Monday, February 25, 2013

Video Review: What's in the Bible? Vol. 1 - In the Beginning


Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Bible history and overview packed with fun
Cons: One theologically questionable sentence
The Bottom Line:
Information crammed
Into an entertaining
Video for all




Start Phil Vischer's New Series and Learn What's in the Bible?

It's no secret that I've been a fan of Phil Vischer's VeggieTales series for years.  So when he announced a new, thirteen part video series called What's in the Bible? I had to at least give it a chance.  For some reason, I wasn't sure if I would like it, so it was with a little fear that I stuck Volume One - In the Beginning, into my DVD player.  It wasn't long before I was smiling, nodding my head at some things, and learning a thing or two myself.

This series isn't just another collection of Bible stories.  The purpose here is to give the overall frame work of the Bible so kids (and the adults they hang out with) will have the context for those stories in the greater plan of God's salvation.  It is also designed to give us answers to bigger questions about the Bible.

But it doesn't happen in a dry, lecture format.  This is Phil Vischer, after all.  Instead, we've got a bunch of oversized puppets that are there to guide us through the videos.  Our host is Buck Denver, a news reporter.  Most of the content comes from Sunday School Lady and her magic flannel graph.  There's a piano playing priest and an African American pastor.  British brothers (and explorers) Clive and Ian contribute.  Then there's Popsicle Puppet Theater and the pirate who knows church history.  Phil Vischer voices all the characters, but he also appears as himself throughout the videos when it is time to explain things that are a little more complicated.  Throw in a few songs, and you've got a fast moving, highly entertaining debut.

This DVD features two 25 minute episodes.  The first one is background as it sets out to answer the question what is the Bible.  (And there's a great segment where a scientist conducts tests on it to try to answer the question.)  It talks about the number of books in the Bible and how they are divided up.  There's even some discussion about the Catholic Bible and why it has more books than the Protestant Bible.  All that is done with humor and facts, explaining why it is included for some and not for others.

Episode two delves into who wrote the books and how the books for the Bible were chosen.  And we also finally get into the Bible itself as we overview the first eleven chapters of Genesis in about fifteen minutes.  As you can imagine, we don't get into too many specifics.  The point of these videos isn't to retell all the stories in great detail.  Instead, it's to give the context of the stories, in this case the set up of man's rebellion against God and how bad it gets so quickly.  We even discuss why God made man with free will.

These videos obviously won't be avoiding controversy, since episode two tackles the questions of how old the Earth is.  Like with the number of books in the Bible, it explains the two different interpretations of "days" in Genesis 1 fairly and evenly, not making judgments but explaining the two sides.  Unfortunately, at one point during this mini segment, Phil says, "God told Moses what to say and let him chose the words."  That's going to be a rather controversial statement for those (like me) who believe that God inspired the words and not just the thoughts.

Frankly, this brings up my biggest piece of advice for these videos - watch them with your kids, at least the first time.  There is a lot of deep stuff here as well as some difficult stuff addressed.  You'll want to know what they are learning so that you can help answer questions that arise.  While that above paragraph represents the only theological issue I found in the 50 minutes, you should also watch them so that you can teach discernment and going to the word of God instead of videos for the ultimate truth.

I've mentioned a few times that I was really entertained by this disc.  They included plenty of jokes and silliness along the way.  They cut back and forth between characters quickly to ask and answer questions.  Really, you are getting a college level course in the Bible in a much more entertaining fashion in 50 minutes.  When this one was over, I was ready to sit down and watch the next one immediately.

The one statement aside, I was blown away by how much content and fun was packed into the 50 minutes that was volume one of What's in the Bible?  I still don't see how they will cover everything in thirteen discs, but I will be along for the enjoyable ride.

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