It says something about the state of our Christian culture that blog articles like "Why Christians Should Avoid Watching Rape Scenes” and "Should Christians Watch Game of Thrones?” even need to be written. Yet, with the popularity of original content on Netflix, Hulu, HBO, etc., Christians are confronted with more and more entertainment options that include far more graphic sex and violence than what has been traditionally allowed on TV and in movie theaters. Unfortunately, these questions must be asked.
Recently, Kevin DeYoung wrote a short article on Gospel Coalition entitled, "I Don't Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones." It was concise and biblically informed, yet some of the responses on Twitter from those who disagreed with him were perplexing. Even if you disagree with my conclusions, hopefully these three excuses aren't of your reasoning:
“Isn’t the Bible full of sex and violence?”
Get into a discussion about sex and violence in TV shows, and someone is bound to whip out this excuse: “What if the Bible was fully dramatized? Imagine all the gratuitous sex and violence that would be depicted!”
Have you ever thought that maybe this is one reason why God gave us his revelation in written form? The medium used to communicate a message greatly influences that message. For example, reading a news article about a brutal rape wouldn’t influence you the same way as watching a graphic video of it. Yes, the Bible contains sex and violence, but to use that as a justification for filling your mind with explicit and gratuitous images is shameful. With the written word, you have the ability to decide how far your mind will go in visualizing the words you just read. With the visual, you don’t have that option. You see what you see, and it sticks with you.
In addition to this, it’s important to remember the reason why objectionable elements are included in TV shows and movies. Why do directors include sex in their shows and movies? Because they know you like it. Their goal is to give the audience what they want, and if the audience wants pornography in their entertainment, that’s exactly what they’re going to get. And executive producer for Game of Thrones once told the director on set, “I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene.” Do you think the Bible is trying to cater to the perv side of its audience when it includes objectionable elements? I don’t think so.
“You can’t have an opinion unless you see it for yourself.”
This is an easy way to discredit anyone who objects to Christians viewing immorality. For some reason, we think that the only way to have an opinion on something is to experience it for ourselves. But think about that statement. Is it really true that viewing immorality is the only way a Christian can come to the conclusion that it’s wrong?
This excuse completely ignores the God-given means by which Christians can grow in discernment. Is personal experience the only way to grow in discernment? Not according to God. Hebrews 5:13-14 says that the Word of God enables the Christian to “have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Because we have God’s Word, we can mature in our discernment without ever having to experience sin for ourselves, but it takes “constant practice,” not “casual reading.” Whose opinion is more credible in issues like this--someone who is deeply rooted in God’s Word or someone who is deeply rooted in personal experience?
“It doesn’t bother my conscience.”
For some, the only necessary test to determine the morality of a given activity is whether or not they can still sleep at night. In other words, “if it doesn’t bother my conscience, it can’t be wrong for me.”
While it is incredibly important to listen to one’s conscience (Rom 14; 1 Cor 8), we must keep in mind that a clear conscience doesn’t necessarily mean a correct conscience. There are a couple reasons why someone can sin without violating his conscience. First of all, his conscience may be seared (1 Tim 4:1-2). If you indulge in a sin for long enough, eventually it won’t bother you. In this case, you’re conscience isn’t clear--it’s numb. A second reason why someone can sin with a “clear” conscience is if his conscience is uninformed. The conscience is simply our reaction (the emotion) to the information we have (the mind) and our interpretation of that information (the will). If we have not informed ourselves thoroughly in God’s Word or have not interpreted that information correctly, we can’t depend on our conscience to be accurate. Even if you say you have prayed about it, a "feeling of peace" is not the same as Scriptural warrant. If you cannot explain to me how you have diligently sought the Scriptures to come to your conclusion, I wouldn’t trust your conscience if I were you.
The excuses we use reveal the danger in our thinking. May God use his Word, his Spirit, and his people to grow in spiritual discernment and holiness to the praise of his glory. It is for this purpose that he redeemed us.
Aaron Berry earned both his undergrad and MA in Bible at Bob Jones University. He, along with his wife, Hanna, and daughter, Brooklyn, currently live in Detroit, MI, where Aaron is pursuing his MDiv degree while serving as the Director of Recruitment at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary and working on staff at Inter-City Baptist Church. You can follow him on twitter @AaronMBerry
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