There’s something quintessentially British about the BBC documentary In the Footsteps of St. Paul, recently released to DVD. Hosted by actor David Suchet (best known to mystery-lovers as Hercule Poirot), the two-part series tends toward a chipper, well-mannered tone. While acknowledging hotly contested controversies surrounding the apostle, the film shunts them away with a quick question or two and a polite, Well, there you are, cheerio!
For example, Suchet deals with arguably the most contentious issue contemporary society has with Paul’s writings—his directives that women are not to serve as pastors or preachers—by speaking to a single authority. After she puts forward the view that Paul was simply making allowances for the male-dominated culture of his time, Suchet thanks her warmly and moves on without challenging her assertions. Likewise, the film accepts as fact the supposition that Paul believed Christ would return in his lifetime.
But while Suchet may not exhibit the investigatory powers of his iconic Agatha Christie character, he makes an amiable guide as we follow Paul’s journeys, sometimes seeing the remains of the actual roads the apostle traveled. These parts of the film may inspire Christian viewers to consider anew the man who wrote most of the books of the New Testament.
One particularly poignant moment comes when Suchet points out that while Paul’s beliefs and life purpose changed immeasurably after his encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, his essential personality did not. Saul of Tarsus was an intense, passionate, deeply driven man. Paul the slave of Christ remained all this, yet became much more.
There is something wonderfully comforting in the fact that God saved the soul of the man but then worked through his existing personality, molding and harnessing it for His own means. It brings to mind C.S. Lewis’ observation that no real personalities exist apart from God who frees us from bondage to sin to be our truest selves. In the Footsteps of St. Paul demonstrates how this truth operated in the life of Saul of Tarsus and, by extension, all Christ’s followers.