In “A Candid Conversation with Dallas Jenkins, Director of The Chosen,” Dallas Jenkins made an interesting statement to our friend and fellow apologist, Melissa Dougherty, at about the twelve-minute mark of the interview. He was relaying a story about God speaking to him when he was in a synagogue in Israel.
I felt that God was laying on my heart was that in several years the Chosen was going to be what people thought of when they pictured the disciples. When they pictured Jesus’ people. People that were around Jesus. Because up to that point, the movie, the mini-series about Jesus, you don’t have anything in your mind specifically about Simon Peter or Mary Magdalene. There’s no visual in your mind. And, I felt like God was saying, well, this is going to be the definitive portrayal of my people, and this is what people are going to think of around the world when they think of my people. And I’m not going to let you screw it up.
The identification with the fictional characters that people will invariably make is one of the concerns expressed by T.A. McMahon in his article, “‘The Chosen’ Fiction.” After explaining how distortions creep into films in the retelling of an original story, he poses the dilemma:
For those who are still not seeing the problem with this, let’s consider a program that makes the highly publicized claim that it’s helping people get to know Jesus better and to recognize similarities with the “Jesus of different faiths.” What if the Jesus we are being introduced to is not the biblical Jesus, but rather a spirit that was produced in heaven?
In “The Chosen: Concerned but Keep Watching,” Jonathan Miles pointed out, “Jenkins makes clear that the writers condense timelines and take poetic license.”
To be sure, The Chosen is not a faithful film version of the gospel accounts, nor was it intended to be. As Jenkins notes in the interview with Melissa, 95% of the material is not from the Bible. Sometimes taking such artistic license makes no difference in the original character or story – but it certainly can create a whole new character that only vaguely resembles the biblical original. For example, in scripture, the character of Simon Peter comes across as a fisherman who speaks his mind, sometimes perhaps a little brashly – but overall, he seems like an honest, hard-working fisherman turned disciple. In the creative hands of the first season of The Chosen, Peter is a tax scofflaw, a barroom brawler for money who is recruited as an informant on his fellow fishermen for the government. Is that really the “definitive portrayal” God wanted people to envision “around the world when they think of my people,” specifically Peter?
In the interview with Melissa, Dallas Jenkins describes how those of different faiths all love the Jesus they see in The Chosen but get into battles in the fan groups in defense of ‘their Jesus.” When pressed on the Mormon involvement in the production of the series, Jenkins emphatically states that he and his personal Mormon friends believe in the same Jesus. We will not argue that point, but we must point out that the Jesus of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not the Jesus of Scripture and history. The Mormon Jesus is another Jesus (2 Cor 11:4) – a Jesus who was once a man but became “a god” – one of millions – through his own efforts. It is, of course, a fact that Mormons and people of other faiths may not fully grasp or fully believe in the teachings of the group they are involved in and may honestly think their religion teaches the biblical Jesus. Or it may be the case that an individual Mormon may, in fact, embrace the biblical Jesus and not even realize that he is leaving or has left the Mormon Jesus behind. Or as is the case with so many groups that hold to “another Jesus,” and very often with Mormons, they use the same or very similar vocabulary as Christians but assign different meanings to the words. As the Bible teaches, there are many Jesuses out there, but only one is the true Jesus – the rest are imposters. Without a clear definition of terms, one Jesus seems very much the same as all the other Jesuses on the menu. It is up to the individual Christian to ask for clear definitions of terms and so be able to discern whether their friend is speaking of the real Jesus of scripture or the faux Jesus of a false teacher.
There is also the fact that human beings very often place “fraternity over orthodoxy.” It is not easy or pleasant to believe and accept that a friend or a close work associate holds heretical beliefs. The very human tendency is to defend the friend and look past the false teaching. Human friendship and affection can very definitely have a blinding effect.
Jenkins gave multiple assurances during this interview that he is an evangelical and has final control over the script. In addition, he insists he has had no pressure from those on the team or the distribution company to accommodate LDS beliefs in the storytelling. Whatever one may think of the series itself, the danger of serious heresy may lie outside the script and in the social media presence of the creative team, actors, and actresses. We all know that fans become enamored with celebrities and, in many cases, may view them uncritically as reliable authorities in their public communications.
So, by way of celebrity status, Dallas Jenkins and the actors and producers of the popular series can and will have an outsized influence on countless fans. As a case in point, Jenkins posted material from Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr that he found challenging. He wrote:
From Richard Rohr…not sure that this is universally true, but it’s rocking my world:
For those who may not be aware, Richard Rohr is a panentheist who teaches that the cosmos is the first incarnation of “the Christ.” In “A Heretic’s Christ, a False Salvation,” Dr. Douglas Groothuis outlines some of the serious heresies in Rohr’s book, The Universal Christ. Whether intentionally bestowed or not, Rohr now enjoys the imprimatur of Dallas Jenkins and The Chosen. How deeply has Jenkins been drinking at Rohr’s well? We do not know, but he isn’t the only one involved with The Chosen that has in some way publicly advanced the heretical teachings of Richard Rohr.
Dan Haseltine, along with Matthew S. Nelson, composes the music for The Chosen. It doesn’t take much searching to discover a Richard Rohr connection there as well. On The Orbit Around Matthew S. Nelson & Dan Haseltine Fan Page, we find:
I am thankful for mentors who have helped me understand the value of solitude and contemplative prayers as a practice that builds intimacy with God and gives that “inner authority” of knowing. I spent so many years learning about God and not enough time knowing Him. Both are important. Some of you read Katie Haseltine’s “All The Things,” also a prayer practice that helps with intimate relationship to God, seeing and hearing Him in our daily lives. It is such an important way to seek Him. I believe many do not hear these words and concepts. Richard Rohr also spoke to this, last week…
The same writer explains the “‘inner authority’ of knowing”:
The dualistic or non-contemplative mind cannot imagine how both could be true at the same time. The contemplative mind sees things in wholes and not in divided parts.
We all must find an inner authority that we can trust that is bigger than our own. This way, we know it’s not only us thinking these thoughts. When we are able to trust God directly, it balances out the almost exclusive reliance on external authority (Scripture for Protestants; Tradition for Catholics).
Scripture then is made subject to the “‘inner authority’ of knowing.” We also see the power of the stamp of approval by celebrities:
While, like all of you, I was drawn to Matt and Dan because of the beauty and empathy of their art, I quickly learned that beauty came from a contemplative mind.
Dan and Kate Haseltine seem deeply marinated in Richard Rohr’s worldview. In the “About the Author” section of her new book, All the Things: A 30 Day Guide to Experiencing God’s Presence in the Prayer of Examen, the first sentence is telling:
Katie Haseltine is a trained Spiritual Director, a certified Enneagram coach and self-care coach.
The book is endorsed by none other than Your Enneagram Coach, Beth McCord (who was trained by five New Agers) and Dallas and Amanda Jenkins:
“We’ve known Katie for more than two decades. In our twenties, we spent weekends together as married couples, eating and talking sun-up to sun-down. Which means that, in spite of all the life lived since then (the miles between us, the kids we’ve raised, the marital ups and downs we’ve experienced), we know Katie well. Our friendship was firmly established in those early days—along with her tendency to end every disagreement with ‘Jesus.’ For as long as we’ve known her, all Katie roads have led to Jesus. Any topic, any argument, any anything: Katie would remind us of a verse or idea that drew the conversation back to Him.
“And she’s still doing it. All the Things is beautiful and authentic and interesting and profound and truth-filled and Jesus-focused… just like our friend.”
Some readers may be thinking the above citations and comments are little more than assigning guilt by association. That might be true if we were suggesting the problem is that Dallas Jenkins is steeped in Richard Rohr’s material, and it is making its way into his vastly popular series. But we plainly have not made that claim. We clearly expressed our concerns early on that “the danger of serious heresy may actually lie outside the script and instead within the social media of the creative team, actors and actresses.” If Richard Rohr, the Eastern practices of Contemplative Prayer1for a better understanding of this, see “Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?” by Marcia Montenegro and the Enneagram are spiritual tools that those associated with The Chosen admire and advocate, fans are very likely to trust these “tools” as safe and helpful in their personal spiritual pursuits. That would be a tragedy.
Dallas Jenkins is clear that he is not a pastor, The Chosen is not the Church, and the story the series is telling is not the Bible. Fair enough. But whether he recognizes it or not, his celebrity status among Christians places a burden on his shoulders. Fans will pay close attention to what he says and tend to trust who and what he advocates. If his fans should be inspired to read and trust Richard Rohr and other false teachers, based upon Jenkins’ perhaps careless endorsement, will he not bear some responsibility for that?
We do not know Dallas Jenkins. From the interview we watched, he seems to genuinely seek to make Jesus “real” for this current generation. He appears honestly perplexed at some of the criticism he has received for his portrayal of Jesus and His disciples by other people. Celebrity is a dual-edged sword for sure, and with it comes perhaps unwanted scrutiny and added responsibility.
The Church in our era seems to be rapidly slip-sliding off its true foundation. We all need to ask ourselves if we are part of the “slide” or part of the bulwark.Ω
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|↑1||for a better understanding of this, see “Contemplating Contemplative Prayer: Is It Really Prayer?” by Marcia Montenegro|
Thank you so much!!! A very clear article about this production.
thank you for your insight Don
As a family, we loved the original Christmas short from the Chosen, that we invested in the series and we are part of the first investors. Lately though, because if social media posts by The Chosen social media team, I have been having some doubts/concerns. I agree with your stance about this.
One recent post was calling Jesus a Jedi. I cannot fathom such irreverent speech about our Savior, coming from a “believer”.
Season two seemed off somehow, I am not even sure what makes me say that, but it just seemed wrong.
Thank you for the comments. As we mentioned, we watched season one and had concerns about liberties with the characters. We haven’t watched season 2 but, of greater concern, we think, is the social media and the spiritual information and connections there.
Be very careful my friends. The Pharisees though they knew everything about God and scripture as well and completely lost the opportunity to know God. Why are people so quick to judge others? The Bible says remove the beam from your own eye before you try to remove the speck from your brothers. PRAY PRAY PRAY
Great stuff Don and Joy. As always, I appreciate how you present the truth in love. I hope that I will one day be able to emulate your ability to lovingly correct.
“Fr.” Rohr does not speak for the Catholic church. He is into New Age, Enneagrams, etc. He is outside the Church in his teachings and those of us in the Church do not endorse any of his heretical teachings.
I understand some individual Roman Catholics to not endorse Rohr and his heretical teachings while other Roman Catholics, like Carl McColman, do. The Roman Catholic leadership has looked at his teachings and has not taken any official positions on his one way or the other. It at least appears that panentheism, denial of penal substitution, the universe being the first incarnation of “The Christ” etc, is not officially repudiated in his case. That being said, we have not suggested Rome endorses his heresies either, but he is a public teacher, drawing on his Roman Catholic Bonafide’s to further his credibility and his teachings.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of priests, nuns etc., out there who tend to go their own way. Even if they are admonished, they end up with their own following. Most traditional Catholics shy away from them after discerning what they’re about. But, some don’t have a basic knowledge of doctrine and can be lead to think this is all good. Guess that happens everywhere.
I don’t understand how Christians can get past that Dallas Jenkins is putting words and events that Holy God did not do or say and how blasphemous this is. The authentic Jesus from Dallas Jenkin’s imagination? Outside of the danger of ecumenism among other issues to us humans beings— the major horrific notice needs to be taken of Jesus/God (yes His humanity is in the Word but He is still HOLY, the OTHER and the fact that Jenkins IS adding to the Word and lots of other problems he is using Jesus/God as a character in a mini series. ) No one has to think anything else about this except this is evil blasphemy. It’s a done deal. People used to realize this.
This right here. And after a year later, I think its troubling that people who’s brand on social media is discernment and defense of both the Truth and the Gospels all too quickly become willing participants with the malpractice of the Gospels by Dallas Jenkins. We now have both Melissa Dougherty’s interview and last December’s interview by Allie Beth Stuckey where Dallas proudly states that 95% of the show isn’t from the Bible and he is inventing his own lore out of his imagination.
Yet neither women bat an eye on this. However, Stuckey just spent las Feburary clapping back the He Gets Us super bowl ads for losing the Gospel by making Jesus too relatable. According to Stuckey: “They sacrifice truth for relevance and in so doing it they offer a Jesus that isn’t real. And a Jesus that is not real cannot save.”
Yet this concern and passion for the Gospels was not voiced at all by Stuckey last December in her interview of Dallas when she all but endorsed and promoted the show that does the exact thing she claps back a month later. This is made worse that she admitted in the episode before Dallas that she’s never seen The Chosen. Yet, she has had no consequence from the Christian community for this glaring double standard.
Below are two videos. This first one breaks down Melissa’s interview from almost two years ago:
The 2nd covers the December 2022 interview between Allie Beth Stuckey and Dallas along with Stuckey’s actions that occured before and after Relatable episode.
It makes it very hard for us to warn people about the wolves when the leaders of the sheep are associating with the wolves.
Yes, Jenkins has said that his “story” is based on the Bible but it is a STORY. He has changed nothing about the Divinity/humanity of Jesus. Nothing about salvation. Nothing about repentance and following. Nothing about the Trinity, etc. In essence, he has not changed Jesus, his mission, who He was and is. He filled in the background of how life may have been for him and his disciples according to historical records. E.g., how they lived during those times, how the Jews interacted with the Romans, the political climate of the time, etc. and how the apostles MAY have acted towards each other. Have you never read a chapter in the Bible and tried to picture it in your mind? Is that wrong? Have you ever tried to imagine Heaven? Is that wrong? Have you ever tried to imagine the end of days based on Revelation? Is that wrong? After all, we don’t know all the details. Have you ever tried to imagine the face of God when we stand before Him? None of us know any of that.
Arelene, you are right that there is nothing changed about salvation. That is because it doesn’t exist in the story by Dallas. And that is precisely the problem.
For people like Dallas, and I will extend this to fans of The Chosen even if this an unfair assesment, the Christ event and the Gospels are merely stories to them. And stories can be reimagined and revised at will to the wildest imagination regardless of the author’s intent.
But the Gospels were never merely stories. They are eyewitness testimonies and historic accounts which is nothing like calling it as something as colorless as stories. This is something that actually happened and we claim to believe it so. Yet we as Christians demonstrate as a whole that we really don’t actually believe it as such while nerds show they are more devoted to the works of Tolkien based on their rejection of the aweful treatment by Amazon then we are to the Gospels. To quote a certain conservative millennial about this malpractive of Jesus and of Gospel integrity:
“They sacrifice truth for relevance and in so doing it they offer a Jesus that isn’t real. And a Jesus that is not real cannot save.”
A Jesus where 95% of what makes him authentic is missing from the show and whole lores are invented for the sake of your entertainment and need to chase fables is not a real Jesus nor can that thing save anybody. It defeats any ground of authenticity to stand on when the very thing needed to ensure authenticity is just not there and the show is just making up its own crap. Nerds have more sense and character than we do.