Reading about wickedness (Part 4)

“I wrote to you in the letter not to associate with fornicators; and not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or with plunderers, or with idolaters, since then you must go out of the world. But now I wrote to you not to associate intimately; if anyone is called a brother and is either a fornicator, or a covetous one, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a plunderer, with such a one not to eat. For what is it to me also to judge the ones outside? Do you not judge those inside? But God will judge the ones outside. “And you shall put out from yourselves the evil one” (1 Corinthians 5:9-13).

I thought of 1 Corinthians 5 in relation to watching and reading wickedness. Of course, we have talked about how reading theological works of heresy in order to expose them is much different than reading works of pornography. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 speaks of necessary association with the ungodly — necessary in the sense that in order to escape this kind of “association” one would have to extricate themselves from the world itself. The question then, in reading/watching wickedness is are we “associating intimately” with the various kinds of God-haters in this world?

Many who enjoy watching/reading wickedness must needs “associate intimately” with the actor or character in the movie, book, t.v. show, etc. They are “associating intimately,” not out of the necessity of say, job employment — but are actively seeking this association by means of television or literature:

“It ought not to be forgotten, that attending dramatic representations is not only seeing a great plurality of bad characters without necessity, and seeing them with patience, but it is seeing them with pleasure. Whether or not entertainment be yielded to be the only or ultimate effect of plays, surely it cannot be denied to be one effect sought and expected from them, and from every part of them” (A serious inquiry into the nature and effects of the stage, John Witherspoon, p. 103).

Some texts that are relevant to those who enjoy reading/watching wickedness:

” … who knowing the righteous order of God, that those practicing such things are worthy of death, not only do them, but also approve those practicing them” (Romans 1:32).

“And He delivered righteous Lot, who had been oppressed by the behavior of the lawless in lustfulness. For that righteous one living among them day after day, in seeing and in hearing, his righteous soul was tormented with their lawless deeds” (2 Peter 2:7-8).

Witherspoon mentions seeing wicked dramatic representations with pleasure. And of course, we apply this to dramatic portrayals in literature as well. I think it is helpful to contemplate the contrast between Romans 1:32 and 2 Peter 2:7-8 and thinking about how these two sets of passages might apply to watching/reading wickedness. Would reading or watching wickedness be something to be approved or taken pleasure in? Or rather, would it be something to be oppressed, tormented, or vexed by?

“But let not fornication, and all uncleanness, or greediness, be named among you, as is fitting for saints; also baseness, and foolish talking, or joking (the things not becoming), but rather thanksgiving. For be knowing this, that every fornicator, or unclean one, or covetous one, who is an idolater, has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for through these things the wrath of God comes on the sons of disobedience. Then do not become partakers with them; for you then were darkness, but are now light in the Lord; walk as children of light. For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth, proving what is pleasing to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things being done by them in secret” (Ephesians 5:3-12).

When Ephesians 5 speaks of eschewing the things not becoming. This seems to apply to eschewing the various kinds of wickedness that are portrayed, whether that wickedness is being presented in print or by some other medium.

“Do not be led astray; bad companionships ruin good habits” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

A book that glorifies sin is a bad companion.

“I will set no wicked thing before my eyes; I have hated the work of those who turn aside; it shall not fasten upon me. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will not know evil” (Psalm 101:3-4).

To take pleasure in reading or watching sin is not to shun the perverse heart, but to draw it close to your bosom in order that you may know this perverse heart more intimately and comprehensively. And of course, this is a reprehensible thing.

“I am a companion of all who fear You; yea, of those who keep Your Precepts” (Psalm 119:63).

“Depart from me, O evildoers, for I will keep my God’s Commands” (Psalm 119:115).

We do not want to be a companion of wicked actors or wicked fictional characters. We do not desire to have detailed information regarding the character of wicked actors or fictional characters.

We desire the companionship of all who fear God and keep His precepts and we desire that the evildoers depart from us.

I’ll end with another quote by Witherspoon:

“Is not the theatre truly and essentially, what it has been called rhetorically, the school of impiety, where it is their very business to learn wickedness? And will a Christian, upon any pretended advantage to himself, join in this confederacy against God and assist in endowing and upholding the dreadful seminary?” (A serious inquiry into the nature and effects of the stage, John Witherspoon, pp. 110-111).

In closing, I will say that John Witherspoon makes helpful comments in some areas, while not so helpful in others.