Movies and the Christian

The following are my comments on Brian Godawa’s justification of setting a wicked thing before one’s eyes (cf. Psalm 101:3). Godawa’s book ironically has the words, “wisdom” and “discernment” in its title:

“Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment.”

Godawa writes:

“Movies are visually dramatic stories, and in the Bible the dominant means through which God communicates his truth is visually dramatic stories — not systematic theology, or doctrinal catechism or rational argument.”

Movie entertainment and book reading (including Bible reading) are two entirely different activities, and movies are different from books. I fail to see how Godawa can use book reading to justify movie watching. Godawa is trying to equate them to some degree by his equivocal use of the phrase, “visually dramatic stories.”

“A survey of Scripture reveals that roughly 30 percent of the Bible is expressed through rational propositional truth and laws. While 70 percent of the Bible is story, vision, symbol and narrative. [1] Sure God uses words, rationality and propositions to communicate his message. But modern evangelicalism has not always recognized how important visual imagery, drama and storytelling are to God …. ”

Despite his seemingly disparaging remarks about systematic theology and doctrinal catechism, Godawa does concede that “God uses words, rationality and propositions to communicate his message.” Godawa is in the movie-making business and so he must seek to validate it from Scripture. Somehow historical narrative in the Scripture implies that movie making — and the visual imagery and drama that go with it — is “important … to God.”

“Consider the sense of awe at the majestic panoramic depiction of good battling evil in The Lord of the Rings. Remember the visual punch in the spiritual gut experienced through The Passion of the Christ as it incarnated the atonement imagery of Isaiah and the Gospels. The thousands of miracles that God performed for his people in the Bible were not mere abstract propositions, but ‘signs and wonders,’ sensate visual displays of God’s glory. [2]”

More accurately, it would be “evil battling evil” in The Lord of the Rings. But even if the movie made was a depiction of good David versus evil Goliath, there has to be an actor who is willing to think lightly of sin by pretending to commit it. I think the example given of “The Passion of the Christ” — and other so-called “Jesus” films — demonstrates the logic used. Which is that historical narratives in the Bible give one license to make movies about said narratives and the narrative of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ gives one a license to violate the second commandment and to have a wicked human being blasphemously pretend to be Jesus Christ.

” … It is one thing to rationally explain the concept of forensic justification, but the power of seeing Jean Valjean being forgiven in Les Miserables embodies that truth existentially like no theological exposition could…Isaiah broke the social taboos of modesty with R-rated shocking performance art as he walked around naked as a visual ‘sign and token’ of Israel’s shame (Is 20:2-4).”

[1] Of course, most of the propositional content and imagery is integrated with each other, so a strictly “scientific” separation is not possible. Both are necessary to God’s revelation, but the sheer comparison of volume is revealing.

[2] See Heb 2:4; Deut 6:22; Dan 4:1-3; Acts 14:3; 2 Cor 12:12.

Bible commentator, John Gill says that Isaiah was not naked, but still had a few garments on. But then Gill inconsistently says that those in 20:4 had their nakedness uncovered. Isaiah 20:3-4 says that “just as My servant Isaiah … so shall … ” I think things like the description of Gomer and Hosea and Samuel and Agag shed light on Isaiah 20:2-4. God commanded things that if one were to do them today would be the height of presumption.

If we grant that Isaiah walked naked — which the context (vs. 3-4) shows he did — then using Godawa’s reasoning, Isaiah 20:2-4 not only justifies making movies where one walks around naked, but it also justifies Christians walking around naked in order to “expose” the shamefulness of others (cf. Isaiah 20:4-5).

“….Is this some description of Monica Belluci or Halle Berry in a sexy thriller? On the contrary, it’s from Song of Solomon 7:1-3, 7-9.”

From Parnell McCarter’s site (puritans.net) I found out that Belluci is a porn star — thus I would strongly warn against googling her name where images are bound to appear. Godless Godawa, this is NOT akin to a “sexy thriller” or even a porn film you nefarious nit-wit.

“And Solomon does not merely dwell on married love in his portraits of sexuality in Scripture.” He also pictures a vividly sensual scene of adulterous seduction in Proverbs 7, complete with the detailed smells, sights and sounds of the moment: sensually exotic linens on the bed, sweet-smelling perfume and lustful whispers of enticement. It’s enough to make a reader’s erotic imagination spin wild. Solomon does this in order to lead the reader vicariously into the realistic experience of the surprise that occurs when the adulteress’s apparently sweet bed of “myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon” turns out to be an entrance to the “chambers of death.” This is something we can see in the Bible or in the movie Fatal Attraction, but I suspect neither will be available in the church library’s video section any time soon.”

Godawa exaggerates because he clearly has an agenda. Give me a break, Godawa. Proverbs 7 is NOT as vivid as you make it out to be. But why don’t you take your “logical car” and drive it the rest of the way and off the cliff by making an explicit pornographic movie in order to clue in the clueless of the danger of the “chamber of death.” Buffoon.

“… Think of it this way: is it not true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely that God drowned every person on the earth except for eight people (Gen 8)? Is it not of good repute, excellent and worthy of praise that God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and all their immoral inhabitants with fire and brimstone (2 Pet 2:6-9)? … To answer no to any of these questions is to ascribe dishonor, wrongness, impurity, and unlovely behavior to God himself. The implication is unavoidable: the depiction of evil and its destructive ends can be just as true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, excellent, and worthy of praise as can be the depiction of righteousness and its glorious ends …”

And it is true, honorable, right, pure, and lovely that Phinehas — not only by decree but also by precept (Numbers 25:5-8) — pierced two fornicators through with a spear. This depiction in Scripture of evil and its destructive ends by a righteous act by Phinehas (Psalm 106:28-31) is excellent and worthy of praise; but can Godawa demonstrate by sound and valid Scriptural logic how this fact justifies making a movie where actors and actresses reenact the Numbers 25:2-8 scene?

“….The context of the Psalm [101:3–CD] is an expression of David seeking to avoid “dwelling” amidst wicked, “worthless” men and their evil ways, versus the godly, who “walk in a blameless way.” Other Bible translations use the terms “wicked,” “vile,” or “base” for the Hebrew word translated “worthless” above.”

And by watching movies where people make light of sin, one is seeking to “dwell” amidst wicked and worthless men by intentionally viewing their evil ways.

“David is not saying that he will not look at an object or observe sinful behaviors; he is talking metaphorically about not desiring to live the lifestyle or achieve the goals of the wicked. A few verses later, he says, ‘My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land.’ His contrast here is not between art that shows wickedness and art that does not; it is between the goals of the wicked and the goals of the righteous. It is the intent this Scripture is talking about.”

One who enjoys watching movies where sin is glorified may not be desiring to live the lifestyle or achieve the goals of the wicked, but it certainly appears to endorse the lifestyle and goals of the wicked (cf. Romans 1:29-32 and 2:21-22). Suppose a professing Christian — taking his cue (in his twisted mind) from the Song of Solomon — wants to make a sexually explicit movie with the intent of glorifying the marriage bed. According to Godawa’s reasoning, this ought to be alright to do. After all, it’s all about the “intent.”

“By way of concession, I think it is safe to say that the goal or intent of pornography is worthless, wicked, vile and base, so we can certainly apply this Scripture to that kind of movie. But it is certainly not right to apply it to a movie like The Passion of the Christ, which depicts the worst, most heinous wickedness in all of history — the murder of the Son of God. Should we not set that movie of godly intent before our eyes?”

Godawa presupposes that a “godly intent” includes violating the second commandment. But why not have a movie made with the “godly intent” of exposing the wickedness of pornography? Why not (mis)use Proverbs 7 to show that that lifestyle leads to the chambers of death? Godawa needs to gulp down the reductio ad absurdum.

” … Does such ribald revelation of humanity’s darker side in Scripture justify exploitation of our prurient baser instincts? Are Christians defenseless against unbelievers who claim the Bible is X – rated and compare it to pornography? May it never be! Having laid down a rationale for the depiction of depravity, let us now qualify that rationale with context, context, context. And context makes all the difference between moral exhortation and immoral exploitation of sin….Exploitation in movies would amount to an unethical use of sex or violence unintended by Scripture. But what is the intent and extent of Scripture’s use of sex and violence?”

Hey, Godawa. Remember your idiotic comment about Belucci and a “sexy thriller”? According to info I culled from purtians.net, Belucci is a porn star who also played Mary Magdalene in Mel Gibson’s wicked “Passion of the Christ.”

Let’s go back to the example of Phinehas spearing fornicators in the tent. In the Bible, this is a moral exhortation against sin. But the trouble with a reenactment of this spearing is that while the alleged intention may be to expose and warn against fornication, it ends up being an immoral exploitation of sin in the process.

I mention the “apples and oranges” comparison between books (especially the Bible) and movies. A movie that intends to give moral exhortation by David’s defeat of Goliath will necessarily end up exploiting and making light of Goliath’s murderous words, etc. David’s violence towards Goliath was a righteous violence since God sanctioned it. But where is the sanction for us (or anyone else) to pretend to be David in a feature film?

“1. Intent. Most biblical spectacle is not exploitative in its intent. It is historical reporting on the highest ground. The storyteller cannot stop the evil that people do, but he can use that evil against them through eyewitness testimony. The writers expose man’s inhumanity to man for the purpose of moral instruction and with the intent of avoiding the doomed repetition of history …”

Most? Where exactly is it exploitative, Godawa?

“Apocalypto is an example of a movie that is an entertaining chase film about a man running for his life and trying to save his family from the barbaric Mayans in ancient South America. The gruesome historical realities of Mayan human sacrifice displayed in the movie is a powerful moral corrective to the politically constructed fiction of the peace-loving indigenous natives of the Americas. Indeed, in a broader sense, it decontructs the entire Rousseauean theory of the “noble savage” who is supposedly untainted by the “imperialistic Western civilization.” The violence of the film shatters that propaganda with a thundering punch in the political gut …”

But evidently, the wicked violence is NOT so heinous or repulsive as to prevent men from pretending to perform the wicked acts depicted in this film.

“2. Depiction. True, evil is depicted in Scripture, but not always through intimate detail or excessive indulgence. Humankind’s depravity is not emphasized more than our redemptive potential. Sin is a manifestation of the need for redemption, not an object of obsessive focus….The key is to ask some questions: Is this an educational approach to exposing evil? What are the context and consequences of the vice portrayed? Is it dehumanizing or humanizing? Does the movie celebrate evil, or does it ultimately condemn it? Is the sin displayed as an end in itself, or is it a part of the bigger picture that leads to redemption? Does the movie go overboard in detail, or is some detail necessary to emphasize the seriousness of our behavior?”

“Redemptive potential”? What does that mean? Anyway, I think I’ve endured — and you all with me — Godawa long enough. I thought of quoting Godawa because I recalled that many, many years ago he was a guest on “The Whitehorse Inn” with Horton and the usual contributors (Kim Riddlebarger, Ken Jones, Rod Rosenbladt).

I don’t remember much from this program, except for Horton mentioning something about “common grace” in connection with pop (i.e., “popular”) culture and Godawa saying that the director and writer for some wicked sadomasochistic movie called “Hell raiser” was a Christian (or a professing Christian). From a very brief perusal of Wiki — “very brief” because I don’t want to read descriptions of what the movie “Hell Raiser” entails — Clive Barker said that he believed in God and the after-life and got his ideas from the Bible (one more comment from me at the end of these Barker quotes):

“Although I’m not a member of any church, I am religious. I believe that the afterlife is a whole other journey. But I think humans are innately religious as a species, so you don’t need a specific excuse for examining the perversely unholy.”

“The truth is, I write religious fiction, though the phrase causes people to pale around the gills. Clearly fantasy and horror are often about the fundamental problems of existence. Horror itself is very often religious in its roots.

“Where else can you credibly deal with the absolutes of good and evil or probe life beyond the grave? Where else can characters converse with the dead? Those are the same tools of the metaphysician … ”

“But we live in a highly secular culture. At age 15 we cease to ask certain metaphysical questions, but we don’t cease to think about them. We’re shamed into silence, or we have to let them erupt at the death of a friend or the birth of a baby or see them subsumed by triviality, rendered crude and coarse by the vocabulary of the television evangelist. He takes the honest vocabulary of the metaphysician and turns it into dishonesty…But what’s maddening about the modern evangelist is that he assumes he’s the only one who has God whispering in his ear. God also whispers in my ear.”

“One side of the family was Catholic, the other was Protestant, so it cancelled itself out! I think that was good for me in the long run because, when I discovered religion, I discovered it on my own terms. I wasn’t given a strict religious upbringing of any kind. I was taken to church two or three times as a child only. So when I came to the Bible, when I came to the stories within it, I came to them because I wanted to, not because they were forced upon me. And these stories are very important to me now in my fiction, because very often there are biblical, religious roots to the stories I’m telling – images of Eden, images of the Apocalypse, images of seduction, and temptation and damnation and redemption. When I discovered the poet William Blake, that was revelation to me because he was a man who was essentially self-taught, who had discovered the Christ story on his own terms. He once said about one of his great enemies, “We both read the Bible day and night, but he reads black where I read white”, which is wonderful, you know, this whole idea that the religious stories in the Bible are personal, that they belong to each person who reads them.”

“Jung called this pool of common images and ideas ‘archetypes’, or a collective unconscious which transcends all human cultures and unites us. I am not a strict Jungian, but I believe these ‘archetypes’ exist and that they exist because they meet basic human needs. As a writer, I feel that I’m constantly accessing this shared pool of images and ideas. I may not even comprehend it as I do this. It very well may be subconscious.”

So, after watching this wicked horror/sexual/sadomasochistic fantasy film, Brian Godawa and Professor Horton might ask a group of young “budding Calvinist theology students”:

Professor: Now what worldview was being portrayed in that film? Yes. You over there. In the back.

Student: Ummm. Uhhh. I think it advocates a nihilistic worldview.

Professor: Correct. It certainly is doing that. Now what does the Bible condemn in that film?

In his book, Godawa had spoken of asking questions such as these in light of Scripture. So, you find a wicked movie to watch and then you discuss the wicked movie you just watched in the context of Biblical theology. What a way to justify the watching of wickedness.