Evaluating Movies in Light of Scripture
August 2012: It’s been brought to our attention that a correction was needed in this article. Services to edit movies for inappropriate content are no longer available. However, ClearPlay (www.clearplay.com), a service that uses a special DVD player to filter movies, still exists.
On my Facebook page, someone asked: "Randy, you often mention that you and Nanci have been to a movie. I'm curious about what kind and rating of movies you attend. I'm interested in how you regard the type of movie (violence, sexual overtones, etc.). Should Christians knowingly attend such films? This of course also applies to TV programs."
Good movies are hard to find. I know, we’re supposed to pretend that movies have no influence on us, or our children. That way we can be cool and go with the popular drift of culture and prove that not all Christians are uptight and moralistic.
But sexually explicit—and even suggestive—movies, TV, books, etc. are unacceptable according to Ephesians 5:3-20. Non-gratuitous violence can be acceptable for adults, I think, as long as it neither tempts us to do violence nor desensitizes us to true violence. Figuring that out will vary from person to person. But certainly our general Christian tolerance for sexual immorality is way too excessive. Remembering that Jesus is always with us, and asking ourselves what He thinks should make a big difference.
Some Christians might say, “But it’s almost impossible to rent a movie without sex and offensive language.” There are Christian movie-review sites that can help you make good selections for family viewing. (Check out www.christiananswers.net/spotlight/movies; www.movieguide.org; or www.pluggedin.com.) ClearPlay (www.clearplay.com) is a service that uses a special DVD player to filter movies.
Even then, we need to make sure that we are evaluating what we are watching in light of Scripture. Instead of His Word simply being one more influence on us, God intends it to be authoritative over all other influences. I read it not simply as one more source of input but as the Source and the authoritative standard by which I judge all other input.
I evaluate Seinfeld or Friends in light of Scripture. Then, if I’m discerning, in my opinion, I stop watching Seinfeld or Friends. Why? Because the themes, while amusingly handled, are often (not always, of course) immoral and tempt me to think in those terms. I evaluate Gladiator in light of Scripture and realize that the themes of courage, the quest for human rights and liberty, and standing up with comrades in making principled sacrifice is biblical. I also discern that the movie’s theology of people without Christ going to Heaven and reuniting with unbelieving family members is false. Using biblical discernment, I glean the true things from the movie, while screening out the bad. Only then is my mind protected from the subtle or not-so-subtle undermining of truth.
Bottom line, suppose there were no decent movies—what then? I enjoy good movies, but the Bible never commands us “Watch movies.” It does command us to “Guard your heart.”