All Things Considered
I have found that we are in a very interesting point in Christian history. The American Christian reign has started to die out and generations are living without the church and the Bible as a part of their daily lives. For instance, my parents both went to church as children and young teens but quickly fell out of practice when they started to become independent adults, allowing my brother and I to grow up in a very lukewarm home. I like to describe it as the aftermath of what a Christian home should be; we had the remnants of what used to be a Christian home but we didn’t practice any of that. But God definitely had His way with us because now those two, young, atheistic, and suicidal teenagers are going into and are currently in full time ministry.
But with the decline of Christendom, as Søren Kierkegaard called it, the modern day Christian has the choice of sticking to the traditional values and standards that the old church had, or making brand new ones. Many more liberal Christians are creating a very relativistic standard when it comes to various topics like doctrine, but I want to focus specifically on modern art, as in anything between movies, music, and photography.
Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t truly give an answer to if we should watch certain movies or not listen to certain bands. The university I go to (Liberty University) has its own rules, mimicking the traditional American standard for art, such a not allowing us to watch rated R movies (or worse) or listen to any explicitly vulgar music. The closest the Bible ever gets to answering this question is John 15:19 which says,
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.”
The worst part about using that verse in this context is that you are taking it out of context. In the passage, Jesus is talking to His disciples on ministry and giving one of the best and most comprehensive sermons ever written. Since God leaves this question up to us, we must then decide for ourselves what it all means to “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
From here on out I will just give my opinion since there is no Biblical fact on the issue, so be aware. I personally do not think that art should influence us enough to change our thoughts or morality. Just like when we hear an argument or read a blog, we should constantly be objectively questioning everything that is entering our brains. I feel like we have the tendency to sit and open our brains for the taking when we watch movies or TV shows, when that completely goes against the point of art in the first place. Art is created to completely challenge our thought process and see a different perspective of an issue, but not to make us believe in that perspective. For instance, I can watch the show The Walking Dead and see an innocent man get murdered and that doesn’t make me want to do that thing, but instead makes me dip my toes into the emotions of those experiences.
So then we must question: Where does God come into this slight experience testing? When I watch V for Vendetta, is my worship of God stagnant? By no means! Evaluation of the morality in a movie that is rated R means that I’m comparing it to the Biblical morality I know as truth. I use logic and reason to make sure it all fits together nice and neat. For instance, I compare what is being done in Breaking Bad to my morality that the Bible gives me and find that it is wrong and that I should not follow it, but does that mean I should not watch it? I would argue no.
If an act of worship is comparing worldly morality to my Biblical morality, then should I not watch the most compelling and difficult-to-swallow art I can? The Bible never teaches us to have blind or dead faith, but instead we are to “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong” ( 1 Corinthians 26:13 ) I can personally tell you that one of the sole reasons my belief in Jesus Christ is so strong is because I constantly question it. The more and more I weigh other belief systems and moralities that are of this world, the more I realize that Christianity, the faith, is the most logical conclusion to the issue of the world.
In conclusion, the issue of if Christians should watch or listen to worldly or sinful art is really up to you, the reader. No matter what my opinion is, there really is not a passage that gives us a step by step plan to dealing with sinful art. In the constant struggle between relativism and universalism, I say relativism wins in this case. If you struggle worshipping God while watching Breaking Bad, then DO NOT watch it! It is as simple as that. But I encourage you to start to work your faith and brain in the direction to begin to safely commit itself to a controlled war of moralities. Like a muscle, your faith must be worked or it will go dead, but be aware you can also ruin a lot of progress if you do it in the wrong fashion. Be safe and keep your eyes on the Lord in all you do! In the end, He is the Creator of art and of us.
The knowledge of God is to all creatures what the knowledge of the artificer is to things made by his art.
—St. Thomas Aquinas