostle Paul says, "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil. " (1 Thess. 5:21-22). "Examine everything" so that you can rightly determine if it is genuine. It carries the idea of distinguishing between what is true and false, what is right and wrong, what is good and bad; to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff--and it is measured by truth. This process, is similar of Paul's admonition to the Ephesians, is an effort to learn "what is pleasing to the Lord... " to distinguish. As Dr. MacArthur pointedly says, "The word could mean to evaluate everything, distinguish everything and everything means everything - all things. We are to be like King David who was able to discern, says 2 Samuel 14:17, good from evil.

Two Films: One Controversy
In the sovereignty and divine providence of God we are seeing unfold before our very eyes a vivid example of the lasciviousness of a wayward culture and the watered down consumer driven world view of contemporary evangelicalism and we should not miss it.

I am speaking of two films: “Brokeback Mountain” and “The End of the Spear.”

The first of these films is designed to promote what one author now calls, homosexualism—not just a sexual preference, but an ideological world-view that affects every area of ones life. This movie seeks to lower the defenses of people and desensitize them against whatever homophobe feelings there might be to make same sex relationships further acceptable and normalized in our society and culture. The message being propagated here is obvious, bold, in your face, unashamed and unapologetic – it simply is, “all choices that further the personal happiness fulfillment of an individual supercede all other duties, obligations, morals, commitments, and Godly standards. An unquestioned and mutually acceptable egalitarian tolerance must be embraced by all; any deviation from such is bigotry.” This is nothing new, but familiarly catastrophic; it is the reprobate mind given hearty approval by those who reject the standard of God’s Word (cp, Romans 1:24-32).

The second film is one that tells the story about five missionaries who fifty years ago were murdered by a handful of Auca Indians (the Waodani Tribe) in Ecuador. Though they never were able to present the gospel or call the members of that tribe to repentance, their intent was clear: go where Christ was not yet named in order to reach them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The movie has received much controversy because the gentleman that was contracted to play the role of Nate Saint (one of the five murdered men) is arguably Hollywood’s leading gay activist who not only acts in movies, but produces them to promote homosexualism as well. In fact, a play Chad Allen help produce called Corpus Christi, depicted the Lord Jesus Christ as a homosexual. This is blasphemous beloved. But, both Steve Saint (Nate Saint’s son) and Mart Green of Every Tribe Entertainment were not swayed by this information and ultimately, with full knowledge of Mr. Allen’s homosexualism, signed off on having him star in their “Christian” film. Because of their amazing lapse of spiritual discernment and judgment the End of the Spear and the memory of these five missionaries has been regrettably tainted. In this movie, the gospel is never presented or mentioned; even the Lord of the Gospel, Jesus Christ, is unbelievably not even revealed; and the five missionaries are portrayed more like frat boys than “martyrs” burdened for the souls of lost people. This film is lightweight, ashamed of the gospel, masks the message of Christ, is timid, and cowardice.

Ashamed of the Gospel?
Contrasting the two films, we are left with this heartbreaking conclusion: the world is more sold out to its sin than some Christians are to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ – and it ought not to be so! The world never apologizes for its sinful portrayals of whatever they desire to promote and market to affect and move culture to their anti-Christian agenda. We all understand that. BUT constantly, we see Christians in the media (Every Tribe Entertainment and Steve Saint the latest example of this) trying to mask the message of the gospel under the guise of faith-based films where “truth is beyond imagination.” They say the film was designed to “plant seeds” and “touch peoples lives that would never come to a church”; and that we don’t think that “the theatre is the proper venue to proclaim the gospel.” Isn't this heartbreaking beloved? To see a great story of these faithful missionaries not told with the same boldness that they lived their lives for Christ and His truth is very sad indeed.

It should be noted at that front end of this article, I tried several times to speak with ETE and Steve Saint by phone and/or through email privately and personally about these matters. I never heard back from Steve Saint (though I did get an email reply from his secretary for which I was grateful); Mart Green of ETE and I played a bit of phone tag and finally I did receive an email from Mart Green--again for which I was grateful. Summarizing, both essentially said this, “we will let the movie speak for itself; what’s done is done and there is no object to further discussion.” In short, I interpreted this in two ways: 1.) they are weary from the onslaught of phone calls and emails they had received already and really didn't want to pick up this "again" with someone new; and/or 2.) they really don’t desire to dialogue biblically about these things with another Christian who is also in public ministry. There is probably some truth to both of these perceptions. Overall, I do not understand not entering into dialogue with another Christian in public ministry. We must all stay teachable and accountable for what we say in the public arena. Anyone who is a frequent reader of this blog will know that to be true of myself and what I pen here. I must remain open, teachable and willing to change my convictions if so demonstrated to me out of the Word of God. But I also realize this, that error never wants to be challenged; but, truth can always stand the test of scrutiny. Their silence to me is telling. I want you and them to know, that my door will always remains open to speak with these men anytime they so desire to.

A Call for Prayer and Repentance
I am very burdened about this beloved and I have wrestled with the writing of this personally for several weeks. Anytime sin issues are confronted it should be with tremendous humility, brokenness, fear of the Lord, a deep sense of our own depravity and spiritual blindness, and grace (Gal. 6:1-3). Please don't confuse the boldness of words in this article with arrogance, pride, pontification, or lack of love. It is with a great love that I write--knowing full well of the sinfulness of my own heart and the weakness of my own flesh. That is my motive in writing this article and the burden for these men behind this film.

Therefore, in light of their purposed silence and unwillingness to dialogue with fellow Christians, I would ask you to pray for them in the following five areas—some of which are sin issues, some are non-sin issues, some reveal an immaturity or pragmatism in their faith; and some demonstrate an unbelievable lack of spiritual discernment. Pray that the Lord would grant them the strength of character and humility of spirit to own these things publicly, repent where necessary, and not spin them any longer to the body of Christ. Their diminutive shattered egos are not at stake here; but the integrity of the gospel, their witness, and the glory of God.

And may we not forget to pray for Chad Allen that the Lord would grant him saving faith (Eph. 2:8-9) to confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) and turn from his sin in repentance (2 Cor. 7:8-11) so that he might receive by grace the gift of eternal life for the salvation of his soul (Titus 3:5-7). That would be a great blessing and cause for rejoicing in spite of this film and those associated with it... amen?

How are we to respond publicly to this? And what should a biblical response (not just a visceral one) be towards Steve Saint, Mart Green and the rest of ETE?

This post is both a public call for discernment, prayer and repentance.

1. The failure to do the right thing.
Once they knew Chad Allen was gay and a gay activist promoting homosexualism (even producing a play portraying Jesus Christ as a gay man) they should have rescinded any offer for him to be a part of their movie. Their defense is “we had already offered the part to Chad and didn’t want to go back on our word.” This is juvenile logic at best. You never weaken your commitment to the Lord or His truth to give the appearance of honorable conduct to another in order to avoid dealing with that which you know to be wrong. James 4:17 says, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

By all accounts, they considered Chad’s feelings and their own pragmatic concerns above that which honors the Lord. Mr. Allen showed more integrity when he offered to withdraw his services after being offered the role because of his homosexualism. Steve Saint felt good about his decision to OK Chad’s involvement because he said he had a dream about it; and Mart felt good about it because he prayed and felt peace. How existential of them. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, just throw out godly wisdom obtained by applying the standard of God’s Word to any situation; abandon common sense and due-diligence; purposely go against conscience and Scripture to do the wrong thing because of time and money; and justify it all by saying, “I had a dream…”

Bill Ewing, one of ETE’s producers of EOTS, said in an interview when questioned about Chad’s hiring: “Having a gay activist play the lead role doesn’t tarnish this story whatsoever, because we are all sinners.” “It is a question in film making of time and money; Chad did the best audition...” “We believed that Chad was God’s choice; we prayed; we felt that this was the best choice.” Steve Saint has even pointed to the sovereignty of God as the over-arching reason that this choice is justifiable. God's sovereignty, beloved, does not eliminate personal responsibility. "Blaming God" is the most insidious excuse for their actions.

Repent for ignoring and failing to do the right and biblical thing.

2. Their purposed deceitfulness.
Not only did they fail to do the right thing and exercised nonbiblical criteria in their decision making which led to poor discernment in the unfortunate alliance with Mr. Allen, but they were not up front about this information once they were made aware of it to all of the family members of the slain missionaries, to the churches they were using to advance market and soliciting their support to, and ultimately to the general body of Christ.

It’s still hard for many of us to believe that ETE and Steve Saint had no idea who Chad was even after they auditioned him. I’d like to see résumé Chad’s people sent over or handed them before the audition. Didn’t they even bother to “Google Chad” and learn any information about him before hiring him? It’s incredibly hard to believe in our techno-information rich age that they were all totally surprised to find out about his homosexualism. Chad’s homosexualism has been known for years. Again, the play he helped bring to fruition, Corpus Christi, came out a few years before their audition with him.

They came forward publicly only when they were “found out” and forced to do so—they were deceitful.

This is very serious ladies and gentlemen. To not let their “yes be yes, and their no be no” is this situation has caused much grief and is the foundation for any controversy that has since erupted. They alone are to blame for the plight they currently find themselves. The Bible speaks about deceitfulness with great concern:

“Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.” –Psalm 32:2

“What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” –Psalm 34:12-13

“so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” –Ephesians 4:14
Repent of this deceit; ask the body of Christ to forgive you for not being honest and forthright proactively about those associated with this film. Own it—don’t spin it. Do not reduce your responsibility as simply a “judgment call” on your part.

3. The purposed omission of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is the most serious of all concerns – the clear and purposed omission of any reference to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ and His salvific atoning work on the cross for the redemption of sinful people is inexcusable. There is no mention in either this film, or for that matter, in the documentary film “The Gates of Splendor” of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They were timid, cowardly, and not straightforward about the truth of the cross. There is no evidence given whatsoever in either film that the Waodani people were ever “changed” from their savage ways due to genuine repentance by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone through hearing the gospel of sola fide. None. Though this may have happened in real life after the fact, it is never stated in either film that it was the gospel that brought about this change.

Why would men associated with this film, and even the son of one of the murdered missionaries, not want to speak clearly and unmistakably about the gospel of Jesus Christ in a movie about slain missionaries? Why would they not make that message of the cross primary to this film, instead of removing it entirely, considering it was the driving passion of each of these missionaries lives and their families? Why would they not “tell the story” and let it speak biblically? Are they so ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ that they all of a sudden became deaf, dumb and blind spiritually on the gospel of justification by faith when making this movie?

I’ve heard the spin about “not preaching in a film”; about “telling this tragic event from the view of the Waodani people” themselves, etc. But those things don’t hold up under scrutiny and are not true. What’s terribly paradoxical in all this, is that they boast of going to the Waodani people to exercise great care in getting their approval to make this film, for they did not want to dishonor or disrespect them. But when it came to presenting the story, they didn’t demonstrate the same care at all for the gospel, the body of Christ, the five murdered missionaries, and the honor and glory of Christ Himself.

The Apostle Paul does not say, “Woe is me if I do not tell my story…”; “Woe is me if I do not share my testimony…”; “Woe is me if I do not honor the approval of the Waodani people…” He said, “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel…” (1 Cor. 9:16). Could it be anymore clear?
Repent of your timidity, for denying the centrality of the cross in this film and for being ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

4. They treated the memory and lives of the five missionaries as frat boys and not Christian missionaries with a burden to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jim Elliot and company (especially Jim) come off as extras from “Animal House” in this film rather than the deeply godly men we have been told and read they were. All five missionaries were portrayed as pacifists on a humanitarian covert mission, rather than as faithful “ambassadors of Christ” to bring the gospel to this primitive people. This film undeniably soils their memory.

Going by what the movie represents, martyrdom would not be appropriate language to describe the tragic deaths of these five missionaries. They were not killed for proclaiming the gospel; they were not killed for calling the Waodani people to repentance from their demonic gods; they were not killed for heralding the God of all creation. The movie depicts them being killed because they chose not to fight as men even in defending themselves. You have six Waodani warriors with spears against five missionaries with guns. I understand fully deciding not to kill the Waodani if attacked, but they didn’t even fire their weapons in warning until it was way too late. They didn’t even try to wound one of the Waodani in order to slow them down. They were portrayed, as frightened, clueless, and surprised. According to the movie’s portrayal, they really didn’t have to die.

This does not add up folks; and certainly doesn’t honor their inimitable intent to go to the Waodani people with the ultimate purpose of proclaiming the gospel.
Repent for misrepresenting the faithful lives of these missionaries and for not portraying clearly and without ambiguity the burden to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to those where Christ had not been named.

5. Lastly, they used the body of Christ as their core marketing strategery—promoting this as a Christian film when there is nothing of Christ and Him represented in this film.
Christians have been used and duped beloved—and they know it. They wanted to market to evangelicals the same way that Mel Gibson did with his Romanist film “The Passion of the Christ.” They mirrored the same techniques even with personal appearances by Steve Saint and Mincaye. It sadly came off as a sideshow to say the least.

The Lord certainly has not blessed their PR efforts to what they had projected: As of February 12th, the “End of the Spear” grossed last weekend only $518,975; and has total box office receipts of only $10,718,950. It will be a very long time, if ever, before they entirely recoup the cost of making this film and the marketing dollars spent to solicit support from the body of Christ. Not even DVD sales can salvage this B-rated film.
Repent for using the body of Christ as a marketing means to promote and support your movie that at its foundations is Christless and gospel-less about five missionaries portrayed more like humanitarians and frat boys than ones burdened with an uncompromised, dying passion to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to where Christ has not yet been named.

May the Lord help us all to guard our hearts from compromise, from the influence of pragmatic methodology, from being afraid to mention the name of Christ in all our endeavors, and from masking or watering down the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ just to appeal to unsaved people thinking that our little insignificant methods add any power or influence to the gospel at all. The gospel itself is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16).

May this be our dying testimony: “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.” -Acts 20:24


donsands said...

Thanks Steve for sharing your heart on this most unpleasant happening.
I love Luther's quote. And he backed it up, though he did fear the Catholic Church at first. But the next day, He said he would not recant, and Here I stand!
I do pray for the Church to become bold in the Gospel as well, starting with my self. I am so tired of being pushed back on my heels, though I never want to become self-righteous, but instead always, always, remember it is God's grace that saved my soul, and rescued me from hell, and sets me apart for His glory.
Peter denied the Lord. And at Pentecost he preached to the unbelievering Jews that they were denying the Lord. He became a powerful preacher in the Spirit of Christ, and he was a simple fisherman.
May we all do the same, as God grants us His power and love and grace. Amen.

littlegal_66 said...

A well-written exhortation for prayer & repentance. I will be adding these men to my prayer list, specifically in the 5 areas you've indicated. And I echo Sandman's prayer ^ above.

Keep on, brothers and sisters.

Rusty said...

thank you for the encouraging thoughts Steve. I'm with ya 100%

gbfluteman said...

Steve, I have been visiting your blog for quite some time, and have been very impressed. I must admit though that there is a slight error here: The End of the Spear is not the LATEST showing of a masking of the Gospel for all the nation to see. (just teasing; your write ups of these situations are always incredibly thorough and Scriptural) :-)

You mention Larry King Live. Unfortunately, Michael W. Smith was on LKL just a couple of days ago. Sharper Iron has a forum that's been run on this subject. Larry King Live: Michael W. Smith promotes movie "Second Chance" Very sad that he had a wonderful opportunity to share the Gospel and totally missed it.
I hope that some of these people will start taking some stands where it counts. They have all the influence and all the audience to make Christ WIDELY known. It's a shame they won't.

Fighting the Good Fight of Faith,
2 Cor. 1:3-5
1 Tim. 6:12

ScottyB said...

Steve's in Ecuador returning Mincanye to the jungle.

Alexander M Jordan said...

Hi Steve:

I really appreciate your boldness in standing up for the gospel. I have said many similar things to what you're saying here in my writing about End of the Spear.

I was wondering though, if a couple of your statements might be a bit overstated? For example you said "their purposed silence and unwillingness to dialogue with fellow Christians"-- but ETE did talk at length with Jason Janz, Randy Alcorn, and do an interview with CT, in attempts to explain the rationale for their choices. Now I agree with you that their explanations don't seem willing to admit error, but they did in fact talk with other Christians quite a bit.

The other point which you make that I thought might be a little overstated is when you said that there is "nothing of Christ and Him represented in this film." I do agree with you that when I watched the movie I felt the missionary characters came across very poorly because their driving force-- the gospel-- is not clearly shown. Yet I do think that the film communicates that it was as a result of their message that the Waodani learned to end their violence-- they learned of the Son of God "who was speared but did not spear back." I agree with you that the presentation of the gospel in the movie is woefully inadequate-- but I think that one might see the film and at least get a sense that the Christian missionaries were able to accomplish something powerful through their preaching to the tribe. The gospel is not shown very clearly, but you do see the results.

I am not at all arguing against your main points, I think you have made them powerfully well. I said on my blog about ETE: "Since they are Christians making a public statement about the gospel with this movie, since the movie's story is based on true events, and since they were asking for the support of the Christian community to promote this film, the filmmakers had a responsibility to get it right. They have been criticized, and rightly so, for getting it wrong."

Thanks for your article.

Blessings in Him,


shadow said...

Good thinking! We've also found it helpful to show non-Christians that we're not mere conservatives reacting to every new movie but that we stand on eternal truths. So we've done a quick summary of the biblical view which is hopefully useful in showing the logic behind our thinking.


REM said...

Can the gospel Jesus Christ be accurately presented ever in motion picture? If you say yes, then all words written here seem good. If no, you are giving this movie and all others a responsibility it can never have. Think about it.

Grosey's Messages said...

good stuff... thanks for your insights. I hadn't considered this before.
Thankfully, we in Australia are neevr likely to have to face the issue. Our Christian community is so small that it wont be profotable enough for Mardel to export it here.