Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Continued Response to the idea of religious movies

In my first article, I tried to deal with Jason Janz's article "Why We Say 'Gospel'." My intention in writing all of this is not necessarily to pick on Janz or Sharperiron, but to provide another alternative to the debate. The prevailing grievance has been that ETE did not present the Gospel clearly in their film The End of the Spear; the prevailing assumption undergirding this grievance has been that Christians should be using films in a evangelistic or churchly way. With this I strongly disagree.



Over the coming days, I want to give a few reasons why we should not be using movies for religious purposes. I realize that this is not the prevailing sentiment, when large institutions, even within fundamentalism, have their own kind of unusual movie studios. And let me also say that I realize that the order of my articles is somewhat backwards. My reasons for rejecting movies in worship are logically prior to my disagreements with Janz's position. I hope the gentle reader will patiently forgive the strange order.



Today I want to highlight that all movies are intended to be entertainment, and that entertainment as such is incompatible with religious exercises. What is entertainment? This is certainly a difficult thing to pin down (somewhat akin to attempts to find a definition of "is" or "essence.") Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement. A. W. Tozer once responded to someone who told him that singing a hymn was entertainment by saying,

"When you raise your eyes to God and sing, 'Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,' is that entertainment--or is it worship? Isn't there a difference between worship and entertainment? The church that can't worship must be entertained. And men who can't lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment. That is why we have the great evangelical heresy here today--the heresy of religious entertainment" (from Success and the Christian, pp 6-7, cited in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment [Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997], 115).
I believe that all religious motion pictures are intended to be entertaining. I cannot, of course, prove such a bold statement easily. I would like to ask the liberty to discuss this more in depth on another day. For the time being, let me say that I cannot think of a single motion picture containing acting, produced by the "entertainment industry," that was not intended to be entertaining in some way. This is particularly true of religious motion pictures. What exceptions are there? Perhaps Left Behind: The Movie? Or Every Tribe Entertainment's The End of the Spear? Even The Passion of the Christ is intended, though not in a trivial way, to hold the attention of and entertain the audience, partially through its sensationalized violence and gore.


That worship and entertainment should be distinct is still today in great dispute, of course. Let me quickly qualify that I believe that religion and entertainment are incompatible in whatever way we try to mix them, whether in our music, literature, or the arts, not just in motion pictures. A. W. Tozer observed back in the 1950's,

"That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something else is not only futile; it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest." ("The Menace of the Religious Movie" in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 191).
Later he adds, "Most responsible religious teachers will agree that any effort to teach spiritual truth through entertainment is at best futile and at worst positively injurious to the soul" (Ibid, 192). As one friend of mine put it, "There are certain activities which require the sort of response or involvement from us that demands all our powers and faculties. These activities are not those we pursue for entertainment or amusement." Entertainment never demands all our powers and faculties. Worship always does.



Do you go to church to be entertained? I must believe that all mature Christians would reject this idea outright. Then we have established a difference between a kind of entertainment enjoyment of church and, for lack of a better term, what we may call a "religious" enjoyment of church. When we are being entertained, the thing entertaining us is holding our attention; true entertainment demands a more passive posture. We are the recipients of entertainment.

The difference here is perhaps the nature of the appeal; motion pictures are much more prone to affect the emotions directly, bypassing the will. Tozer is helpful on this point as well. He says,

"Deep spiritual experiences come only from much study, earnest prayer and long meditation. It is true that men by thinking cannot find God; it is also true that men cannot know God very well without a lot of reverent thinking. Religious movies, by appealing directly to the shallowest stratum of our minds, cannot but create bad mental habits which unfit the soul for the reception of genuine spiritual impressions" (Ibid, 192).
The religious motion picture may indeed have a powerful influence on the emotions, but we should not confuse this kind of a response with the workings of the Holy Spirit. Religion is far too serious to using entertaining ways of evangelism, edification, or worship. Entertainment is too frothy and frivolous to communicate the things of God in a responsible way; the demand of "loving God with all our minds" is taken away from the process of worship. Elsewhere Tozer offers this dire warning:
"I cannot determine when I will die. But I hope I do not live to see the day when God has to turn from men and women who have heard His holy truth and have played with it, fooled with it and equated it with fun and entertainment and religious nonsense" (Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 113).

You can read Joel Zartman's "An Incitement to Postman," a continuation of this series, here.

15 Comments:

Blogger Larry said...

Ryan,

A couple of issues you might address when you get a chance.

1) What exactly is "entertainment"? When does something become entertainment, and is that always wrong.

2) DO you believe that there are acceptable things in life that are not spiritual in nature?

I am curious because of some things you said in this post.

2/10/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I agre with larry. How exactly do you define entertainment? Is entertainment inherently wrong? I realize that your answer to the first question will have a great bearing on your answer to the second.

Also, what connection (or lack thereof) is there between entertainment, leisure, and rest? The direct connection of the Sabbath with cessation from work is what prompts this probing.

2/10/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry and Brad, these are both excellent questions, and ones I have been struggling to articulate precisely. The pseudo-definition I proposed above was,

"What is entertainment? This is certainly a difficult thing to pin down (somewhat akin to attempts to find a definition of "is" or "essence.") Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement."

Let me quickly add that I am not entirely satisfied with this definition as it stands. I am tempted to add something concerning passivity, but I am still working on it. I want to distinguish leisure, rest, and entertainment for sure. We can spend our leisure being entertained, in recreation, or in other ways, including worship proper. We must have leisure in order to worship. We break from our other duties so that we can devote ourselves to worship specifically. Nevertheless, I think we have to distinguish the attitude of entertainment and the attitude of worship.

Is entertainment always wrong? For the moment, let us assume that entertainment includes sports, games, some fiction, and motion pictures. Right now I believe that entertainment, used as sparingly as salt to season ones life, is good for the believer (of course, it is more like an entire meal than salt for many believers). Can I admit to you gentlemen that I am still working through all of this? Right now I think that entertainment is good for the Christian, but only used sparingly.

This directly relates to Larry's second question, "Do you believe that there are acceptable things in life that are not spiritual in nature?" The answer to this is yes and no. In a certain sense, everything is spiritual, for all of life is worship. But we should not then somehow make all of life the same, and deny any distinctions between certain activities, such as worship proper and worship in that I work at my job for the glory of God. How I act at or dress for my job will be different than how I act at or dress for my church service on Sunday. When I sleep in bed, I sleep in clothes appropriate for sleeping. When I meet the President of the United States, I greet him dressed appropriately. When I talk to my wife, I assume different postures based on my conversation. When I talk to God, my posture changes yet again. What I am saying here is that worship proper is different than worship at my job or in my home. I allow my son to speak to his brother in a different way altogether than I permit him to speak to me. We must not be equalitarians, denying the order and statum of life. So I want to say that when I embrace entertainment, during which I open myself up to amusement and divertissement, I must still do this to the glory of God (much to many Christians' dismay), but in a way different from worship; the subject matter at hand must be approached appropriate to it. Hopefully, when I am being entertained, it is concerning trivial things (and life is certainly filled with many of those).

Okay, you can start shooting holes through my argumentation now . . . which I welcome, by the way. These discussions always help me better articulate my position. It also brings me great humility as it exposes me for the great pretender that I am!

2/10/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

By the way, Brad and Larry, thank you for stopping by and your contribution.

2/10/2006 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

So, part of the problem is when we try to use what is trivial in pursuit of grave ends (or vice versa). I can really see that this was Tozer's beef.

In his article, Tozer was wanting to show why the motion-picture is unfit for such a serious end. It simply can't do what Christians want it to do.

This is all well and good. It gets deeper, closer to the real issue, than does Janz' or even Bauder's recent comments. But I'm not sure that it gets the deepest. I think Augustine had it right that even a movie, used towards trivial ends was nothing but a wicked and deceptive teacher in the life of a Christian.

2/10/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Ryan, what do you think about my distinction between ennobling and debasing in this discussion? The issue I'm working through is if there are actually three categories: debasing, neutral, and ennobling. If that's the case, then believers should surely steer clear of that which is debasing, but what about neutral (if such a thing exists). My position up to this point has been, why would a Christian every choose something that is not actually the best for his soul?

2/10/2006 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Lilrabbi, I am not done yet. I will have more on this topic next week.

Scott, I had a nice long response for you, but I lost it. It was profound, I assure you. Here's the jist: I do not have all the answers on this. I am not an expert on 1 Cor 8-10. As far as movies go, I am not arguing that they are neutral or even "not the best," I think we can say with certainty that religious drama/movies should not be in the church at all, and that I am ever increasingly turning over the idea that all movies and drama should be, to put it like a fundamentalist would, rejected as sin. I am not prepared to argue the latter, but I am trying in a "blogging sort of way" to argue the former. I will assuredly have holes in my argumentation, and not every category or definition may be clearly defined as they need to be, but that is part of why I am doing it.

I am sorry I cannot answer your question more. Perhaps try asking it again and I will try answering again when I'm not so tired.

2/10/2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement."

Thanks for the interaction Ryan. I wonder if a definition like you tentatively propose is not a matter of winning the battle by definitions.

For instance, if we decide that A and B are incompatible, we prove it by defining A in such a way as to show it incompatible with B. (I use A and B not lock myself into a false analogy.) Here, you have defined entertainment in such a way so that I agree. If we start with the assumption that the gospel and entertainment are incompatible, and then fashion our definition around that assumption, it certainly helps the outcome for our position.

However, what if I propose a definition that "entertainment is something designed to hold our attention"? (I am not saying we should define it this way, simply illustrating.) In this definition, is the gospel and entertainment incompatible? Of course not. The gospel should be presented in a way that holds our attention. We should be engaging in the pulpit, even humorous if that's our personality, provided we maintain the sobriety and centrality of the gospel.

It seems, from your post and Scott's comments (and posts elsewhere) that we could run into a situation that leads us to do nothing but sit aroudn reading our Bible and praying each day. Scott says (and you seem to indicate) that we should spend as little time as possible in things that are not clearly and directly spiritually enabling or ennobling. So a Dad has the chance to sit down and read his Bible and pray or take his children to a baseball game. For you, it seems the implication is that the "sit down and read and pray" is the only acceptable choice.

I don't think you would say that so I don't mean to misrepresent you. But given your position, how do you avoid saying that?

I wonder if we might be making some false dichotomies, perhaps, though I admit to shooting from the hip here so pardon me, please. I think there are probably three categories (to use Scott's terms), and I don't think they are immovable. Something that is debasing at one time of life, is not necessarily so at another. Something that is debasing for one person is not necessarily so for another.

But rather than write an article on your blog, I will stop there.

Thanks for the space.

2/11/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I sympathize with your hesitancy, but let me say that entertainment means something. Just as we would not allow some to speak equivocally concerning the "God" they choose to worship by changing the definition, so we are after the real essence of entertainment as it is really meant in the context we are discussing. With all honesty, I am striving as best I define it as entertainment really is.

I, at this point, enjoy baseball a great deal (see my profile), probably too much. I am not quite yet willing, though, to say that baseball is incompitable with the Christian faith (though football certainly is . . .). I think baseball can be enobling when it is given the appropriate amount of time and energy--when it fits into life ordinately. My concern is that we devote too much time to these things. All one has to do is read a dozen pages in William Law or Edwards or even the biography of A. Judson to realizse how far 21st century American Christians have gone in spending our leisure frivolously. How much would a bit of martyrdom, for example, alter our approach to the things of this age?

Having said all this, I appreciate your reminding us to take all matters into perspective, and the spirit in which they are given.

2/11/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Larry, Ryan, and anyone else who's listening in,

First, Ryan, I guess I'm not clear if you're saying that entertainment is wrong in any situation, or just church.

Second, Larry, I'm not going to the extremes that you mention (I think you probably know that, but were justified in the statements). I view Recreation and Entertainment (or Amusement) as two separate activities. Perhaps it's just semantics, but one involves no thought and has not benefit, the other "re-creates" people. Being the good Calvinist that I am, I of course can do any thing from reading the Bible to going to church to playing soccer (much better than baseball) to spending time with my wife to the glory of God. Each of these activities, in my opinion, is far more beneficial than watching a movie. It is these kinds of discernments I am advocating.

2/11/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Pardon my lack of clarity.

Entertainment, which is not recreation and includes things other than movies, is always wrong in church. Movies are wrong for reasons other than they are entertainment, but the fact that they are entertainment is sufficient for us to conclude that they have no place in worship or evangelism. At this point I believe that a sparing amount of entertainment can justifiably be a part of a believer's life.

2/11/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Good and interesting comments.

Ryan, I know entertainment has a meaning. You suggested a definition that you seemed tentative about. I simply suggested another.

To me, there seems a fine line between these things. I tend to learn much more from entertaining things, things that hold my attention. Perhaps some would say that is not entertainment, and perhaps it isn't.

But perhaps entertainment has a wider nuance than it is being given.

In the end, I think church should be engaging in all respects. I think we can take the truth of God's word and explain it and apply it in a way that holds people's attention, perhaps makes them laugh here and there, so that they leave knowing who God is and how they should respond to him in their lives.

I don't think we should distract or water down the word to hold attention.

So if "entertainment" fits into one of these categories, then you know where I stand.

I do think there is a place for "amusement" in the life, literally. I think there needs to be down time where we don't have to think hard about something. Working in the life of the mind all day is tiresome and to sit back and relax without the stress of formal processing of information is good. Of course we need to guard ourselves during those times, but I don't think we should underestimate the value of doing nothing. Just be careful not to do it too much ...

2/13/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I've read what you've said a couple times, and I think we agree, at least in part.

In heaven, when we worship God at his throne, will be entertained? Never.

When someone clearly preaches the glory of the gospel and Jesus Christ and you hear it and rejoice in and praise the Savior, is that the same thing as what happens when you are entertained? No, not at all.

Is the cross entertaining? Never. I hesitate to pass judgment on the one who says it is, for my condemnation may not be strong enough.

In other words, you can call it what you like, entertainment or nidgebidit, there is an idea of entertainment, and it is incompatible when discussing the serious and weightly things of the Christian religion, central to which is the gospel itself.

The idea is that we could actually sit back and watch the crucifixion with a bowl of popcorn in our lap offends me.

I am not saying that you are advocating any of this, but I wanted to try to make the choices here absolutely clear.

2/13/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Given your definition of entertainment as "devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement," I agree.

I am still not sure I entirely buy your definition. But in the end, as you say, it doesn't matter what you call it. Here is my question: Should we present the gospel in a way that engages the whole person in the discussion? I think we should.

There are preachers I would rather here than do just about anything else. There are preachers I would not walk across the street to hear. What's the difference? One of them engages my attention and holds it through the use of explanation, application, humor, sarcasm, wit, seriousness, word pictures, etc. The other is boring. The content is fine, but there is no application, no engagement of life, no presentation skills. Is one entertaining and the other not? Not by your definition. But I think it is entertaining. I don't think that means "doesn't engage the mind and heart." But that is a definitional thing.

I am curious about the popcorn comment. Is it the crucifixion that is incompatible with popcorn, or the particular presentation of it? I was not quite sure what you were saying there. The reason I ask is because I would think that a discussion group with snacks for hte purpose of talking about the crucifixion is perfectly appropriate as a means to preach the gospel. I am not sure if you agree or not.

2/13/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I mean this in a nice way, but you should read this. You would not be guilty of what the foe Hutchens is railing against here has done, but why insist on this equivocation? I am after an idea, commonly called entertainment. Forms of entertainment include movies or sports or stand-up comedy or "light" music (perhaps even classical music). The spirit of "being entertained" is very different than enjoying someone articulate proclaim the gospel in worthy and reverent manner (which can even include a certain kind of humor). The differences are worlds apart. The differences are so important that Tozer called the mingling of the two "the great evangelical heresy." I think he's right. Do you? If not, why protest?

I hope I am not coming across too strongly here, but I think this matter is very important, and that clarity is imperative. It seems like what you are trying to do is muddy the waters.

2/13/2006 06:05:00 PM  

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Immoderate: A Continued Response to the idea of religious movies

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Continued Response to the idea of religious movies

In my first article, I tried to deal with Jason Janz's article "Why We Say 'Gospel'." My intention in writing all of this is not necessarily to pick on Janz or Sharperiron, but to provide another alternative to the debate. The prevailing grievance has been that ETE did not present the Gospel clearly in their film The End of the Spear; the prevailing assumption undergirding this grievance has been that Christians should be using films in a evangelistic or churchly way. With this I strongly disagree.



Over the coming days, I want to give a few reasons why we should not be using movies for religious purposes. I realize that this is not the prevailing sentiment, when large institutions, even within fundamentalism, have their own kind of unusual movie studios. And let me also say that I realize that the order of my articles is somewhat backwards. My reasons for rejecting movies in worship are logically prior to my disagreements with Janz's position. I hope the gentle reader will patiently forgive the strange order.



Today I want to highlight that all movies are intended to be entertainment, and that entertainment as such is incompatible with religious exercises. What is entertainment? This is certainly a difficult thing to pin down (somewhat akin to attempts to find a definition of "is" or "essence.") Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement. A. W. Tozer once responded to someone who told him that singing a hymn was entertainment by saying,

"When you raise your eyes to God and sing, 'Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,' is that entertainment--or is it worship? Isn't there a difference between worship and entertainment? The church that can't worship must be entertained. And men who can't lead a church to worship must provide the entertainment. That is why we have the great evangelical heresy here today--the heresy of religious entertainment" (from Success and the Christian, pp 6-7, cited in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment [Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997], 115).
I believe that all religious motion pictures are intended to be entertaining. I cannot, of course, prove such a bold statement easily. I would like to ask the liberty to discuss this more in depth on another day. For the time being, let me say that I cannot think of a single motion picture containing acting, produced by the "entertainment industry," that was not intended to be entertaining in some way. This is particularly true of religious motion pictures. What exceptions are there? Perhaps Left Behind: The Movie? Or Every Tribe Entertainment's The End of the Spear? Even The Passion of the Christ is intended, though not in a trivial way, to hold the attention of and entertain the audience, partially through its sensationalized violence and gore.


That worship and entertainment should be distinct is still today in great dispute, of course. Let me quickly qualify that I believe that religion and entertainment are incompatible in whatever way we try to mix them, whether in our music, literature, or the arts, not just in motion pictures. A. W. Tozer observed back in the 1950's,

"That religion and amusement are forever opposed to each other by their very essential natures is apparently not known to this new school of religious entertainers. Their effort to slip up on the reader and administer a quick shot of saving truth while his mind is on something else is not only futile; it is, in fact, not too far short of being plain dishonest." ("The Menace of the Religious Movie" in Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 191).
Later he adds, "Most responsible religious teachers will agree that any effort to teach spiritual truth through entertainment is at best futile and at worst positively injurious to the soul" (Ibid, 192). As one friend of mine put it, "There are certain activities which require the sort of response or involvement from us that demands all our powers and faculties. These activities are not those we pursue for entertainment or amusement." Entertainment never demands all our powers and faculties. Worship always does.



Do you go to church to be entertained? I must believe that all mature Christians would reject this idea outright. Then we have established a difference between a kind of entertainment enjoyment of church and, for lack of a better term, what we may call a "religious" enjoyment of church. When we are being entertained, the thing entertaining us is holding our attention; true entertainment demands a more passive posture. We are the recipients of entertainment.

The difference here is perhaps the nature of the appeal; motion pictures are much more prone to affect the emotions directly, bypassing the will. Tozer is helpful on this point as well. He says,

"Deep spiritual experiences come only from much study, earnest prayer and long meditation. It is true that men by thinking cannot find God; it is also true that men cannot know God very well without a lot of reverent thinking. Religious movies, by appealing directly to the shallowest stratum of our minds, cannot but create bad mental habits which unfit the soul for the reception of genuine spiritual impressions" (Ibid, 192).
The religious motion picture may indeed have a powerful influence on the emotions, but we should not confuse this kind of a response with the workings of the Holy Spirit. Religion is far too serious to using entertaining ways of evangelism, edification, or worship. Entertainment is too frothy and frivolous to communicate the things of God in a responsible way; the demand of "loving God with all our minds" is taken away from the process of worship. Elsewhere Tozer offers this dire warning:
"I cannot determine when I will die. But I hope I do not live to see the day when God has to turn from men and women who have heard His holy truth and have played with it, fooled with it and equated it with fun and entertainment and religious nonsense" (Tozer on Worship and Entertainment, 113).

You can read Joel Zartman's "An Incitement to Postman," a continuation of this series, here.

15 Comments:

Blogger Larry said...

Ryan,

A couple of issues you might address when you get a chance.

1) What exactly is "entertainment"? When does something become entertainment, and is that always wrong.

2) DO you believe that there are acceptable things in life that are not spiritual in nature?

I am curious because of some things you said in this post.

2/10/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Brad said...

I agre with larry. How exactly do you define entertainment? Is entertainment inherently wrong? I realize that your answer to the first question will have a great bearing on your answer to the second.

Also, what connection (or lack thereof) is there between entertainment, leisure, and rest? The direct connection of the Sabbath with cessation from work is what prompts this probing.

2/10/2006 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry and Brad, these are both excellent questions, and ones I have been struggling to articulate precisely. The pseudo-definition I proposed above was,

"What is entertainment? This is certainly a difficult thing to pin down (somewhat akin to attempts to find a definition of "is" or "essence.") Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement."

Let me quickly add that I am not entirely satisfied with this definition as it stands. I am tempted to add something concerning passivity, but I am still working on it. I want to distinguish leisure, rest, and entertainment for sure. We can spend our leisure being entertained, in recreation, or in other ways, including worship proper. We must have leisure in order to worship. We break from our other duties so that we can devote ourselves to worship specifically. Nevertheless, I think we have to distinguish the attitude of entertainment and the attitude of worship.

Is entertainment always wrong? For the moment, let us assume that entertainment includes sports, games, some fiction, and motion pictures. Right now I believe that entertainment, used as sparingly as salt to season ones life, is good for the believer (of course, it is more like an entire meal than salt for many believers). Can I admit to you gentlemen that I am still working through all of this? Right now I think that entertainment is good for the Christian, but only used sparingly.

This directly relates to Larry's second question, "Do you believe that there are acceptable things in life that are not spiritual in nature?" The answer to this is yes and no. In a certain sense, everything is spiritual, for all of life is worship. But we should not then somehow make all of life the same, and deny any distinctions between certain activities, such as worship proper and worship in that I work at my job for the glory of God. How I act at or dress for my job will be different than how I act at or dress for my church service on Sunday. When I sleep in bed, I sleep in clothes appropriate for sleeping. When I meet the President of the United States, I greet him dressed appropriately. When I talk to my wife, I assume different postures based on my conversation. When I talk to God, my posture changes yet again. What I am saying here is that worship proper is different than worship at my job or in my home. I allow my son to speak to his brother in a different way altogether than I permit him to speak to me. We must not be equalitarians, denying the order and statum of life. So I want to say that when I embrace entertainment, during which I open myself up to amusement and divertissement, I must still do this to the glory of God (much to many Christians' dismay), but in a way different from worship; the subject matter at hand must be approached appropriate to it. Hopefully, when I am being entertained, it is concerning trivial things (and life is certainly filled with many of those).

Okay, you can start shooting holes through my argumentation now . . . which I welcome, by the way. These discussions always help me better articulate my position. It also brings me great humility as it exposes me for the great pretender that I am!

2/10/2006 05:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

By the way, Brad and Larry, thank you for stopping by and your contribution.

2/10/2006 05:26:00 PM  
Blogger lilrabbi said...

So, part of the problem is when we try to use what is trivial in pursuit of grave ends (or vice versa). I can really see that this was Tozer's beef.

In his article, Tozer was wanting to show why the motion-picture is unfit for such a serious end. It simply can't do what Christians want it to do.

This is all well and good. It gets deeper, closer to the real issue, than does Janz' or even Bauder's recent comments. But I'm not sure that it gets the deepest. I think Augustine had it right that even a movie, used towards trivial ends was nothing but a wicked and deceptive teacher in the life of a Christian.

2/10/2006 10:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Ryan, what do you think about my distinction between ennobling and debasing in this discussion? The issue I'm working through is if there are actually three categories: debasing, neutral, and ennobling. If that's the case, then believers should surely steer clear of that which is debasing, but what about neutral (if such a thing exists). My position up to this point has been, why would a Christian every choose something that is not actually the best for his soul?

2/10/2006 11:10:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Lilrabbi, I am not done yet. I will have more on this topic next week.

Scott, I had a nice long response for you, but I lost it. It was profound, I assure you. Here's the jist: I do not have all the answers on this. I am not an expert on 1 Cor 8-10. As far as movies go, I am not arguing that they are neutral or even "not the best," I think we can say with certainty that religious drama/movies should not be in the church at all, and that I am ever increasingly turning over the idea that all movies and drama should be, to put it like a fundamentalist would, rejected as sin. I am not prepared to argue the latter, but I am trying in a "blogging sort of way" to argue the former. I will assuredly have holes in my argumentation, and not every category or definition may be clearly defined as they need to be, but that is part of why I am doing it.

I am sorry I cannot answer your question more. Perhaps try asking it again and I will try answering again when I'm not so tired.

2/10/2006 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Entertainment is our devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement."

Thanks for the interaction Ryan. I wonder if a definition like you tentatively propose is not a matter of winning the battle by definitions.

For instance, if we decide that A and B are incompatible, we prove it by defining A in such a way as to show it incompatible with B. (I use A and B not lock myself into a false analogy.) Here, you have defined entertainment in such a way so that I agree. If we start with the assumption that the gospel and entertainment are incompatible, and then fashion our definition around that assumption, it certainly helps the outcome for our position.

However, what if I propose a definition that "entertainment is something designed to hold our attention"? (I am not saying we should define it this way, simply illustrating.) In this definition, is the gospel and entertainment incompatible? Of course not. The gospel should be presented in a way that holds our attention. We should be engaging in the pulpit, even humorous if that's our personality, provided we maintain the sobriety and centrality of the gospel.

It seems, from your post and Scott's comments (and posts elsewhere) that we could run into a situation that leads us to do nothing but sit aroudn reading our Bible and praying each day. Scott says (and you seem to indicate) that we should spend as little time as possible in things that are not clearly and directly spiritually enabling or ennobling. So a Dad has the chance to sit down and read his Bible and pray or take his children to a baseball game. For you, it seems the implication is that the "sit down and read and pray" is the only acceptable choice.

I don't think you would say that so I don't mean to misrepresent you. But given your position, how do you avoid saying that?

I wonder if we might be making some false dichotomies, perhaps, though I admit to shooting from the hip here so pardon me, please. I think there are probably three categories (to use Scott's terms), and I don't think they are immovable. Something that is debasing at one time of life, is not necessarily so at another. Something that is debasing for one person is not necessarily so for another.

But rather than write an article on your blog, I will stop there.

Thanks for the space.

2/11/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I sympathize with your hesitancy, but let me say that entertainment means something. Just as we would not allow some to speak equivocally concerning the "God" they choose to worship by changing the definition, so we are after the real essence of entertainment as it is really meant in the context we are discussing. With all honesty, I am striving as best I define it as entertainment really is.

I, at this point, enjoy baseball a great deal (see my profile), probably too much. I am not quite yet willing, though, to say that baseball is incompitable with the Christian faith (though football certainly is . . .). I think baseball can be enobling when it is given the appropriate amount of time and energy--when it fits into life ordinately. My concern is that we devote too much time to these things. All one has to do is read a dozen pages in William Law or Edwards or even the biography of A. Judson to realizse how far 21st century American Christians have gone in spending our leisure frivolously. How much would a bit of martyrdom, for example, alter our approach to the things of this age?

Having said all this, I appreciate your reminding us to take all matters into perspective, and the spirit in which they are given.

2/11/2006 09:38:00 AM  
Anonymous Scott Aniol said...

Larry, Ryan, and anyone else who's listening in,

First, Ryan, I guess I'm not clear if you're saying that entertainment is wrong in any situation, or just church.

Second, Larry, I'm not going to the extremes that you mention (I think you probably know that, but were justified in the statements). I view Recreation and Entertainment (or Amusement) as two separate activities. Perhaps it's just semantics, but one involves no thought and has not benefit, the other "re-creates" people. Being the good Calvinist that I am, I of course can do any thing from reading the Bible to going to church to playing soccer (much better than baseball) to spending time with my wife to the glory of God. Each of these activities, in my opinion, is far more beneficial than watching a movie. It is these kinds of discernments I am advocating.

2/11/2006 07:26:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Pardon my lack of clarity.

Entertainment, which is not recreation and includes things other than movies, is always wrong in church. Movies are wrong for reasons other than they are entertainment, but the fact that they are entertainment is sufficient for us to conclude that they have no place in worship or evangelism. At this point I believe that a sparing amount of entertainment can justifiably be a part of a believer's life.

2/11/2006 09:29:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Good and interesting comments.

Ryan, I know entertainment has a meaning. You suggested a definition that you seemed tentative about. I simply suggested another.

To me, there seems a fine line between these things. I tend to learn much more from entertaining things, things that hold my attention. Perhaps some would say that is not entertainment, and perhaps it isn't.

But perhaps entertainment has a wider nuance than it is being given.

In the end, I think church should be engaging in all respects. I think we can take the truth of God's word and explain it and apply it in a way that holds people's attention, perhaps makes them laugh here and there, so that they leave knowing who God is and how they should respond to him in their lives.

I don't think we should distract or water down the word to hold attention.

So if "entertainment" fits into one of these categories, then you know where I stand.

I do think there is a place for "amusement" in the life, literally. I think there needs to be down time where we don't have to think hard about something. Working in the life of the mind all day is tiresome and to sit back and relax without the stress of formal processing of information is good. Of course we need to guard ourselves during those times, but I don't think we should underestimate the value of doing nothing. Just be careful not to do it too much ...

2/13/2006 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I've read what you've said a couple times, and I think we agree, at least in part.

In heaven, when we worship God at his throne, will be entertained? Never.

When someone clearly preaches the glory of the gospel and Jesus Christ and you hear it and rejoice in and praise the Savior, is that the same thing as what happens when you are entertained? No, not at all.

Is the cross entertaining? Never. I hesitate to pass judgment on the one who says it is, for my condemnation may not be strong enough.

In other words, you can call it what you like, entertainment or nidgebidit, there is an idea of entertainment, and it is incompatible when discussing the serious and weightly things of the Christian religion, central to which is the gospel itself.

The idea is that we could actually sit back and watch the crucifixion with a bowl of popcorn in our lap offends me.

I am not saying that you are advocating any of this, but I wanted to try to make the choices here absolutely clear.

2/13/2006 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Larry said...

Given your definition of entertainment as "devoting our time in a non-profitable way to more trivial things intended to hold our attention; entertainment is closely related to amusement and divertissement," I agree.

I am still not sure I entirely buy your definition. But in the end, as you say, it doesn't matter what you call it. Here is my question: Should we present the gospel in a way that engages the whole person in the discussion? I think we should.

There are preachers I would rather here than do just about anything else. There are preachers I would not walk across the street to hear. What's the difference? One of them engages my attention and holds it through the use of explanation, application, humor, sarcasm, wit, seriousness, word pictures, etc. The other is boring. The content is fine, but there is no application, no engagement of life, no presentation skills. Is one entertaining and the other not? Not by your definition. But I think it is entertaining. I don't think that means "doesn't engage the mind and heart." But that is a definitional thing.

I am curious about the popcorn comment. Is it the crucifixion that is incompatible with popcorn, or the particular presentation of it? I was not quite sure what you were saying there. The reason I ask is because I would think that a discussion group with snacks for hte purpose of talking about the crucifixion is perfectly appropriate as a means to preach the gospel. I am not sure if you agree or not.

2/13/2006 04:53:00 PM  
Blogger Ryan Martin said...

Larry, I mean this in a nice way, but you should read this. You would not be guilty of what the foe Hutchens is railing against here has done, but why insist on this equivocation? I am after an idea, commonly called entertainment. Forms of entertainment include movies or sports or stand-up comedy or "light" music (perhaps even classical music). The spirit of "being entertained" is very different than enjoying someone articulate proclaim the gospel in worthy and reverent manner (which can even include a certain kind of humor). The differences are worlds apart. The differences are so important that Tozer called the mingling of the two "the great evangelical heresy." I think he's right. Do you? If not, why protest?

I hope I am not coming across too strongly here, but I think this matter is very important, and that clarity is imperative. It seems like what you are trying to do is muddy the waters.

2/13/2006 06:05:00 PM  

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