This critique of The Chosen TV series is a guest post by Ingrid McCullough. The Chosen is a popular series, with many claiming that the series has enabled them to relate to Jesus, and that it’s made the scriptures “come alive.” Where scripture is silent regarding certain events, or the characters of Jesus and his disciples, Jenkins has used his imagination to fill the gaps. Some find the mixture of facts and fiction in the series heartwarming and entertaining, but we don’t need warm and fuzzy feelings or speculation to know the Christ of the scriptures. We need the scriptures. If you’re a fan of the series, put your emotions aside and consider the facts presented in this article.
By Ingrid McCullough May 2021
“The Bereans have long been seen as a positive example of how a person or community should respond to things taught in the name of God. What can we learn from the noble Bereans? Acts 17: 10-11 tells us that “The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now, these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the Word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” They received the Word with eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.
What a wonderful reminder to us to do the same! There is so much taught in the name of God online, in churches, in devotions, in small groups, on TV. Not all of it is good despite the Christian label slapped on to it. As Christians, we should be testing all who present themselves as teachers in the church universal, and there is no point where we should stop testing what they teach against Scripture.
As Got Questions succinctly states, “Jesus warned us that “false Christs and false prophets” will come and will attempt to deceive even God’s elect (Matthew 24:23-27; see also 2 Peter 3:3 and Jude 17-18). The best way to guard yourself against falsehood and false teachers is to know the truth. To spot a counterfeit, study the real thing. Any believer who “correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) and who makes a careful study of the Bible can identify false doctrine. For example, a believer who has read the activities of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Matthew 3:16-17 will immediately question any doctrine that denies the Trinity. Therefore, we must study the Bible and judge all teaching by what the Scripture says.”
And so, today, I ask you to examine carefully a recent cultural phenomenon, The Chosen, and its creator Dallas Jenkins. I ask you to join me in comparing what is being taught in the name of God to the Word of God (as Pastor Chris Rosebrough says). This is a wonderful opportunity to practice discernment by testing things against the Word of God together.
What is The Chosen? The Chosen is a TV show created by Dallas Jenkins that claims to tell the story of the “authentic” Christ. The second season of the show is currently airing, but Mr. Jenkins has publicly stated that he plans to make seven seasons. The second season of The Chosen was filmed in Goshen, Utah, on the set replica of ancient Jerusalem built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The show’s hashtag is “Get Used to Different.”
So let us look at some aspects of the show and things Mr. Jenkins has publicly said and compare those things to Scripture.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
We will start with this video dated May 30, 2020 (I will call this Video 1 at times). In this video, Mr. Jenkins states The Chosen is not a replacement for Scripture at the 48-second mark and the 3:03 mark. This is absolutely true! “The apostle Paul declared that the Holy Scriptures “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:15–17). This is called the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture: “If Scripture is “God-breathed,” then it is not man-breathed, and, although it was penned by men, those “men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). No man-made writing is sufficient to equip us for every good work; only the Word of God can do that. Furthermore, if the Scriptures are sufficient to thoroughly equip us, then nothing more is needed.”
Except, Mr. Jenkins claims God “pressed it on his heart,” and the hearts of others, that this would be one of the high callings of their lives and that he must take responsibility to tell the story of God’s people with extreme care and dedication (2:20 timestamp of Video 1). He repeats this claim in a recent interview with Melissa Dougherty. Starting at the timestamp 13:40 through to about 15 minutes in the interview with Ms. Dougherty, Mr. Jenkins claims that he felt God speaking to him 3-4 times in his life. He claimed he felt God “laying on his heart” that “in several years The Chosen was going to be what people thought of when they pictured the disciples.” He went on to say, “I felt like God was saying that ‘this will 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.’”
Claims of having heard a special message directly from God aside (as we could spend a whole post talking about that claim alone), if The Chosen is not a replacement for Scripture, why would God purportedly say it will be what people think of when they picture the disciples or why would it be the definitive portrayal of God’s people? Do we need something more than the Bible to know what God wants us to know? By definition, The Chosen and the Bible cannot both be the definitive portrayal of God’s people. And if Mr. Jenkins is claiming that God told him The Chosen would be the definitive portrayal of God’s people, what does that say of Mr. Jenkin’s actual view of the Bible? What does it say about what he supposedly heard from God? His statements are contradictory at best and show a low view of God’s Word at worst.
Adding to Scripture
To further complicate matters about Mr. Jenkins’s views on the sufficiency of Scripture, in video 1, Mr. Jenkins says he believes the Bible is the Word of God and needs no improvement (timestamp 2:30 – 3:00). Yet, by his own admission, he knowingly adds historical, cultural, and artistic details and states he does not believe this changes the Bible itself (timestamp 3:03-3:13 of Video 1). Of course, such additions do not change the actual Bible, but the changes mean he is not accurately portraying the written Word of God. Additionally, he adds more than historical, cultural, and artistic information. He has added information about the disciples, for instance, that Matthew is autistic and James the Lesser has cerebral palsy. He imagines and presents feuds between disciples and backstory that is never mentioned in the Bible. A reading of each episode’s synopsis shows extensive examples of extra-biblical information (like Peter breaking the Sabbath to fish and the extensive story arch resulting from that addition).
Yet, we are warned not to add to or change the Word of God: “Although the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 is specific to the Book of Revelation, the principle applies to anyone who seeks to intentionally distort God’s Word. Moses gave a similar warning in Deuteronomy 4:1-2, where he cautioned the Israelites that they must listen to and obey the commandments of the Lord, neither adding to nor taking away from His revealed Word. Proverbs 30:5-6 contains a similar admonition to anyone who would add to God’s words: he will be rebuked and proven to be a liar. Although the warning in Revelation 22:18-19 applies specifically to the Book of Revelation, its principle must be applied to the entire revealed Word of God. We must be careful to handle the Bible with care and reverence so as to not distort its message.”
The canon of Scripture is closed. We do not need additional revelation through television episodes or self-proclaimed, modern-day prophets or apostles. God determined that what we need to believe about Him and what He requires of us. He reveals that information in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament. It does not come from a movie or TV show that embellishes details to move us beyond what the Scriptures say.
Mr. Jenkins will sometimes emphasize that it’s just a show and definitely not adding to Scripture, yet he says God told him that The Chosen would be the definitive portrayal of His people and that God would make sure it was accurate. This would have to include the portrayal of Jesus. If God said “I won’t let you screw this up” then it follows that the portrayal of Christ also has some level of divine inspiration. It’s also not “just a show” because Mr. Jenkins is involved in writing study guides and devotionals that go along with his portrayal of Christ and His followers. Churches and small groups will be watching episodes of The Chosen and using the accompanying materials for the sake of spiritual growth. He argues that the Chosen doesn’t replace Scripture but He does claim that God is the one behind it, wanting to use the series to bring people closer to Christ. This same line of reasoning is used by the LDS to promote the Book of Mormon as seen in the sponsored Facebook ad below…
Mr. Jenkins is making the same argument for The Chosen. He says the Chosen is a special series that God wants him to make about Jesus. It doesn’t replace the Bible, he says. In other words, as you study the Bible along with The Chosen, you can gain a deeper understanding of the Gospels and draw closer to Christ.
He may not be adding verses and chapters to the Bible but he is presenting his version of the Gospels to the world and claiming that his additions are accurate. The series creates a new context that will be in peoples’ minds when they read the Biblical text. So let us look closer at the portrayal of Christ in the series.
Mr. Jenkins also puts words into the mouth of Jesus that absolutely present Him in a different way than the Gospels did. For example, in this trailer, the actor portraying Jesus says, “If we are going to have a question and answer time every time there is something you are not used to, we will have a very annoying time for all of us.” Or, “Get used to different.” In this clip, the actor portraying Jesus says, “I’m here to start a revolution” and “I want my people to participate in the healing of the world.” In season 1, episode 5, a disciple asked Jesus to make Andrew a better dancer, and the writer had the actor portraying Jesus say, “Some things even I cannot do.” Not only does this not sound like the Jesus of the Bible at all, but it also presents a message that is different than the Good News found in scriptures.
Mr. Jenkins manages to present some biblical truth in The Chosen, but it is always with extra-biblical (or un-biblical) additions. It is inevitably Jesus +. He does this with the approval of his friends and biblical consultants – a Catholic, a Jew, and an Evangelical. While he has found some religious scholars to publicly affirm his choices, this does not make his decisions right.
In this clip, Mr. Jenkins discusses filming the scene where Jesus is seen preparing and writing the Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus is “sermon prepping” in a very unbiblical presentation not gleaned from Scripture. Jesus is fully God. He spoke the world into being! He speaks with the full authority of Heaven! We see in John 12: 49-50 Jesus said, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” Jesus spoke precisely what the Father gave Him to speak. No preparation was necessary. To make this unbiblical presentation even worse, at timestamp 1:50, Jesus asked Matthew, “Which section stands out to you the most?” As if our Lord needed reassurance or feedback from one of His followers!
Creating a universally loved Jesus and universally approved Gospel?
In the interview Mr. Jenkins gave to Ms. Melissa Dougherty, he states around the 15:35 mark that “[The Chosen] is really focused solely on the stories of Jesus. Which means that a lot of people from a lot of different tribes all love it..LDS, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, whatever. And they don’t disagree about the show, which makes a lot of people nervous because they’re like, wait a minute, we are supposed to disagree…supposed to be angry at each other.”
What Mr. Jenkins fails to understand is that many of these “tribes” teach heretical things about Jesus that are incompatible with saving faith. For example, Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. A belief in such a Jesus does not result in salvation but damnation. Which, by the way, does not make true believers angry. It makes us sad and spurs us to evangelize and pray for the lost. The fact that Mormons see this show and cannot tell that there is a difference between the Jesus they follow and the Biblical Jesus should give Mr. Jenkins pause. It should not, as it seems to do, reassure him that his show is really good. Something is not true or good simply because a large group of people thinks it is so. That is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad populum, or the bandwagon fallacy. If everyone says the Jesus of The Chosen is the Jesus they know, something is wrong with the presentation. Jesus proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It is vital that we have a proper understanding of the true Jesus.
During an interview on a Mormon talk show, Mr. Jenkins shared how he’s learned so much about the LDS community since beginning his partnership with VidAngel. He then goes on to say in the interview, regarding Mormons:
“We love the same Jesus…I’ll sink or swim on that statement.”
As for Catholics and Greek Orthodox, while they have a seemingly proper understanding of the hypostatic union, they do not recognize the work of Jesus on the cross as FINISHED. They preach a different Gospel and put the heavy yoke of works righteousness on their followers. Our Lord’s burden is easy, and His yoke is light (Matthew 11:30). There is nothing we can do to save ourselves or sanctify ourselves. Jesus did the work! Ephesians 2:8–9 teaches, “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” God’s grace saves us, and grace, by definition, cannot be earned. We do not deserve salvation; we simply receive it by faith. Like the LDS, if Catholics and Greek Orthodox can watch The Chosen and not see how their false Gospel is different from the real Gospel clearly presented in the Bible, perhaps The Chosen is not giving a clear Gospel presentation.
Mr. Jenkins takes everything a step further than seeking widespread approval of his presentation of Jesus and the Gospel. He seems to actively try to appease other religious groups and incorporate their viewpoints while often denying he does so. In his interview with Ms. Dougherty, he repeatedly claimed that he is not swayed by nor did he incorporate LDS theology into his work. We will delve into his promotion of LDS theology more below, so I’ll set that aside and focus on his deliberate collaboration with representatives from other religions.
In this episode 1 behind the scenes video, Mr. Jenkins introduces the Catholic, Evangelical and Jewish religious consultants for the show. In this video, he readily admits that he is trying to portray their religious viewpoints accurately and gives several examples of how he incorporates their religious views into the show. Furthermore, his desire to be accepted and approved by any who claim Christ is evident in a video he did with a Catholic and Evangelical about Mary. Around the 3:50 timestamp, Mr. Jenkins said he was “a little nervous from a Catholic perspective. Would they be comfortable seeing Mary as worried, as even incorrect?” He also takes great pains around the 4:40 mark to promote the Catholic position that Hail Mary prayers are supposed to point the supplicant to Jesus. In reference to how he portrayed Mary from the Catholic perspective, Mr. Jenkins asked the Catholic priest around the 8-minute mark, “How’d we do?” Why is he catering to the Catholic perspective of Mary? Why is he incorporating Catholic and Jewish interpretations of Jesus and the Gospel? This all comes across as an effort to cater to the widest group of people who claim to be God’s people. In so doing, he cannot hold to nor present biblical truth.
Mr. Jenkins: Authority and Teaching
In Video 1, Mr. Jenkins peddles his evangelical street creds (and he repeats them in his interview with Ms. Dougherty). He explains that he has been part of a conservative bible-believing background his whole life and was a Bible major in college. But does the fact that he was raised in Christian culture and was a Bible major in college make him more reliable when it comes to rightly dividing the Word of God? No. It does not. Mr. Jenkins repeatedly says in interviews and social media posts that he holds to orthodox Christian teaching. However, nowhere does he post a clear statement of faith, confessional statement, or guiding creed. We have to take him at his word. Video 1 is labeled as his statement of faith, but, in no way was it a typical statement of faith. After watching it, we know nothing of his actual stance on the primary doctrines of the faith. We do, however, have an understanding of the show’s values.
Mr. Jenkins and his wife have positioned themselves as Bible teachers. Through collaboration with other people, they now write and sell several devotionals, Bible study guides, and other material that correspond to the show. As such, their theology matters. Their ability to rightly handle the Word of God matters. Yet, in one sponsored ad, Mr. Jenkins promoted his Bible study guide as a tool to “explore the scriptural context that augments your viewing experience.” (emphasis added)
This is completely backward! If, as Mr. Jenkins has claimed, Scripture, not The Chosen, is our authority, why is it that it is Scripture that augments the show and not the other way around? Not that it is much better the other way around, theologically speaking. But Mr. Jenkins has shown in this statement his true view of Scripture and that it is there to augment his show, his vision, his Jesus.
The fruit of the Spirit
There are some additional concerns over some of Mr. Jenkins’s online behavior. If anyone has a problem with what he does, Mr. Jenkins deflects and says, “get used to different.” If he gets critical feedback, he presents it disparagingly on his Facebook page, where it is mocked by his followers.
This is not a Christian response to those who raise valid concerns about the primary doctrines of the faith. There is much that could be said here. But rather than go into it in-depth, I urge you to peruse his social media presence and see who it glorifies and who it attacks. Does he glorify the Lord or himself? Does he seek to placate the masses or hold to the truth? Does he clearly love the brethren, or does he treat them mockingly?
Marketing and partnerships
Many Christians have expressed concern with Mr. Jenkins’s partnership with the LDS church. Yet, he brushes off these concerns as irrelevant. Partnering with a cult that endeavors to be seen as Christian is dangerous. It gives the cult respectability and makes them seem as though they are part of mainstream Christianity. In his interview with Ms. Dougherty, Mr. Jenkins tried to equate his partnership with the LDS church to using an atheist space. While yes, atheists are unsaved, just like Mormons, they aren’t masquerading as Christians either. There is a vital difference in that which Mr. Jenkins absolutely refuses to see.
He also refused to take a stand on Mormonism in that interview, which was quite suspicious. Even if the LDS church is not outright telling Mr. Jenkins what to do or what to write, you can be sure that having LDS folks run his distribution platform, own the set he is filming on, and providing many crew members, there is influence taking place. He is not going to write lines or portray something that might interfere with that support network and his ability to reach his goal of reaching 1 billion viewers. They don’t even have to say anything. He knows that continued support is necessary. That is influence – whether he recognizes it as such or not.
“Mr. Jenkins partners with far more than the LDS church. He partners with NAR-connected (New Apostolic Reformation) worship leaders who sing on set and participate in the show. Individuals like Bethelite Sean Feucht, Elevation Church-connected Cody Carnes and Kari Jobe, Hillsong, Chris Tomlin, and Phil Wickham. Mr. Jenkins also partners with catholic Matt Maher and progressive Christian Dan Haseltine. All of this is seen on The Chosen Facebook page. The undiscerning may see these artists on the page, hear their catchy tunes, and look up the dangerous churches from which they come. Churches that peddle the unbiblical prosperity gospel, promote false prophets, and teach heretical things about Jesus and the Gospel.”
Which brings us to another issue:
Dallas Jenkins has done more than partner with Mormons to market, make and distribute The Chosen. He has signed on as an executive producer to The Shift. The Shift is a short film written and directed by Mormon Brock Heasley. I beg you not to watch this blasphemous, heretical film. Truly, it is terrible. It is a Mormon depiction of Satan, temptation, and prayer, and it presents their theology of other worlds. Mr. Heasley refers to himself as a Christian filmmaker and presents his aberrant theology as Christian. It is not. And now Mr. Jenkins has signed up to make the full-length movie version of this short film. If you must watch it, you can do so here.
Pastor Richard Moore summed up The Shift nicely. He said, “stay away unless you want to be influenced by the theology of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons). Problems include:
- It makes Satan more powerful than he is. i.e., the power to move people to other planets, realities, and determine destinies. Satan does NOT have that power. GOD IS SOVEREIGN!
- “Open Theism” perspective in which God is helpless against the devil’s schemes.
- It makes us more powerful than we are to command Satan to do anything.
- And removes or at least doesn’t mention the power of the Gospel to overcome Satan through the vicarious sin-bearing work of Christ Jesus on the cross.”
Brief summary concerning Satan and Open Theism:
- “Satan is a personal being with a mind, emotions, and a will (Job 1; Matthew 4:1–12).
- He is a created being and is not equal to God (Ezekiel 28:15).
- Satan does not rule hell. Hell was created as a punishment for Satan and his demons (Matthew 25:41). Neither does Satan live in hell, as the Bible describes how he can enter Heaven and roam the earth (Job 1:6–7).
- The devil can only do what God allows (Job 1:12).
- Satan is not omnipresent. But he does oversee a horde of demons, called “the powers of this dark world and . . . the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). He uses this network to tempt and deceive people.
- He actively works to nullify the effect of the Word of God in people’s hearts (Matthew 13:3–4, 19), and he blinds the intellect of those who do not believe so they cannot understand the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4).”
- “Open theism holds that the future is not knowable. Therefore, God knows everything that can be known, but He does not know the future. Open theism bases these beliefs on Scripture passages that describe God “changing His mind” or “being surprised” or “seeming to gain knowledge” (Genesis 6:6; 22:12; Exodus 32:14; Jonah 3:10). In light of the many other Scriptures that declare God’s knowledge of the future, these Scriptures should be understood as God describing Himself in ways that we can understand. God knows what our actions and decisions will be, but He “changes His mind” in regard to His actions based on our actions. God’s disappointment at the wickedness of humanity does not mean He was not aware it would occur. In contradiction to open theism, Psalm 139:4, 16 states, “Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”
Dallas Jenkins is a self-professed Christian. Many have questioned his partnership with Mormons for the Chosen. He claimed in a recent interview with Ms. Dougherty that he is not influenced by LDS theology but that he can recognize it. I have to ask, does he recognize it? Can he not see the heretical teaching in this short film? Apparently not. In this ad, he promotes the movie and explains why he signed on as Executive Producer. At time stamp 1:17, Mr. Jenkins said, “The message of The Shift is so important.” At 1:53, Mr. Jenkins said, “When I read what he is writing, I’m connected to it…..it reaches me both at an intellectual level and an emotional level. And if you’ve seen The Chosen, maybe that’s what you have appreciated about it as well.” At 2:28, “There is an umbrella over it of spiritual importance. Something is being said about our universe and who created it. That is what The Shift is about. That is what The Chosen is about.”
What is being said in The Shift is heretical. What is being said in The Shift is wrong. Mr. Jenkins either does not know that, or he does not care. In either event, this is dangerous.
I pray the information presented here helps you to discern whether or not to watch The Chosen or The Shift. As always, test everything against Scripture and that includes cultural phenomena and teachers you may like. It also includes everything said here!”