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Is this Hollywood’s ‘year of the Bible’?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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Diogo Morgado as Jesus in a scene from the latest film from Mark Burnett and Roma Downey, Son of God (Credit: Twentieth Century Fox/Casey Crafford)

<iframe style=”float: left; border: 1px solid #000000; background-color: #C0C0C0; padding: 2px; margin: 10px; -moz-border-radius: 3px; -khtml-border-radius: 3px; -webkit-border-radius: 3px; border-radius: 3px;” width=”400″ height=”225″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>{/source}The movie Son of God premieres on February 28.  The film is taken from the History Channel’s hit 2013 miniseries The BibleNoah will hit theaters in March, with Russell Crowe in the lead.  Debuting in April is Heaven is for Real, in which Greg Kinnear plays a father whose son claims that he went to heaven.  In December, Christian Bale will play Moses in Exodus, while Mary will debut that same month.

And there’s more to come in 2015.  Will Smith may direct a Cain and Abel movie, while Brad Pitt may play the title role in Pontius Pilate.  Is Hollywood getting religion?

Probably not.  Only two percent of those who work in the movie industry go to church.  Woody Allen, who recently received a Golden Globes lifetime achievement award, once said he would tell a believer, “poor thing, you really are deluded.”  Angeline Jolie says, “There doesn’t need to be a God for me.”  Bill Maher calls religion “insanity by consensus” and claims that “all religious people have a neurological disorder.”  Bruce Willis is convinced that “modern religion is the end trail of modern mythology.”

Why, then, are we seeing so many biblical movies?

You thought immediately of money, and you’re right.  Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s The Bible was the third most-watched cable series or miniseries last year; its DVD was the fastest-selling disc in the last five years.  The Ten Commandments and Ben-Hur together made more money than Avatar, The Dark Knight, and Transformers, combined.  As Hollywood continues looking for blockbusters, it knows it will have a ready-made, ticket-buying fan base if it brings biblical stories to the screen.

But I think there’s more to the story.  Consider Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.  When Tim Keller started the church in 1989, there were only nine thousand evangelical Christians in all of central Manhattan.  In the 25 years since, nearly 100 new churches have been planted and the faith population in one of the most unchurched cities in America has nearly quadrupled.  Keller speaks to 5,400 people every Sunday.

What’s their secret?  “Most people believe that Redeemer has grown because of our commitment to intellectual life and our sophistication,” Keller says.  “That’s not it at all.  Our core message is simply the grace of God in the gospel.  I integrate into every sermon the grace of God in the person of Jesus.  Everything else is ornamental.”

This hunger for the God of grace is universal.  How could it not be?  We were designed to need food, and will hunger for it until the day we die.  In the same way, we were designed to need our Designer: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3).  Jesus told his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).

Your soul is hungry for the same food—what will you feed it today?  The next person you meet is just as hungry as you are—what will you offer him?