We have come a long way. Abraham Kuyper was one of the most profound and influential Reformed thinkers on matters of faith and life about one hundred years ago. His Lectures on Calvinism served as an impetus for Francis Schaeffer, and through him (and Carl Henry and others), for the whole evangelical move towards forming a comprehensive world-and-life view.
In the Lectures, he writes (and I paraphrase from memory), "On these three things, Calvinism places a distinct veto: dancing, playing cards, and the theatre.")
Not one hundred years later, most Reformed Christians (and others), look back, and think "How quaint." IN a cultural blink, we go from a complete ban on such things, to complete acceptance of them.
Now, don't stop reading, or throw away your Monopoly board. My point is not that Biblically serious Christians cannot dance, play games, or watch shows (movies, televisions, and plays). My point is that we need to start thinking about what we watch. Somewhere, we have gotten the idea that we can dredge about in the muck and dreck of the world for hour after hour during the week, and still think and act and feel Christianly?
Some Christians have over-reacted, and, as is always predictable with overreaction, fallen short. Some Christians will only read Christian literature, watch Christian movies, or listen to Christian music --almost all of which is junk, by any definition. I don't think it is providential accident that most good art and literature has not been done by Christians. But, that is a post for another time.
The question for today is: what may a Christian enjoy, of the world's entertainments? Is it wrong to listen to Beethoven, to read Twain, or to watch Spielberg?
Because of common grace, no. In other words, the world has some comprehension of truth and beauty, and God has gifted some unbelievers the ability to reflect his truth and beauty in profound ways.
But, as Christians, we need to think. All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable.
So, to wit, a few humble guidelines:
1.) Does this skew my moral compass? Does it cause me, even if only during the duration of the show/movie to call evil good, and good evil? For instance, did I cheer for Jim and Pam on the Office when they found out she was pregnant?
The great danger today is the normalization of homosexuality in media, in both drama (House, now Heroes), and comedy (The Office, Arrested Development). How will this shape the thinking of young people who watch these shows? How is it affecting ours?
2.) Does the show cause me to have the appropriate response to sin and tragedy? In other words, like Schindler's List, does it cause revulsion at evil, or do I end up cheering for morally ambiguous characters?
3.) Does it draw me into the sin? Nudity and sexual scenes in movies actually involve us in lust in a way that a murder on screen does not involve us in that sin. We find actual sexual pleasure in lust, and ought to avoid all sensual nudity in our entertainment.
4.) Should we avoid any stories with immorality in them? The issue is too subtle. The question is what the obvious intent of the author was. Crime and Punishment powerfully illustrates human depravity, but in a way that appalls us, and makes us averse to it (as only Russian novelists can). Porky's (or more recent incarnations of the same teen sex comedy idea) shows depravity, but in a way that draws us into it.
5.) Should profanity itself be a consideration? This is more difficult. Gratuitous profanity, used simply for its own sake, or for comedic value is certainly out of bounds, "let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth." Clark Gable's sole profanity in Gone With the Wind was uttered with devastating effect. It was the sentence of condemnation on the frivolity, triviality, self-absorbed and petty evil that was Scarlett O'Hara's life. An aside, we ought to be far more offended by the casual use of God's name ("O My God, Good Lord, Lordy, etc")than we are at scatalogic terms for bodily functions.
There are probably other considerations we can put into an entertainment matrix that will help us. The sad fact is that even these 4 principles will write off many, if not most, shows and movies.
I am being convicted of this in my own life, and thus I share it. Thoughts? There are certainly considerations I have missed, and I would like to know what they are.