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the_best_reasons_for_going_to_the_movies_by_yourself_126417541Earlier this month, I wondered out loud about the kinds of films evangelicals are watching and reviewing. The responses to “Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck” ran the gamut: some agreed (“Finally!”) while others resisted any attempt to question film-watching as a key aspect of cultural engagement.

I mentioned movie reviews and linked to Christianity Today’s review of The Wolf of Wall Street as an example. Though the post wasn’t primarily about movie reviews but instead the bigger question of how evangelicals develop and maintain standards when it comes to movie-watching, Alissa Wilkinson (the reviewer) interacted with my initial post in her lengthy article “Why We Review R-Rated Films.” Alissa seeks to frame the discussion within the broader context of movies, art and criticism.

So, although I’m not speaking only about movie reviews, and although Alissa’s article is about more than my post, I want to interact with her article’s rationale for reviewing all kinds of films.

Different Responses to Different Films

First off, if you’re looking for a quick history of how the Motion Picture Association of America developed the rating system, you’ll find Alissa’s article to be a good resource. She sums up what brought about the rating system in the first place and how it has developed over time.

Secondly, the article explains that different people have different responses to different kinds of films. This is a self-evident but helpful reminder. She says The Exorcism of Emily Rose is the type of film that she simply cannot tolerate in any form. Other people may find that movies about eating disorders or traumatic experiences trigger painful memories. So far, I’ve been unable to see Lone Survivor. My brother served in Iraq, and though I’ve been invited to watch the movie with friends and family, I cannot bear the thought of seeing a film depict, in brutal honesty, the kind of carnage that today’s warfare leaves behind. My brother’s deployment was nerve-wracking enough the first time. If he gets deployed again, I don’t know how I would handle the tension if scenes from that movie are bouncing around in my mind. All this to say, I recognize that no one is the same. What may be beneficial to one person is a stumbling block or intolerable to another.

The Art of a Good Movie Review

Next, Alissa explains the art of writing a good movie review and why evangelicals should make educated choices about what films to watch. She doesn’t believe it’s a movie reviewer’s place to tell a Christian whether or not they should watch a movie. Movies are something that “helps us understand the world we live in new ways; it teaches us about and records our cultural history; and it helps us keep a pulse on ourselves and our culture.” As such, a good movie review has this goal: “to try to help readers think about movies in new ways, informed by the Christian understanding of the world that undergirds everything we write.”

On the surface, this kind of review is commendable. I am not advocating a simplistic method for reviewing books and movies, where the story is embraced or rejected on the basis of the main characters’ actions (Are they good role models? Did they do bad things?). For example, you may be disgusted by some of the characters in The Brothers Karamazov, but the story is meant to turn your revulsion toward the bigger questions of suffering’s role in redemption. A Christian who critically consumes a cultural artifact will look for the bigger picture, not try to ban Tom Sawyer.

The Way We Tell a Story

So now we come to the example of The Wolf of Wall Street. Alissa writes that the film (despite its filth) still has a “clear moral sense of the universe.” Scorsese is condemning the excess of the characters, not celebrating them. For this reason (along with its artistic merits), the film gets a high rating, even with the lengthy section of caveats where viewers are warned of all the objectionable content.

Alissa would argue that the aesthetics and milieu of the film help reinforce that message. But I wonder if the same kind of self-deception is going on in this film that Alissa points out so perceptively in her review of The Hunger Games – Catching Fire. 

I’m not just frustrated, I’m appalled: all this tie-in merchandise declaws the story of The Hunger Games, in much the same way that the actual affluent Capitol in the books declaws the seriousness of the “real” Hunger Games—a forced gladiatorial battle between teenagers—by staging flashy weeks-long television specials around it in order to distract from the horror of juvenile carnage by making it entertaining.

The Hunger Games is a dystopian story that challenges our culture’s thirst for violence as entertainment, and yet, in its marketing, it has become the very thing it critiques. Alissa is perceptive in pointing this out: “They give us what we ask for. Bread and circuses. Chocolate and theme parks. Remember who the real enemy is.”

I think something similar is going on with The Wolf of Wall Street. How many filmgoers got the subtle “condemnation” of sexual excess that Scorsese was communicating? Like The Hunger Games, I suspect most people walked out of the film remembering the way the story was told, not the underlying critique.

Neighbor Love and Our Viewing Habits

According to Alissa’s article, good movie reviews are a way of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.

“Loving someone means being able to live life alongside her. It means being able to talk about what matters to her.”

The rationale for watching The Wolf of Wall Street is this: “We knew everyone would be talking about it, and will be for quite a while.” In other words, it’s a cultural artifact that is creating conversations, and Christians need to be part of those conversations.

Loving our neighbor means entering their world and letting them know that we’re interested in what they’re interested in. A good movie review can clue us in on what others are talking about. But this doesn’t mean, when it comes to viewing a film, evangelicals should start defining “neighbor love” as sitting in a dark theater surmising how to use The Wolf of Wall Street as a connection point in our next “spiritual conversation.”

Do We Draw Lines Anywhere?

At this point, I feel like we are heading down a rocky terrain without any brake system working on our vehicle. Without any brake system in place, there is, in principle, no film we could not or would not see.

I’ve seen Hollywood elitists raving about the lesbian love story, Blue is the Warmest Color, which contains lengthy, explicit sex scenes with graphic nudity. Should we watch this film in order to speak knowledgeably about it if it comes up in a discussion with our neighbor?

Likewise, women can’t get enough of 50 Shades of Gray - both the book and the upcoming movie. Will we watch and review 50 Shades? If you’re a woman in a book club that decides to read and discuss this book, are you failing to be a witness by opting out of that discussion? Or are you being a faithful witness precisely because you withdrew?

After all, some would argue that the book is implicitly critiquing Christian Grey’s perversion and the damage it inflicts on others. Is it worth viewing two hours of sexual bondage in order to digest that critique? Most would say no. Why? Because no matter what the ultimate message of the film may be, the aesthetics and milieu (the way the story is told) overwhelm the point.

If we say, “No, that’s too far” to a film like 50 Shades or to watching an NC-17 movie, my question is Why? And why wouldn’t the “too far” rationale apply farther up the hill, before we’re off the cliff and heading toward the abyss?

My goal is not to create an artificial line, a legalistic rule that we cling to as a mark of purity. Instead, it’s a question of discernment, and that’s why I am left wondering: Is there anything to which we would simply say, “No matter how much artistry may be involved in this film, it uses copious amounts of sewage to get across its point. Stay away, for your own health.”

I’m not the only one drawing lines; I just wonder why the lines get drawn where they do. That’s why I believe Christians need a “theology of no” when it comes to certain forms of media. A recent NPR article shows how what was once considered R material is now becoming PG-13 or PG. What was once NC-17 is becoming R. The culture is sliding into decadence, and far too many Christians are sliding right along with the rest of America.

Contextualized or Compromised

Is our bigger problem a lack of contextualization? Or is it that we’ve compromised ourselves without knowing it?

That’s the issue here. And I suppose I worry more that we are failing our neighbor because of our compromise than because we’ve failed to contextualize.

Alissa is right that film watching is a matter of wisdom, not fear. But my great fear is that we are being unwise.

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171 thoughts on “Christians and Movies: Are We Contextualizing or Compromising?”

  1. Reblogged here:

    Trevin Wax raises some excellent points and, frankly, I can see the arguments on a couple of different sides – the side that says we shouldn’t be filling our minds with such things as well as the side of Christian liberty and engaging the culture. On one hand, we’re told to think about “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise” (see Philippians 4:8 ESV) and we could argue that there is nothing coming out of Hollywood that fits that description. On the other hand, Jesus ate with “sinners” in their homes and while He certainly didn’t sin, He did very likely talk about things that his hosts and their friends were talking about. On that same hand is the Christian liberty Paul discussed in Romans 14.

    1. Jeremiah Henson says:

      Jesus ate with sinners and I’m sure engaged in controversial topics, however, he would not watch pornographic sex scenes (there is no such thing as an “artistic” sex scene) in order to engage the culture. As C.S. Lewis said (paraphrase) we are confusing what nature has meant for nurture and what nature has meant for refuse.

    2. As I mention in my blog, almost no story (whether it’s a book, movie, nonfiction, etc) completely passes the Philippians 4:8 test. Even some of the darker stories of the Bible fail to meet the criteria in the passage. (I hate to insert a cheap plug in, but my recent post about this explains my argument more fully than I can here.)

      1. Simon says:

        Christian, are you really saying that scripture given by God fails to live up to the standard that scripture itself ascribes? I would argue that perhaps you have misinterpreted the passage, otherwise we are left with the contradiction that parts of scripture are not useful and actually should be avoided. This does not make sense.

        Furthermore, there is a massive difference between reading the words of God and watching Hollywood for entertainment. Even thinking about the evils of the world and acknowledging the devastating impact of sin is a massive distinction from watching entertainment.

        Another disturbing criticism you offer is against God: “Is it just? This is also debatable. If you believe that God was justified to cause the flood and everything that happened follows God’s Will, then sure, it’s just. But anyone willing to look at it more critically will find no justice in the story.”

        I would implore you to consider this: when we are judged for our deeds, do you really believe God will side with you and say “well done good and faithful servant” in commending entertainment like WOWS? Do you believe God will gently tell us that our views were too puritanical and that we were hindering people and setting up legalistic blockades for those would otherwise be enlightened by the great art of Hollywood? And will you stand up at the judgment and tell King Jesus that his judgments did not establish justice in the earth?

        Your views resonate closely with secular humanism but I find they contrast greatly with the scriptures and biblical Christianity.

        1. My point is that all stories by definition contain conflict, and conflict is created by sin. Therefore, few stories can be truly “pure” because in most cases the plot is driven by characters behaving impurely. In Noah’s case, you have too look at the entire story – not just God’s actions, but those of Noah and his sons, and any objective person must concede that Noah behaves horribly (getting drunk, cursing his son, etc).

          Of course we shouldn’t avoid scripture that fails the Philippians test. My point in analyzing Noah was to show that Philippians 4:8 isn’t as clearcut as people assume. To apply it consistently, one would have to apply it to all stories with equal rigor, including Biblical stories, and by doing so, one finds that a strict application of Philippians is nonsensical.

          My point regarding justice in Noah’s story was to acknowledge that there are many different ways denominations handle it. Reformed Christians are unique in their approach to it.

          I can see how you might equate my views with secularism, but Christians make a big mistake when they look at modern entertainment and try to make simple distinctions between movies that are good and those that should be avoided. 150 years ago a Christian who defended any movies at all -even Mary Poppins – would have been viewed the same way that people who defend WoWS are viewed today. I know it sounds strange, but anyone who defended acting in general would have been viewed as a secular humanist or a heretic. The line shifts depending on what century you live in. As conservative as some here are, they’re much more liberal than the Puritans were, and the Puritans were more permissive than Tertullian.

          As for the puritanism vs permissiveness, I think the Romans 14 approach makes the most sense. If WoWS leads you to sin, then by all means avoid it. I think God is more concerned with people who put up unnecessary roadblocks that make faith more difficult than those who are too laid back about the arts. Jesus did not tolerate legalism.

    3. Dale Suslick says:

      Like your insights. Thinking that one can engage with others without viewing what they view simply by asking questions. Sometimes, though, I do need to “see” or “hear” exactly what someone else sees or hears to better understand another.

      Case-by-case basis relying on God’s wisdom comes to mind as it does with everything else in life.

      Does that make any sense!? I confuse myself at times : ).

      In other words, MANY issues black and white, but more issues need discernment and patience to truly apply wisdom.

    4. Jessie says:

      I LOVE good movies. I do watch movies with violence and some bad language. I have watched R – rated movies before. Just because you watch a movie with violence, cussing, etc, doesn’t mean it’s a terrible movie that Christians shouldn’t watch. I think a lot of people, not just Christians, think that if you watch a movie with “bad” things in it, then you will do it too. My teacher at church has even given a lesson on this topic. She said, “Garbage in, garbage out.” For example, if we hear someone cussing in a movie, then we will take that to heart and start doing it as well, saying we should ONLY watch and listen to clean things. If that is the case then you will have an EXTREMELY hard time trying to find something that is completely clean and pure. I am NOT going to stop enjoying myself just because it might corrupt my mind and heart. Also, a lot of people try and make EVERYTHING you watch into a bible lesson or try and make it religious even though it isn’t. There is nothing wrong in having biblical discussions about certain movies, but not making it so everything you watch has to be religious in every way. This is just my opinion. You don’t have to agree with me.

  2. Josh Philpot says:

    Really love article this, Trevin. I’m sending it around to some of our church leaders.

  3. John Botkin says:

    I’m always amazed at how hard some Christian employ with theological and missiological gymnastics to justify they pursuit of film. One question I always wonder whether they’ve pondered is why Paul never once comes close to talking about, or employing imagery of, the Roman theater in his day?

    1. Caleb says:

      Maybe Paul wasn’t that into art? He was not divine and silences that could very well be the result of his own personality are not normative.

  4. John A. says:

    It seems Romans 14 applies here. I’d say this is a matter of the heart and only God knows our hearts. A wise, mature, discerning Christian can probably watch the Wolf of Wall Street or other such movies and not be impacted by it negatively. I think the real question is why one would want to see such a film. I confess I have watched similar films out of curiosity or strictly for my own entertainment. However, if one is truly motivated by a love for their neighbor they are in keeping with the royal law. Who am I to say that can’t possibly be their reason? Bottom line, it’s between each individual and God even when it comes to 50 shades. On the flip side, we do have a responsibility to call our brothers and sisters out if we have reason to believe their motivation or behavior is out of step with the gospel. This should be done on a personal level with those we know not through social media etc. Finally, if I am aware that my movie going habits may cause someone to stumble I am called to think of them more highly than myself. I don’t think this means I should stop doing what I believe to be acceptable but that I should do whatever it takes to prevent it from troubling my brother or sister. Thanks for the post!

    1. Wayne Wilson says:

      John, why aren’t the actresses soiled in the making of these films worthy of the “royal law”?

    2. John A. says:

      Wayne, I’m not exactly sure what you mean unless you are talking about pornography. When it comes to major Hollywood motion pictures the actresses and actors are willing participants so I’m not sure what you mean by “soiled”. By royal law I meant love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Again, I don’t think I suggested that the actresses are not worthy of ove. Sorry, but I’m confused by your comment.

      1. Wayne Wilson says:

        John, Christian writers for centuries have taught that for women to be stripped and handled for the entertainment of others, whether voluntary or not is destructive to their souls. That you have never heard this speaks volumes to the modern church’s failure to teach principles of holiness. You might want to read William Wilberforce on the Christian’s duty to theatrical performers, or more recently, John Piper. They apply the law of love to performers.

        You seem extraordinarily ignorant of what goes on behind the camera, and the pressure put on actresses to “put out” in this way. It is flesh for money. Do you think everything voluntary is good for the soul? Do you even think no one in the pornography business chooses that work voluntarily? What would Jesus think standing on a film set and watching a young woman stripped and groped for your entertainment. Really. What do you think He would feel about it?

        1. John A says:

          Wayne, I am insulted by your response. It’s a shame that you would talk down to me and twist my words as you did. My answers to your questions are no I didn’t say that, no I didn’t say that, and I don’t presume to know the mind of God. Maybe I didn’t communicate my views very well but I think the tone of your reply was uncalled for.

          1. JOHN A SAYS
            John A. says: “I don’t presume to know the mind of God”
            I have good news for you John. You don’t have to presume. God has given us a collection of writings written over a period of 1500 years or so, by about 40 different human authors that reveal to us His very θεόπνευστος mind. (2 Tim. 3:15-16)

            When they are given the utterly principial preeminent influence they demand, as was done in previous generations, things like this are quite clear. As they were in previous generations. They only become blurry when we want them to because we have allowed competing influences to crawl up there on the throne of our heart with the word and will of almighty God.

            As Wayne Wilson says, this conversation couldn’t even have taken place in the western church before 1970. Because the very suggestion of partaking in theatrical sex and nudity would have left even most theological liberals aghast.

            I mean not even the heilsgeschichte heralding, demythologizing, redactionaist butchers would have been caught publicly advocating such a thing.

            Honestly I find it interesting that you appeal to Romans 14 while not presuming to know the mind of God. Romans 14 has NO application to sex and nudity whatsoever btw. Romans 14 is SPECIFICALLY addressing FOODS and FEASTS and such things as are in themselves morally neutral. Many of whch were once actually binding Levitical statutes. The attempt to extend Romans 14 to the consumption of sexual debauchery in modern day media is an outrageous abuse of scripture committed by those seeking to justify sin by the word of God.
            SIMON MY BROTHER
            I salute you sir. I was able to read like 8 of your comments in a row in my email. Outstanding. Clearly you are a man for whom displeasing our faithful gracious God is a thing most unthinkably abhorrent to you.

          2. You should brush up on your history, Greg:


            “The negative view of film that was birth in the early 1900’s snowballed by the 1920’s, and Christians came out from all over the place, denouncing the cinema as satanic and godless. Jack Linn, and evangelist, called cinema the “devil’s incubator,” and said that Christians “cannot even darken a movie theater, and at the same time fellowship with Christ.” Such was the common view of the day, and pamphlet after pamphlet was being produced, condemning the cinema.

        2. Anil Jacob says:

          Dear Wayne:

          Very well put, thank you.


  5. Paul Yates says:

    I grew up in a conservative Mennonite setting where watching TV and movies was prohibited. Reading different kinds of fiction (spy novels, crime/mysteries, warfare, etc), and anything else that glorified and romanticized anything our churches saw as sinful was discouraged in the strongest wording possible. Unfortunately, the end result of this, in many cases, created an environment where the curious (or rebellious) used deceit and intrigue to find out what all the fuss was about. Instead of initiating dialogue and being willing to discuss the issues in redemptive ways, many of the churches and families opted to simply avoid the problems by banning radios, TVs, computers, Internet, ‘worldly’ novels, and the list goes on. This response has resulted in the entrenchment of well-intentioned, but damning moralistic teaching; non-Gospel-centered “weak vessels” who can only function in a closed cultural environment with very limited exposure to the larger world around them… So much time and energy is spent building fences and walls to keep out “the world” that they fail to see that “the world”, the world view-not the physical manifestation, is part of their fallen nature. Their walls and fences merely keep them from being salt and light, from redemptively touching the broken world around them.

    And it is a worldview problem, ultimately. Why would you attempt to redemptively influence aspects of human culture like art, communications, government…when you believe that ALL of it will be completely obliterated in God’s fiery destruction of all earthly things? I’m amazed at how the interpretation of ONE word completely changed my worldview…realizing that “burned up” actually meant “purified” changed everything for me.

    Trevin’s post acknowledges the reality of ditches on both sides of the proverbial road. I’ve spent a majority of my life in one of those ditches, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ pulled me up onto the road. The other ditch beckons with the glitter and bling of over-contextualization…and indeed, my natural “wheel alignment” keeps nudging me in that direction. Others have reminded us of things to “think on” from Philippians. Being sold out to Christ, reflecting on Christ Who saved us, surrendering to the Spirit’s sanctification, the transforming of our ideals and motivations – these keep us on the road, by the grace of God.

    1. Brandon says:

      Paul – I think you may be misinterpreting that word in light of the passage. 2 Peter 3:3-13 is very clear in its context about the fiery destruction of all things. The context does not allow for a worldview of transformation of all human culture.

      Look at the story of Noah, referenced in the first part of the text. The only aspects of human culture that remained were what Noah brought with him. We know that he and his family largely rejected human culture that was rapidly reeling towards destruction.

      The view I would take in regards to redeeming art, communications, and music is that the primary purpose of these forms is to showcase the Gospel in some way. I am thankful that God is not ashamed of all forms of art (he even has death metal and black metal bands that publicly share His grace with those furthest from Him.

  6. Sarah says:

    I think having a framework of when to decide that a film shouldn’t be watched is helpful, for sure. I just don’t think that Alissa actually disagrees with you on that. I think her article was talking more about why (and how) CT *reviews* R-rated (or questionable) movies – not really talking about whether/why people should or should not *watch* those movies.

    I appreciated her saying that CT reviews movies, in part, to help people decide whether they want to watch them, and also so that those who never planned to watch or decided not to watch still have a way to discuss the film with people who have seen it. I think with a movie like “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a lot of people probably will read the review and decide not to watch, but I’m so glad they will have read it and be able to ask thoughtful questions of friends who have seen it, rather than turning their backs on the entire category of discussion.

    I think it can be good for a pastor or mentor to say, as you said, “No matter how much artistry may be involved in this film, it uses copious amounts of sewage to get across its point. Stay away, for your own health.” I don’t have a problem with that, and I don’t think Alissa does either. I just also think that the entire article she wrote is trying to explain why she (and CT) do not feel that is their role when they review films.

    1. Rich Starnes says:

      Thanks for this comment, Sarah. I was just about to post in the same vein. It seemed like Trevin missed the reason to review/reason to watch distinction. Alissa didn’t say Christians should watch all movies to relate, but that the movie reviews allow people who won’t/shouldn’t see a movie (and for this one, it’s certainly almost every one of us) to be knowledgeable about it without having seen it. I’m also think Trevin’s a little dismissive of the claim that the movie is sharply critical of the lifestyle it portrays, believing many would miss the “subtle condemnation” of the acts portrayed. Having just seen the preview (which is all that I can handle), it’s pretty apparent that the movie is about the bad guys and that the things they do are reprehensible. Why make such a movie? Because, other than “Hugo,” Scorsese’s been for 40 years. Should Christians watch them? Depending I the movie, probably to certainly not. But I’m grateful that there’s a role for knowledgeable, disciplined Christians equipped for such a duty to watch a movie, to say “It’s very well made, it says true and valuable things about the world, and almost all of you have no business watching it.” And that’s what the entirety of the review in question did.

      1. Deb W. says:

        All true, yet, I have an issue with the high rating that it received by Christianity Today, justified by supposed “artistry”. Alissa referenced a couple of different data points for their rating system, which included artistry and worldview. There is no justifiable reason for a movie like this to earn a high review on a Christian movie review site.

        Alissa’s article explaining the system and why CT reviews R (was supposed to be NC-17) rated movies was well-written and helpful, but has me concerned about CT’s overall approach to movie reviews. It seems like their reviewers are trying to morph into Christian-ized versions of the many professional movie critics in the marketplace whose reviews have no real connection with the reality of the actual movie goers. The disparity between IMDB’s users and the metacritics is a mirror image of the CT’s reviewers (Alissa and Ken) and their distance from the readers of their critiques.

        1. Colin Donoghue says:

          I believe that it is unfair to criticize CT for reviewing a movie such as Wolf of Wall Street. Great art, even if it is not Christian art, speaks to true human experience. One aspect of (American) human experience is greed and the desire for extravagant living. God is in control of all things, so I believe that He is using this movie to offer a tangible depiction of how our pride can consume and destroy our lives. Sure, I believe that Scorsese’s approach to criticizing excess is excessive (which is the theme he is trying to make). Great art deserves praise. I don’t believe that a Christian should give low ratings to Hemingway even his themes all deal with existential dread and the inherent nothingness and meaninglessness of life. Hemingway’s works are powerful and honest depictions of the world, and frankly, they offer to us a picture of the world without God. I read a Hemingway short story or novel and I empathize with the characters because the world the author has created is consistent to a life without God. Though I believe God exists, I can appreciate and enjoy reading classic literature. I can enjoy listening to Arcade Fire, even though they are very critical of Christianity. I can appreciate Kanye West because of his honest depictions of racism that is still present in our society, even though he has a filthy mouth and he lives in a vulgar manner. Great art is great art for a reason, and it should be appreciated.

          1. Simon says:

            Just because people call it great art, doesn’t mean God does.

            And just because the world calls it great art, it doesn’t mean God intends for Christians to consume it, whatever its form may be.

            I really recommend this article for Christians to wrestle with regarding sex and nudity in art throughout history as well as the concept of “cultural redemption”. It’s conclusions are disturbing and especially relevant to the west today.


          2. Deb W. says:

            Colin, who’s criticizing CT for reviewing rated R movies? See, you’ve completely missed my point. Frankly, I don’t have any problem with CT reviewing a rated R movie, generally. My issue was with Alissa’s defense of their approach to ranking movies.

            This is was the main point of my comment:
            “It seems like their reviewers are trying to morph into Christian-ized versions of the many professional movie critics in the marketplace whose reviews have no real connection with the reality of the actual movie goers. The disparity between IMDB’s users and the metacritics is a mirror image of the CT’s reviewers (Alissa and Ken) and their distance from the readers of their critiques.”

            The professional (non-Christian) critics are having the same issue that CT’s critics are having IMO, which is that they’ve concocted a useless rating system (supposedly for the sake of art) that doesn’t equate to the actual movie goer’s experience.

            What we see again and again are really good movies that appeal to “the everyman” which get like 6 out of 10 on the metacritcs or 1.5 out of 4 stars on CT’s site. Then when the actual viewer’s votes come in, the movie is more like 8 out of 10 or 3.5 out of 4. Critics seem to detest anything with an “everyman” feel or family oriented any more. Often, movies have to be nihilist, depraved, or over the top bizarre to grab their attention. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I find that I agree with their concept of what makes good art, but more and more I find that our ideas are way out of alignment.

            Good example of a recent movie is Walter Mitty. The metacritics gave it a 3.9 out of 10, but users on IMDB have it at 7.7. CT gave it a 1.5 out of 4, which is completely ridiculous. Granted, it’s not an oscar winner, but it illustrates the point.

          3. Deb, the discrepancy is best explained by who chooses to post a review on IMDB. Professional critics are paid to watch every movie even if it’s not a genre they like. That kind of exposure generally leads to more refined tastes.

            The reviewers on IMDB are purely voluntary, and they’re skewed towards people enthusiastic enough about a movie to want to promote or defend it (or vice versa). Walter Mitty might be the only movie an IMDB reviewer sees all year, but they love it enough to write about it. If you look at IMDB’s scores, even the worst movies score about a 4 or 5 out of 10.

        2. Mark Z says:

          I agree Deb that the industry professional standards for films are pretty bifurcated from what the general public looks for and enjoys. You have a point there. And agreed, giving a trashy film like WoWS such a high rating because it is *classy porn* does not at all justify the rating. Playboy still sees themselves as having a more “gentlemanly” feel than other pornography manufacturers, and it’s still all smut.

  7. Wayne Wilson says:

    Honestly, I have never had a problem discussing a film that was important for some reason to my non-Christian acquaintances. All you have to do is say, “Tell me about it and what you found significant about it?” It’s better to hear what they got out of it than immerse yourself in the “muck” to “contextualize”.

    By the way, here we have another long article on this topic by Mr. Wax (whose instincts I believe are steering him in the right direction), even discussing the idea of “lines”, and not one reference to Scripture.

    Yes, we can easily develop a “theology of No” by engaging with the simple and easy to understand commands we have. Point # 1 “it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.” It doesn’t take an exegetical whiz to make an application to those who wish to act it all out for us.

    1. Roger Patterson says:

      I agree with your first point, Wayne. Additionally, if I tell an unbelieving acquaintance/friend that I have read a pornographic book or seen a vile film, how can I call them to live a life of purity when I have not–a bit hypocritical and offputting. Of course they may have misconceptions about “rules” and such, but I would have a hard time justifying such practices from Scripture.

      To expand your scriptural reference, Ephesians 4:17-5:21 has been a great benefit to me as I consider my entertainment choices.

  8. Kim R. says:

    My husband works in an inner-city high school as a football coach and math teacher. We’re not only surrounded there by unbelieving teens, but also by unbelieving coaches, most of whom are between 25-35yo. I’m sitting in the stands with and sharing my life with their unbelieving wives. We shop together, eat together, relax together. My girls are at that high school as well. Our lives are immersed in the culture of their world. And I don’t have to see any rated R movie to do it. I’m not saying we have some hard and fast rule about it…just saying I don’t have to.

    When the women around me tell me about their date night with their husband and mention they saw Wolf of Wall Street, I don’t have to have seen it to say with a smile, “I’ve heard of that. Tell me what you thought.” And to respond to them engagingly as they talk about it. I can ask for the details of the plot, their reactions…what they loved, what they hated. I can ask about those reflections in their lives and find out what resonated in them about it all. And I can do it in such a way that they ALMOST forget I wouldn’t feel the same way about it all. They usually finish it up with a little nod to me of, “You probably don’t want to see it,” to which I usually respond with a “probably not…but it sure sounds like you loved it/hated it/found it interesting/had fun/enjoyed it…I’m so glad you got to be together with him and found something to do together.” Because it’s true.

    They love what they love because of where their hearts are set. That’s more important to me than the movie they saw. Finding out about that movie from their perspective is actually more beneficial to me than simply seeing the movie.

    I don’t have to taste that particular movie-fruit of it to understand the root of it all. I don’t have to see the movie to understand what drew them to it…that caused their hearts to resonate with it…to feel the same pull in me. I understand this well…maybe better than some others in my life…because I was them. I would have read 50 Shades with joy…and wondered what the big deal was…when I was their age. I had believers in my life then…but what separated us wasn’t their entertainment choices but how they reacted to mine. I didn’t need them to watch everything I watched, but I would have fainted if one of them actually engaged me about what it was that I loved. No one ever did. I wouldn’t have cared if I had to explain it from beginning to end. I would have actually enjoyed it…if…they had actually cared about what I was saying…actually cared about who was saying it.

    It’s not as important that I personally see a movie or read a book or watch a TV show as it is to know them…to know what they really saw when they saw it…to know what their worldview speaks about who they are and what’s important to them. And above all of that, to show them that not only am I and my own beliefs not threatened by it all, my beliefs can make sense not only of what they saw…but why they felt they way they did about it. And that’s a really great conversation to have…and it saves me $15 and 2 hours of smh.

    1. Paul Y. says:

      Thanks for this observation, Kim R.! I need to do more of this, and less of the other.

    2. Wayne Wilson says:

      Comment of the week! Thanks, Kim, for your eloquence.

    3. Jeremiah Henson says:

      Perfectly said! I don’t “need” to watch sex scenes in order to discuss God’s views verses the worlds views to someone I know…

    4. Deb W. says:

      Thank you, Kim! Some very rich insights there.
      “It’s not as important that I personally see a movie or read a book or watch a TV show as it is to know them…to know what they really saw when they saw it…to know what their worldview speaks about who they are and what’s important to them.”

    5. Mark Z says:

      Kim, you rock. That comment is very insightful.

  9. Caleb says:

    Why not just watch a good film because you are a human being who responds to art? Why do we have to justify it as “cultural engagement”? Christians are humans too. And as humans with moral sense, we should each be able to discern what kinds of representation should be considered “art” and, further, what kinds are morally justified to watch and enjoy, watch and oppose, or avoid altogether.

    Side not: I have yet to see a “Christian film” that I would consider to be art. I think that evangelicals are so bad at art because they are afraid to create it and respond to it as vulnerable humans.

    1. Roger Patterson says:

      Caleb, may I humbly suggest that your comment fails to take into account the corruption of the human nature and sounds a bit humanistic. Apart from the truth of God’s Word, by what standard do we discern what art is worthy of viewing?

      I have benefited greatly by using Ephesians 4:17-5:21 as I consider my entertainment choices. What passages of Scripture guide you as you consider what you invite into your mind?

      Personally, I prefer Kim R’s approach (above) and have never been shunned by someone because I haven’t watched a particular film or TV show. If you haven’t seen it, ak what it is about; compare that to God’s Word.

      1. Caleb says:

        I look at the Bible as a whole and see an artful representation of the human relationship with God; of good and evil; of moral ambiguity; of human striving and failure; of relationships, etc. That’s a pretty good model. If you’re all accidentally going to see Saw or Deep Throat (which I assume must be happening, given the repeated mentions of porn or “vile” films), maybe you need to work on film trailer discernment.

  10. Interesting. This is making me think. Is there a line to cross in regards to entertainment. Is this line different for others than for me? Can we enjoy the art of a certain movies them but reject a certain aspect in the movie?


  11. Geoff Robson says:

    Thanks for this reflection, Trevin. I wrote something similar when the Breaking Bad finale screened a few months ago:

    But I think your take is more nuanced, more thorough, more helpful than mine. Many thanks.

  12. JR says:

    Great article. I am trained as a filmmaker (writer-director) and went to one of the top 10 film schools in the US. I have spent the last decade writing my own stuff, working with producers, etc. As a believer, I don’t believe there is a “Christian film” any more than I believe there is a “Christian widget”. I believe there are films made by believers [who of necessity MUST know cinema history and its place as an artform] that should espouse a Christian worldview, but that does not mean they can’t appeal to a mass audience. Film is an expensive medium and very few folks, Christian or otherwise can just pull the budget out of their back pockets, or have a church who will fund the endeavors. That means one must appeal to a producer who must, down the road, appeal to a distributor of some sort. That’s just the business.

    I’m not a huge fan of the new HD microbudget films on youtube, etc. Most of those, from what I see, show a distinct LACK of knowing even the basics of cinematic composition and language. I write in various genres and have pretty much seen every type of film there is.

    All of that being said, my wife and I went to see the Spike Jonze (director) film “HER” last weekend. A co-worker urged me to, saying it was the best film of the year. My wife and I ended up walking out an hour into the film. It was uselessly and needlessly profane, vulgar and quasi-pornographic.

    All films ultimately strive to tell some kind of redemptive story. It’s built into the Hollywood storytelling model — the hero wins and learns. However, if I’m an hour into your movie and I still despise the “hero” and the writing is lackluster and one note AND on top of that it aggressively violates my Christian worldview then I abandon what little hope I have for “cinematic redemption”.

    I think it’s on a case by case basis. One thing’s for sure though: we need more believers in the battle — ones who want to go mainstream and stem the tide, and not just be content to make “Christian” content for the local cardshop video shelf.

    Back to the article and Alissa’s comments on THE HUNGER GAMES and THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE. Ironically enough, THE EXORCISM… was written and directed by Scott Derrickson, who is a professing believer. I know several Christians who know him. He also wrote URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT, and directed THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (remake) and SINISTER. As a filmmaker, I understand his tastes in terms of genre (category) of types of films that resonate with him artistically. But because I don’t know him personally, I must reserve judgment as to his motives as a believer regarding the types of films he chooses to make — and the types of opportunities he’s been afforded. Different Christian artists write different types of films. How far down the rabbit hole do we go to explore the dichotomy between individuality and crossing into sinful depictions?

    Regarding THE HUNGER GAMES. The studios make movies to make money, no matter what the worldview. So, knowing how many hundreds of millions of dollar THE HUNGER GAMES cost to make, it should not be surprising that the studio, from a business perspective, would want to recoup its investment.

    It’s a fine line. As a believer in the industry I understand the art and the commerce sides of the coin. If one wants to make a LIVING as a filmmaker, these issues cannot be ignored. If one simply wants to make home movies and post them on Youtube, then it’s easier to ignore these mandates.

    There are SO many other issues tied up in “Christian” film, not the least of which is depiction of race. For example, we eschew the Hollywood worldview evident in most movies, yet most Christian films follow Hollywood’s still paper-thin depictions of racial diversity when it comes to casting the leads for their films. We tend to still default to “the cool Black best friend” or the “interesting other” of different ethnic origin, while our Christian video and bookshelves are still selling entertainments that feature White faces on the covers. So, in seeking to love our neighbor, as Alissa says — shouldn’t we also be reminded that Revelation says the kingdom will be populated by people of “every tongue tribe and nation”? When it comes to casting, Christians don’t seem to have an issue with “commerce.” “Of course it needs to be cast that way or it won’t sell.” But, you see, even that is buying into a worldview that opposes the many “faces” in need of the gospel. I have pursued film for 2 decades and, as a believer, gone down many avenues and fought many battles. This thing is not as simple as picketing or decrying or even, in my case, walking out. I’d love to see a critical panel discussion on this and would love to participate as well. Press on fellow film lovers and film makers. We need mainstream content for those who don’t know the gospel and we need edifying content for those who do.

    1. Caleb says:

      Which film school did you attend?

      1. J.R. says:

        Columbia U. in NYC

        1. Caleb says:

          Are you still making films?

          1. J.R. says:

            Working on some new genre scripts. Seeking representation.

  13. Jonathan says:

    Very thoughtful column. I’m in my mid-40s and I can still vividly remember some photos from a pornographic magazine that my friend and I “found” in his father’s footlocker when we were younger than 10. You can’t unsee images like that or unhear vulgarity and profanity.

    My job, as a father, is to do what I can to keep the mental videos and photo albums of my children as pure as possible until they leave my protection. That said, I also insist that my children read classic literature and engage with important themes. This is one reason by both of them (age 15 and 13) recoiled by seeing Subway advertisement tie ins with Catching Fire (having already read Huxley and Rand).

    1. Jonathan, could you elaborate on the last part of your post?

      I’m not sure I understand how reading classics connects to advertisements for the Hunger Games movie.

  14. Steve says:

    I can’t help but think that there is some deception of the heart when we tell ourselves that we are mature enough to watch Wolf of Wall street with a discerning eye in order to better love our neighbors.

    The church today is acting much like Lot, first camped overlooking the city, then facing it, and finally surrounded by it and engaged in it. When the master returns we don’t want Him to have to drag us out of the world “yet so as through fire.”

    1. Hal says:

      Excellent point. There is no valid, edifying reason to expose yourself to filth. All it does is make you filthy. If people choose to watch that kind of thing, they need to just admit they like it. We can’t distort the great commandment to justify indulging the sinful nature.

  15. David Lee says:

    “If it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”

    Remember Jesus’ words in Gethsemane?

    Are we aware that scripture itself contains explicit, very explicit, descriptions of sexual depravity? (Surely not? Oh yes.) And that one of these is deeply connected to Jesus’ life? Indeed, it almost directly foreshadows the consequences of our sin which he took on himself with these “cup” words in Gethsemane.

    Turn to Ezekiel 23 (about Oholah and Oholibah), start reading through that chapter and see what the Gethsemane “cup” entailed for him…

  16. Brandon says:

    I thought this was a great article. You’re absolutely right that we need guidelines; the only thing missing is the guidelines themselves.

    I think some guidelines for questions to ask are this:

    -Based on God’s Word, how does God feel about this?
    -How does this content make me feel, i.e. what is the response I have towards it? Am I offended? Astonished? Giddy? Lustful? Entertained?
    -How will this content influence me to live?
    -How will my exercising my liberty in this manner effect the others I may be seeing this with? (1 Cor 8: 9-10)

    There are undoubtedly a great many movies that are fun to watch. Many fall under that gray area of “Christian Liberty”. Same thing with song.

    Paul’s guidance to us is something I admit I don’t take seriously enough, and evidently I’m in the same boat as many other Christians. Our “cultural engagement” seems to be a great reason to enjoy content that would otherwise shock and offend the consciences of believers around the globe.

    Should we encourage them to drink filth so they, too, can try and improve the taste?

    1. Simon says:

      Great point Brandon.

      I don’t know an honest guy who looks at attractive, naked women (especially one in a simulated sex scene) and is not impacted. It’s devastatingly concerning that we actually need to raise these issues and then defend them against Christians of all people!

  17. Yep, I also contend that it is sin to produce nudity and sex in movies and that my being in the room while these people are stark naked during filming would be a violation of my marriage covenant. How is my viewing it afterward on a larger than life screen any different?

    Try THIS
    I couldn’t possibly agree with Piper more.

    At bottom this all comes down to a degraded deficient view of God Himself and his Christ glorifying covenant of marriage. NO person in whom dwells the spirit of the living God can be at peace with uncovering the nakedness of ANYone not their spouse.

    1. Here’s a hypothetical for you, Greg. Let’s say your wife has an attractive best friend who has a history of heart problems. It’s summer, and she’s taking a shower to wash up after swimming. You hear a loud noise inside the bathroom, and she yells for help. You look around and realize that your wife went out on an errand. You’re the only one in the house who can save her friend.

      Do you: A) Go into the bathroom, where you see her naked, call 911, and pull her out of the shower so she doesn’t drown? Or B) Do nothing, because it’s a sin to look at anyone naked who isn’t your spouse?

      1. I dealt with THAT months ago bub.

        “A fire or policeman (or anyone) called upon in an emergency to deliver a baby or tend to some other medical and or crime scene scenario (all the time in Detroit) is not in any way related to my concern. Medicine itself is not my concern either. If we started filming the procedures so strangers could view them as entertainment in a movie theater or on television it would be. “

        Because in such a case God has by His own providence put someone in a position to preserve life or limb and will also accordingly provide appropriate grace. I also would not watch a woman die rather than give her mouth to mouth resuscitation if it would save her life. Utterly irrelevant life exceptions and totally unrelated to the topic at hand. No “nice try” for you either.

    2. Anil Jacob says:

      Dear Greg (Tiribulus)

      II Corinthians 7:1,2 especially come to my mind. The overall context of II Corinthians 6:15-16 suggest that even viewing this kind of visual material constitutes a defilement. Though many individuals who have commented about hypothetical situations where we may be inadvertently exposed to these things, I think that as far as possible, and as far as we do not volitionally need to see, say, for example R-rated content, would be most glorifying to God.


      1. No offense, but I’m going to need you to restate this Anil. I don’t think I follow fully.

        1. Anil Jacob says:

          Hi Greg:

          Sure, no issues.

          What I meant is that for me, when I read II COrinthians 7:1, verse 1 especially resonates quite powerfully.

          See for example, verse 1b – “let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit” (NASB). THis resonates very powerfully for me in the specific context of the world of movies. The kinds of visual images depicted in many movies — especially sensual and sexual material — does have the effect of defiling one’s spirit. I think John Piper clearly states this in several instances in the context of movies and some of our friends on this series of comments have linked to what he has said.

          Clearly, the viewing of visual material may not defile the flesh. So that leaves the issue of defiling one’s spirit.

          So Paul seems to be arguing the following. First, that we should avoid defiling our flesh and spirit. Second, that we need to be doing this cleansing, and that the overall context is that we have many promises and expectations from God, which will enable us and empower us to stay clean. I get the logic of GOd’s expectations and his promises from the immediately preceding verses in II Corinthians 6:16-18 which exhorts believers to not be unequally yoked, but also more generally, to ensure that they are separate and that we “come out from amongst them” in general.

          Specifically applying these verses to the context of this specific discussion– the application that comes to me is this.
          a) The world around us enjoys all kinds of movies.
          b) Though some of the things in movies are “lawful”, they may not be ‘helpful’.
          c) There is God’s expectation from us to come out and be separate.
          d) One way of our honoring God is that we take his promises seriously and personally take up the injunction of not ‘touching what is unclean’. I interpret this personally to mean that there are movies that actually defile me with wicked and evil things — I don’t need to ‘touch’ it. It is better for me to honor the Lord by my avoiding this material.

          I think the essence of what I’m arguing is that there is a cost to be paid of following Christ in the context of the world’s entertainment content. Part of this cost is avoiding this material, and the motivation for me in this is to honor God.

          Hope this makes sense — and due apologies for the verbosity of this post.

          Warm regards,

          1. No apologies. I enjoyed reading it and appreciate the time you took.

            Of course I agree, but here’s the thing. The day and age we live in is absolutely enslaved to UNcertainty and broad minded individualism. These people will nod up and down agreeing with what you just said.

            FOR YOU that is.

            Everything is all different for everybody else though and especially them. NObody is ever REALLY wrong. Except those of us who see a universal standard of morality with a few very specific neutral areas of individual liberty. They cling to a very wrong application of Romans 14 for dear life. They’ll go so far as to call it maturity the more wickedness you claim you can consume. NObody can tell ANYbody that ANYthing is actually wrong for EVERYbody. This is my biggest problem. Young people are being led right into the very jaws of perversion and corruption. Not by Hollywood, but by THE CHURCH for God’s sake.

            They will go to their wedding night where all those glorious discoveries are supposed to begin and which are designed by God to be just for the two of them. Instead with their memories and imaginations swimming with strangers in between them. They are crippled before they say “I do”. Godly marriage is tough enough without recruiting Hollywood to make it tougher.

            Of course the movie people will roll their eyes and sneer about how over dramatic and silly such standards are. Those are God’s standards and we discard them at our own peril. This once great now decaying nation is living that out as I type this. We have vulgarized and debased all that God calls precious and this culture of death and debauchery is a monument to the truth of His word. We ARE Romans 1.

          2. Anil Jacob says:

            Dear Greg:

            I completely agree with you. I also see how you correctly point out the even with the circle of evangelical Christians, there is a very, very strong tendency to individualism — that my convictions based on the Bible are fine, thank you very much, but since they are your convictions, you hold on to them, but do not “impose” them on me. I have seen that in person.

            However, at the same time, I think when it comes to the world, we really should not be surprised by the corruption we see. This corruption is revealed only by the light of Scripture. In particular, Ephesians 2:1,2 emphasises that the spiritual power behind the ‘children of disobedience’ is that of the ‘prince of the power of the air’ – essentially, Satan. So even Hollywood is in darkness and will fundamentally work to twist God’s beauty in man and woman to corrupt those who consume its images.

            As you said, “This is my biggest problem. Young people are being led right into the very jaws of perversion and corruption. Not by Hollywood, but by THE CHURCH for God’s sake.” — I do see what you are saying.

            But don’t be discouraged. God’s church will be kept pure by the Master, our Lord Jesus Christ, and as we know — especially from the minor prophets in the Old Testament — judgement *first* comes to the House of the Lord – His Church. Those of us who are in leadership will be called to account first — priests, elders, deacons.

            God’s patience should not be mistaken for the lack of His wrath against *all* ungodliness.

            I appreciate your passion for truth.


          3. Anil Jacob, do you really believe that the church has been kept pure? It seems to me as though the history of the Church is rife with scandal and corruption. Wouldn’t you agree that your own church has fallen short of sinlessness and perfection?

          4. Anil Jacob says:

            @Christian Vagabond:

            I do agree with both the spirit and the letter of your comment. The short answer to your first question is yes, I do believe that the church *has* been kept pure — but that there is definitely the presence of sin (as per Romans 8:12,13) even in believers. No one can deny this at all.

            The overall trajectory of Scripture suggests that Christ’s work in His church will meet his standards of perfection.

            a) I do believe, based on Scripture that at the *individual* Christian’s level, Christ’s perfect work on the Cross will enable us to be presented holy and blameless in the sight of God. I get that from Colossians 1:22 (ESV). The tense of the phrase, “he has now” suggests that this is a positionally past work in a spiritual sense. There is a condition for this, it’s found in verse 23: “If you continue”….

            b) I also do believe, that at the collective level of the church, Jesus will do the same and present the church (the Bride of Christ) as per Ephesians 5:27 (ESV).

            You are correct to state that the “history of the Church is rife with scandal and corruption.” While that is true entirely, it is not the entire truth. The Scriptures above suggest the full story – which will be seen over time and in the future.

            I cannot agree with you more heartily also that our own church (certainly here in India) has fallen short of sinlessness and perfection. But our hope is in the perfect sanctification that Christ’s blood works. This is hope, and not excuse for sin.

            Hope this helps – apologies for the verbosity.


  18. Tim Mullet says:

    Is your biggest fear really that we are being unwise?
    I’m a bit surprised at how understated your past two articles have been.
    As far as the spectrum of reactions go… I’m not thinking finally! I am thinking when is someone going to finally wake up and start rebuking the church for this. Suggesting that we might have crossed a line and could perhaps be compromising doesn’t deserve a finally! It leaves me scratching my head wondering why this subject is so difficult.
    Please explain why you consider it a wisdom issue and not a sin issue to watch naked people in movies? Or have I misunderstood you?
    In Christ

    1. Very good Tim. My thoughts ever since it came to my attention that this kind of libertine permissiveness was so rampant in the church. This is the big concern of the body of the risen eternal Christ. Agonizing over how to watch pagan movies? I’m sure He must be thrilled over our priorities.

      Dean P
      Those whom God may call to ANY work, He will also equip with wisdom and resources on a per need basis. The weather in Outer Mongolia has more to do with this topic than the incredibly exceptional assignment of an infinitesimally small number of missionaries.

      Sorry. I can’t even give you a “nice try” on that one.

    2. Wayne Wilson says:

      Amen, Tim. It should be, as the Bard would say, “as clear as is the summer’s sun.”

  19. Dean P says:

    So Tim and Greg and even for that matter Dr. Piper: What happens if you, your wife and your family are called to be missionaries in a primitive culture where upper female nudity is part of that particular tribal culture, is it still sin if you interact with these women in these villages or do you go around trying to cover everybody up? And just so that we are clear I am not being facetious this has happened to missionaries before.

    1. Simon says:

      One way to look at it is that God calls people to preach Christ to real people in cultures where nudity is more common place but how many people are going to claim that God called them to watch films like Wolf of Wall Street to preach the gospel to westerners?

      There are always complex hypotheticals that most people never have to deal with and that a few people will have to stand before God and give account for. What you mention above is one of these examples. Not to accuse you but in my experience, people usually offer unlikely hypotheticals in order to avoid doing what they ought to or to justify their dubious moral or theological positions. Despite this, I will offer you a hypothetical in turn.

      What happens if when the western church stands before God, God reveals that by watching and commending sex and nudity in entertainment, we caused a multitude of people to stumble and get stuck in compromise because they get the idea that Christians just watch whatever the lost watch? And what if because we were unfaithful in this, we actually lose part of our inheritance?

      Now that is a hypothetical worth serious contemplation by any Christian who wants to stand up before others and say it is okay to watch sex and nudity in entertainment. My guess is that there will be a lot of ashamed Christians on the Day of The Lord specifically over this issue.

    2. Wayne Wilson says:

      Excellent question, Dean. I have been in this situation. Of course you preach the Gospel to such people and minister to them in Christ’s love. Elizabeth Elliot faced that very issue (Read “The Savage My Kinsmen” for example). It did not change or lower her personal standards. It did not change or lower mine. What is interesting is that as they come to know Christ, you don’t have to run around putting clothes on them, they start putting clothes on themselves. Go to any tribal areas in the world…and I have been in some rather far flung, isolated places, and as people become truly born again, they develop their own sense of modesty that aligns with Scripture. Now imagine taking these people who have a heightened sense of modesty, and stripping it from them as a form of entertainment? What if some “contextualizer” showed up to make a film, asking the young girls to act out the Rape of Dinah…and as they demure and shake their heads, telling them its “art.” What we are talking about with Hollywood is de-Christianizing a culture and destroying its standard of modesty and truly seeking to destroy that modest sense of shame that governs our God-given, but sin spoiled, sexual nature.

      1. Hal says:

        For that matter, where in Scripture is “art” even validated at all?

        Exodus 20:4 prohibits graven images, but through the centuries, painted and photographed and filmed images have spread more defilement than even the OT idols did. It is still idolatry.

        As Trevin indicated, Christians are justifying spiritual compromise in the name of contextualization.

    3. Tim Mullet says:

      Dean P,

      I am happy to elaborate if you find my response unsatisfactory, but I’ve opted for a brief response.

      I think Ezekiel 16 answers your question succinctly.

      Ezekiel 16:7-10 7 I made you flourish like a plant of the field. And you grew up and became tall and arrived at full adornment. Your breasts were formed, and your hair had grown; yet you were naked and bare. 8 “When I passed by you again and saw you, behold, you were at the age for love, and I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness; I made my vow to you and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Lord GOD, and you became mine. 9 Then I bathed you with water and washed off your blood from you and anointed you with oil. 10 I clothed you also with embroidered cloth and shod you with fine leather. I wrapped you in fine linen and covered you with silk.

      Some observations:
      1) nakedness exists
      Gen 2:25; 3:7, 10f; 9:22f; 42:9, 12; Exod 20:26; 28:42; Lev 18:6ff; 20:11, 17ff; Deut 22:30; 27:20; 28:48; 1 Sam 19:24; 20:30; 2 Chr 28:15; Job 1:21; 22:6; 24:7, 10; 26:6; Eccl 5:15; Isa 20:2ff; 47:3; 57:8; 58:7; Lam 1:8; Ezek 16:7f, 22, 36f, 39; 18:7, 16; 22:10; 23:10, 18, 29; Hos 2:3, 9; Amos 2:16; Mic 1:8, 11; Nah 3:5; Hab 2:15; Matt 25:36, 38, 43f; Mark 14:52; Acts 19:16; Rom 8:35; 2 Cor 5:3; Heb 4:13; Rev 3:17f; 16:15; 17:16

      2) Nakedness is not culturally defined –
      The Bible describes formed female breasts as nakedness. See Eze 16.

      3) It is loving to cover the nakedness of others not to uncover it.
      The Lord pictures himself finding a young naked women (Israel) with formed breasts who is at the age of love. He lovingly cleans her up and gives her clothes to remove her shame.

      As a result, I would conclude that the loving thing to do, if you were in the situation that you described, would be to act like God, and provide the villagers with clothing. Surely, the most important thing you could do would be to preach the gospel. Similarly your goal should not be to teach them to look and act western. But nakedness exists, it is not culturally defined, therefore it would be loving to seek to provide clothing for the villagers. God did it with Israel metaphorically.

      One thing that must be kept in mind in these discussions is the fact that the Bible admonishes us to be careful in how we help others. I know that the thought of being careful in the way that we seek to evangelize others is currently thought to be scandalous. Yet, the Bible clearly says in Galatians 6:1, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

      Feel free to push back…

  20. Dean P says:

    No actually my question was strictly on its own terms and I was not connecting it to seeing “Wolf Wall Street” at all. But it was more directed to the very sweeping nature of the initial statements by Dr. Piper and the other commenters in regards to being exposed to nudity. But no one seems to think that this kind of scenario is a real possibility when indeed it has been.

    1. Tim Mullet says:

      Out of curiosity, what sweeping generalizations about being exposed to nudity did you understand me to be making?

  21. Mark Z says:

    I just knew The Hunger Games would come up, and I’m so glad they did, as I find these stories/movies to be among some of the most interesting gauges of social moral climate in regards to contemporary media. And I love what both of you had to say about it. Agreed.

    As far as “cultural engagement in conversation” goes, I find this to be THE most common argument among Christians for involvement in any sort of media, and ironically also THE weakest support for it. A better conversation would be why you do not watch filth than what you think about the latest such-and-such you saw.

    Sure when I was into Game of Thrones I could talk about it with people, but I had to ignore the holy sirens blaring in my head that all the gratuitous nudity and sex was wrecking me spiritually and mentally. Finally, halfway through the series, and with great difficulty, I gave it up, because it just was not worth it. Good plot line and characters? You bet. I still will argue with anybody that Game of Thrones represents the most incredible storytelling of contemporary film and literature. G.R.R. Martin is a genius. But so what? It was still full of filth, no matter how much I tried to justify it.

    That said, I’d argue with anyone who justifies involvement in filth as a means of “It gives us something to talk about” that I’ve never yet heard one story of a lost soul coming to worship Jesus because you had a conversation with them about the latest flesh-fest film. A doctor doesn’t need to drink poison in order to understand why it’s killing his patients and how to help them.

    1. Wayne Wilson says:

      Thanks, Mark. Spot on. You are a hero of the faith.

      Games of Thrones could have been made with good taste. They chose the pornographic route, and destroyed many with that choice.

      Artistic skill in writing, directing, etc. are tools. They can be used to promote virtue or to destroy it. Satan can use the skill of theatrical craftsmen as an enticement to sin…and in our day, he does. Knowing this power, Hollywood established its own censorship code in the mid-1930s. It lasted almost 30 years, and produced great art. Had Game of Thrones been held to that code, it would have been great art, and worthy entertainment. Sadly, HBO has a counter-code…having trained it’s audience to expect and hunger for flesh, they feed it every chance they get. They know and permit those scenes with their actresses to end up on pornographic websites. They delight in this.

      It’s helpful to think in terms of Message and Method. Both are equally important. The Message may be good, but if the Method presenting that message defiles, the good is lost. The line must be drawn in both areas.

  22. Mark Z says:

    One last thing, I believe a lot more people need to be honest about their motives. When the average church-goer partakes in the latest entertainment, are they even actively thinking “This will help me talk with Larry at the water fountain!” When I’m honest with myself, the answer is no 95% of the time, and I doubt I’m alone. We watch what we do largely because WE enjoy it. Perhaps mankind’s biggest obstacle to attaining godliness is our ability to justify anything we want.

    1. Wayne Wilson says:


    2. Caleb says:

      Art is a wholly natural pursuit. To say that we should be involved with it only to “talk with Larry at the water fountain” is absurd.

      1. What is “wholly natural” to the children of fallen father Adam should be treated with the utmost suspicion and judiciousness general wisdom.

        1. Caleb says:

          Since we do not have much information about life before the fall (did Adam paint?), you must be suspicious of everything and everyone all the time.

          1. Hal says:

            Me too. When the paintbrush was invented, Satan must’ve been delighted. Then when they came out with the camera, he was probably ecstatic. Heck, he probably inspired both.

          2. Caleb sarcastically asks: “Since we do not have much information about life before the fall (did Adam paint?), you must be suspicious of everything and everyone all the time.”
            Especially ourselves yes. It makes no difference if Adam painted. We do, and we have his nature. It makes no difference what life was like before the fall at all for the purposes of this discussion. Everything we think, do, say and are is in bondage to corruption unless consciously submitted to the Lordship of Christ and that comes only from being raised in Him from death in sin. Even then constant attendance to the means of grace is required for us to avoid the quicksand of internal depravity, the incessant bombardment of the world and Satan who is a most effective partner with both. This is old time Reformation doctrine friend. IF this has you rolling your eyes then I dare say you have not yet understood the gospel.

            Hal also sarcastically exclaims: “When the paintbrush was invented, Satan must’ve been delighted. Then when they came out with the camera, he was probably ecstatic.”
            Ohhhh indeed sir. Another tool with the potential for such God glorifying good that he can twist and pervert for evil?!?!?!? You better believe he was ecstatic. Still is and he becomes more and more so with each new advancement.

            Hal further sarcastically exclaims: “Heck, he probably inspired both.”
            Satan has never inspired or created anything in his whole life. All he can and does do is commandeer and corrupt what already exists. He has plenty of willing accomplices among men and it’s an extra satisfying bonus when he can get the “church” onboard as well. He has had spectacular success in the last 50 years. There actually ARE artists and artistry in the bible though btw. Probably another discussion. The idea of artistic expression is not evil in itself if that’s how you’re reading me. It must however, be intentionally wielded in faith for His glory or it, like every other abused gift of God, is sin.

          3. Caleb says:


            I don’t think that Hal was being sarcastic, given his other comments on this thread. And given the lack of grace and freedom and the abundance of fear and loathing that seems to dominate your view, I dare say that your understanding of the gospel isn’t any more profound than mine.

            My point was merely to say that art/creativity is surely not a consequence of the fall. It is natural for humans made in the image of God to create art and to respond to it. Your comment about being suspicious of whatever is natural to fallen humans seemed to me like a denial of the essential nature of human creativity. That, I think, is an impoverished view of the world.

  23. Dean P says:

    Wayne: Thanks for your actual response to my question. It was a good response, however I was talking more about a pre-conversion context and not post. Also as I said above my illustration was a question in of itself that was not really connected to the Wolf of Wall Street. I actually have no plans on seeing the film.

    1. Wayne Wilson says:

      I know, Dean. I appreciate you, brother. I was adding the other part for other readers. The art/entertainment question is about much more than just “seeing” nudity in any context. I wanted to bring that out.

  24. shellyh says:

    The Wolf Of Wall St. is a great example of the evils of capitalism and of greed. I am ashamed to be living in the same city where we actually still have people who vote Republican. I am glad to see that this article points out the evils of capitalism and far-right politics. Yes, it’s a brutal movie, but conservatives and capitalists are evil and need to be exposed, no holds barred.

    1. Wayne Wilson says:

      Another problem with movies we haven’t mentioned is how they appeal to the emotions rather than the mind and lead to all sorts of simplistic conclusions and reinforce biases that have no relationship to the real world.

      1. Caleb says:

        Movies “appeal to the emotions rather than the mind.”

        That’s a pretty broad brush that you’re using. Maybe you need to expand your cinematic horizons.

        1. Wayne Wilson says:

          I have very broad horizons. I stand by that statement.

          1. Caleb says:

            So Godrey Reggio, Errol Morris, Andrei Tarkovsky, Louis Malle, etc. etc.? All just appealing to emotions? And why is it either emotions or mind? Why not both?

  25. @ Dean P.
    It appears I misjudged your motives sir. It’s no excuse, but if you had any idea how many times I’ve heard every last one of of these questions used as microscopic exceptions to destroy the biblical rule over the last several months it would be easier to forgive me.
    All I can say in general this morning is WOW! Praise God. I am humbled, reflective and repentant. On this page are brethren (and sistren) who are not only better able to articulate the relevant principles of this very passionate burden of mine, but do so in a more receivable spirit as well.

    Thank you for all the good constructive examples. It’s probably a shame I still need them after all these years. It looks like I’m still slow at learning where the lines are.

  26. Hal says:

    No, Greg, I’m serious. Nothing in history has spread lust and corruption as effectively as “art.”

    1. Well aren’t jist a ninny. LOL!!!I can’t keep track of who’s who anymore LOL! Sorry man. :D

      This IS another whole discussion. I totally agree. However, sex is Satan’s all time favorite lure to destruction. Bar none. It certainly cannot be said though that sex is evil. It was God’s idea after all (praise His glorious name).

      The short version for now is that I DO find a direct correlation to people REALLY into “the arts” (definition needed) and compromised morality even among those who are otherwise theologically sound. Trevin hates it when we get off topic though. Maybe another time and place.

      1. Caleb says:

        I’m beginning to understand evangelicalism’s aesthetic poverty.

        1. Caleb, I keep thinking of Mark Noll’s famous quote: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”

        2. Wayne Wilson says:

          Caleb, you can catch up quickly on “evangelicalism’s aesthetic poverty” by picking up Franky Schaeffer’s books from the 80s. His influence, sharing your disdainful attitude, is what led to the current scene, and why there is an awakening desire to let Scripture correct what he wrought among us. We are happily seeing the fruit of that turning to Scripture among many on this comment thread.

          After wreaking his destruction, Mr. Schaeffer moved on from evangelicalism to other theological waters…just like our friend Christian Vagabond. Be careful, lest that fate befall you. The derisive attitude toward people who regard holiness as more important than art should be a danger sign for you spiritually.

          1. Caleb says:

            The holiness that you claim to pursue sounds pretty empty and almost entirely devoid of any sense of redemption.

            For all those wondering about the growth of the “nones” and the missing “Millennials” look no further than the views espoused by many in this thread.

          2. Wayne Wilson says:

            That’s a remarkable statement, Caleb, and doesn’t speak well for the “nones.” If they can’t give up naked ladies for the Lord, or apply God’s love and redemption to performers in movies instead of support their degradation, and if they really are are unable to make or appreciate good art within the confines of holy affections, that is not the church’s loss, but their own. Job made a covenant with his eyes. What sort of covenant have you made?

            My own experience with “Millennials” who love Jesus Christ is that they are getting sick of compromise and “entertainment” church. I’ll be speaking to a conference of them in a couple of weeks on this very topic. We’ll see how that goes!

          3. Caleb says:

            I’m not talking about pornography here, you know that right? I’m talking about an evangelical culture that discourages artistic expression by condoning Kirk Cameron films while condemning good art that they haven’t even seen or tried to understand.

          4. Wayne Wilson says:

            We are talking about pornography woven into serious films, which is the subject of this thread. We are talking about proper moral limits on art. You seem interested in film, Caleb. I went to film school, and bought into the “art for art’s sake” notion for years. I used to see anything I thought was “redemptive.” That was a lame belief system. There is nothing redemptive about abusing women and cursing like a sailor. Years of experience in Hollywood and the Word of God woke me up.

            You create a false dichotomy comparing little simple low-budget Christian films with Scorcese, et al. It seems you have missed something you should learn about. Great, brilliant, talented, mostly unbelieving film-makers for decades made fantastic movies that were artistically valid, popular, influential and consistent with biblical warnings about immodesty, lust, exploitation, etc. Hollywood lived under the Production Code which simply forced great talent to be tasteful and promote virtue. They did it, and succeeded brilliantly. Check out directors like John Ford, William Wyler, Sam Wood, Fred Zinnemann, John Huston, and even outside Hollywood with no Production Code you have Akira Kurosawa and the great post-war Japanese directors. That’s who you need to compare the current big boys with.

            More recent films sometimes achieve that proper level of taste with talent as well… The Book Thief comes to mind. Good story, some excellent performances, grown up subject matter…and good taste.

            Fortunately, the world has a rich treasury of tasteful, morally-affirming great films. These works don’t paper over human depravity or avoid the human condition. They don’t wallow in its excesses either, or join in. That is a gift of grace to people who love cinema. If it wasn’t there, and everything was Wolf of Wall Street, then we just let it all go. Jesus is more important.

            There is no need to compromise basic principles of holiness to enjoy masterful film work. We have worthy art we can enjoy. Praise God! But Trevin is right about developing a “theology of No”, and it should be based on Scripture. If artists don’t respect biblical norms, it is easy and right to say, “No.”

          5. Caleb says:

            Wayne, you are clearly not the kind of person that I am trying to convince, though I disagree about Wolf of Wall Street. I am concerned that I see a return to the “movies are evil” attitude of my grandparents generation. For them, even John Ford and Kurosawa are off limits. I see the same mentality creeping back in discussions like this one. This is part of the general suspicion of art that causes some forms of Protestantism to lack the aesthetic expression of other branches of Christianity. And I consider that to be a form of spiritual poverty.

            I would also push back against what I think is your romanticizing of the production code and the promotion of virtue in ‘classic’ Hollywood. Were some great films made in that period? Absolutely. But there was also a lot of racism, complicit approval of genocide, etc. in those films. (I would add sexism, but filmmaking has generally been the dominated by men. Kelly Reichardt is an excellent recent exception).

            Even if those production code films were more “tasteful”, they were not always virtuous. Many European films in the 1950s and 1960s and American films in the 1970s, which may not have been forced to comply to the same notion of taste upheld by the production code had just as much virtue in their critique and their honesty about life in their particular times.

          6. Wayne Wilson says:

            I don’t think I’m romanticizing old Hollywood, not if we stay on subject. Certainly not all films made under the Code were always virtuous in every way. The rule was to promote virtue, and many films, the best films, did just that. In fact, the best films artistically did just that. “Tasteful” is the bottom line as far as what you could do with and to human beings — actors and audience. It was a good line. Nothing is lost by holding that line. It takes care of the evil methods. It prevents artists from going to far. Some of the most talented director’s said it made them more creative, not less.

            Evil messages are another matter and more complex. As far as old Hollywood goes, I certainly can’t think of any film that promoted genocide in any way. Racism was there by omission mainly, and stereo-typing, though there are wonderful exceptions. Golden Age Hollywood was very pro-women…more than today’s films.

            Here’s the point, however. You say other films that don’t honor biblical principles regarding nakedness, etc. may still possess “virtue in their critique and their honesty about life in their particular times.” That may be the direction of the story. But if people are made to sin by the method of telling the story, it is not “good” art. It has failed at the key point of causing little ones to stumble, and the makers of such art have a millstone waiting for them.

            Finally, I don’t think anyone here is suggesting going back to a Fundamentalism that forbids the theater. That was the dominant view of the church throughout history, however, and not to be taken lightly. One thing the Fundamentalists said against Hollywood even with the Censorship Code in place, was that people are not discerning, and the emotional satisfaction of the theater (stage or film) would eventually lead them to embrace wickedness in their viewing habits. All their other arguments against the movies, I could knock down. That one has proven to be entirely correct.

  27. Anar says:

    Some G-rated movies are much worse than many R-rated movies.

    I would rather see good versus evil compared to ultimate good is deep within.

    1. Wayne Wilson says:

      Message and Method are both areas of concern. Erroneous messages can deceive. Carnality is a direct assault.

  28. Well I aren’t jist a ninny. Sorry LOL!

  29. Caleb says: “My point was merely to say that art/creativity is surely not a consequence of the fall.”
    Allow me to clarify. Of course art itself is not a result of the fall, but our natural propensity for it plays no part in determining for the Christian in how we know that. You simply conclude: “we like it = must be good”. I deny that as an utterly dangerous and unbiblical mindset.

    Caleb says: “It is natural for humans made in the image of God to create art and to respond to it.”
    I agree. And I know that from Scripture. Not by what comes natural to me. Or you.

    Caleb says: “Your comment about being suspicious of whatever is natural to fallen humans seemed to me like a denial of the essential nature of human creativity.
    The difference between you and I is that I really don’t spend that much time thinking about “art”. My prayer every morning is that God teach me to love Him more today than yesterday and to love my wife like He loves me. That I grow, even if just a little, in holiness as I learn to love what He loves and hate what He hates. That He save me from dishonoring Him through my remaining corruption in sin.

    Art is cool and all that, but I just haven’t noticed where it would do much to accomplish those goals in me. Those who claim it does have been entirely unimpressive in convincing me. Quite the opposite actually. I will almost certainly be charged with “self righteousness” for this comment. I can only tell the truth.

    Caleb says: “That, I think, is an impoverished view of the world.”
    The world IS impoverished Caleb. That’s why we’re commanded not to love it, nor the things in it. I seek His face fervently to discover all His will for my usefulness to Him. In His word and in prayer. I have never been led to art yet. Artistry is biblical, but is a small relatively insignificant concept in the overall mind of the Lord. Making it more than that is idolatry.

    1. Greg, the issue is not what we do in the morning. I’m sure most people here do devotionals and pray. Ultimately this discussion has been about discernment regarding our recreational choices. You stated in Trevin’s previous movie thread that you do watch movies. So the arts are a part of your life. Like Caleb, you’ve rationalized your entertainment choices, no matter what they may be. Everyone has reasons why they like what they like, and no matter how conservative you see yourself as, there are Christians more conservative than you who would frown upon your entertainment choices.

      1. Caleb says:

        Well said.

        Moreover, no one here is trying to make an idol of art. We are trying to carve just SOME space for it in the aesthetic wasteland that is conservative evangelicalism, though I often wonder why I bother. The virulent, narrow, quite frankly middlebrow philistinism on display here is entirely disheartening. To have these personal hang ups baptized as some kind of “return to scripture” is even more so. And when it comes to art, I see no concept of common grace in this discussion – just hatred, arrogance, and fear. Where is the grace, compassion, or humanity (in the truest sense, though I know that will be misconstrued as “humanist”)?

        1. Wayne Wilson says:

          These comments are unworthy of you, Caleb. People who share the same view as Wesley, Wilberforce, Spurgeon, Pascal, Baxter, etc… “middlebrow Philistines”? It is a privilege to be counted in their number in even a small way.

          1. Caleb says:

            In my frustration, I was too hyperbolic. But I don’t feel compelled to hold the same views as Wesley, Wilberforce, Spurgeon, etc. on every subject. There are some things about which they could have been wrong.

          2. Wayne Wilson says:

            Could have been, yes. It is up to you to prove them wrong from the Scriptures. And even if they were wrong, being wrong is no reason to mock them at the level you did. It doesn’t help your case.

      2. Vagabond says: “You stated in Trevin’s previous movie thread that you do watch movies.”
        No I didn’t. I said I doubt I’ll ever watch another one, but didn’t rule out the possibility. I did say movies, even secular ones are not necessarily sin in every instance.

        Vagabond says: “Like Caleb, you’ve rationalized your entertainment choices, no matter what they may be.”
        Vagabond I don’t rationalize anything. I have a real simple standard. If according to the mandates of scripture, neither I myself, nor my wife or children could righteously participate and or perform in any part in it’s production, then it is duplicitous hypocrisy and the very opposite of Christian love toward those who do, for me to participate in it’s consumption and thereby promote and finance their sin.

        Vagabond says: ” Everyone has reasons why they like what they like,
        What I like plays no part in my decision making process here friend. Left to myself I like all the same godless carnality you do. My decisions are based upon SCRIPTURE.

        Vagabond says: “and no matter how conservative you see yourself as, there are Christians more conservative than you who would frown upon your entertainment choices.
        I don’t care. The only frown (or smile) I ultimately care abut is God’s and I find what makes Him frown or smile in the SCRIPTURES

        1. Now we’re getting somewhere. By stating that you see no problem with watching some secular movies, you’ve established yourself as a moderate on this issue. Many Christians would never dare watch any movie.(Bob Jones U alumni come to mind, although there are many others). A greater number of believers only watch movies made by believers with an explicitly Christian message. From their view, you’re just as corrupted by worldly temptations as you believe Caleb and I are, and you’re just as sorely in need of rebuking and intervention.

          Were you to find yourself conversing with these Christians, you would do exactly the same thing Caleb and I are doing: defend your choices and rationalizing the merits of movies you’ve deemed to be acceptable.

          Any standard not made by God is, by definition, a rationalization. A Christian reads X passage, which lacks specific examples, and concludes that Y does or does not meet X’s decree. So every believer rationalizes whether supporting a company which engages in child labor but speaks out against homosexuality qualifies as loving thy neighbor. Every believer decides whether a ministry that feeds the poor but refuses to share the Gospel meets the same commandment. Every believer decides whether watching a given movie pleases God. They rationalize their decisions based on how they interpret and apply X because we don’t have the luxury of Jesus knocking on our door and telling us not to watch any movies or support any companies that use child labor. And we won’t learn whether our standard were correct until Judgement Day.

          It’s silly to say that what you like plays no part in your decision making process. If you like The Wizard OF Oz and you think it meets God’s standards, then you’ll watch The Wizard Of Oz. If Titanic meets God’s standards but you hate icky romances, then you won’t watch Titanic.

          1. Vagabond says: “And we won’t learn whether our standard were correct until Judgement Day.”
            If that’s true then how do we know there’s a judgment day? (Or anything else.) They both come from the same collection of writings.

  30. Hal says:

    Caleb, the first Scriptural mention of anything resembling art is in Genesis 4:19-21. The original musicians and sculptors (loosely), as it turns out, were descendants of Cain through Lamech, the inventor of bigamy and showboating.

  31. Caleb says:

    As were those who dwell in tents and keep livestock. What’s your point?

    1. Hal says:

      As I noted above, art has always been a very handy conduit for idolatry. And this post is about movies, which are currently the world’s (Western, anyway) favorite form of art. Many of the most objectionable movies are considered the most “artsy.”

      The seeds for my misgivings about art were planted in college when a fellow ministry student made a distinction between pornography and what he called “legitimate erotic art.” The caption above my head was, “Keep fooling yourself, buddy.” (There is nothing Biblically legitimate about erotic art.)

      And that’s also Trevin’s point about Christians and the movies we fund. We’re prone to fool ourselves.

  32. Since entering into Christendom, I’ve found that Christians generally allow themselves to dabble in the world, in various ways and for various reasons, not because they are apologetically taking down strongholds, but because they have long forgotten or have never known what it is to be the world. One who has sinned the most is the one who flees the most, and who also fights the most. But whatever he does, he does not dabble the most.

  33. Caleb says: “The holiness that you claim to pursue”
    That’s not a “claim” Caleb. It is every beat of my heart and every breath of my lungs. The overriding all consuming obsessively driven purpose in my existence is to on that day gaze into His beautiful face and hear Him say “well done my good and faithful servant”. We will not be talking about art my friend. Claim? Don’t project your pretense upon me.

    Caleb says: [Greg’s pursuit of holiness] “sounds pretty empty and almost entirely devoid of any sense of redemption.”
    Did you really just say this? really? From the death of father Adam and the Protoevangelion of Genesis 3:15? From the promise made to father Abraham? (Genesis 12,15 and 17) From the typological Egyptian bondage and mighty exodus? Through Moses and the whole burdensome bloody Levitical tabernacle/temple system of constant ritual sacrifice? The whole era of the kings, captivity and delieverance and the promised new covenant of Jeremiah 31? The divine suffering servant redeemer of Isaiah? Allll those great saints of the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 (and many more) lived, suffered and died longing to see fulfillment.

    That fulfillment visited us in the form of a human infant whose virgin birth, sinless life and FINAL abiding sacrifice rent the veil of the temple from top to bottom, opening the very holy of holies to all would approach through His blood. A corrupt and wretched lover of sin and evil like myself is now welcomed into the presence of the thrice holy most high creator God as His brother, bride and son? A joint heir with Christ, seated in heavenly places in Him.

    To Caleb ladies and gentlemen this is “EMPTY” and “DEVOID OF REDEMPTION” because there’s not enough “art”. Please do hear as much charity as I am able to conjure when I say that we are in even more trouble than I thought if this is the future of the western church.

    Caleb says: “For all those wondering about the growth of the “nones” and the missing “Millennials” look no further than the views espoused by many in this thread.”
    The only thing I wonder about is how best to faithfully execute my privilege as ambassador of Christ in the earth Caleb. Your namesake would weep if he saw your words here. Read 1st Corinthians 1. The gospel is SUPPOSED to be foolish and stupid and simple to the natural mind. Jeremiah is one of my all time heroes of the faith. He preached 40 years to an adulterous backslidden Israel and NObody listened. His success was measured exclusively in his obedience to the word of the LORD his God. NOT by who liked what he was saying.

    There is one faith, one Lord, one baptism. It is about raising men dead in sin to new life in Christ and thereby rescuing them from the terrible wrath of a holy God. His faithfulness in the keeping of that ancient covenant in other words. I say again. With all possible charity. People all hung up on “art” talk just like you do.

  34. Caleb says:

    Yes, the Bible talks about the gospel being foolishness to the natural mind. But I see too many Christians taking this to mean that the presence of any pushback or criticism that they receive is somehow a vindication of their actions or views. That is not always true.

    In any case, the things that you are trying to read into what I am saying about art are not at all reflective of me. I have clearly not expressed myself well to you. But the license you have taken with your interpretation and conclusions about what I said is unjustified. We are obviously misunderstanding and speaking past each other. All the best.

  35. Caleb says: “I have clearly not expressed myself well to you.”
    In many cases I have met a man half way and said that “well maybe I was hasty in my conclusions”.
    Nothing to do with you personally, but this is not going to be able to be one of those times. I VERY carefully read what you said before writing my response and have VERY carefully done so again. Indeed. If my response is inaccurate then you have not expressed yourself clearly. Or more to the point, you HAVE expressed what you did not intend.

    Can I prevail upon you to point me to some places where you hang out with like minded folks and you are talking amongst yourselves to get a better gauge of your worldview? Even better would be your own page if you have one. OR, someone with whom you are in mostly substantial agreement. That would be very helpful AND save you a lot of typing.

  36. Wayne Wilson says:

    “If you read the songs of David and Solomon, you’ll find out that the first and foremost desire that God seeks in those who come to Him is truth. That is at the core, m. Wilde. That is His desire. Then there’s the description of beauty at its best. He called the people to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness — these two are inseparable. When beauty is bounded by holiness, the artist soars to the highest. The further one gets from holiness, the greater the potential of violating beauty. Nothing profane can ever be beautiful. The artist who celebrates profanity dabbles in the hideous and the hurtful. You see, M. Wilde, before anything is offered to man, it must first be offered to God. That which God cannot receive because of its vileness must never be offered to a human being for his corruption.

    — Imagined conversation of Blaise Pascal with Oscar Wilde in Ravi Zacharias’ Sense and Sensuality.

    1. Caleb says:

      Above one of the doors on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, there is a depiction of the last judgement. The depiction includes angels and the righteous as well as Satan, demons, and the damned. That’s all I’m really arguing for. That is the truth in art that Ravi is writing about, which comes before beauty.

      I wonder if Ravi read at least one book or poem by Wilde before writing that paragraph? I bet he did.

      1. Wayne Wilson says:

        Of course he did. Books that probably don’t include photographs of models.

      2. Wayne Wilson says:

        Zacharias goes on…

        Wilde: Beauty and holiness — not exactly topics that stir the average person, are they, M. Pascal?

        Pascal: No. That’s because holiness maintains the distance between God and humanity. The artist who refuses to keep that distance goes, in effect, against the very essence of God.

        Wilde: But this is where I take offense. Is art really in the realm of the imagination? (How I hate that word, imagination!) Maybe there’s more pretense in life than in art. The imagination thrives on liberties that the intellect cannot always afford. Why are you so afraid to give the artist free reign over his creations?

        Pascal: Afraid, did you say? Is that the best word you can find for calling the imagination to be submissive to the very Creator of the universe? It may be precisely because the artist who fears nothing or no one makes fearsome expressions of art. Are you really saying there are no absolutes to limit the imagination? Are you really saying it has no effect on the viewer or the listener?

        1. Caleb says:

          What do you think the practical implications of Ravi’s views are? (which I think is as arbitrary as any other view).

          Also, is your problem nudity, full stop? Or any suggestion of fake sex on screen? Or seeing fake sex on screen?

          1. Wayne Wilson says:

            The practical implications are that women should be respected, not used. They should be allowed to work their craft without being undressed, or humiliated, or forced to act out sexually. They should not be made to cause others to stumble in the area of lust, a sin for which they will be judged on the last day. They should not have their images forever enshrined on pornographic web-sites, where ALL Hollywood nude scenes go. Their bodies should not become part of lascivious director’s and technician’s private collections. Modesty outside the marriage chamber is what is true and right for all people.

            There is nothing arbitrary about this view. It is founded directly upon Scripture in every way.

          2. I hate to bring Godwin’s Law into the mix, but what about Schindler’s List? The nudity in Holocaust movies is historically accurate, and it’s not sexually appealing in any way.

            I also think it’s a bit sexist it to assume that women who appear in nude scenes feel humiliated or forced into doing sex scenes. Lena Dunham sure doesn’t feel forced to do them, since she writes them. And on the other hand, there are many actresses who refuse to do sex scenes and have very successful careers, like Reese Witherspoon and Cameron Diaz.

          3. Wayne Wilson says:

            Vagabond, I worked in Hollywood for many years, if you don’t believe pressure is put on actresses to strip and be handled, you are extremely naive. In fact, actresses that won’t are extremely limited in the roles available to them, unless they have “made it” and insist that poor “body doubles” be used.

            Of course, not all women are “forced” into doing nude and sex scenes. Some are so jaded already, they have given themselves over to sin and have been taught to use sex to get ahead. Lena Dunham is on another level, doing what Amos Vogel talked about years ago…using nudity to attack fundamental religious truths about humanity. She is a proud fornicator and God denier. Her nudity is thumbing her nose (and other things) at God.

            As to Schindler’s List, you must have seen the High School version. But I will quote Steven Spielberg about even the “historically accurate” camp nudity. (What an amusing idea — historically accurate nudity. I suppose everyone in every story can be shown nude with that rationale…since most people change their clothes or take a bath now and then, and lovers tend to have sex.)

            Spielberg: “The worst days came any time I had to have people take their clothes off and be humiliated and reduce themselves to livestock. That’s what tore me up the most. It was the worst experience of my life.” So the film-god himself says he humiliated people…just not enough to refrain himself. Think about that for awhile —“The worst experience of my life.” That’s saying something.

            Had Mr. Spielberg a little more creative power, he could have suggested the nudity without humiliating human beings, as other holocaust movies have done successfully — The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, for example. That film was hardly less powerful. In fact, it’s better art, because nudity always reminds people they are watching a movie.

            The holocaust has a long history for being used to break down cinematic norms, going all the way back to The Pawnbroker.” It is not a sufficient justification however. In fact, based on Spielberg’s own take on it, a reason emerges not to treat humans beings that way.

          4. Caleb says:

            What is arbitrary about Ravi’s principle is the idea that all art must only be about (or even contain, from that excerpt) beauty and holiness. Those things require contrasts, anyway. In any case, what you said is a narrow interpretation of what Ravi is saying.

            Where is that Spielberg quote from? Do you have a citation?

            I also think that you have in mind a very different kind of nudity/sex scene than I am talking about as being legit.

            And what of male nudity?

            And again, is it just nudity that is your problem?

          5. Caleb says:

            I found it. From Time Magazine. The article continues immediately after that quotation:

            “Embeth Davidtz agrees. She was in one of these scenes, nude, her head shaved. “It’s not like a love scene where you disrobe and there’s something in the moment. Here I’m standing there like a plucked chicken, nothing but skin and bone.” That is to say, stripped of human dignity.”

            I don’t think that the quote has quite the universal meaning for Spielberg that you are giving it.

          6. Wayne Wilson says:

            Caleb, I’ll just take these people for what they are saying. If you don’t think they mean what they say, Ravi or Spielberg, not much I can do with that. You offer no alternative explanations. I’m not sure you’re understanding Ravi’s comments. Maybe you could read the book. it’s fairly short. Better yet, read Pascal.

            Are you married? Do you have a sister?

            The simple point is that in the Bible, nudity outside of marriage is a shameful condition…always…no exceptions. It doesn’t have to be sexualized, though I agree that’s worse. It’s shameful. Why not join with Shem and Japheth and treat people with respect and dignity?

          7. Caleb says:

            If Ravi is not saying what I think he is saying, then can you tell me what you interpret him to be saying? I can only interpret what I get from the excerpts that you posted here.

            My point about Spielberg is that the he felt bad about the whole thing – about having people reenact the humiliation of victims of the Holocaust who had been totally dehumanized. It isn’t the nakedness per se, but nakedness in this broader context. As for whether or not it was worth it, you would have to ask the people who participated. Spielberg says that the creative process was difficult and troubling, but not necessarily wrong. And were those who participated all forced to do so? Or promised a film role in the future? I would be willing to bet that most of them think that their participation was worthwhile because they were illustrating what happened to people in the camps. They were making a vital document, as Spielberg said of the film. Sure, there is a place for films like the Boy With the Striped Pajamas. But there is also a place for SL.

            The Bible mentions prophets being instructed to prophesy naked. You could argue that the intention was to illustrate shame. But was their act sinful, if commanded by God? Or was it, well, kind of like art? Perhaps we could think of God as the director in those cases? The moral judgment of the fact of nudity depends on the context, both in the Bible and now.

            My point is that the Bible is not as cut and dry on this issue as you make it out to be. Again, I’m not arguing in favor of pornography of any sort, not of the gratuitous.

          8. Caleb says:

            The last sentence should read “…nor of the gratuitous.”

          9. Wayne Wilson says:


            Did I give the impression Spielberg would say it was “wrong”? Spielberg didn’t say it was “wrong”. He imposed it on people. He is an unbeliever. He has no problem with immorality. He didn’t have a problem with people actually acting out explicit sexual situations either. People in Hollywood enjoy that sort of thing. But he did realize that he was doing something grievous to people in the mass scenes. He wasn’t talking about the original victims of the Nazis, but about what he “had to do” to people right in front of him. “Humiliated” and reduced to “livestock” were the words he chose.

            Schindler’s List is not sacred. It’s just a movie. It does make people cry (emotions again). It did inform some people about the Holocaust, except that its indecency has kept the people who need to see it most away from it…Moslems. He should have thought of that. The nudity adds nothing to it.

            You aren’t arguing for pornography of any sort? I thought this whole thread was about your defense of WOWS, which is outright pornographic. And why do these scenes all end up up on pornographic web-sites? Can you imagine what it is like for a women to have her image on porn sites forever? Their images don’t end up on artistic web-sites…porn websites.

            The Bible is absolutely cut and dry on this matter. No, “prophets” did not go naked. The idea that Isaiah was completely naked is a fun thing for modern preachers to say, but it is not supported by the text or most commentators, especially those who lived before the modern movie era. If Isaiah was fully naked (which is very unlikely) it was to express shame. The text actually mentions what he was commanded to remove. Undergarments were not included. He was “under-dressed” not nude.

            You didn’t answer if you had a wife or sister.

          10. FYI Wayne, Spielberg is Jewish. If you’re claiming that Jewish people have no moral code, then you’re saying that the Bible itself is immoral, since pretty much everybody in it is Jewish, and the Jews were God’s chosen people.

            Filming scenes depicting the Holocaust were emotionally wrenching for him because he was Jewish, and the nude scene were the hardest because they made the subjugation of the Jews more stark. It’s one thing to cram a bunch of people in a camp; it’s another to force them to strip down naked. But that’s what happened.

            I think your argument shows how convoluted fundamentalist morality can be (showing people getting tortured and killed is okay, but nudity makes the movie offensive? Seriously?)

          11. Wayne Wilson says:

            Vagabond. That is perhaps the most irrational response to anything said in this long thread.

            Spielberg is Jewish. People in the Bible are Jewish. Jews are not sinners.

            Remarkable logic that. Unfortunately, the entire story of the Jews in the Bible is that the vast majority of them ignored the moral code of the Bible at their own whims. That’s why they, and we, need a Savior.

          12. Wayne Wilson says:

            And Vagabond, as far as people getting tortured or killed onscreen verses stripped naked, it is Mr. Spielberg himself who makes the difference clear. He says filming the humiliating mass nudity was the “worst day of his life” and says nothing of filming Schindler’s famous shots to the head. It’s not Fundamentalist morality that informs his emotions, it is the obvious reality that violence in film is play-acting, while nakedness is more than that…it is shameful self-exposure. That, by the way, is why casting notices in Hollywood say things like “nudity required” but never say “being shot a must.” One involves the performer in a personal way the other does not. If you read your Bible you will know why these things are not the same.

          13. Caleb says:


            I hope you don’t actually mean to say that unbelievers have “no problem with immorality.” Just because a non-Christian may not agree with you on every act that you might consider to be immoral does not mean that they have no problem with immorality at all. The statement as it stands is just nonsense. Schindler’s List seems to have a moral message.

            I also don’t see anything wrong with thinking that part of Spielberg’s discomfort as a Jewish man was the re-enactment of the humiliation and genocide of the Jewish people. I also don’t see where CV says/implies that “Jews are not sinners.” He is merely saying that they aren’t devoid of morality, which should not even need to be said. You seem to be suggesting that his discomfort was some unconscious idea that nudity as such is wrong, but there is nothing to suggest that. It is the totality of the scene and its context that made him feel terrible.

            I should also make clear that I have no stake in defending Schindler’s List per se. While I recognize its achievement, I often argue against its merit with friends. The Pianist is a much better film about the Holocaust, in my view. But I am interested in defending it against the charge of immorality simply because it depicts nudity. And your dismissal of the idea that it contains “historically accurate nudity” is strange. Of course it does when we’re talking about the Nazi persecution of the Jews (and others). You also will not get any argument from me that Steven Spielberg (of all directors) is primarily interested in the emotions. That does not mean that film itself primarily/essentially appeals to the emotions, nor does it condemn the directors that I cited. See David Denby on the emotionalism of Les Miserables – plenty of people in film are aware of the danger of base, out of context emotional appeal. And even still, SL is not just about the emotions.

            It is also a very strong claim to say that “Spielberg imposed it on people.” Everyone in that film knew what they were signing up for.

            As for Wolf of Wall Street, I don’t particularly have an interest in defending it either. I realize that it is the film that caused Wax to write, but I am speaking out against the retrenchment that is going on in evangelicalism, which uses the most extreme examples to advance an anti-art argument in the guise of a “return to scripture.”

            From what I have read, Wolf of Wall Street probably goes too far, but I do not think that the film should erase Scorsese’s legitimate contribution to American cinema. And I can’t say for sure that it does cross a line, nor that it is pornography. Are you absolutely sure that these scenes are meant to arouse the audience? Is there no story of which they are a part? Are they meant to disgust? To warn? In any case, the comments made here suggest more than a problem with the extremes of Wolf…Your friend Greg thinks that “A River Runs Through It” is inappropriate for Christian eyes and ears.

            Even in your comment, you cannot say for sure that Isaiah was not naked. An ancient Greek would probably think that he was and a Victorian gentlemen would think “surely not!” The Bible is not as clear as you say on the matter and your remark about expressing shame is exactly my point. God/Isaiah was using nudity (as was Micah and perhaps Saul?) to make a point. Kind of like art. And we should acknowledge that Bible commentators from “before the modern movie era” are just as culturally embedded as contemporary commentators are. Lots of Bible commentators before the modern movie era were convinced that the Bible “was clear” about the morality of slavery, etc. So we should read them, but appeals to tradition alone aren’t compelling to me.

            I don’t think that whether or not I have a wife/sister is relevant. And I try to keep personal details to a minimum online. Anyway, the argument that you would make if I said that I did would be an emotional one, and you don’t seem to value those.

            If an evolutionary biologist takes Ken Ham out of context to make an argument for evolution, does that make Ken Ham an evolutionist? The same goes for non-pornographic nudity in cinema that ends up on a pornographic website. I would be willing to bet that most instances that I would defend don’t end up on porn sites.

          14. Wayne Wilson says:

            I’ll take that bet, Caleb, in a heartbeat. Name one film with a woman undressed in it, and we will make a gentleman’s bet. It has to be something that even a pornographer would have heard of.

            Now, let’s dispense with the sillier claims. I didn’t say Spielberg had no morality at all regarding any matter. We are talking about lust (a Christian moral issue) and fornication (a common religious moral issue). He doesn’t care about those things in his own life. Yes, Mr. Spielberg believes genocide is immoral.

            His discomfort on SL was that he “had to” humiliate the people in the film. Those are his words, but you may dance around them all you wish. Why do you think he did not have that level of discomfort seeing them shot if it was about the original people, not the people in front of him?

            Now, as to emotions. Film appeals to the emotions. It cannot sustain an extended rational argument, it can only illustrate a thought or two in a way that brings it home to the heart. Yes, a film can be made that does not appeal to the emotions — those are the ones people don’t go see. I’m not talking about Yoko Ono’s peripatetic fly.

            It does not matter what Scorcese intended with his movie. Director’s often don’t intend to cause the mayhem they do. Scorcese thought Taxi Driver was anti-violence until he saw it in a theater and witnessed the audience delighting in the mayhem he created. He thought the film would be “like some strange California therapy session. That was the instinct I went with, but its scary to think what happens with the audience.” Of course, then he went on to make Goodfellas and Cape Fear, so I think his claim of horror at the audience’s reaction may have been somewhat self-serving. It’s hard to tell when these guys are blowing smoke or telling their real intentions. I would suggest he is a poor artist if he is so wrong about human nature that he can’t tell what the reaction to his work will be.

            I certainly don’t think he cares if people are aroused and tempted sexually by the images he creates. He does not have any moral scruples IN THAT AREA. (I made that bold so no one would think I said he has no moral scruples at all.) I am reasonably sure he enjoys those moments on the set seeing women that way. That’s the norm in Hollywood. In fact, they often film nude scenes they know won’t be used just for the fun of getting actresses naked. They keep those images, too, by the way. I’ll bet there are much worse scenes in existence than even those used in WOWS. As long as you’ve paid the girl, you might as well get out of her all you can, right?

            It is a poor dodge to say I don’t like emotional arguments. How certain actions affect people lives is not an emotional argument, though it should cause an emotional response as any cruelty or injustice should. Is it wrong to ask a person who thinks slavery is not that bad how they would feel if their loved ones were enslaved? I don’t think you see performers as sufficiently real, so I wanted to personalize my point. Personalizing it doesn’t make it an emotional argument. My guess is you would be troubled in some way if your sister’s image or wife’s image became fodder for male lust on the internet forever. If those relationships are not in your life, it may be harder for you.

            I explained textually why the prophet Isaiah was not naked. The burden is on you to show otherwise. I gave you a “possible” because it still supports the reality of shame, which you deny about nudity in other contexts. Is it shameful or not? Try for consistency here. Then, find a place in Scripture where it is even possible to read into a text where God asks a woman to be naked publicly.

            Your Ken Ham analogy is weak. Public nudity is itself a violation of a God-given norm. It is subversive in itself, as Amos Vogel pointed out years ago. By your logic, nothing would be pornographic, no matter how explicit or how long, if the director’s intent wasn’t to arouse. Is that what you believe?

          15. Caleb says:

            We are so far apart on so many issues around film, culture, and the human form, Wayne. I think it is useless to keep going, responding to ever increasing points. I could sit here and respond with disagreement and counterpoint to almost every one of the points that you just made. And then you would sit down and disagree with all of my points, endlessly.

            I’ll leave you with some folks who approximate my view as it relates to Christianity (though not entirely):

            My point in even commenting on this blog post was to say that as humans we can respond to art without some ulterior motive of cultural engagement. That’s it. I’m not a Hollywood apologist – it hasn’t given us much excellence since the 1970s, though there are some exceptions. There are plenty of sleazy people there, too.

            The world just isn’t so simple (nor is the Bible) to say that we ought absolutely to avoid nudity (or violence) in art -a view that is expressed by some of the folks in the link above. Universal avoidance, I think, is actually more dangerous than the case for context and engagement that I think is right. You’re entitled to the view that nudity can only be about shame or lust, but I don’t share it. I am married and I have a sister, as do many other folks who share my view.

            Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Nostalghia”. I highly recommend it.

          16. Wayne Wilson says:

            I have appreciated the discussion, Caleb. I will be using some of this in a conference this Saturday on Holy Freedom: Using Our Liberty in Christ for His Glory. So I thank you.

            I don’t believe we disagree as much as you think. I love art. I love cinema. I love God more. I love His word more. And I love people more. Art is good in of it itself, if man’s depravity is respected in its creation and its effect. Cultural engagement is fine as long as it doesn’t involve sin. That’s the issue, and the only issue.

            Yes, it was a long conversation, and hopefully helpful to other readers. It took that long, as such things often do, for me to get down to the key questions…the ones you would not answer.

            I do want to say this. I asked Caleb about his wife and sister, because I wanted to know how he would feel if they performed in a movie like his favorite Holocaust movie…The Piano. In this movie, actress Holly Hunter had to not only undress, but be handled by a man she is not married to, and simulate sexual intercourse in very explicit ways. This does not offend Caleb. I would submit, with all the saints of the past who have written about these matters, that this experience was bad for her soul, her womanhood, her relationships with men. Her “acting” ended up on pornographic websites where it will be viewed and “used” for her entire life and long after she is dead.

            I asked Caleb if he had a wife or sister for a reason. It would be fruitful for all of us to think about how we would feel if a woman dearly loved by us was in a scene like this (her modesty taken away, handled sexually by another man while others watched, the image placed forever in the hands of degenerates for their voyeuristic pleasure). We should consider if we would extend that same love, that desire to cover and protect our own to a stranger tangled in the mire that is the movie business, compromising her heart and soul, probably in ways she can and cannot perceive, to be able to work in her chosen craft. Yes, the Golden Rule applies even to those we hire to act for us. Caleb says no standards apply here (or he can’t say what they are if there are any). I say let’s take our standards from the plain teaching of Scripture, supported by all the great saints who have gone before us. Wake up, and shake off the world. “It is shameful to even speak of the things that are done by them in secret.”
            It’s the word of God. I highly recommend it.

            I will close with the thoughts of the great Oscar winning actress Greer Garson, who said, winsomely and wisely, “I’m not a keyhole peeper in real life, and I don’t go to the cinema to be a keyhole peeper.” That says it pretty well. One would think the godly would have that basic sensibility.

  37. Caleb says: “I would be willing to bet that most of them think that their participation was worthwhile”
    I’d be willing to bet that 0% of them consulted the word of God from a believing perspective before doing so. There’s is no Christian excuse for Schindler’s List. I now return you to the very capable hands of Pastor Wilson.

  38. Christian Vagabond says: “I think your argument shows how convoluted fundamentalist morality can be (showing people getting tortured and killed is okay, but nudity makes the movie offensive? Seriously?)”
    Ya know why you can ask a question like this? Because you have literally NO concept of what marriage, family and sex means to God. None. Your blog makes that excruciatingly clear. This is a symptom. Sorry for the interruption Wayne.

  39. Hal says:

    Caleb, the only non-pornographic nudity is that found in medical literature.

    1. Caleb says:

      What’s the difference?

      1. Hal says:

        We all know the difference between instruction for medical personnel and bait for lust.

  40. Caleb says:

    Just to be clear: Wayne, CV, and I were talking about the scenes of concentration camp nudity in Schindler’s List. Do you think that those scenes are “bait for lust”?

    1. Hal says:

      They certainly could be. And although the same is true for medical photographs/films, there is at least a compelling reason to produce them, and their primary purpose is education.

      Also, the only reason SL came into this argument was for the sake of argument. We all see that.

    2. Wayne Wilson says:

      Is having a large group of unrelated men and women standing around
      together nude for extended periods of time a bait for lust? I would guess most likely.

  41. Caleb says:

    Then you don’t actually think that “the only non-pornographic nudity is that found in medical literature.”

    1. Hal says:

      Right. Just kidding about medical literature.
      There is no non-pornographic nudity. At all.

  42. Caleb says: “Your friend Greg thinks that “A River Runs Through It” is inappropriate for Christian eyes and ears.”
    The conversation you are referring to is among myself and alleged orthodox Presbyterians who are required to affirm the Westminster standards for admittance into that denomination. The honcho over there is an ELDER in that communion and in previous generations would have been excommunicated for his lax permissive morality. Here is my point for those who still take the word of almighty God seriously.
    From IMDB for “A River Runs Through it”.

    “Throughout the movie, frequent use of “J—s C—-t” and “G-d” being taken in vain, as well as”G-d d–m”

    The third commandment from the 20th of exodus verse 7 and the larger catechism:
    Q. 111. Which is the third commandment?
    A. The third commandment is, Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

    Q. 112. What is required in the third commandment?
    A. The third commandment requires, that the name of God, his titles, attributes, ordinances, the word, sacraments, prayer, oaths, vows, lots, his works, and whatsoever else there is whereby he makes himself known, be holily and reverently used in thought, meditation, word, and writing; by an holy profession, and answerable conversation, to the glory of God, and the good of ourselves, and others.

    Q. 113. What are the sins forbidden in the third commandment?
    A. The sins forbidden in the third commandment are, the not using of God’s name as is required; and the abuse of it in an ignorant, vain, irreverent, profane, superstitious, or wicked mentioning or otherwise using his titles, attributes, ordinances, or works, by blasphemy, perjury; all sinful cursings,…”

    What matters is that THEY claim to be the theological and spiritual children of the men who wrote that catechism. I say that the giants who wrote that catechism would denounce and disown these modern day worldly wise men ON THE SPOT. That man over there, after advocating not only WOWS, but Shame (NC-17) and Don Jon and others FILLED with nudity and sex, also declared as his favorite, one with “frequent” blasphemies “throughout”. God is not impressed with how many groovy books you’ve read or artsy shfartsy movies you can discuss Caleb. He is concerned about HIS NAME. Do you have any concept of that whatsoever? Wayne can handle the rest. I only addressed this because you mentioned me.

  43. (also from that other site)
    The principle I’ve been emphasizing here has NOTHING to do with whether YOU lust. Nothing. It has everything to do with whether there is anything in the movie it would be sin for you or your family to perform. IF there is, it is sinful for you to watch and thereby promote and finance the sin of others. Let’s take Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave. I’ve seen neither and have no desire to. Are there scenes that you would not wish your wife (or children) to perform? Or that your wife (or children) would not wish you to perform?
    From the above 2 mentioned films, Schindler’s List and 12 Years a Slave, can somebody please set forth for me an essential truth of God that they have gained from those movies that I am lacking in never having seen them?
    I say again. If YOU or your family could not do or say what is required in the production of ANY ANY ANY film, regardless of how profound or otherwise seemingly beneficial, then it is sinful hypocrisy for you to pay others to do it for you. This includes Schindler’s List, 12 Years a Slave and ABSOLUTELY ANY other film ANYbody can EVER name. There has not been, nor can there EVER be an argument from scripture or the reformed standards to overcome that principle. Full stop. Game over.

    As you’ve noticed Caleb, like you, they don’t wanna talk about that either.

  44. Caleb the man you link to above is the very last person on the face of God’s green earth I would go to for ANYTHING having to do with the things of the Lord. He ranked Wolf of Wall Street 3rd best movie of 2013. I won’t say much more fear of the wrath of Trevin (respectfully), but he is well known to me and an utter Biblical hack with zero concern for or skills in the scriptures whatsoever. You’ll see there is no scripture there. Just like Wilkinson’s article. Never is. 1st Corinthians 1 on full display. That is not sarcastic, that’s just the truth.

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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