Thursday, March 03, 2005

What Glorifies God?

Jodi wrote a post called "Faith and Entertainment" in response to what I've written on the subject. Jodi is a friend I met online through a parenting board, where we've both gone through struggles with infertility. I am VERY happy to report that Jodi and her husband Steve are close to adopting a child from Ukraine. :) (You can read all about her adoption journey on her blog, which is devoted primarily to that.)

I'd like to respond to a little of what she said. Anyone can see that we radically disagree on the subject, but rather than tackle lots of individual media (though I may touch on one or two), I want to look at a foundational question that she and I are answering differently: what truly glorifies God? How can He be glorified?

First, I believe that the only way we can investigate the question and arrive at an answer is through searching the Scriptures. A lot of other things try to get in the way of Biblical analysis: experiences, emotions, memories. Entertainment is designed to manipulate those things, and it doesn't make us idiots if we are manipulated. It makes us human. The only way, however, that we can know what glorifies God is by seeing what He says.

I believe that God is not glorified by abominable things, or through media that contain abominable things. This was one of the first realizations I had about media that led to my choice to abstain from most of it. Can God truly be glorified in a film, show, or song that:

Uses His name in vain?

Exodus 20:7
You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Contains fornication or adultery?

1 Cor 10:8-9
We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents...

Matt 5:28
But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Mixes Christian things with pagan things?

2 Kings 17:7-8
And this [Exile] occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.

Ezekiel 14:3-5
Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all? Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry. I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.'

Syncretism is "combination of different forms of belief or practice." God doesn't like it at all.

Let's take a specific example that Jodi used: The Matrix. Many Christians like this movie, and five years ago I could have written the entirety of her post myself. But I changed, and my view of God and His Word changed. I described that in another post. When I look at The Matrix now, I don't believe for a minute that it's something God is behind. I experienced the same thing Jodi describes while watching it, and my emotions were...very 'pumped up'. I see where Christians are drawing their analogies between the Christian life and the world described in the movie. But there's more to it than that.

In The Matrix, there are New Age themes (a perfect example is the scene where Neo goes to meet the Oracle, and different children, one made to look like a Buddhist monk, are practicing their telekinetic powers), the name of the Lord is taken in vain, other curse words are uttered, and syncretism is a major motif. Sure, there are a lot of Biblical references. We must not forget that Satan is a master of manipulation and disguise. He quoted SCRIPTURES to JESUS trying to deceive HIM! How much more easily are we deceived into thinking that something is from God?

2 Cor 11:14-15a
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

The truth of the matter is that we, as followers of Jesus, must peel back the layers, the appealing packaging, to examine the contents of the box. God is not glorified in something that profanes His name and mixes other religious traditions with His ways and His Word. (In the second Matrix film, there is a scene at a temple in Zion that, I am told, pretty well represents ancient pagan worship! It's also the scene where Neo and Trinity, um, consummate their relationship.) No matter what we experience or where we try to fit in a Biblical analogy, I do not believe God is in approval of such things as these.

There's more I'd like to address in subsequent posts. We'll talk later about 'everything' being permissible.


Amber Lynn said...

I agree with you BUT I have to add...I have been thinking A LOT about how much influence the media has over our society and how poisoned the teens I work with are. There was a reference to Christina Ricci cutting herself and people are pointing their fingers saying that this trend in teens is her fault or she plays a big role of responsibility in it. I do not disagree. What we tend to forget is that as Christians, our war isn't against flesh (or the media) but against things unseen. If we really want change in the hearts of people around us, our best defense is to be armed with the sword of the spirit (the Bible- I know you know but if someone is reading comments and doesn't know) and to war in prayer!!!

Kristen said...

I agree with what you said, Amber, and it's an excellent point: our war is not against Christina Ricci, or Keanu Reeves, etc. It's against the enemy and his minions. It's our responsibility to A) PRAY for both the people involved in making media that doesn't glorify God and the people mired in watching/listening to it and B) keep our own garments clean through trusting and obeying Jesus.

Thanks, Amber.

molly said...

You know, I can come up with a TON of good arguments about movie-watching...but not when I go to Scripture.
The Matrix is a good example. My husband being a youth minister, he has books about how to show The Matrix to the youth and then explain how it's really talking about God, etc... (No, he didn't show the movie, btw--we've long ago had the same discussion Kristen is bringing up, and while understanding the wisdom of "meeting a person where he's at," there's also some wisdom in NOT dragging in the world and baptising it in the name of a devotional--like we don't have anything better to offer than regurgitating the world's stuff???)...

I have to say, the analogy drawn in The Matrix, for example, has made me think more than once about what it's like before meeting God--you honestly do feel like you wake up in a whole new world and were lied to, and now are in a war. Only, in The Matrix, you wake up to a *lesser* world, full of pain, sorrows, and no certain end but death. That is hardly a parallel to what I woke up to when God laid His hand on me.

Anyways, all that to say, I can come up with all sorts of eloquent arguments that are pro-movies up and down the page...but when I go to Scripture, most of those arguments melt away in the face of the Refiner. Which makes me then wonder--which argument is worth heeding? All the ones I can come up with, or the statements God has already breathed?

As always, thanks for the thoughts, Kristen.

jodi said...


Thanks for your thoughts. You were much quicker to get yours out than I was! LOL I don't have time to say much now, but I wanted to disagree with your statement that "Anyone can see that we radically disagree on the subject."

I didn't feel a strong disagreement with you at all. I actually agree almost completely with you. I just think the formulas are not quite as black and white as you make them out to be.

But as Molly said, when you hold *anything* against pure scripture it almost always fades into nonethingness.

Very good points in here. I'll think on it more and see where it gets me. ;-)


Kristen said...

((Jodi)), I guess I said 'radical' disagreement because I do see it as a serious issue in the Christian's life, and our rationales are very different from my perspective. I really appreciate how graciously you addressed the topic on your blog...usually this topic in particular can get people hot under the collar. Thanks. :)

Kristen said...

Also--I also agree there is not a formula, per se. I do tend to see things as black and white. :) If a piece of entertainment contains something that is condemned in Scripture, that pretty much does it for me. I don't need it, and I won't excuse it if it insults God. I can testify that my life has been better and my vision clearer without these things.

Amy said...

Uh, what's The Matrix????

Holly said...

What do you all think about watching a movie for the sheer purpose of knowing what is going on culturally and being able to respond? My husband and I have really given up (not that it was giving up much)watching movies for amusement. (Did you know that in Greek the word "muse" means to "think," and the "a" in front of it means "not"...puts a new twist on "amusement," or "NOT THINKING!") I've really worked to eliminate the "non-thinking" forms of "down-time," instead,making it something I am going to learn from or if I really need a break from life, choosing something truly a long soak in a tub with a book.

We will, however, occasionally, watch a movie that is supposed to be culturally relevant, to be able to "enter the great debate" if you will...say, if a movie is supposed to define an era (like WW2 or something.)We are usually disappointed by revisionist history
and certainly draw the line way BEFORE nudity, and blasphemy.

In my opinion, there is simply no comparison between the gore in The Passion of the Christ and that displayed in The Matrix. I think that the Matrix is actually blasphemous, by trying to make false correlations between itself and the story of the True Savior. The Passion had a help us understand the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the enormity of the burden he carried...It doesn't matter to me that some try to say that The Matrix reveals the glorified humanity and hopelessness.

As an aside...and at the risk of sounding like a bah humbug...I don't really like it when churches show movie clips to make an illustration. I think it is pandering to culture.

Kristen said...

Holly, I agree with much of what you wrote, as usual. Great point about The Passion versus The Matrix; I intend to blog on the former sometime soon.

Regarding seeing movies to know 'what's going on': most of the time, I'd say it's a waste of time. I freely admit to keeping up with what some movies are about and what their messages are through reviews and articles online. That's all I've ever needed to know. Do we need to subject ourselves to the moviemaker's manipulation in order to relate to people around us? No. Not really.

I know YOU don't advocate this, but it kind of reminds me of when people say that you have to sleep with someone before you marry them ('try the shoe on to see if it fits'). That's not true, and it's not true that we must put evil/worldly things before our eyes in order to be relevant. The gospel will ALWAYS be relevant. Changed lives will ALWAYS be relevant. We don't need anything from the devil.

Like I said, that doesn't apply to every single movie out there...just most of them. ;-)

And Holly, I know that the aforementioned reasoning is not yours. I just have heard that rationale before and wanted to address it, since you brought it up. Thanks for doing so.

Wes said...

Whenever I watch TV or go watch a movie I always think of this verse:

"Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good." -Romans 12:9

Holly said...

Right. Thanks Kristen. That certainly was not my point. There is no sense in rationalizing, because God sees the heart, anyway. Interesting thing is...I saw The Passion because of that...didn't feel that I as a member of the "Christian Community" should be unaware of what was in it. (Maybe I'LL blog on that one soon. :) Just kidding.) Another one I watched for the same reason was "Cheaper by the Dozen," supposedly definitively family, in reality definitively disappointing to me. That is the thing - most movies are substandard, not worthy of our time, even children's. The only one in the past three years that hasn't been was The Lord of the Rings. Thanks for a very relevant topic, Kristen.

Coffee and a Muffin said...

We watch so few movies because the "spirit" of most of them is wrong. Thank goodness for family films! Not perfect either, but pert near close!

flowerlady said...

We have pretty much 'unsubscribed' to most media forms because we 1. don't have time for it and 2. most of it is extremely negative and biased. As far as the entertainment industry is concerned our rule of thumb tends to be Philippians 4:8 "Whatever is good, noble, excellent..." If it can stand up to that then we're pretty much good to go. Another question to ask is, "Would I want Jesus to watch this with me?" I'm not so sure Lord of the Rings fits all that well, plenty of witchcraft going on in that one. For the children - we're sure to watch shows with them or preview 'new' ones. If there are ungodly issues we talk about them and discuss why we aren't going to watch that again. For example , when the plot isn't good triumphing over evil but a lesser evil triumphing over a darker evil. Anyway, that's my bit...

pregador27 said...

That page you're on, Kristen, I am on just about the same one. I love how you bring out the Scripture to support your position.

Threefold Cord said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Holly said...

Hey,I don't want to take over Kristen's site...she's a new friend and I don't want to be rude! :) NOW, I am curious as to what others of you feel about Lord of the Rings. I know what I think...but perhaps I am misguided. I just set up a site last night on blogger (I'm Holly from above) and I just activated it tonight. If you would be willing to visit and give me your comments on this topic, please do so!!!! Kristen's topic was on glorifying don't want to draw attention away from that in any way. Take pity on me, pretty please, I'm new. :) My site isn't even totally set up.

Holly said...

Oh, it is a good thing I can laugh at myself tonight. I'm playing this game and just can't get it right. Try this link, instead.

jodi said...

Hi again, I posted pages of more thoughts on my site about this topic. I haven't written so much in ages! It feels good to really think about these pertinent issues in life. Thanks again for bringing it up. ]

Anyhow, I came back because I actually wanted to mention something about LOTR.

I really loved the trilogy when I read it. It was at a time in life when I was experiencing serious difficulties, and God really spoke to me through various situations in the books.

I also loved the movies, though they were dark and scary at times, and those Uruk-hai were sure gruesome. Still, brilliantly done and so true to the original books!!

Anyhow, what I wanted to say is that while Tolkien was a strong believer and is credited to have helped to lead C.S. Lewis to Christ, he was not yet a Christian himself when he wrote the LOTR trilogy. Many Christians try to espouse that it is "christian literature" when it in fact isn't. He became a Christian *after* writing the trilogy.

Once again, though, like so much other good literature and other media, God can speak volumes to us when we are actively open to Him doing so.

This may already be common knowledge, but it wasn't for me until fairly recently. If you and your readers already knew that then oh well. Hopefully someone will learn something new.

Holly said...

Or this one? (SMILE) I really DO want to hear your comments! Come and see me, Jodi and Lani! (and anyone else, too.) I really don't want to take away from Kristen's original post by doing movie reviews!

tonia/sparrow said...

Kristen, you wrote:"...five years ago I could have written the entirety of her post myself. But I changed, and my view of God and His Word changed." I had to laugh, because 5 years ago I could have written YOUR post, but my view of God and His Word changed. :) I have to say I agree with Jodi here. It is easy to see that you are firmly convicted by the Holy Spirit about your media choices, and you should absolutely obey those convictions.
As believers we are commanded to encourage each other to walk uprightly, in holiness and purity; but in matters like these, that are not specifically addressed by Scripture, I believe we must allow the Holy Spirit to determine what that looks like in each individual. He examines our hearts and works in us as He will. This is precisely what Paul was addressing in Corinthians: food sacrificed to idols. Some people could not eat the food without their conscience being defiled (vs.7) while others were comfortable with it. In vs.8 he says: "But food will not commend us to God; we are neither the worse if we do not eat, nor the better if we do eat." He then goes on to warn us to be careful with the brother whose conscience is weaker and not wound him. This is walking in love.
I support your sharing your convictions; the Holy Spirit may very well use your post to begin to work in another person's heart. However, I hope you are able to leave room for other believers to have firm convictions that differ than your own.
"Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him...One man regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Let each man be fully convinced in his own mind." Rom 14:3,5

God bless.

Kristen said...

Sparrow, I didn't say that everyone has to share my convictions. Many of my brothers and sisters can have a TV, for example, and be okay (meaning, they are able to turn it on and off and all the right times, etc., so as not to sin before the Lord). Sure, I make room for gray areas between believers--where there are gray areas.

I do disagree that warning believers to separate themselves from sinful images and sounds is the same thing as meat offered to idols. If we're putting adultery, fornication, witchcraft, murders, and the like before our eyes, the Word of God DOES clearly address these things. It is irrelevant that the Word doesn't address movies per se. It's the sins within them that we have to be discerning about.

Dustin Boston said...

This is such a great discussion! I have posted an outline of the posts on my website here Jodi and Kristen both have great points, I'm really going to have to put some thought into this. (And get comments working on my site too!)

Great blog Kristen. BTW, I'm Jodi's friend from church, if you're wondering how I ended up posting here.

Kristen said...

Hi Dustin! Nice to meet you. :)

I really like how you summarize our points without pitting us against one another. As Jodi said, some of our arguments are complementary. I think you highlighted good points in our posts.

I really appreciate being able to lovingly disagree, and examine positions in the sober light of God's Word--not perpetuating in disagreement for the sake of debate, just to clarify our understanding of what the Bible says.

Atlantic said...

"Anyhow, what I wanted to say is that while Tolkien was a strong believer and is credited to have helped to lead C.S. Lewis to Christ, he was not yet a Christian himself when he wrote the LOTR trilogy. Many Christians try to espouse that it is "christian literature" when it in fact isn't. He became a Christian *after* writing the trilogy."

This is totally false - as far as I know it is a lie spread by Pagans who are trying to claim LOTR as a Pagan work. Tolkien was a lifelong devout Catholic. He wrote in a letter, "The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously so in the revision."

(I will post this in the LOTR post comments too, in case people are only followign one set.)

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