Last weekend I spoke on leadership. The main point that I wanted everyone to understand was that while we might not all be called to leadership positions at work, church or even home, we are all called to display the characteristics of leadership. (more…)
Archive for January, 2009
After my book review earlier this week, I thought I’d follow up on some of my thoughts on media.
I noted there that I thought the book could have gone further in a number of points, and I mentioned the excuse that the person making the excuse saw through.
There are other excuses that were not covered – such as the notion of needing "time to blob". Saints in previous generations didn’t have TV or movies as a blob tool and used the time for more productive activities, so this notion in my opinion is a relatively hollow excuse that reveals a self-centeredness beneath the surface. A further rebuttal of the "blob" excuse is that if you are watching TV or movies to blob, you are hardly going to be engaging your brain enough to analyse and discern whether you even should watch the content before you.
Taking a look at content
In terms of examining content, there are some very clear guidelines in scripture that we can take into consideration when thinking about what we should or should not watch. The first one is "what does Christ think of this content?" To discover this, one thing we can do is to examine the Word of God looking for the things that God does and does not approve of. Passages such as the following should be high on our list of things to consider:
"You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord." (Lev 19:12)
If we love the Lord with all our hearts (or say we do), shouldn’t using His name as a curse word be something that is offensive to us? And if it is offensive, should we be entertaining ourselves with these movies or TV programs? This seems to be a major inconsistency.
"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination." (Lev 18:22)
Media glorifying homosexuality is promoting something that is an abomination to the Lord – should we entertain ourselves with this?
"A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God." (Deut 22:5)
This would speak to media promoting cross dressing (e.g. Priscilla Queen of the Desert) – if God despises it, perhaps we should view it just as critically?
"For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God." (Deut 25:16)
There seems to be an increasing number of movies that fail to portray, never mind promote a biblical view of justice (think Oceans 11 for example).
"There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you." (Deut 18:10)
This would speak to movies and TV that glorifies magic, witchcraft and other cultic practices – which today is a wide number.
Now, I need to state here that I’m not trying to be legalistic. As Christians we are called to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 10:12, Mark 12:30). The problem is that in the west we have to contend with the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions (1 John 2:15-17), and watching media that glorifies these very desires, while promoting that which our Lord hates seems to make a mockery of what we say we believe, not to mention that it seems far from Paul’s encouragement to:
"…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires." (Rom 13:14)
How does this work?
For what it is worth, It might be helpful to explain how we work things in our household.
Firstly we don’t have programmed TV in the home. We have a small TV downstairs, but it is not connected to an aerial, satellite dish or other receiver. IMHO TV is simply not worth the advertisements and the effort to figure out what is worth watching and what is not, so we choose not to have programmed TV in the home at all.
When it comes to movies, we do have a few in the home. These are movies that have no blasphemy in them, and which do not glorify things that God deems an abomination. This does not mean we have no movies with magic in the house – what it means is that if a movie conveys magic as a good thing or even something neutral that can be used for good, it is not a movie we will have in the house.
We are quite critical of what we have, and sometimes catch something we hadn’t heard (or seen) before – in this case the movie in question goes in the bin (unless of course it was hired – which we rarely do)
Needless to say, there are not many movies in the house (which is fine with me) and the movies we do have in the house are generally children’s movies or documentaries.
Obedience in spite of how we feel
It is also noteworthy, that we may not feel convicted about what we watch and regard it as sin, in fact we are generally hardened to them. However, underneath the hardness, the Spirit of God is there and He gives us a desire to honour the Lord which we need to allow to inform our "feelings". More on this another time.
Each of us is responsible before the Lord for the media we watch and the media we let our children watch. I hope these thoughts can help you in your considerations of what media you consume and ultimately serve you in your walk with Christ.
I’ve just finished reading a number of books and thought I might post a few reviews over the coming weeks.
The first is called "Worldliness" and is written by a collection of Sovereign Grace authors and edited by C J Mahaney. It has a Foreword by John Piper and its endorsements are a who’s who of contemporary evangelicalism.
Overall I enjoyed this book. I particularly liked the chapters "God, my heart and my stuff" and "God, my heart and my clothes". These are both very thorough chapters on their topic and will serve all readers well.
Clothes – well covered
As a father of three girls "God, my heart and my clothes" gave me a lot to consider – particularly as my girls are getting to the age that they will begin caring about clothes more in the coming years. This chapter is written both to women and men and occasionally asks "do you" questions – to women, although I can’t help but wonder what proportion of the books readers will be women as compared to men. Having said that, I hope that every God fearing woman would read this book, as I fear few seem to understand the temptation that men wanting to walk holy lives undergo on a daily basis due to the way many women clothe themselves. This chapter is a very honest and well aimed discussion on modesty much needed in the church today.
Does it go far enough?
The biggest disappointment for me in this book was really a very minor point that I would make with regards to the chapters "God my heart and my music" and "God, my heart and media". At the end of the day I personally would have put a little more emphasis on where entertainment fits into the daily priorities of a person seeking to honour God. The chapter on media did at least ask questions about how much time is spent watching movies and TV, but both chapters focused dominantly on the content we listen to rather than asking the believer how the Lord would like them to fill their time.
In addition some points that should have been made more of were in my opinion left hanging. For example when Craig Cabaniss recounts the following his conclusion seems to miss the point he is making:
Recently, a lady in our church communicated to me her resistance to the idea of curbing media consumption; she believed that viewing current TV programs and movies enabled her to better relate to the lost. But she came to question her own reasoning: "Am I lowering my standards to stay up to date with our culture while not really reaching anyone by doing so?" I respect her for her humility and honesty. She asks a discerning question (Worldliness, P45-46)
Craigs conclusion of this paragraph is summarised in the first sentence that follows it:
In reality, it isn’t necessary to be a media glutton to share the gospel effectively. (ibid, P46)
Craig is absolutely right. However, I would have gone a little further and pointed out that we can use all sorts of excuses (such as viewing current TV programs and movies" enables us to better reach the lost), however, most Christians spend an inordinately large proportion of time consuming media compared to the miniscule time we spend doing the work of the Lord.
There is much more to be said on what media we should watch and what should guide our content decisions. At the end of the day, I’m convinced that we are far too lax in what we watch considering what we say we believe, but I’ll save this for another post later this week.
Having said this, I’d like to reiterate that this is a small thing given what the book delivers overall. In reality taking a good look at the content we take in is a very good starting point, not to mention the transformation that will take place in the hearts of those who prayerfully consider the chapters on "stuff" and "clothes".
1 John 3:1 says "See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him".
I’ve heard this verse quoted numerous times to support the notion that God loves us so much that he calls us his children. This may be true (John 1:12), but is it really the intended meaning that John intended us to take from the passage?
Why are we Gods children?
When I recently read this verse I read it to say something along the following lines: "See what kind of love the Father has put in us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (translation mine). Clearly the Greek word translated "given" can’t be translated as "put in us" however, there are some good reasons to consider that this might be what John is getting at. In other words this is a passage that is designed to show us that God has given us of his love – that this love is in us through the indwelling Spirit of God and this makes us his children. We are not children only because he loves us, but more because we have his nature if we are born of Him (cf Phil 2:15, Rom 9:8, 1 John 3:10).
Why not "God loved us so much that He called us His children?"
In reality the view I’m taking shouldn’t change your theology significantly. However, I believe it suits the theme of 1 John better than the traditional view. For starters, only one other place in 1 John speaks of Gods love for us – and that is manifested through the propitiation (wrath bearing) of Christ on our behalf (1 John 4:9-10).
While it is absolutely true that God is love (1 John 4:8), the way love is often presented by well meaning believers is often inconsistent with the righteousness and holiness of God. Seeing the love that God has for us through the cross, means seeing the sacrifice and propitiation of wrath which leads to Gods grace. Without the propitiation of Christ and His atonement, God could not set His love on us. The love of God is generally not a "feel good about us" type of love – rather it is a benevolent, grace filled love that demonstrates the sovereignty and sufficiency of God – and Him alone. There is nothing lovable in us that motivates God – His motivation to love is solely based on His character.
Examining the context
In 1 John one of the themes of the book is the interdependence between the new birth, obedience to Christ and love for the brothers. Together this interdependence brings assurance of salvation which is one of the key purposes of John in writing (1 John 5:13).
If we examine the passage in 1 John 2:28-3:10 the passage starts by asserting that the one who is born of God practices righteousness (1 John 2:29), then John inserts a parenthesis in 1 John 3:1-3 which I believe should be read as Gods love in us. After this, he carries on to assert that the one born of God will practice righteousness and the one not born of God will practice sin (1 John 3:4-8).
In verse 9, John begins to wrap up this section by saying that one born of God cannot make a practice of sinning because he has Gods seed abiding in him. Then in verse 10 he sums up the passage by restating the main point: "by this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil". John is simply restating what Jesus said when he said "by their fruit you will know them" (Matt 7:16-20). He then gives the evidence "whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother". In this summary John states his main point is that one born of God will practice righteousness – but he also includes that believers will love their brothers. However, apart from 1 John 3:1-3 John hasn’t spoken of loving the brothers.
If we take the traditional view of this verse, it simply doesn’t fit this conclusion.
Narrowing it down
Not only this, but even verses 1-3 of 1 John 3 require this understanding of the verse.
Why would John state that the reason does not know us with regard to us being the children of God? If God loves us enough to call us the children of God, then why would it be obvious to the people around us who we are? However, if we have this love in us, then it should be obvious, which would then require this explanation – the world doesn’t recognise the love of God in us because it does not know God.
Furthermore, verse 2 is also helped. Gods love abiding in us makes us Gods children – "what we will be has not yet appeared" suggests that if we already have the love of God in us, what will we be like when we are perfected? What sort of channel will we be to display Gods character? We will see him as he is, so we will be like him – this is purifying.
The big picture
The big picture of 1 John is to assure believers by helping them understand the character of God that is in us (specifically one of righteousness – or obedience and love for those who have been born of God). Understanding that the love of the Father has been given to us through us abiding in Him, and by Him abiding in us.
One of the key differences between popular culture today and biblical Christianity is how we respond to our desires.