Based On…

I know movies based on books tend to take liberties with the author’s work, and the book is almost always better than the movie. (The only exception I can think of is The Firm. As implausible as the ending of the movie may have been, the ending of the book stretched credulity ever further, making it the only instance of the movie being better than the book that I know of). Still, movies based on books usually have the main points of the book in them.

Last night I watched the movie Alex Cross, a movie that, according to the credits at the end, was based on James Patterson’s book Cross. For those familiar with that particular book or Patterson’s Alex Cross series in general the movie will be a huge disappointment. Why? Because the movie is “based on” the book in the loosest possible sense. The movie uses some of the same names as the characters in the book, and Alex Cross in the movie is a psychologist and police detective, but there the similarities cease. In the books Cross grew up in and now works in Washington, D.C. In the movie it’s Detroit. In the book his partner is his childhood friend who is taller, heavier and more intimidating than Cross, and is black. In the book his partner is shorter, lighter, wimpier and white. The discrepancies only go on from there. I have never used this space to write movie reviews, though, and I don’t plan to start now, so why bring this up?

As I was bemoaning the pathetic effort by the film makers and wondering why James Patterson would have even allowed this movie to be made it occurred to me that there are an awful lot of things out there that are purportedly “based on” the Bible yet bear precious little resemblance to what the Bible actually says. This is surely cause for sorrow for God and it is cause for caution for us.

Anyone watching Alex Cross who had never read James Patterson’s books would not know that the movie was not faithful to the written word. Anyone in that category who then saw the book in a bookstore or library would assume they knew what the book was about; their opinion would have been influenced by what they had seen. Similarly, there are many people who have not read the Bible for themselves but have heard, read or seen things that claimed to be “based on” the Bible. These individuals will form their opinions of the Bible, of God and of Christianity as a result of whatever it was they saw, read or heard “based on” the Bible. That is a scary thought!

Flip through the “religion channels” on your television, browse the “Religion” section of your local bookstore or, listen to preachers on the radio, whatever your preference may be, and you will find plenty that claims a biblical basis but is nowhere near what the Bible really says or means.

This has two lessons for those of us claiming to be Christians. First, we need to test everything claiming to be “based on” the Bible against the Bible itself. In Acts 17:11 Scripture records that the believers in Berea, upon hearing from Paul and Silas, examined “the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” In other words they did not just accept that Paul was telling the truth; the tested his messages against the written Word of God. We must do the same thing, with sermons, books, songs and whatever else we encounter that claims to be “based on” the Bible. Second, we need to be extremely careful anytime we say, do or promote something that we are claiming is “based on” the Bible. In the Amplified Bible 2 Timothy 2:15 says that believers need to be “correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.” There is no excuse for carelessly handling God’s Word, and such careless handling would include asserting that something is based on Scripture when in reality it is not.

The moral of this story: Beware of, and examine closely, whatever is “based on.”

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