Many think "The Record Keeper" is great witnessing tool, a conversation starter and a means to get unbelievers interested in our message. This is an understandable position, and one I can relate to as I am no technophobe and believe in using advancements in technology. My current occupation is in the technology sector and I acknowledge what modern techniques and technology have done in the advancement of truth. I am no cynic and I do not wish to judge the motives or the hearts of the producers, but with this being said I have concerns with this project.
I have only seen the first episode featured in YouTube, so I may be accused of prematurely critiquing the series, but I am not intending to criticize the production itself as much as I am trying to explain why the principle behind it is misguided. These are my concerns.
1. Imaginative retelling
The whole premise behind the great controversy story is outlined in scripture. Sure, it is fun and exciting to recreate the events we know are true, but the basis of creating such a project should be from inspiration. Films are too often loaded with artistic license from the story-teller to add to the dramatic effect and can become distracting in the least, and at worst, totally misconstruing facts. If it is truth we are dealing with here, it is probably better to err on the side of caution as even the slightest doctrinal error can lead to drastic theological disasters. This is why the scriptures teach the principle of keeping leaven from the bread. This was a spiritual metaphor to show us that the leavening of worldly human interpolation can damage the propagation of spiritual truth.
2. Disregard for inspired counsel
One of our Fundamental Beliefs includes our belief in the gift of prophecy, which we believe was expressed in the ministry of Ellen White. While certainly not a given for everyone who calls themselves an Adventist, one would certainly be outside the confines of reality to deny that her prophetic gift has not influenced the church in a large way. Believe in her or not, White is an integral part of the church. I believe she was inspired by God, and I know many who support this project do as well, since, after all, she wrote the book which inspired the series. But if we were to believe she was inspired when she penned The Great Controversy why on earth would it be logical to think she was not inspired when she wrote:
I have a message for those in charge of our work. Do not encourage the men who are to engage in this work to think that they must proclaim the solemn, sacred message in a theatrical style. Not one jot or tittle of anything theatrical is to be brought into our work. God’s cause is to have a sacred, heavenly mold. Let everything connected with the giving of the message for this time bear the divine impress. Let nothing of a theatrical nature be permitted, for this would spoil the sacredness of the work. I am instructed that we shall meet with all kinds of experiences and that men will try to bring strange performances into the work of God. We have met such things in many places. In my very first labors, the message was given that all theatrical performances in connection with the preaching of present truth were to be discouraged and forbidden. Men who thought they had a wonderful work to do sought to adopt a strange deportment and manifested oddities in bodily exercise. The light given me was, ‘Give this no sanction.’ These performances, which savored of the theatrical, were to have no place in the proclamation of the solemn messages entrusted to us. The enemy will watch closely, and will take every advantage of circumstances to degrade the truth by the introduction of undignified demonstrations. None of these demonstrations are to be encouraged. The precious truths given us are to be spoken in all solemnity and with sacred awe. 19MR 125
Perhaps she was caught up in her own time, as some would suggest. But the message of this passage bears no chronological or cultural limitation; it is a principle that holds true even today. And it is prophetic. The counsel offered may seem too conservative to some, but it is more than just “conservative” vs. “liberal”; there is an objectively proper way to conduct the ministry of God and anything outside this ideal is liable to be exploited by Satan. We should avoid anything not endorsed by the scriptures.
This is not to say God does not allow His workers to be creative, innovative and resourceful. This is to say all these are permissible, but there are limitations because human beings are fallible and prone to err. For sound principles in attention-grabbing evangelism read the book Evangelism, starting with page 148. We need to be logically consistent; if we value the truth of an inspired book, would it not be logical and consistent to heed the author’s counsel to keep its truths from theatrical performances?
3. The effects
I was bothered by the classification of the project as a Sci-Fi series. Perhaps “The Record Keeper” may attract a following similar to Star Wars or the Trekkies of Gene Rodenberry’s Sci-Fi series. Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but let’s say that it did. Would it really bring people into the knowledge of the truth? How can a science fiction visual leave an impression on the mind of the viewer some spiritual truth? Perhaps some elements may create an impression. But would a Sci-Fi audience take it seriously? These are some of the serious questions that should have been asked and discussed a long mile away before this production saw the light of day.
There is also a difference between accepting a fantasy version of the great controversy story and accepting the biblical truth of a conflict between good and evil. Take note that many other fantasy stories contain an element of the great controversy, but we would never use them to illustrate truth because of the large erroneous baggage that accompanies them. George Lucas’ Star Wars is an example of a story of good versus evil but its portrayal of such is so far from biblical reality that no Christian should ever take it seriously. Star Trek has a version of a deity, an omnipotent being named “Q” who uses his powers to manipulate physics and toys with humans. Is “The Record Keeper” setting the record straight about God and the truth?
According to credible sources, the series uses elements of Filipino folklore. I am of full Filipino descent and having lived in the land of my ancestors for a good portion of my life, I know much about its culture and heritage. While the Philippines are mostly Catholic, a good number of local superstitions still remain. Stories of a blood-sucking, cadaver eating nocturnal creature called “Aswang” pervade even the most hardened of Adventist circles. The characters Manisilat and Magkukulam of Filipino mythology are depicted as rebelling angels in “The Record Keeper." Filipino mythology also teaches these demons help Sitan (or Satan) manage the “Kasamaan." or Hell. We know Satan and his angels are not in charge of Hell, neither does hell existing now. By using these characters whose origin is connected to such themes, what are we trying to tell the world? Would it result in clarity of our message or further confusion?
But even if we could engineer a Sci-Fi series to reflect truth so closely, it wouldn’t be science fiction anymore, would it? We would have to stick to “boring” visual documentaries like Amazing Facts and where would the fun be in that?
4. Effective use of God’s money
I admit I know so little of the details, but what is evident is that it is not a cheap production from any standpoint and it seems that the production level is high. The quality is good, and quality does not come easy or cheap. We could debate all day regarding the virtues of having spent the money a different way but the fact remains that this project should have been brought to a larger committee of church representatives from all persuasions and perspectives before it was initiated. The balancing effect would result in the best way of funneling our funds where it would make the most impact on evangelism.
We could add to this list, but the bottom-line is, for Adventism to make an impact on the world, it should not be like the world. The scriptures did not admonish us in this way without reason; Adventist history did not proliferate rapidly by embracing worldly ideals. On the contrary, Adventism has remained relevant because of its unique message and will only succeed should she submit to her head, Christ Jesus. May we all prayerfully and in humility reconsider the implications of this project and whether it really exhibits the principles found in the scriptures and the writings of inspiration. Evangelism is more than just an idea. It is a lifestyle based upon and a commitment to share the Word of God. The blueprint to spreading its message is found within its pages.
If you share my concerns, I invite you to sign this petition: http://www.narrowwaymedia.org/TRKpetition