I found “The Record Keeper” interesting and challenging. I was not overwhelmed with its greatness, but then, I am not part of its intended audience. Would I have told the story differently? Without doubt. Would I have told the story better? Perhaps. Would I have told it the best possible way? The answer for that would be another question: Best for whom?

That actually hints at one of the problems “The Record Keeper” faced, and which ultimately it could not overcome: It was financed by the General Conference. And that has nothing to do with current or former leadership of that body.  Let me demonstrate what I mean.

One of my favorite translations of the New Testament is the J.B. Phillips translation. Not because it’s the most contemporary; it’s now about a half-a-century old–and a half-century filled with change at that! It’s not the most American translation. It was translated by a Brit, and it has a British flavor in places. I like it because the different authors represented sound different.


Most translations are done by committee, and for good reasons. A committee prevents the preferences, blind spots, or scholarly weaknesses of one person from contaminating the final product. A committee represents a way of consulting a multitude of counselors, something the Bible endorses. All that is good. But the final product all sounds the same–with all the rough edges filed down, all the controversial readings eliminated, a consensus text. That is it’s strength, and it’s weakness.

One result is that we lose the flavor and style of each writer. Scholarly Paul sounds just like the fisherman Peter. Breathless Mark sounds just like methodical Luke. And so on. The reason I enjoy the Phillips translation so much is that J. B. Phillips endeavored to faithfully retain the style, the voice, of the biblical author, as well as the substance of the text.

This leads us to the simple fact that there are four Gospels, not One. Four distinct gospels, very different in composition and approach, united in truth. Acts 15 tells of a ‘General Conference’ meeting in Jerusalem, which dealt with a couple of urgent questions. But no one asked for approval, or received the stamp of authority, for their version of the Gospel.
Imagine what that would be like. Imagine if the current General Conference had to authorize or recognize a single telling of the Gospel. What would they do?  And no matter what they did, the result would be open to withering criticism.

Would they attempt to take bits and pieces of all four, and assemble them into a unified whole? But who would do the choosing? Would they put the cleansing of the Temple near the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, as it is in John, or near the end, as in the other three? And would the resulting work still be considered the Word of God? What would be their authority for editing the Bible?!!!

If they chose Mark or John, there would be no Christmas story at all!! If they chose Matthew, we would not know of the shepherds visiting the child Jesus, or of the events surrounding John the Baptizer’s conception and birth. If they chose Luke, we would not know of the Magi, or the slaughter of the innocents, or the Sermon on the Mount.

If you believe God had his hand over the production, composition, and preservation of the Bible–I do–then you must believe that it was his will that we have four separate accounts, each different. There is no single, definitive account of Jesus’ life, ministry, and death. None of them, alone, would do justice to the subject. None, alone, would suffice. And that’s why “The Record Keeper” was doomed from the start. Not because it’s imperfect, but because too many expected it to do what none of the biblical authors could do. It could never become the ‘authorized film version’ of the Great Controversy, it was an impossible task. But being sponsored by the General Conference, most members expected it to be the ‘authorized version.’

If you think I’m saying it should never have been made, you’re not paying attention. Let’s stipulate from the outset that ‘The Record Keeper” does not achieve the level of any of the Gospels–and let’s face it, few things do. Does that argue that it should not have been attempted?  Quite the contrary. We need more retellings of the Great Controversy story, not fewer. The four Gospels we have are not the only accounts claiming to recount the life of Jesus. But they are by far the best! We need many, many retellings of the Great Controversy story. None will be definitive. But some will be very, very good. The best will survive, will thrive, and turn many to Christ!

In our missionary efforts, some went to foreign lands and died there, without apparent effect. If we count them failures, we do them and the cause of God injustice. Has “The Record Keeper” failed? None of us knows that answer. It’s interesting that Herod tried to kill Jesus, while the Lord was still an infant. “The Record Keeper” appears to have been subjected to the same attempt. It’s sobering to think that some of us might be complicit in killing a project which might have–and might still–lead many to Christ.

Perhaps, instead of looking for perfection, we need to recognize our own limitations, encourage effort, celebrate those who try, and give up the practice of strangling projects still in their crib.