I think it is fair to say that just about all Christians would agree that it is not pleasing to the Lord for us to watch pornographic movies. This shows we agree that there are some movies that the Lord is not happy with us watching. The question is what method should we use to determine whether a movie is ok to be watched or not? In this post I would like to suggest such a method.
Now I realise that this is an issue that the Scriptures don’t specifically address and therefore faithful Christians will have differing opinions on it. Some of you will agree with what I am about to suggest, some will think I’m being unnecessarily strict and others of you will think that I am not being strict enough. That’s ok. I only ask that you agree that we need some way of discerning righteous, from unrighteous entertainment, and that any method we adopt must be biblically defensible.
With that said, I submit the following to your consideration. In deciding whether the Lord is pleased with us watching a certain movie or TV show, or listening to a certain song or radio program, we should ask the following questions:
1. Why am I watching it/ listening to it?
Am I watching this movie or listening to this song for enjoyment or for research purposes? By research purposes, I am thinking about situations like that of a parent watching a movie in order to make an educated decision on whether it will be appropriate for their children. A similar situation could be a parent sitting down with a teenage child and watching a movie in order to teach them to identify and biblically critique the false beliefs of the world. It seems to me that certain content is more permissible in these situations than in that of simply enjoying some entertainment. An example of this is Genesis 38. There we are told about Judah sleeping with his daughter in law. We are not told this for our enjoyment, but in order for us to learn that God will fulfil his promises; even through the sinfulness of human beings.
2. Does its content glorify what the Lord loves?
The Scriptures don’t tell us what movies are good and bad but it does tell us what God loves and what he hates. If a piece of entertainment glorifies what he loves, such as righteousness, justice, self-less love, respect for women, honouring of and obedience to authorities etc. then it is ok. If it glorifies what he hates, such as injustice, selfishness, immorality, adultery, cruelty, crudeness, deception etc. then it is not. Note that this question is not about whether the movie contains these things that God hates but whether it glorifies them. For even the Scriptures contain stories with immorality and deception in them but it never glorifies these things.
3. Could its content be described biblically as true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise?
Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Since this is a direct command from the Word of God it seems right that it be used as a standard against which we choose our entertainment. Can the content of a movie or TV show or song be described as true, honourable, just etc.? If not, I suggest that it is probably worth passing over. This shows that we need not restrict our entertainment to things that are explicitly Christian. If it is true, honourable, just etc. it is ok.
4. Would you be ashamed if Jesus returned and found you watching/ listening to it?
I find this a helpful one to add to the list of questions. It helps me to discern whether I have been honest in answering the first three questions or if I am simply trying to justify indulging in entertainment that appeals to my sinful nature. Imagine you are sitting there, on the couch watching a movie and Jesus returns from heaven and walks in the room. Would you be ashamed of what he found you watching? If yes, then don’t watch it. One day it may happen for real! In 1 John 2:28 we are commanded to abide in Christ in order that when he comes we may not be ashamed.
I am quite aware that for many of us if we honestly applied these questions to our movies, TV shows, music and radio programs most of our collection will end up in the bin. But this should not surprise us. Most of them are written and made by people who are not Christians and the Bible says that people who are not Christians are hostile to God. They do not submit to God’s law and indeed, they cannot. Their desires are for what is evil and though they don’t realise it, they are slaves of the devil (Rom 8:7-8; Gen 6:5; Eph 2:1-3).
I also realise that to apply this to our entertainment choices will be hard because for most of us, sitting down on a Saturday night in front of a movie, going out to the cinema, or turning up the volume on our favourite song is a great source of pleasure and relaxation. However, I am convinced that this is one particular area where we as servants of Christ in our Australian culture need to be willing to deny ourselves and make sacrifices in order to please our king.
Matt Cole is in his third year of ministry training at PTC and attends Somerville Presbyterian Church