It seems entirely possible that “Living Biblically” exists just to set up the elaborate one-liner at the end of the pilot: “A priest, a rabbi, a lapsed Catholic, and a nonbeliever walk into a bar…” But like the joke, the sitcom’s setup is labored — and the payoff is yet to be seen. “Living Biblically” follows the moral quandaries of Chip (Jay R. Ferguson), a film critic who decides to live by the letter of the Word after his best friend suddenly dies. His wife, Leslie (Lindsey Kraft), an atheist, is unimpressed with his new trajectory, but tolerant — and without further ado, Chip’s life becomes a series of theological puzzles. No lying, no taking God’s name in vain, but also, no mixing fabrics, and an exhortation to stone adulterers? Chip’s confused, but cheerfully determined. (Leslie, to her credit, draws a line when Chip suggests Beyoncé is a false idol: “There is nothing false about Beyoncé.”)
Believe it or not, there is something quite charming about the sitcom. It centers Christianity in a way that is never examined, but manages to do so in a way that feels rooted in Chip’s particular journey. Faith is a tricky topic for pop culture, so most entertainment outright avoids it — even though nine out of 10 Americans believe in God, according to Gallup, and fully 70 percent identify as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. It’s refreshing to see a show tackle the puzzle of American Christian belief, and although “Living Biblically” is quite lightweight, the questions of worship in the first three episodes are recognizable —can I trust this ancient book, or how and when do you pray, or is my phone making me a worse person?
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Top signs of the 'biblical rapture'
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There will be an unprecedented number of mass animal deaths
"4 Hear the word of the Lord, O children of Israel, for the Lord has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; 2 there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. 3 Therefore the land mourns, and all who dwell in it languish, and also the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens, and even the fish of the sea are taken away."
Natural disasters will occur
"25 There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken."
The mark of the beast
"16 Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, 17 so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name."
First six seals must be broken
"12 I watched as the Lamb broke the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became as dark as black cloth, and the moon became as red as blood. 13 Then the stars of the sky fell to the earth like green figs falling from a tree shaken by a strong wind. 14 The sky was rolled up like a scroll, and all of the mountains and islands were moved from their places."
The antichrist will make a seven-year covenant
"He will confirm a covenant with many for one 'seven.' In the middle of the 'seven' he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him."
The third temple must be rebuilt
"A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord who is rendering recompense to His enemies."
A beast will rule the Earth
“23 He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. 24 The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. 25 He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time."
The power of the saints will shatter
"And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long will it be until the end of these wonders?” I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed."
The Apostasy will occur first
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3
"Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction."
The man of lawlessness will be revealed
2 Thessalonians 2:1-4
"1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness[a] is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. 4 He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God."
Gospel will be preached to the entire world
Matthew 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
The church must be without spot or wrinkle
"25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[a] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
Believers must do works of Jesus did
"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."
There shall be famine
"For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places."
There will be an increase in sin
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold,"
Christians will be killed
"9 Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other,"
There will be a rise in spiritualism
1 Timothy 4:1
"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."
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But in the same way that “Living Biblically’s” depiction of a film critic living in Brooklyn is hilariously inaccurate, the sitcom’s presentation of Chip’s religious life is a little too removed from reality, even for a multi-camera sitcom. Chip could do with a smidge more cynicism about the world, because his sudden devotional embrace of the full text of the Bible doesn’t make sense based on his background as either a Catholic or a film critic. Ferguson is an able lead, but the sitcom’s structure forces him to do way too much narrative exposition — about the Bible, about other characters, about the essential plot of the show. Rather than opening credits, the show has to rely on voiceover from Chip explaining what the show is about. And yet when Chip abandons or embraces certain elements of his journey, he doesn’t elaborate; by the second and third episodes, it seems that he’s accepted mixing fabrics, but no one tells the audience why — and meanwhile, Chip keeps following other detailed rules.
The strangest element of the whole endeavor is Chip’s “God Squad,” comprised of Father Gene (Ian Gomez) and Rabbi Gil (David Krumholtz). He regularly meets them for drinks to go over his non-crises. Krumholtz has been preparing to play a curmudgeonly rabbi ever since he was a young child, and he and Gomez have a nice rapport with each other. But they’re basically in a different show from Chip and Leslie, who are themselves in a different show from Chip’s workplace, a Manhattan publication headed by Ms. Meadows (Camryn Manheim). By the end of the third and strongest episode, “False Idols,” everyone meets everyone else, so maybe the show will improve as it coheres. But it’ll have to straighten out more of its premise before we figure out where this effortful setup is going.