“Hey Christians, Just Shut Up & Watch the Movie!” (part 2) by: Chad Smith

Posted: August 31, 2012 by jperritt in Guest Post, Uncategorized
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I have been a minister in some capacity for almost a decade now, both in the local church setting and I’m in my 6th year on the college campus through Reformed University Fellowship (RUF); and I am now convinced that the greatest enemy to the church is not secularism, nor is it anti-nomianism, it certainly isn’t Barak Obama; it is dualism. Dualism ties sin to places, things and institutions rather than the hearts of people like the Bible teaches. And too often I think dualism has reared its ugly head, even in our own midst, in how we approach art. The end result is the thinking that certain places, drinks, food, institutions, and movies are intrinsically evil and there is nothing to commend them. And we start reducing our evaluation of art to whether or not there is cursing or sex or violence or an overt ‘Christian’ message. Sadly, many Christians, even of the Reformed stripe, end up altogether cloistered away from the world in these privatized, parallel Christian ghettos and there is no attempt at all to live “in the world” as Jesus commands. And why does Jesus want us to live in the world….only so we can evangelize souls?? No, it is actually because He loves this world and intends to redeem it and cause it to flourish again in what will consummate in the New Heavens and New Earth. And here is the biggest shock of all, He actually intends to use broken people like you and me to mend this broken world, not by abandoning culture, but by loving it and recreating it from within. How should the church relate to culture?? At the risk of sounding corny, she is to love the hell out of culture….quite literally.

Now also at the risk of getting too theological, please allow me to explain the subtle distortion we may be making theologically as we approach art and culture. Unfortunately I think many of us have a mistaken understanding of culture altogether. You see, I’m afraid many of us view culture only in a utilitarian sort of way, as if it were a tool that we can take or leave. However, there is an intrinsic quality within culture that is good. Why? Because culture is made up of God’s creation, and mainly the apex of His creation…people. So really, when we speak of culture you cannot separate it from people and for that reason I would say God loves culture because He loves His creation and even more He loves people. To quote Rev. Greg Thompson, who I once heard speak on some related topics, “Culture is creation shaped by human dominion.” So culture is intimately linked with creation and most of us, using our Biblical world and life view, would readily admit that creation has within it an intrinsic quality that is good.

For centuries scholars have wrestled with what the Greek word kosmos means in John 3:16. It isn’t just the created order, nor does it refer to specific people, much less every man, woman, boy and girl that has ever lived. In a way it captures both ideas but in a general way. It is both the created order and those sinful human beings who shape it. I think the best and most current English translation to this usage of ‘world’ in John 3:16 is in fact what we refer to when we say culture. And so we could translate at least the first half of the verse this way: “For God so loved culture He sent His only begotten Son to redeem it, all of it.” In effect what Rev. Thompson was saying was culture IS creation, and therefore it is good.

So what in the world does this have to do with movies? Well, art is both creation and culture and therefore there is an intrinsic value to it. From that point, the ultimate question worth asking is, was the movie ‘good’ or ‘bad?’ And now I just opened up a whole new can of worms didn’t I? How do we know when something is good? Well, exactly. This is what should guide our discussion on art and film. How was the acting? How was the cinematography? Was the storyline good? Was there anything truthful about the human condition? Was there anything beautiful? Was there anything redemptive? Was the movie good or not?

You see, whether its movies, music or moon pies the main question we should ask is NOT: ‘was there any cussing in that,” or “was that Christian,” but was that simply good and then why or why not. It’s not that the question of whether or not a movie is appropriate to a certain audience isn’t an important question, it is; but because the Bible tells us that sin is not tied to inanimate objects like places, things, or movie reels; we must ask much more than that. Art that is good, whether the artist is a Christian or not, is intrinsically worshipful; and as Christians we can, in fact, learn a lot about God, His creation and ourselves by appreciating much in culture that does not have the ‘Christian’ label.

So Christians, instead of putting movies under our microscope, or even worse avoiding good art all together; perhaps we should just shut up and watch the movie!

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