Seeing the World through Kuyperian Lenses

Speaking of childish notions, when I was a youth my mother told me I should only have Christian friends. She and my father never enforced this policy. But growing up in a fundamentalist home gave me a pronounced wariness of “the world.” It also meant that I tried to fashion my childhood heroes according to pious wishes.

Case in point: Richie Allen. He was the 1964 rookie of the year who played third base for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was my favorite player. Some might say that the Phils provided few options, but Tony Gonzalez, Tony Taylor, and Johnny Callison all had appeal. What set Allen apart was the long ball. He could hit towering homers over the quirky architectural features of Connie Mack Stadium.

To justify my fondness for Allen, I turned him into a Christian. Yes, I truly believed for a good 18 months or so that Richie Allen was a born-again believer. Why? Because I was not supposed to show such admiration for non-Christians. Wonderful solution then to turn Allen into a Christian hero. But that bubble burst during one telecast of a Phillies game when the camera panned the dugout and there sat Richie doing what he did frequently — smoking a cigarette. I was devastated because in my fundamentalist w-w I knew that a Christian did not smoke (or that if they did they were in serious trouble). Up went my first man crush in nicotine-infested smoke. (Not that anyone cares, but I continued to root for Allen and this may have been the beginning of my 2k life where I separated what was common from what is holy.)

Recent comments at Old Life by neo-Calvinists about Machen the tranformationalist (along with Bill Evans’ assessment of 2k) have reminded me of my attempt to make the world fit my conception of it. I don’t deny that Machen had his Kuyperian sounding moments. What the neo-Calvinists have yet to do, though, is actually account for those Old School Presbyterian hours in Machen’s writings. Could there have been a tension between Machen the postmillennial Calvinist and the Old School, amillenial church reformer, the way I experienced cognitive dissonance between my loyalty and love of my Christian parents and my baseball rooting interests? Could — horrors — Machen and Kuyper actually disagree in some important ways, ways that reflect the different trajectories of Old School Presbyterianism and neo-Calvinism? Recent neo-Calvinist sightings at Old Life suggest that no such tension may exist. Abraham Kuyper hung the moon and all Reformed Protestants must follow to his decrees.

This is an odd way to read Machen (though it does seem to fit the w-w pattern of forcing reality into ideal schemes) if only because folks close to Kuyper and his legacy have no trouble spotting important differences between the archbishop of neo-Calvinism and the fundamentalist Machen (at least that’s how neo-Calvinists used to regard him). I posted this before, but Jim Bratt’s comparison of Kuyper to American Presbyterianism is useful for noticing the variety of Reformed Protestantisms:

Put in Dutch Calvinist terms: if forced to choose, Machen would let the Christian cultural task give way to the confessional church; Kuyper would force the confessional church to take up the cultural task. Put in American Presbyterian terms, Kuyper had some strong New School traits where Machen had none. To be sure Kuyper’s predestinarianism was at odds with the New Schools Arminian tints and his movement had a low impetus for “soul-saving,” but his organizational zeal was like Lyman Beecher’s in purpose and scale, his educational purposes at the Free University recalled Timothy Dwight’s at Yale, and his invocation of the “city on a hill” to describe the church’s place in a world recalled the charter image of Puritan New England which was ever the New Schools’ aspiration. In fact Kuyper honored New England as the “core of the American nation” and shared its definition of Christian liberty as a communal opportunity to do the right thing. At that Machen would only shudder. He indicted the “angry passions of 1861″ by which New England trampled on southern rights, and defined Christian liberty as the individual’s protection from the wrong thing. When put to the test, Machen endorsed the political model of Thomas Jefferson. At that Kuyper would only shudder back. (“Abraham Kuyper, J. Gresham Machen, and the Dynamics of Reformed Anti-Modernism,” Journal of Presbyterian History Winter 1997 75.4, 254)

Does this prove that Machen didn’t mean what he said to Christian school teachers? Hardly. But it does reflect a historical interpretation that takes into account far more than an isolated quote or two, one that also situates both Kuyper and Machen in particular church and political contexts. And here Bratt is useful again for highlighting the political differences between the two men. In his new biography of Kuyper, Bratt identifies the neo-Calvinist leader with the sort of progressive politics that dominated the Transatlantic world at the beginning of the twentieth century:

For all their differences, however, progressive movements shared three motifs. All yearned for a fresh form of politics to replace decrepit regimes. All felt liberated from the dead hand of laissez-faire orthodoxy to intervene in the economy — at least to blunt the hardest edges of the new industrial order, at most to move toward real “democracy” in economic as well as political life. And all anticipated that these changes would unleash a new personal vitality that would lead (one more crucial assumption) to a more harmonious society. Kuyper shared everyone of these hopes. (Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: Modern Calvinist, Christian Democrat, 299)

In contrast, Machen’s politics ran in the exact opposite direction of progressivism. All the major reforms of American Progressives, women’s suffrage, prohibition, child labor reform, public education reform, Machen opposed. The reason was that Machen was a Southern Democrat who took a libertarian line on most political matters, informed by the Southern tradition of States’ Rights and strict construction of the Constitution.

Does that mean that Kuyper is a bad Calvinist or that Machen is one? I frankly suspect that Kuyper would have not doubted Machen’s Calvinism despite his Southern Democratic instincts (or 2k views for their stress on the church as the kingdom of Christ). Kuyper believed that uniformity was the curse of modern life and wrote an essay with that title. Kuyper likely acknowledged what many of his his adherents cannot, namely, that other forms of Calvinism, just as legitimate as Kuyper’s, exist, and that they do not need to be squeezed into a tube of neo-Calvinist uniformity. Does that make Kuyper 2k? David VanDrunen has well answered that question. But it does echo the kind of willingness to tolerate diversity that neo-Calvinists’ most vociferous critics cannot summon.


170 thoughts on “Seeing the World through Kuyperian Lenses

  1. so when did you take up smoking for yourself?

    did you ever smoke in front of your mom?

    i will save the “have you stopped beating your wife” question for later


  2. Christian friends….

    Most of my church friends were druggies, a lot of them went gay (wasn’t too hard to predict for most of them)

    Didn’t Dick blow off a doubleheader because he didn’t want to leave the track?


  3. If you can only be friends with Christians, then you will need to figure out a way to turn what you have in common with your friends into something “Christian”. Thus Kuyper’s need for “common grace” (ineffectual prevenient grace) instead of “providence”.

    But at least Kuyper did not attempt to call those with different gospels Christians so that he could work with them. At least Kuyper did not need to separate from non-Christians so much that he had to find a way to say that they were Christians. Nor did Kuyper need to turn the gospel into law, nor agree that neonomians are Christians.


  4. Richie (Dick) Allen, like 2K is, was controversial. Many considered him bad for baseball and others thought he was a valuable player – very few in-betweens. I’ve been in the latter camp since his rookie season. Maybe that’s why he is the OL avatar?

    “But the thing is, except for maybe Jeff Bagwell, I’d say he was a better pure talent than anyone else featured in this series. Chris Jaffe of ‘The Hardball TImes’ recently wrote about Allen as he turned 70. Jaffe said:”

    One thing interesting about Allen was that he was genuinely controversial. By that I mean it wasn’t that he did something that everyone hated. No, that would make him merely widely maligned. To be controversial, you need a split of opinion—not only vehement opponents, but also passionate detractors. Throughout Allen’s career, he had plenty of both. Many considered him to be a pure clubhouse cancer while others thought he was a good man, just misunderstood.
    Put Them In The Hall Of Fame: Part 7 – Dick Allen


  5. He fit in with the model of an incredible athlete who was barely tolerated.

    Then when he lost his skills he was dispatched in a picosecond from the game.

    (see George Bell, Manny Ramirez…)


  6. Dr. Bratt has made clear in his book on Kuyper that his view of history and historical things was pretty shaky. Really recommend Dr. Bratt’s book–it seems pretty solid so far; no hagiography.
    My favorite player growing up was Frank Howard, of the Dodgers. Never tried turning him into a Christian–nor, an outstanding baseball player, for that matter.


  7. “shrouded in youth…” Nicely said.

    Reading the comments of the defenders of transformationalism it’s not hard to see that they, like the biblicist does with Scripture, bring their w-w to Machen or Calvin or whomever looking for possible sentences, paragraphs, etc. – that “prove” their theological template – and finding some look no further. Much like the CtC crowd, there are no inconsistencies or opposing pieces of evidence to grapple with. There response… move along, nothing to see here…


  8. Jack, these folks are integralists and spooked by dualism. They also both share a fear of the French Revolution. Someone needs to write up neo-Calvinism as the gateway drug to Roman Catholicism. If neo-Cal’s want integralism, it’s a much reduced version they offer than the Roman Catholic brand (which goes back before 1500).


  9. DG –

    “Someone needs to write up neo-Calvinism as the gateway drug to Roman Catholicism.”

    Neo-Cal is plausibly explained as a gateway to RC, for sure. But Neo-Cals are “low church” folks, too (generally speaking) and so there is a strong aversion to all that you have to swallow to be RC. You could argue just as plausibly that certain stripes of 2K folks are also just as primed to be RC, because of their high view of the church. Obviously, C2C highlights the low hanging fruit, and a certain flavor of fruit, to be sure. But many of those cats were not Neo-Cal who huffed the fumes a little too deeply. They had 2K leanings.


  10. Richard – Dr. Bratt has made clear in his book on Kuyper that his view of history and historical things was pretty shaky. Really recommend Dr. Bratt’s book–it seems pretty solid so far; no hagiography.

    Erik – That’s probably why the Neocals aren’t crazy about Bratt.


  11. D.G.,

    Where was that picture of you smoking a pipe and wearing a bowtie taken? The surface of the building behind you looks like the Rowenhorst Student Center in Orange City.


  12. Erik,

    I considered using that one, but I kind of thought the building exploding into oblivion behind Leslie Nielsen was a nice visual metaphor for arguments that can’t stand the scrutiny of historical facts or scriptural doctrine.


  13. Erik, Joe would sit there gruff and ice-cold, then a member of the media would show up and he would light up with the biggest phony smile that a man could impart.

    I preferred George, he would tell writers he was going to keeeel them.


  14. Pat, Jason Stellman, maybe, but his knowledge of history raises questions about whether he ever understood Old School Presbyterianism. Bryan Cross? Hardly. Intellectual pietism.


  15. Dr. Hart wrote: “Could — horrors — Machen and Kuyper actually disagree in some important ways, ways that reflect the different trajectories of Old School Presbyterianism and neo-Calvinism? Recent neo-Calvinist sightings at Old Life suggest that no such tension may exist. Abraham Kuyper hung the moon and all Reformed Protestants must follow to his decrees.”

    I am not aware of any neo-Calvinist who thinks Kuyper “hung the moon and all Reformed Protestants must follow to his decrees.”

    I do, however, think you are greatly simplifying Kuyper by identifying him with the New School movement, if by “New School” you mean revivalism or even the older Puritan views, i.e., Iain Murray’s distinction between revival and revivalism. How is it possible to divorce Kuyper from presumptive regeneration and his animosity toward Dutch Puritanism or the Nadere Reformatie?

    Kuyper is correctly regarded as having been a leader in ecclesiastical, academic, political, and journalistic matters. After all, he was not only the founder of what became the second-largest Protestant denomination in the Netherlands — which would have in and of itself been a major accomplishment — but also was the primary leader of the Anti-Revolutionary Party, a longtime member of the Second Chamber (lower house) of the Dutch Parliament and for a time Prime Minister of the Netherlands, the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam, and the founder of a Christian daily newspaper and weekly church magazine. His influence in Reformed circles — for good or for ill — simply cannot be denied.

    However, Kuyper was certainly not an unmixed blessing. Many of his theological contemporaries in the Dutch conservative churches of his day, both inside and outside the Gereformeerde Kerken in Nederland, viewed him as a mixture of good and bad influences.

    That should surprise nobody since a major part of Kuyper’s success was getting people to work with him in activities outside the sphere of the institutional church even when he couldn’t get those people to work with him ecclesiastically. The result is that Kuyper had lots of allies who were not in full agreement with him but still regarded him as a major conservative Christian leader despite their disagreements with him.

    Kuyper, during in his early days as a conservative leader in the Dutch state church, was openly antagonistic toward the older Afscheiding secession movement, and even after his “Dolenatie” movement merged with most of the Afscheiding, he continued to attack the groups which became the Christelijke Gereformeerden, the Gereformeerde Gemeenten, the Oud Gereformeerden, and the Gereformeerde Bond.

    What was his objection to those three denominations, and in the case of the Bonders, to a confessional movement within the state church)?

    His primary objection was to what he rejected as pietism. Secondarily, as those denominations manifested themselves in Dutch politics, Kuyper’s successors went to war with Rev. GH Kersten over the attacks of Kersten’s political party on cooperation with the Roman Catholic Church.

    That division between the followers of Kuyper and the followers of Kersten (founder of the Gereformeerde Gemeenten, or what in North America are the Netherlands Reformed Congregations) provided an opportunity for Dutch liberals to divide and conquer the conservative Christian majority in the Dutch Parliament of the early 1900s. It can fairly be said that Kuyper was a master at crafting coalitions of different groups of conservative Christians, finding ways they could work together without compromising their doctrinal distinctives, but he strongly opposed to those who would advocate what in America came to be known as fundamentalist “secondary separationism.” In the ecclesiastical context of Kuyper’s day, the “fundamentalist spirit” was represented mostly by the “black stocking churches,” i.e., the ultraconservative Reformed people of Puritan sympathies. Arminian fundamentalists of an American sort, or even of a Darbyite sort coming from England, simply did not exist in any significant numbers in the Netherlands of Kuyper’s day.

    The bottom line is that while Kuyper may have liked New England culture, he had very little use for Dutch Puritanism in his own country. Part of that was because the Dutch Puritans tended to be very narrow in both ecclesiastical and political matters, but most of it was because Kuyper didn’t like what his successors called “morbid introspectionism.”

    Can any of us really think that Kuyper the presumptive regenerationist, if forced to choose between Old School Presbyterian catechesis and New School revivalism, would choose for New School revivalism in America when he adamantly fought against Dutch Puritanism in his own country?

    So Dr. Hart, with all due respect, I think you may actually have found a way in which Kuyper resembled Old School rather than New School models of piety and conversion.

    Now moving on to whether Kuyper “hung the moon,” anyone who knows much of anything about my own views on Puritanism knows I am a fiery opponent of presumptive regeneration. I like many of Kuyper’s views on politics, and especially his distinction between the standards for cooperation in the sphere of the state and the sphere of the church. But there is no way in the world that I could have supported Kuyper’s presumptive regeneration in the Dutch church battles of the late 1800s and early 1900s. There were many in the Gereformeerde Bond and some in the Christelijke Gereformeerde Kerk who regarded Kuyper as being a political genius with some theological problems on his view of Christian nurture, and I think that fairly describes my own approach to Kuyper.

    And when it comes to Kuyper’s views on race, and especially those of his successors who provided a justification based on covenantal theology for horrors like South African apartheid — the only way Kuyper can even remotely be defended is by pointing out that his views of ethnicity were common in educated European circles of his day. At least his bigoted successors believed in evangelizing other races rather than exterminating them. To their credit, Kuyper’s successors strongly opposed the growth of the Nazi movement and the GKN of the 1930s declared that members of the Dutch Nazi Party should be excommunicated, while some of his theological opponents on the right embraced the Dutch Nazis and became collaborators.

    Considering that we’re all Calvinists who affirm total depravity, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the Bible and the confessions, not Kuyper and his particular practices, are what “neo-Calvinists” look to as our rule of faith and life.


  16. Gateway drug possibly. At the very least, worldviewers and paradigmers do reason similarly. One needs the Bible for all of civil life, the other an infallible interpreter for all of church life.


  17. worldviewers and paradigmers do reason similarly

    Am I the only one sad that paradigm has been hijacked by the Catholics?

    Sorry, just had to jump in. After finishing Asimov, it’s onto Kuhn’s book next for me.



  18. Gateway drug possibly. At the very least, worldviewers and paradigmers do reason similarly. One needs the Bible for all of civil life, the other an infallible interpreter for all of church life.

    Indeed! Well said, Zrim…


  19. Darrell, I didn’t make the point about Kuyper and New School. It was James Bratt, who is in a position to know, partly because, unlike you, he understands that the New School was as much about social reform (think temperance and anti-slavery and women’s rights) than about revival. Good work on Kuyper’s controversial views, but the Afscheiding is hardly New England Puritanism.

    BTW, you still haven’t fathomed Old School Presbyterianism.


  20. his knowledge of history raises questions about whether he ever understood Old School Presbyterianism

    Powerful words, Darryl, coming from you.

    I need to read another one of your books after I finish Kuhn. Calvinism was worth it’s weight in gold. I was thinking maybe “Lost Soul,” but we’ll see where I land…


  21. I question whether a regenerated Christian can really have deep friendships with non-Christians. Of course we can work alongside them, and be friendly towards them, and converse. But putting the 2k debate aside for a moment, the fact is we have a fundamentally different…view…of the world.

    When I was at uni I was in a rather worldly church and the young people were a strange combination of zealous Christian moralism on one hand with a deeply worldly viewpoint on other issues. Basically, as long as we weren’t haven’t extra/pre-marital sec we were fine- so the gluttony, arguments and bad language on display was awful. Unsurprisingly, I got on very well with my atheist uni friends and had very few Christian friends. Moving to a church which had far more focus on confessional spirituality and sanctification, I soon found that I had less and less in common with my friends from my time at uni. I wanted to discuss spiritual matters all the time; they have no concept of such matters.

    Christians are not the same as non-Christians. Yes there is common ground in common tasks and I’m the ability to reason for the Christian faith. We’re not hyper-Calvinist vanTillians after all! But there is a difference: we are filled with the Spirit; they are not. Should Christians really want to spend most of their free time with people, and doing things, which, though lawful, aren’t especially profitable?


  22. But nobody’s saying that the “order of salvation” for Jason Stellman was “Calvary Church” to 2k to Rome?

    In Dual Citizens, Stellman claimed that worship is the same in the new the old covenant. And then he accused other protestants of being “Gnostic” and quoted some confessions about the office of the “minister”. He claimed that “God never deals with us as individuals” (p 9) and informed us that we hear Christ forgiving our sins when we hear the “minister’s absolution”.

    Is it “pietism” to warn people that the New Testament is written only to “as many as” are individually Christian?

    Stellman could make distinctions for Sabbath (no death penalty, old covenant) but he would no longer make distinctions between individuals “receiving the sacrament”. For charity’s sake (and not to be like sister aimee) , the idea is to act as everybody listening to the sermon is an exile from the world.

    It’s one thing to refuse “to speak to the church as if were the world”, but another thing to then need to say that the world is the church. Since we only associate with Christians, then everybody in our family must be Christians. And the “minister” is God’s agent (of sacred rituals) to make that happen.


  23. Alexander: I question whether a regenerated Christian can really have deep friendships with non-Christians. Of course we can work alongside them, and be friendly towards them, and converse. But putting the 2k debate aside for a moment, the fact is we have a fundamentally different…view…of the world.

    Yup…. and experience lets us temper our wisdom into prudent dealings with everyone (hopefully)

    [several of us grew up in churches as you described… welcome aboard!!!]


  24. Speaking of childish notions, when I was a youth my mother told me I should only have Christian friends.

    I still remember when my parents realized that my smart friends from school were ‘better kids’ than my christian friends from church.

    Someone needs to write up neo-Calvinism as the gateway drug to Roman Catholicism.

    I know I have previously said either that FV or Theonomy is the gateway drug to RC. I couldn’t find it though. Here’s something close. Note, however that JJS jumped a couple conventional gates jumping straight from PCA->Rome. I see the typical progression as Neo-Cal–>Theonomist–>FV–>RC/EO.

    I question whether a regenerated Christian can really have deep friendships with non-Christians.

    I agree — or at least a quick study of my life experience would indicate empirical agreement, and I sometimes feel guilty about that. All of my relationships with non-Christians are very narrow and topical, these guys I work with (and we are friends within the context of work), these guys I play ultimate with (and we are friends within the context of pick-up games), etc. But nobody from any of these circles would I even remotely consider asking over for dinner, or going out together. Frankly, I find non-Christians (empirically speaking) quite boring.

    To backpedal on that some though, I can think back to when I was studying/teaching in university contexts, and from there I recall plenty of thoughtful, interesting, pleasant people who I was friends with (though our ways have long parted now — only one left, and he’s in England!), and I could see myself having a meaningful friendship with people of that tribe nowadays.


  25. Wow, I’m a great writer:

    On the one hand, FV is guilty of going so deep into the Reformation they get pooped out the bottom and end up back in Rome. FV’s versions of Justification and Baptism are essentially Roman anyways, so it’s not surprising that it is common to hear or read of some young visionista or other for whom the light bulb goes off that they are already essentially Catholic, so why not just go all the way? And voila, we have Called to Communion.

    And then JJS comes along and screws everything up. This is Mr. Gmail effect (or rather, was). Calvary Chapel–>PCA, with all the other one-way gates that go along with that conversion. He’s sitting in the convergence of all my Gmail effects; he believes all the same things I do — but even better! He is even a champion against the FV, that sect (cult?) of the Reformation that has opened a gate around the side back to Rome. And then, like a horny salmon, JJS swiftly and decisively powers against the natural flow and exits the Reformation.


  26. Kent: I agree. Absolutely we can and should have pleasant- even friendly- interaction with non-Christians. My point is that it shouldn’t be a choice between seeing us and them as totally disconnected or that we can hang out with Christians, non-Christians, it makes no difference. It does make a difference. The Spirit makes the difference. The more we are around spiritually minded people, and under Spirit-filled preaching, the more we will seek that Spirit in our goings out and in. Talking sports with a work buddy may pass the time but it does not satisfy. Or at least, it shouldn’t.


  27. Alexander, I don’t talk about my spiritual doubts or grievance for my sin with people that would at best laugh in a friendly way.

    There are believers at work, none in the Reformed camp, and our faith discussions are limited to what they wish to chat about.

    Through this forum and others I have found friends to discuss these matters with privately.

    And several more that I wouldn’t talk with unless paid $300 an hour to do so.


  28. But, Alexander, friendship isn’t fellowship. And if you’re right about faith (though you say worldview) being the ground for authentic friendship then what to make of believers who can’t say that they have meaningful friendships with other believers the way they do with, say, unbelievers from childhood? Shouldn’t they? Is something wrong with their faith?

    The way around may be the difference between friendship and fellowship, in which case a believer can have a meaningful friendship with an unbeliever but he can’t have any sort of fellowship with him. And he has fellowship with believers and he doesn’t have to feel anything is wrong if none of those fellows are particularly close.


  29. Dr. Hart, I do realize that you are repeating Dr. Bratt’s analysis of Kuyper. It certainly seems that you are agreeing with the broad outlines of his analysis, though probably not all of his specifics.

    I do not entirely disagree with Bratt, either. He has a point.

    However, I do think it’s fair to say that Dr. Bratt’s analysis of Kuyper and Machen is not uncolored by his own rather liberal Christian Reformed context. While there are certainly still some solidly Reformed people left in the CRC, Dr. Bratt has not historically been associated with movements that either you or I support. There are reasons why your denomination cut its ties with his denomination, and I think it’s obvious that the CRC is going in directions where the OPC does not want to follow.

    Perhaps you will argue that Kuyperianism was a bad influence and that Kuyper’s focus on culture and politics led to many of the CRC’s problems by inserting an inherently unconfessional root that, as it grew up, wrecked both the GKN and CRC. Fair enough. But if you argue that way, surely you want to recognize that Dr. Bratt’s vision for an ideal church is very different from the vision anyone I know in the OPC would hold for an ideal church.

    You and I also agree that the Afschieding was “hardly New England Puritanism.” I could say more on that, but that should not be surprising.

    When church leaders don’t have a realistic opportunity to influence politics or culture, they are more likely to focus on ecclesiastical affairs where they can actually get something done. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, conditions had deteriorated so badly in the Dutch state church that people of strong Christian convictions often couldn’t even get a Bible-believing minister to fill their pulpit and were resorting to prayer meetings (conventicles) to get any sort of Biblical teaching at all. Under such conditions, reforming the culture or the government were simply out of the question. I am quite aware that the Afscheiding changed significantly from its early days to the late 1800s when Kuyper was thrown out of the state church and his Doleantie movement eventually merged with most of the Afscheiding, but the Afschieding’s roots are with people of little influence and that changed only slowly and over many decades.

    Kuyper, by contrast, came from a background where the levers of social and political power were readily accessible and regularly used. The question for Kuyper was this: The membership of our churches includes people who are in positions of social and political influence. What do their Christian beliefs say they should do with that influence?

    The early Afscheiding leaders didn’t have the opportunity to answer that question because for many and probably most of their members, they had no role in the leadership of their communities. When they did have the opportunity to answer such questions, they started communities in places like Holland, Mich., and Pella, Iowa — and it’s pretty hard to look at the early history of either community and not see something which looks an awful lot like an American immigrant version of a social agenda Kuyper would advocate a half-century later.


  30. When church leaders don’t have a realistic opportunity to influence politics or culture, they are more likely to focus on ecclesiastical affairs where they can actually get something done. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, conditions had deteriorated so badly in the Dutch state church that people of strong Christian convictions often couldn’t even get a Bible-believing minister to fill their pulpit and were resorting to prayer meetings (conventicles) to get any sort of Biblical teaching at all.

    I don’t get it; are you suggesting that we should let ministers meddle with culture, so they will be distracted from meddling with the church?


  31. RR: Another position is Rome’s regenerative version of paedobaptism. You could be born into that position, or you could convert in from paganism, and you could stay there all your life, but there are a few one-way gates out of this position; one to credobaptism, and one to Reformed paedobaptism (and then from credobaptism, a one-way gate also to Reformed paedobaptism).

    mark: but Jason means there is a second gate back to Romanism, but at least he’s still not waiting for an effectual call before water baptism?

    The RCs demand a RC baptism from Mormons but not from “evangelicals”?


  32. RubeRad posted September 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm: “I don’t get it; are you suggesting that we should let ministers meddle with culture, so they will be distracted from meddling with the church?”

    No, ministers have their own calling, and with some important exceptions, generally aren’t very good at the work of being civil magistrates — or a lot of other vocations, for that matter. Being an ordained minister of the Word primarily means being a pastor and teacher. Those two roles require skills which are very different from the skills it takes to be successful in many other types of work in which Christians can and should be involved.


  33. MkMcC: “but Jason means there is a second gate back to Romanism”

    THanks for reading! The gates are intended to describe general, not completely universal behavior, hence the final paragraph about how JJS bucked the trend. I’d say on his way from PCA–>RC, he didn’t go through gates, he clambered over a wall.


  34. Darrell, I may not agree with Bratt on the church, but you can’t deny that he gets some of his Reformed understanding from Kuyper. The Institute in Toronto didn’t come from nowhere (sorry for 2 negatives).


  35. Dr. Hart, we agree about the problems of the Institute for Christian Studies. As you may already know, the owner of Christian Renewal was once the chief fundraiser for ICS before it went liberal. Much of the history of the CRC’s conservative movement can be explained when one understands that a number of the key conservative leaders spent much time and treasure building institutions which were systematically taken over by liberals using deceitful methods.

    As for me, back in the 1980s, I was fairly anti-Kuyperian because of the presumptive regeneration issue, and also because of the liberal version of Kuyperianism to which I was introduced at Calvin College. The people at Christian Renewal put up with my periodic vitriol directed against Kuyper, and suggested to me — quite correctly, as I later learned — that John Calvin wasn’t the only Reformed theologian who my professors at Calvin had at best misunderstood or at worst deliberately misrepresented.

    Kuyper definitely didn’t “hang the moon,” and he did have some problematic views. Not unlike some of Jonathan Edwards’ problematic views which were seized upon and developed by Edwards’ successors after his death, some of Kuyper’s problematic views were amplified and made much worse by Kuyper’s successors.

    However, I have no doubt that Kuyper would be furious with what his successors did with the Gereformeerde Kerken, the Anti-Revolutionary Party, the Free University of Amsterdam, and their North American equivalent organizations such as the Christian Reformed Church, Calvin College and Seminary, and the Institute for Christian Studies. Kuyper was far from perfect, but he believed in the confessions, he believed in the authority of Scripture, and he believed in the Five Points of Calvinism including the need for conversion from a state of total depravity.

    Too many people who today run the institutions Kuyper founded or inspired believe few or none of those things.


  36. Darrell, and what you need to consider is that Kuyperians may have ruined Kuyper because the entire system does not distinguish the kingdom of Christ (the visible church) or the eternal realm from earthly or temporal affairs like the ones in which schools are engaged. By repudiating dualism and by trying to integrate everything, it becomes difficult to distinguish between the church and the school (for example) and say that what the church does is unique and endures in ways the school never can.


  37. Did anybody know as a child that dancing wasn’t Christian? Or was it only those of us who grew up “outside the covenant” who knew from the start that we wouldn’t be going to the prom? Not because our parents would not allow it, but because we knew it would be wrong.

    If you go to a dance or a movie, some other Christian might see you.

    Back then, there were no “Christian dances”—only dances.


  38. Mark, raised secular (how’s that for outside the covenant) and married fundamentalist, that was one of the oddest perspectives I recall encountering. The wedding was actually planned in order to not only avoid drink but also dancing. But my Catholics and WASPs had enough sense and decorum to erect a beer and wine tent in a backyard that did not include dancing. Just well-oiled conversations and family tales until the wee hours. On movies, funny how R-rated ones are saved for when out of town. Hello, legalism and hypocrisy.


  39. Kent: I wasn’t referring to talking about personal sin. That is not the only spiritual topic. I was referring to discussing the faith: the doctrines, graces, spiritual experiences (not in a Charismatic sense). Talking about Christ: His person and work. Asking each other questions which make us delve into Scriptire. I’m not taking about “accountability groups”. I’m talking spiritual conversation as opposed to conversation about worldly things, like politics, which though lawful are of such a finite and temporal nature that they become more and more a distraction.

    Zrim: why is it legalism to avoid going to the cinema, to not drink and to not dance? Just because these are positions held- today- by fundamentalists doesn’t ipso facto make them legalistic. And these were positions held by mainstream Reformed denominations until recently. And still the Dutch Reformed denominations in Holland are very strict in lifestyle. My own denomination too. And the position of my church was the position of the Established Church of Scotland until it began to liberalise.

    Maybe the American Reformed churches are not actually representative of Reforned teaching on these issues. Maybe the OPC is wrong in its liberal attitude here. Why are we legalists and you’re not antinomians? If you went back in time to quite recently I think you’d be hard pressed to find any orthodox Reformed church which countenanced dancing or theatre going (i.e. cinema going). At least in Britain. The American church has always been more liberal.

    Drinking is slightly different. The moderate consumption of alcohol in private settings is viewed differently from frequenting public houses, which are seen as places no Christian should be found.


  40. Alexander, it is not legalism to avoid the cinema, drink, or dance. It is legalism to compel others to do so, whether explicitly or implicitly. And it doesn’t matter who does it, those who identify as fundamentalists or Reformed. Legalism, like sin, is an equal-opportunity affliction.


  41. McMark and Zrim, I don’t know about your public school, but at my high school, kids were practically having sexual intercourse on the dance floor. Some would say, is that even dancing? Would you really allow your daughter to go to a dance like that without you being present?

    FWIW, Chubby Checkers ruined dancing for many Christians with the twist in the early sixties. Does that mean that all dancing is wrong? No, but what was going on at my school on Friday nights was definitely not glorifying to God. When you put teenagers together in that setting,you are just begging for trouble. So even though I reject the idea that all dancing is evil, I will be the first to admit, it can be.

    One size doesn’t fit all Zrim, perhaps ball room dancing is a tad different than dancing to “Come on let’s do it, till your satisfied”, no?


  42. Zrim: But why is it legalism to require these things of our members? I’m sure we all agree there are things Christians are not allowed to do. Why is dancing ok? The new lax culture is precisely that: new. You must justify why it is now ok to do these things, when the position of our churches was, historically, that professing Christians were expected to refrain from such activities.


  43. Short answer: the Bible and not religio-cultural practices is authoritative.

    Q. 14. What is sin?
    A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.


  44. Larger catechism Q.139 What are the sins forbidden in the seventh commandment?

    A. …all corrupt or filthy communications, or listening thereunto; wanton looks, impudent or light behaviour, immodest apparel…idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, unchaste company; lascivious songs, books, pictures, dances, stage plays; and all other provocations to, or acts of uncleannes, either in ourselves or others.

    I think that pretty much covers going to public houses, the cinema, theatre, concerts and dancing- dancing, period, has usually been understood to be unchaste.


  45. Alexander, it is legalism to require what God does not. So in point of fact, the burden is his who wants to bind another on something God does not to show biblical warrant. Have you considered that the historical position of our churches has been legalistic? Or is the past golden to you (a fundamentalist trait)? And ps, “the culture” has always been lax, there is nothing new under the sun. But unlawfully requiring of others what God does not is no way to combat it.


  46. Alexander, I wonder what all is on your sin list. Ballroom dancing? Swing dancing? Highland dancing? All temptations from the pit of hell? But we’re just beginning probably. Compression shorts for exercise – provocation to sin? It used to be long hair and beards according to the faithful. But sin isn’t about a list of external activities and appearance is it? This is where your perspective veers towards fundamentalism.


  47. Zrim:: raised secular (how’s that for outside the covenant) and married fundamentalist

    mark: Two interesting words. Most “fundamentalists” I suppose were ideologically baptist, and thus “outside the covenant”. Of course, if they had one professing Christian parent (not grandparent), they should have been watered not to become “covenant children” but because they were unwittingly “covenant children”. Of course, it’s too late now to cry over the sinful ignorance of their parents. Even though these children can’t make “the covenant promise” their own by faith like the “covenant children” can, perhaps there is some other not too dissimilar promise left for them. They might even end up in the end being better off than Ishmael.

    But back to the two words. I have quite a few “secular friends” but no more “fundamentalist” friends at all. Funny how that worked. Arminians who believe in inerrancy but impose their will on the Bible text—can’t get along with them. But my secular friends are atheists, and I would much rather trust my children with them, instead of them hanging out with those who are self-righteous about their decision to accept Jesus…


  48. I’m sorry, I thought I was posting on Oldlife where all I ever read is quotes from the standards and comment after comment about how the Reformed tradition has stood against this modern development and that modern development. But when your precious right to go see the latest blockbuster is threatened suddenly it’s looking at the tradition through rose-tinted glasses or viewing it as “golden”. What does that even mean?

    If it means approaching our tradition and standards with a critical rather than a faithful mind then we might as well just abandon our creeds because we’re no different from the evangelicals who rewrite the faith every generation. The point of our standards is that they are binding in perpetuity unless they can be shown- by assemblies, not a couple guys who want to have a Breaking Bad marathon or watch the Superbowl- to be unbiblical.

    It’s not about a list, it’s about viewing things spiritually: what is profitable and what isn’t. You guys ask, what can I get away with and still be a faithful Christian?; we ask, what is to be avoided that I can more faithfully follow Christ? Yes I quoted a list because the church must identify what are obvious violations of the moral law. Otherwise, why can you say pre-marital sex is wrong but dancing is not? They are both forbidden by the seventh commandment. Because, as is Reformed tradition, each commandment covers a whole host of restrictions and requirements under the umbrella of the specific action required or forbidden in the commandment.

    Yes the culture has always been lax and dark: and it has invaded the church. That is why you think it ok to do the things you do.


  49. MM- The men who formulated your question on sin are the same men who formulated my question on those forbidden by the seventh commandment. It’s therefore a tad inconsistent to adhere to yours but reject mine. These documents are whole documents, not isolated questions; and we subscribe them as whole documents, not on a question by question basis. Unless your assembly has altered specific questions. Has it? What is your denomination?

    This is another expression of the lax subscription of today, where the standards become mere guidelines rather than binding constitutions. One of the marks of the true church is discipline but I wonder what your churches would actually discipline a member for…


  50. Al, you seem to have either dropped the qualifier “lascivious” or have become promiscuous in your use of it. Whichever the case, you dodge my questions and assume I practice your idea of what sin Is. As it turns out I don’t dance, but if Highland dance enflames your passions I recommend you avoid it. If you aspire to be an at-large interdenominational World Wide Web moral offense prosecutor then you may have some issues of your own to work out and your jurisdIction should be limited to the mirror.


  51. What question do you mean? I’ve already said that all dancing is considered unchaste. I said that ages ago.
    And I didn’t realise I had to be American to post here. Again, I assumed one of the features of Reformed theology and ecclesiology was its universal applicability. And of course the usual ad hominem attack of my having “issues” of my own to work out. The only issue I have is with people claiming to represent the Reformed tradition adopting practice clearly at odds with the history of the tradition and the standards they claim to subscribe and attacking those who still hold to these practises as legalists and fundamentalists.

    And I notice you dodge my question of subscription.


  52. Alexander, they also wrote WCF 22.2: “God alone is Lord of the conscience,and has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men, which are, in any thing, contrary to His Word; or beside it, if matters of faith, or worship. So that, to believe such doctrines, or to obey such commands, out of conscience, is to betray true liberty of conscience: and the requiring of an implicit faith, and an absolute and blind obedience, is to destroy liberty of conscience, and reason also.”

    So, again, the point is that if you want to bind anyone’s conscience you’ll have to show how God forbids it clearly. If you can’t then back off. The way you speak, one wonders if you have a category for life that is neither about sin nor righteousness, which is to say wisdom. What do you think liberty means? What exactly is legalism to you? But try this on for size: the internet is sinful because it breeds and harbors violations of the ninth. Feeling unduly bound yet?


  53. You say “all dancing is considered unchaste” but the WLC says “lascivious” dancing is unchaste.(If you take out key adjectives “apparel” is forbidden as well) But you strip away what makes activities sin, ignore qualifiers and ban entire categories like “public houses, the cinema, theatre.” So you demand more than the Westminster divines. Then your passive tense is unhelpful, since it might be nice to know who has such thoughts, when, and about what kind of dance. Even then, such would still be an opinion in time and neither the Word of God not the final word on what the WLC means.

    Accordingly your question of subscription isn’t a ripe one to ask since you have a cramped and idiosyncratic reading of the standards as they pertain to the moral law.

    I don’t know what “English” or “American” has to do with this conversation.


  54. Pretty serious stuff going on, for a Saturday morning. But speaking of dancing, all I can wonder about right now, is, what does the fox say?


  55. Andrew, we don’t need a third court jester here. And I’m not counting Muddy ’cause he’s a total fraud.


  56. Well, fine. You fundies are worse than the nuns. It’s another scruple I’ll have to declare. Cuz if Lambada is wrong I don’t wanna be right.


  57. Oh out comes the 9th commandment!

    Yeah but they also wrote LC 139 so they clearly didn’t see a tension between the two. Again, you can’t play question and article against each other. We take them as whole documents unless we’re going to go the extent of amending them. Liberty of conscience- it’s not an abstract “liberty”- is about liberty from false doctrine in order to worship and follow Christ. Legalism is a spirit whereby we believe that by doing or not doing certain things we will earn favour and ultimately salvation. So legalism has spring up in any circumstance.

    The problem is that certain parts of the church apply the term legalism to any church which expects certain standards of conduct; which enforces rules, of all things. But rules do not automatically mean legalism. I read a lot about the third use of the law; I see very little actual application of it. From the Sabbath on down I see very lax enforcement.

    And I have to say: I find it extraordinarily ironic to be told- on this forum of all places- to “back off”. If you only want to discuss issues with people who agree with you 100% then perhaps the Internet is not the best place for you to discuss issues. And if you’re going to throw accusations of legalism and fundamentalist around then expect some push back.


  58. MM: I’m merely following the teaching of the church thorough the generations which, as far as I know, did not distinguish between dancing that was fine and dancing which wasn’t: dancing, period, was and is considered a breach of the commandment. That is how the standards were applied. And I think public houses and theatres and cinemas- as institutions- quite clearly fall foul of a number of the prohibitions under the commandment:


  59. Keep up the good work Alexander! I think it’s obvious that Zrim and M&M don’t like the WCF’s larger catechism, which they would both call legalistic. And M&M is OPC which subscribes to the WCF!!

    Zrim constantly confuses licence to sin, with liberty. I glad you pointed out the difference. Zrim hasn’t the foggiest idea of what legalism really means in a reformed context imho.

    God bless you, and keep pressing on!


  60. Alexander, I used the ninth to make a point, not to accuse. And the point was that a venue like the internet could be easily construed as a place unfit for believers every bit as much as the cinema, etc. Going by your general reasoning, it isn’t clear why you think this venue is more conducive, or at least not as contrary to Christian virtue than the others you list.

    It also wasn’t to run you off the blog. It was to say that if you can’t show me where God says thou shalt not go to the cinema or dance or imbibe then keep your pious opinion to yourself.

    Your idea of legalism is limited. Yes, it’s a subtle way to seek favor from God, but it’s also a way to please men instead of God. You seem quite bothered that some patronize the cinema and bars. But since God has not forbidden these things, some of us simply don’t care how you feel about it.


  61. If we’re limited to what is expressly forbidden in the verses of Scripture then that’s not much. Where does God ban abortion? Where does he ban human cloning? You sound like a biblicist.

    We infer from the moral teaching of Scripture how to act in specific circumstances that arise due to the historical period in which we live. Otherwise the notion of the law as a rule of life is meaningless. Which clearly would suit some people just fine.

    And it was you who brought up the issue of legalism. I’m “bothered” by Christians seeking to justify their actions under the guise if Christian liberty whilst hurling legalist missiles at those who think the faith requires a rather stricter lifestyle. And I’m “bothered” by the example that is set when people boast in activities which at best are neutral and lawful and at worst are not conducive to holiness.


  62. Alexander, not much? So does freedom bother you? You sound like Peter. But what God has made clean do not call unclean. We also infer from the teaching of Scripture how to behave in the present moment. The internet is today’s wild west. Why are you here spending time with all these boasters if you think the faith requires a rather stricter lifestyle? Aren’t your morals being corrupted?


  63. Did you not ask Darryl if he read “City on a Hill” by Machen? I think he’s asking for you to produce that document for him and the public. I’ve never heard of it either. Where might I find it?


  64. Alexander, you couldn’t bear the weight of your moralism if you didn’t pick and choose. The internet leads to more transgressions and falsehood than any dance floor or neighborhood bar, yet here you are. And if you had to defend it, suddenly you would discover adjectives and adverbs to qualify the sin of the internet.


  65. Like I didn’t have enough problems with my ex-wife and missing brain cells from the sins of my youth, now CW calls me a fraud. Actually I’ve been called 549 worse things so that’s almost a compliment. Where was Sean to give me cover on this?


  66. Sorry Muddy, I’m watching ND win by way of bought refs. This is what I miss about being RC, we could justify not only the hypocrisy of college football as part of a distinctly Roman Catholic education but also not flinch when along with a 135 foot high picture of Jesus we can simultaneously be inspired by the intro to Hells Bells by AC/DC while watching same football team. Being RC could really be freeing.


  67. Sparty again had no game in the 4th, whether blowing a 17 point lead or failing to move forward on crucial drives, it’s the same old song.


  68. Always cheer against the crooked papists. Local cathlick high school is noted for nasty play and vile language. Par.


  69. Zrim, I’m curious what your reasoning is for saying “I’d sooner let my daughter attend a public school dance without me than take her to a Purity Ball”? I went to a conservative Christian high school which didn’t have dancing and have never been to a public school dance, but I can only imagine what goes on there and so I was confused that you would choose that over a Purity Ball. What do you have against a Purity Ball? (full disclosure, I don’t know much about a purity ball, but it seems a whole lot more beneficial than a public school dance).

    More to the general discussion, no one here is arguing that the Bible gives us an exhaustive list of “a Christian can do this, but can’t do that”. I assume no one here is denying Christian liberty, but what some are arguing for is to make sure we aren’t giving liberty to sin as many times we like to resort to “playing the legalism card” to justify sin. On the flip side, we are creatures of law because many times it’s easier to have a list of “dos and don’ts” so we like to impose restrictions on what Christians can and can’t do which aren’t even Biblical and we need to be careful to not speak where the Bible doesn’t speak. If I understand correctly, that is the argument here if you boil it down.

    The Bible does give guidelines for Christian living. They aren’t exhaustive, but they do give us a framework (a Biblical worldview if you’ll allow me to use such terminology on this blog) for how to act in this world. Armed with those guidelines, we can go into the various aspects of culture and ask, how should a Christian act? I’ll switch the topic from dancing to movies. It is amazing what we allow to come through our TVs or computers, things which we wouldn’t ever be caught saying or doing, but it is somehow ok if we are just watching and laughing at it. When we bring up any topic of Christian liberty, people will immediately become very defensive, because let’s face it, we don’t want to be wrong and don’t really like other people thinking that we are sinning (regardless of if we actually are). We have seen evidence of that here, so let’s be charitable and try to approach the topic of movies using the lens of Scripture. Should we as Christians who confess the virtues of marital faithfulness, modesty, chastity, purity, etc find entertainment in a movie that makes a mockery of these things? Should we find entertainment (as Christians) in movies that celebrate the shedding of innocent life for sinful means? Should we laugh when our favorite character constantly takes God’s name in vain and mocks Him? If we held to such standards, we would all be guilty (I know I would be) and yet which of us could deny that these movies we watch are rather sinful? Would anyone dare say they aren’t? And yet virtually all Christians will categorize these movies within “Christian liberty” because we can’t get rid of that idol in our life (and I speak from personal experience here). This makes one thankful we aren’t saved by works, but we should remember the third use of the law (normative) and as a law of gratitude. We are so quick to avoid talking about these issues by labeling people who do as “legalists”, but aren’t we called to let the light of Scripture shine into our lives and expose sin?

    Again, for clarification I’m not saying we shouldn’t watch any movies or listen to any non-Christian music, or whatever. I simply raise the question and hope that someone would entertain it without just labeling it as “legalism” to even consider if we should find entertainment in the majority of movies we (you and I) find enjoyment in. I don’t buy the answer that the Bible doesn’t address movies so we have Christian liberty and the discussion ends there. Scripture speaks to all of life, sometimes more clear than others, but many times we don’t want to listen to it. I’m reminded of the hymn: “The dearest idol I have known, Whate’er that idol be Help me to tear it from Thy throne, And worship only Thee.” Are movies an idol? I know they can be for me because I just look the other way at the sin contained in them which hurts God and slaps Him in the face.

    Also, I don’t know many Christians (broadened from Kuyperians) who would actually say “Christians don’t smoke” because that means if you smoke you aren’t a Christian. Rather, some might give some reasoning as to why as Christians, smoking might not be a good idea. There is a difference. Again, it is trying to take the guidelines Scripture gives and applying them to our lives, but obviously there is Christian liberty in smoking.


  70. Jason, my comment was to suggest that public school social functions aren’t quite as immodest as some here tell it in order to give the antithesis a hyperventilating hand (unlike you, I have experience). Purity balls are an unsettling concoction of patriarchy, moralism, and adolescent romanticism.

    As to the rest of your comment, all fair enough. But those who want to defend Christian liberty don’t do so as a way to neglect wisdom and prudence. In point of fact, it’s to nurture those very virtues. Whatever else it does, legalism creates a false sense of security, i.e. as long as I am over here not doing certain things I don’t have to exercise judgment and discernment, I am safe and not prone to sin. But as every Calvinist knows, sinners are always prone to sin and manipulating one’s environment will never circumvent that tendency. No matter where one is or what one is doing he must always exercise wisdom and judgment. And a false sense of security leads to self-righteousness, always a vice to a Calvinist. The legalist may think he’s nurturing piety, but it could be that he’s doing the very opposite: laziness instead of diligence, self-righteousness instead of humility. And in the process depriving himself of old-fashioned enjoyment of God’s good stuff.


  71. On the Internet I would say that is neutral and therefore lawful. There are a lot of negatives, and a lot of positives. And the positives aren’t outweighed by the negatives therefore a Christian can utilise the Internet. It’s the same approach that we take to our dealings in the world: e.g. school, university, employment. We must be in the world to some degree, so we must be wise in how we are in the world. Working in secular environments will expose us to unChristian/unBiblical elements and influences. We must be on our guard to recognise them and resist them. But secular employment is lawful. I would say the same for the Internet.

    Public houses, theatres, cinemas differ because these places either have no positive aspects or the negative aspects so outweigh anything positive that it is only detrimental to be there. Public houses may provide a place for friends to socialise- which is a good thing- but so do coffee houses. Whereas public houses also promote drinking as a recreation; drunkenness; are a place of raucous and often lewd behaviour. Therefore they offer nothing positive that cannot be found elsewhere; and much that is detrimental.

    Zrim: I agree with your last post. We must all use wisdom in the circumstances we find ourselves and be careful of false security in rules. But that is meaningless unless we are willing to apply them to actual situations, which has been the substance of this discussion. It is not exercising wisdoms to say: it’s ok for me to watch this film which depicts sin because I can distance myself from it. It is special pleading. To think that we can immerse ourselves in sinful situations/unchaste company and not be affected is arrogance and folly. It does not sharpen our wisdom to surround ourselves with sin; it leaves us open to temptation. We are to flee from sin, not use it to practice prudence.

    You criticise those who “stay over here” away from dubious activities, but at least they are trying to avoid temptation. Yes temptation is all around us but that does not mean we give in and wade out into the waters and hope for the best.

    Why is it ok to watch films and tv shows filled with profanity, sex- not just explicit sex but sensuousness- blasphemy, crudeness? These things are wrong, so why is it ok to watch and listen to them for entertainment?

    Dgh has often criticised Christian athletes for playing on Sabbath and churches for broadcasting football games in their buildings. And yet watching football on TV on Sabbath is fine it seems. Why is it lawful to watch people doing unlawful things?


  72. Jason: “It is amazing what we allow to come through our TVs or computers Bibles, things which we wouldn’t ever be caught saying or doing, but it is somehow ok if we are just watching and laughing at it worshipping. When we bring up any topic of Christian liberty, people will immediately become very defensive, because let’s face it, we don’t want to be wrong and don’t really like other people thinking that we are sinning (regardless of if we actually are). We have seen evidence of that here, so let’s be charitable and try to approach the topic of movies the Bible using the lens of Scripture. Should we as Christians who confess the virtues of marital faithfulness, modesty, chastity, purity, etc find entertainment inspiration in a movie book that makes a mockery of violates these things?”


  73. Al, the last time I was in a bar was a few months ago with Charter. And now that you mention it, it was like a switch turned on. As soon as we went through the doors the f-bombs starting flying out of our mouths and we began to lust over every woman there. As handsome as we are, the women starting coming after us like zombies with deep cleavage. And we barely got out of there before one of them talked us into being atheists.

    But I guess that’s Alexander’s version. In real life, we talked about our families, our churches, Old Life, and sports over one beer and then went our separate ways. But if you can’t do that – if being in a bar or swing dancing puts you on a greased slide into sin then you should stay away. But for many with your kind of rules, the problem isn’t so much “out there” as it is in you, and you impose your issues on others.


  74. Dgh- I got the impression that you watched sport on Sabbath. I apologise for making that accusation.

    Mm: a prime example of the arrogance and subjectivism l was talking about. “I can go to a bar and not get drunk ergo it must be ok for me to go to a bar.” Oh please.

    It becomes clear to me why do many discussions on his forum end up being about sport and tv despite ostensibly starting on spiritual matters. Didn’t someone say once “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I guess your treasure lies in the pub and in your “liberty” to do anything you want and never mind what kind of example you set and what kind of witness you give to the world.


  75. OK, Al, so we have shifted from moral corruption to bad witness. As I recall the Pharisess thought Christ was a bad witness, what with all the eating and drinking and socializing with “sinners.” No doubt he should have thought twice about using a miracle to supply wine to party-goers who had already been drinking.

    But I don’t really care to “witness” that Christianity is moralism. Church-goers of that sort tend to find too much comfort in their mulititude of superficial rules and use bad judgment in separating the sheep from the goats on the basis of compliance with those rules. Moralism ends up creating a bruiseless mob rule in which the authority of the Word of God to define sin is lost in favor of what bugs Alexander. Or Charles Finney, or Bob Jones.


  76. Re: Finney. The Burned Over District is still pretty crispy.

    Thanks, Chuck — you went from revivalism to moralism to perfectionism, helped bring us the social gospel and are the the true grandfather of the worst of the right and left wings of American religion. But don’t worry, Alex, I’m sure you’ve got it figured out.

    And, Erik — Iowa is in need of work.


  77. Chorts, I’m more or less from Portland, Maine, which is #2 on the list. But I have no idea how they lump Portland in with Auburn, which is both geographically and culturally quite removed from Portland. Lewiston-Auburn would make sense, and I’d rather live in Portland with one major limb missing than live in Lewiston-Auburn.


  78. At Grove City College the students save their places in the cafeteria by putting their wallets on the table. What can I say? I get a kick out of that.

    (yes, this is unrelated to anything, but this is OL, after all)


  79. Cinema has no redeeming value? Have our interlocutors never seen a movie in which themes of redemption are perfectly woven through the plot?

    Methinks some of these writers are standing outside the movie houses and thinking, “I thank God that I am not like one of those people who go to the movies. I abstain from filmed entertainment and I use my time in much better fashion.”

    For freedom Christ has set us free.


  80. Al, that’s weird I always thought the discussions ended up centered around the pub because drink was what required for folks like us to put up with people like yourself.

    Legalism, yet another area where protestants just play at it. Let’s have you swear off marriage, have you take vows of poverty and chastity and live with dead and dying in the inner city or some third-world country as your sacrifice of sanctification. Ooh, we don’t go to movies as example of our love for Christ. Give me a break.


  81. Alexander, the distinction you make between the internet and cinema’s, etc. seems nothing short of arbitrary. And all the reasoning you use to forbid cinema is easily used to forbid internet. Contrariwise, all the reasoning you use to make internet liberty can be easily used to make cinema liberty.

    It reminds me of when the local Baptist University took dancing off its no-no list for students and staff (and celebrated with campus line-dancing—no accounting for taste, I guess). What made dancing all of a sudden adiaphoron but dice (dice!!) and beer still taboo? And this is the point about man made lists—they are completely at the mercy of the author’s subjectivism. They’re moving targets, in stark contrast to God’s stated moral laws.


  82. According to Al’s argument, the Internet should be more dangerous. One can go to the movies and avoid films that are “immoral.” The amount of titillating advertisements is also somewhat minimal, limited mainly to the movie posters unless one goes to certain movies, which can be avoided.

    If you use email, how do you avoid spam emails with offensive subject lines? If you do Google searches, are you guaranteed not to have some questionable results? What about provocative pop-up ads even if all you do is go to news websites?

    At least with the movies, you could avoid such things much easier. Hard to get away from it completely online. Seems, Alexander, that you need to turn off your computer and never go on the Internet ever again.


  83. Eminem says this: “Chorts, I’m more or less from Portland, Maine, which is #2 on the list. But I have no idea how they lump Portland in with Auburn, which is both geographically and culturally quite removed from Portland. Lewiston-Auburn would make sense, and I’d rather live in Portland with one major limb missing than live in Lewiston-Auburn.”

    John Y: Portland, Maine is bada_ _ territory, I had no idea MM. Thinking back on some of your posts in previous years I guess that makes sense. Unless, of course, your yanking some chains. I just can’t keep from laughing when I think about that. Perhaps that’s why rapper may be in your blood and Eminem an appropriate nickname. Eight mile Road in Detroit and Portland, Maine are similar terrain with a penchant for violence leaning more towards Portland me’s thinks. Some good sarcasm going on in this post- I’ve missed it but am trying to catch up.


  84. MM,

    After watching The Day After Tomorrow – a true cinematic masterpiece – I am glad you went south to Iowa, but I am just concerned you didn’t go further south.

    PS – Don’t tell Alejandro that I watched a movie with the dude from Brokeback, at least Quaid was in The Right Stuff.


  85. Robert, the other option is to get some of that baby-sitter software. You know, the kind that helps men behave like little boys instead of grown-ups on line but feel righteous for doing it, unlike those who behave like children instead of grown-ups on line but have no option for feeling righteous.


  86. Chorty,

    “I live next to the city tied for “least post-Xian.”

    So that either puts you in Big Rapids, MI or Warenville, IL, but my money is one Warenville, right next to New Jerusalem, err Wheaton.


  87. JY, I had no idea Portland was tough guy territory. It’s changed quite a bit in the last 20 years, as has my high school town of Yarmouth. It’s all been yuppified/preppified or whatever you want to call it. We used to have blue collars, a town drunk, and my dog used to sleep with his feet up in the air at the town drug store. Now my high school classmates can’t afford to live where they were raised.

    Jackson Browne sang “rollin’ down 295 out of Portland Maine / still high from the people up there and feelin’ no pain.” Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot (Danny Glick) was situated in the Yarmouth area.


  88. Zrim,

    Do you really mean to tell me that the point of Christianity is not to feel more righteous than thou? Shocking I say, shocking!!


  89. Jed, I’d rather live in Lewiston/Auburn than live in the SE, if that’s what you mean by further South. But I could see going SW and cycling year-round. Maybe that puts me in Pastor Todd’s neck of the woods.


  90. You’re out of your element, Seany.

    First, I don’t click on youtube lynx. Second, MMA is just that – “mixed” ma. Everyone has to bring an assortment of skills to a fight. You have to have BJJ, you have to be able to ground ‘n pound, and you have to be able to box. TKD-style kicking is a nice skill to have in addtion to the others, e.g., Georges St. Pierre is one of the few guys that can kick in a TKD-worthy manner and maybe you’ve noticed that he’s done pretty well. Guys in my former do jang learn TKD but the also get some hap kido, as well as some BJJ and practical self-defense like how handle muggers with or without weapons coming at you from various angles.

    But even if TKD had no use it has the benefit of physical fitness, and bar fighters seem downright slow when you’ve sparred with black belts.


  91. There are arguments to be made against films in and of themselves but since you guys seem unwilling to embrace any form of Christian witness then I thought I’d start simple. The problem with cinemas is their reason for existence. They are not neutral fora. The Internet is. And actually, mikkelman, it’s both about morality and witness: there can actually be two different reasons for something existing at the same time.

    It’s clear none of you think there are actually restrictions on Christian behaviour any more extensive than those placed on non-Christian. Your standards seem to be whatever the secular government has prohibited or allowed. This certainly explains a lot about American Christianity, though it is tragic. And clearly your subscription to the standards is a lie since you reject them wherever you find them inconvenient.

    But I can tell you from experience that the holiness I’m speaking of and which I aspire to and o which we should all aspire does not operate on the basis of following rules. Rather, one is of such a spiritual disposition that these frivolous entertainments are of no interests. The most spiritually exercised men and women I know and have heard of have no inclination to waste their time with these things because it seems so incredible that, when one know Christ, one would want to partake in these things which pull one away from Christ. That is the spirit we should be praying to fill our churches and rid us of the rationalism and antinomiansm which is apparently rife in so many churches.


  92. Alexander, no doubt your omission of cinema-going shines like a city on a hill. It’s a light outside the bushel. Ummm, how do people know what you’re not doing? Oh, that’s right – you tell them. Thus does the sweet fragrance of fundamentalist perfume permeate England.


  93. Sorry MM, I was doing my Michael Flatley warm up. But, I’m pleased to learn your master doesn’t leave his students completely helpless. Hopefully the aggressor never gets inside. But any discipline which emphasizes the puncher’s chance does at least leave you with just that.

    Forever living inside your wheelhouse,



  94. Al, I’m sure you’ve got some religious near you when you really want to get serious about your monasticism and stop playing at the edges.


  95. Actually, reading good fiction and watching well-made dramas on television can enhance our Christian sanctification, in that it helps us to empathize with and have compassion for people outside our own circles.

    “The greatest benefit we owe to the artist, whether painter, poet, or novelist, is the extension of our sympathies. Appeals founded on generalizations and statistics require a sympathy ready-made, a moral sentiment already in activity; but a picture of human life such as a great artist can give, surprises even the trivial and the selfish into that attention to what is apart from themselves, which may be called the raw material of moral sentiment. … Art is the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds of our personal lot.” (George Eliot, novelist)

    “We tend to think of movie watching or book reading as passive activities. That may be true physically, but it’s not true emotionally. When we watch a film or read a novel, we join ourselves to a character’s trajectory through the story world. We see things from their point of view—feel scared when they are threatened, wounded when they are hurt, pleased when they succeed. These feelings are familiar to us as readers or viewers. But our propensity to identify with characters is actually a remarkable demonstration of our ability to empathize with others.” ( Keith Oatley, psychologist and novelist)

    “When we examine this process of identification in fiction, we appreciate the importance of empathy—not only in enjoying works of literature, but in helping us form connections with those around us in the real world. The feelings elicited by fiction go beyond the words on a page or the images on a screen. Far from being solitary activities, reading books or watching movies or plays actually can help train us in the art of being human. These effects derive from our cognitive capacity for empathy, and there are indications that they can help shape our relationships with friends, family, and fellow citizens.” (Oatley)

    “Reading certain kinds of fiction, then, is the very model of how we might properly view events in our social world. It is right that they engage our emotions, as if they were happening to someone with whom we are closely involved, but not directly to us. In literature we feel the pain of the downtrodden, the anguish of defeat, or the joy of victory—but in a safe space. In this space, we can, as it were, practice empathy. We can refine our human capacities of emotional understanding. We can hone our ability to feel with other people who, in ordinary life, might seem too foreign—or too threatening—to elicit our sympathies. Perhaps, then, when we return to our real lives, we can better understand why people act the way they do, and react with caution, even compassion, toward them.” (Oatley)


  96. Alexander,

    You mean it is a sin to enjoy something simply for the sake of enjoying it? Seems you need to take that up with God who made wine to gladden the heart of man (Ps. 104:15).

    If you’re married, better not let your wife buy a pretty dress or hang a picture on the wall. Those expenses are as “frivolous” as a movie ticket. Don’t tell your children stories or read them books either.

    It’s easy to measure holiness by the number of movies one sees. Much harder to measure the intent of the heart.


  97. Mm- I’m actually in Scotland. If you haven’t managed to figure that out by now then you give adequate reason for your “argumentation”. And actually we just assume that professing Christian is not doing these things. We don’t sit around telling each other what we don’t do.

    Robert- and the intent of the heart of those who spend their time in frivolous entertainments is certainly clear.


  98. So, Al, do let us know what you think of all those Wee Free elders who enjoy a bit of Scotch and like to watch football or (gasp) cricket.


  99. Alexander,

    If I were to visit your home in Scotland, would I find:

    No TV
    No Newsmagazines or Newspapers

    Or, at least would I find that when the BBC does a human interest/entertainment story that you turn it off and pray for the souls of you neighbors. Would I find that in your newspapers you tear out everything except for real news.

    What about telling jokes (clean ones, of course)? Are you praying at all times without fail for every need you can think of? How about just talking about the current weather. That’s not so spiritual.

    And that grocery cart of yours. I better not see any frivolous items such as ice cream or candy. I mean, the people who spend time eating such things or baking a cake, and those who spend money on such things, it’s crystal clear what the intent of their hearts are.


  100. Al, when you get serious about your commitment to Christ and austerity, Pluscarden Abbey awaits you.

    “The first step is to come and stay at the monastery to see the way of life at first hand. A number of visits are usually recommended, but at some time one should contact the Novice Master and discuss one’s feeling of vocation. If both parties believe God is really calling the candidate, the next steps are usually as follows. Firstly the Novice Master offers the chance of a month in the noviciate, to experience life ‘on the inside’. If this works out, a time is fixed for the postulancy to begin, which usually lasts six months. This is followed by a 2-year noviciate, which begins with the rite of monastic initiation during which the novice is given a new name and the tonsure. The noviciate is a period of formation in the monastic life, with classes in the life of prayer, the Holy Rule, Monastic Tradition, the Psalms, Latin and Gregorian Chant, as well as participation in the work of the community. During it the novice is free to leave at any time and may also be asked to leave.

    After the end of the noviciate, there is a vote of the community to allow the novice to take temporary vows and receive the white habit. These vows last for a minimum of three years during which time the junior monk receives further formation in Scripture, Catholic Theology and Liturgy, to enable him to live a fruitful monastic life. After another vote of the community he may proceed to Solemn Vows which make him a full member of the community. There is thus ample time, at least five and a half years, to make a free and informed decision to commit oneself to the monastic life as it is lived at Pluscarden. For those who are thus called it is the best way to serve God and the surest way to peace in this life and eternal beatitude in the next.”

    The School of the Lord’s Service
    In the Prologue to his Rule, St Benedict addresses a man thinking of entering the monastery: “Hearken, my son, to the precepts of the master and incline the ear of your heart; freely accept and faithfully fulfil the instructions of a loving father, that by the labour of obedience you may return to him from whom you strayed by the sloth of disobedience. To you are my words now addressed, then, if you are ready to give up your own will, once and for all, and armed with the strong and noble weapons of obedience to fight for the true King, Christ the Lord”. This perfectly expresses the loving, austere, obedient and humble life of the cloister and, without any compromise, situates the monk on the victorious side in the cosmic battle between good and evil. He fights in this spiritual combat “against the spiritual hosts of wickedness” (Ephesians 6:12) as part of a community, and his warfare is simply and humbly to live the common life of the monastery. For the Benedictine monk, the monastic community is the context for spiritual struggle and growth.”


  101. I’ll prooftext to my heart’s content here…

    Titus 1:15

    To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

    Romans 14:14

    14 I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.


  102. Many of you seem to be stuck on this idea of if you place rules for yourself (many times helpful rules), you are automatically acting with a “holier than thou” attitude. Let me ask, which of you can see the heart and know this for a fact? God alone can read the heart and so I might caution jumping to conclusions. Alexander hits it on the head when he says “But I can tell you from experience that the holiness I’m speaking of and which I aspire to and to which we should all aspire does not operate on the basis of following rules. Rather, one is of such a spiritual disposition that these frivolous entertainments are of no interests.” I don’t understand why everyone seems to think that rules and striving after holiness automatically implies a holier than thou attitude. For sure it can, but it doesn’t have to and in fact shouldn’t.
    What Alexander is suggesting is what we have been taught in the Bible, that mortifying of the old man and coming to life of the new. All of us confessing Christians know we are sinners and rejoice in sin, but it is the power of the gospel and the Holy Spirit working in us that once we know Christ, we wouldn’t want to partake and indulge ourselves in those things that profane the name of Christ and last I checked a majority of movies/tv do that (note carefully that I didn’t say all). Todd makes a great point about how movies can actually be a good thing and this might be where I personally would differ with Alexander in that I wouldn’t say “all movies are bad”. I for one have seen a lot of good, wholesome, beneficial movies.
    I find it troubling how rather than encouraging our fellow Christians in mortifying the old man and putting on the new man, which seems to be what Alexander is arguing for and which is where I was headed in my first post, we won’t even talk about the merits of abstaining from movies, or at least setting some kind of boundary in movie-watching in an attempt to “flee temptation” a command given to us in the Bible. Instead we seek to discredit such a notion by extending it to all areas of life and proving that it is impossible to live by and suggesting that those of us who might strife after such things should just become a monk! Seriously? What Alexander is talking about and what I initially suggested in my post yesterday was laying out the foundation for mortifying the old man and putting on the new man but acknowledging that as long as we are this side of heaven, we will always engage in sinful activity. I have stated that while I believe many movies that I watch to be sinful, I still watch them. Isn’t this the struggle Paul describes in Romans 7? Robert, how is what you said helping the discussion? I realize you are making the claim that if we are going to apply Alexander’s principle of not engaging in frivolous activities to all of life, we would be like the monks and I can tell you for a fact without even knowing Alexander that he has some frivolous activities in his life (we all do) but that’s not the point. The point is, are we called as Christians to try to flee temptation, cut sin out of our life when we see it, seek after heavenly things, etc? I’m legitimately curious what your guys’ answer to that question would be because the impression I am left with is that the boundaries that I have set for myself (and I break them continuously) are at best unnecessary and at worse sinful. Therefore, I should start watching all the R rated movies I can find, those that are the most sexually graphic, I should frequent the nightclubs, etc because you know what, at the end of the day there will always be sin in whatever we do, so why even try to limit it? As many of you have suggested, changing the environment won’t change anything. Sorry if I have jumped to conclusions, but maybe you should go back and read through the responses you guys have made and see if you aren’t left with that same impression.
    DGH, I wasn’t sure what you were suggesting or trying to say by reposting what I said but replacing a couple words. Forgive my inability to understand, but could you explain what you mean?


  103. Jason, if it’s a list one wants then God’s revealed law is sufficient. Have you considered that man-made lists are functions of thinking it is actually insufficient and needs a little extra help and how that is less than pious?

    But if you have inferred from what anybody on this side of the table has said that limits and restraint are out the window then you haven’t been reading very well at all. Nobody is encouraging debauchery and license. My own point above was that liberty actually demands one exercise restraint and limitation (since forbidding something indifferent encourages a false sense of security). If one is persuaded that he should exercise more limits in a thing indifferent than another, so be it. But speaking of restraint, he should be more careful about implying to the one not as inclined to his level of limitation impiety. He should also be cautious about thinking himself more pious. He should be content to order his own life as he sees fit and leave it at that. Why is this a problem?


  104. Zrim, thanks for the response. I understand how a man-made list might give the impression of thinking that God’s law is insufficient and if that was the case, I would be wrong. That is not what I believe though. Rather, I believe that God’s word doesn’t give us an explicit list of “dos and don’ts”. It does give some, but it is somewhat silent you could say on a lot of issues. I need to add though that is isn’t fully silent because it gives us guidelines which we can use when assessing a situation or activity. In this way, we apply God’s word to our everyday lives.
    While you guys haven’t argued for debauchery and license, by mocking the use of limits and restraint to the extent you (general you) have done, was it fair ask the question? There are different ways to disagree with someone. One way is to mock the other side and so that your average reader reading through the comments would get the impression that you think the other side has no merit at all. Another way is to stick strictly to arguing that we should be careful in speaking authoritatively where Scripture has not specifically spoken (i.e. in the case of movies) and to do as you have done in this comment, acknowledging how it might be beneficial to place limits, but cautioning how the Bible hasn’t spoken as strictly maybe as some of us have suggested. Am I making sense here? I don’t mean to incriminate you specifically, but rather the general mood of these comments.
    So I agree with everything you said and it is a good reminder to not consider ourselves more pious than others. The problem I have, and correct me if it’s unfounded, is that I haven’t really gotten the acknowledgement from people here that it is a good idea to try to apply Biblical principles to our everyday life (movies, dance, books, music, entertainment, etc). You have acknowledged the cautions we should have in doing this exercise, but should the cautions scare us away from engaging in the activity of applying God’s word? Would it be a good idea to maybe take account of the movies we watch and see if they honor God’s name? I fall far short in this exercise and so I don’t seek to be more pious or self-righteous or holier than thou. I simply ask, is it a legitimate exercise and should we engage in it, albeit with caution?


  105. Jason,

    The problem isn’t necessarily with rules/guidelines that one might have for oneself. The problem is when one sets rules about matters indifferent that one has followed for himself and then imposes them on others.

    In other words, if watching Lord of the Rings or Beauty and the Beast on the big screen causes you to stumble, then stay away, just don’t look down on me if I prudently engage in that kind of recreation from time to time. Alexander is acting as if we should take that rule and apply it across the board to all Christians because watching movies is worldly, frivolous, or something.

    Movies themselves are as indifferent as the Internet. Legalism doesn’t see this.


  106. Robert, I agree we should watch how we try to impose our own rules/guidelines upon others especially where Scripture hasn’t spoken explicitly. I agree with you that movies are quiet similar to the internet in this respect.

    Can I take it a step further, is it okay to have a discussion with your Christian friends about what kind of TV watching we as Christians should be engaged in? Or are we called to just “keep it inside”? Your examples of LOTR and Beauty and the Beast are quite easy ones in that they are fairly clean. Where I might echo Alexander is in those movies that are not clean and are full of foul language, sex, violence, etc. Is it prudent for us as Christians to be filling our minds with those movies? Is it fair to say that the Bible is maybe more clear in those cases and we could maybe apply more of an “across the board” technique? I know once you get started down this road it becomes cloudy because how many times of taking God’s name are too much? How many sex scenes? I don’t confess to know the answers, but I think we are called to talk about it and not just write it off to legalism.


  107. Jason, the whole point over here has been to apply biblical principles to thinking about the Christian life. So when you say you “haven’t really gotten the acknowledgement from people here that it is a good idea to try to apply Biblical principles to our everyday life,” I have to wonder if you’re simply promoting mere moralism. Sorry to invoke another -ism, but you seem fairly unresponsive to the points concerning liberty, which are actually doctrinal in nature. To be free from the traditions and rules of men is a doctrinal teaching unique to Christianity that just doesn’t resonate with moralists who are much more concerned with staying clean by warding off external influences.

    But you’ll recall that when Jesus said it is not what goes in but what comes out that defiles the Pharisees got pretty upset. It’s because they were moralists.


  108. Zrim, I appreciate your willingness to interact with me.
    Promoting mere moralism? Didn’t I root my thinking of establishing limits/restrictions in the Biblical teaching of old man/new man? Or in the call to “flee temptation”? Do you call this moralism? Colossians 3:9-10 “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” “That ye put off, concerning the former conversation, the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

    As we all know, the law given to us in the Bible no longer condemns us and it isn’t used to earn our salvation or to try to prove something to God. That isn’t the motivation. That might be the motivation in moralism, but not in our law-keeping. I thought Alexander covered this already. If we know Christ, we will not want to partake in those things which hurt Him, which degrade His name. We as Christians have been saved from our sins and so for us Christians, the use of the law is changed from its first use (showing us our sin and misery and driving us to Christ) to its third use (law of gratitude, the normative law). Do you agree with Calvin’s third use of the law for us as Christians? Or is that mere moralism? When we are saved, are we called to just continue living a life in the flesh? Satisfying our fleshly desires? Or are we called to put off the old man and put on the new? What would you say it means to put off the old man and put on the new? We confess that we can do nothing in and of ourselves, but rather it is the Holy Spirit which excites us to action, who kills the sin in our lives, who gives us a desire to follow the law out of a love for God.

    You say I’m unresponsive to the points concerning liberty…I thought I affirmed that I believe in Christian liberty where Scripture does not speak (an example of this is that Scripture doesn’t say you can watch this movie, but not this movie explicitly. It is up to us to determine what is in line with the Bible), but I don’t believe in a liberty to sin. I’m not arguing that we should be restricted to “the traditions and rules of men” as you say, this is the “rules of God” that I’m talking about. Can you go to a Christian brother who is sinning and call them from the error of their way? Or is that not allowed due to Christian liberty (James 5:20)? That’s a more broad question. If you want a more specific one, is there a movie you can think of (you don’t have to name it) that you would say it is a sin to watch, across the board, doesn’t matter who you are? This goes to the heart of what Christian liberty is and what it isn’t, right?
    I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with me on here. I thought we were in agreement and just emphasizing two different aspects? What haven’t I responded to in regards to liberty? I noticed you also refrained from answering my question of if it is a good idea to take inventory of the movies we watch and see if they honor God’s name? Is this a legitimate exercise? Why the hesitancy?


  109. Zrim:

    1) One wonders if you’ve actually read the chapter on Chrstian Liberty. Article one gives the definition of this liberty: freedom from the bondage of the law as a covenant of works and access to God through grace; and freedom from the dominion of sin and satan. There is nothing about now being free to partake in all things, being guided by our wisdom and prudence.
    Article four is about how we still owe submission to civil authority. It is only one clause in article two on which you hang your whole doctrine: about liberty from doctrines and commandments of men.

    You assume that this clause is referring to any prohibition of behaviour not specifically banned in scripture and you use this one clause as license to do anything you want so long as you use “prudence” as you do. But article three expressly warns against such a use. I urge you to read on beyond article two. You must prove that Christian liberty is liberty to partake in all that the world has to offer. You won’t do so by appeal to the confession though.

    2) You seem obsessed with lists. I have never given a list. I’ve focused on a certain few activities for the purpose of this discussion- those activities which are most controverted these days and which are mentioned frequently on this forum. I have no list to offer you. What I have tried to put across is an approach to any circumstance which might arise and the guiding principles we should use. I have tried to explain that a spiritually minded person will more and more- as they are progressively sanctified- turn away from worldly and frivolous entertainments as a major feature of their life. And I have tried to explain why certain activities- again those not foreign to this forum- are to be avoided. For this I have been mocked. I find it incredible that one trying to argue for holiness- real, personal and corporate holiness- would be mocked.

    3) Robert- private piety without (enforced) corporate piety is not enough and nor does it even make sense. As Christians we are part of a community. If one person backslides or lives a dissolute lifestyle it has an effect on the whole community- especially if that person is a member. This is one reason why discipline must be enforced and why the church can and must speak to specifics. Your Baptist “one man and his Bible” model will not do. I’m surprised you even brought it up on a Reformed forum.

    Kent- that is some of the worst exegesis I have ever read.


  110. MM,

    I guess I got my cities confused. I was thinking of someone I knew for a brief period of time who was telling a group of us what the city he grew up in was like and I thought he was from Portland, Maine. But perhaps it was Bridgeport or New Haven, Connecticut when I reach back into the diminishing recesses of my memory banks. It was similar to the tough part of Boston (south side I believe) from his description. My bad- but you always bring images of Don Johnson and Miami Vice to my mind. So I don’t see you with Kuyperian eyes but through Michael Mann and Miami Vice eyes. My effort at bringing my comment back on topic. But images like Sean’s TKD high kick and meditation breathing techniques also comes to mind too.


  111. Jason, if we’re so agreed then I don’t understand why you keep suggesting nobody over here is interested in biblical principles for Christian living, or wonder if defending liberty means one can’t warn another believer, or that there is liberty to sin. Another Christian virtue is charity, so why are you suggesting that to defend liberty is to give cover to license? That has been repeatedly and clearly denied over here.


  112. Alexander, I am not contending that article two gives “license to do anything you want so long as you use ‘prudence’ as you do.” Liberty may not be used as a pretense to violate the clear moral law of God. Liberty applies to those things on which God has been silent, and he is silent on cinema and the interweb. What I may not do in the course of partaking in things indifferent is break God’s law. I understand the complexities involved, but I hardly see how any of it solved by categorically forbidding what God has not.

    But you have indeed been listy. And you’ve been completely unable to grasp the counterpoint about the internet. It is interesting how you get to frequent a forum just as prone to the things you decry but when others frequent forums you don’t like (for whatever reasons) they are “doing anything they want, seeing how much they can get away with and still be Christian,” etc.


  113. I’ve addressed the internet. I’ve argued it is a neutral forum which is prone to negative and positive effects. The world of work is similar: there are negatives and positives which the Christian must navigate. You say that movies and the Internet are the same: neutral fora. But how you can say a film is neutral is beyond me. Every film has a message; a viewpoint. And it is filled with content. The Internet is just a blank forum upon which people place things. It would be closer to say a movie is like a website, like Websites, like movies, have viewpoints and content. Some websites are good, some are bad.

    Another difference is that movies deal in artifice: people pretending to be people they are not. One could argue films are a form of lying. Whereas websites like oldlife deal with spiritual things, bringing together Christians to discuss these issues. This is a good thing. Yes there are films which, for example, portray true events about Christians doing the Lord’s work. But they are still films: artificial. They’re not documentaries.

    The reason cinemas are not a good place to be is because they are there for the sole purpose of promoting artifice and frivolous entertainment. Like the public house: to consume alcohol in a moderate quantity is not a sin; to frequent an establishment the purpose of which is to promote recreational drinking and drunkenness; encouraging or at least tolerating much unchaste conversation and conduct is a sin.

    And I have not said all entertainments at all times are forbidden. What I have argued is that the spiritual man will more and more seek spiritual recreation and will become less and less attached to worldly entertainments which do not feed the soul and which do not show us Christ. Watching tv is not inherently sinful. Much on TV is though. And even the lawful things should not be the primary means of our entertainment. Of course we are all attracted to worldy entertainments: we are fallen people. But that does not mean we give in and then try to defend our worldliness with tenuous appeals to the confession. It is quite clear the divines did not consider these sorts of entertainments as acceptable for the Christian. You may think they were wrong, but then you must say the standards err on this point and seek to amend them.

    You repeatedly say the Bible does not ban movies. Who said it did? What I have argued is that being guided by the moral law and principles set down in Scripture we can conclude that there are those things which, though not explicitly barred by Scripture, are barred by good and necessary consequence (another Confessional doctrine!) of the teaching of Scripture.

    You have avoided Jason’s question of whether there are films which because of their content are off limits to Christians. And we’re not talking pornography but mainstream films and tv shows which have immoral content. I ask again: why is it lawful to watch unlawful things? Is it ok to watch someone commit a crime and do nothing? Is it ok to acquiesce in profanity when our work colleagues indulge? And I ask again: if we need an explicit prohibition in Scripture, what of abortion? Or human cloning? Or embryonic stem cell research? Or euthanasia?


  114. Can someone define “christian” entertainment? Those movies produced by Billy Graham’s ministry? The Left Behind series? Fireproof or Defeating the Giants? These were poorly acted and poorly crafted!
    I was/am a neanderhal when it came to understanding art. I thought a painting had to have a bible verse in the corner to be christian. I have a cousin who is a christian artist. He was taken back by my view of art and enlightened me. He told me that what made his paintings glorifying to Christ was that he gave his all to strive for beauty, accuracy, perfection if you will…. He showed me how christian themes are still played out in western literature and movies. You can see themes of sacrifice and redemption in movies today. Although there are certain genres of movies that are unwatchable, they are mostly because of poor craftmanship (acting, scriptwriting, subject matter) A well acted, well written molvie that examines the depravity of man in depth can have some redeeming value in that it forces us to look at our own sin. I would totally disagree that acting is a form of lying, because we know they are actors. Lying implies some sort of malicious intent or deception, I am not being deceived, I know they are acting. I would also go so far to say that even unbelievers such as a Spielberg are masters of their craft and can bring glory to God even if that was not their intent.


  115. Alexander, your last comment is to simply make the conversation repetitive. But once the artifice argument surfaces, my own sense is that there is a reasoning that is unreasonable. Does this mean reading fiction is out because it’s, well, fictitious? (And on the one hand you say there is nothing wrong with moderate consumption of drink, then you suggest something wrong with recreational imbibing. Moderate consumption is recreational, so what are you talking about?)

    I have avoided Jason’s question because it indulges the sort of list making that so problematic. Contrary to popular belief, there are such things as bad questions. I don’t know what stem cell research, etc. has to do with a conversation about liberty other than to take things way off the reservation. The point over here seems simple enough.


  116. Alexander,

    No one is arguing for a “me and my Bible” mentality, at least I’m not. You are making a meaningless distinctions between cinemas and the Internet for what seems to be no other good reason than you think it’s bad to watch movies. But even then it’s not clear because if you allow for good movies as you allow for good websites, does that mean it’s evil to watch a movie in the cinema but okay to rent it and watch it at home?

    A cinema is as indifferent as the Internet. There you will find some good, some bad. There you will find some movies that portray grand themes of redemption (even if unintentionally) and some that are pure trash. It’s hard to see you doing anything other than trying to bind consciences where God has left them free.

    And speaking of Christians in community, is your church disciplining members that frequent cinemas or get a drink at the pub, or are you all too holy to engage in such behaviors?


  117. Zrim: recreational drinking is drinking as a thing in itself, i.e. to go out drinking, for the purpose of drinking. To use alcoholic drink as a form of entertainment.

    Robert- members in my church would e expected to stay away from pubs and cinemas and if they didn’t it would quite likely become an issue with the session. However, discipline cases are very rare. Our people just don’t go to these places.


  118. So, Alexander, I’m guessing no wine tasters or beer brewers in your church. So much for vocation. What about bakers who make the world safe for gluttony with all those cakes we cake lovers love to eat for its own sake?

    But if you wonder why the suggestion that this is Reformed fundamentalism, it’s because this is precisely how Bible church fundamentalists reason and behave. And since some of us have intimate experience with it, we know it when we see it.


  119. DGH,

    Still hanging in Savannah and building Christian streetcred in my own mind, i.e. it is not how victorious and triumphant you are but how many punches and beatings you can take before being knocked out. It is serving a worthwhile purpose I am hoping and I have good days and bad days like everyone else. Hoping I am not misinterpreting the punches and beatings in a wrong headed manner. I am having to make some tough decisions I am putting off but the forces of reality are bearing down recently. Thanks for asking.


  120. Zrim,
    You miss my point entirely and basically ignored most of what I said. I thought we were agreed in that while we should be cautious in our rules/restrictions, we are called to be careful what we engage in. Some post you made before that hinted that to me, but when you likened me to a Pharisee and called me a moralist (add to that uncharitable, now), I guess I was wrong. You miss the point if you think this is being Pharisaical and moralistic, because what they do is only look at outward behavior. What we are suggesting flows out of a response to grace and desire to be like Christ, to “not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15), “to be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). It’s like a child seeking to act like his dad. You couldn’t say that of the Pharisees and sadly we all fail in this time and time again, and have to go as the prodigal son, back to our Father who always welcomes us home.

    You say “I have avoided Jason’s question because it indulges the sort of list making that so problematic”. Zrim, where did I ask for a list? In fact I asked for you to specifically stay general and not mention movies by name since I knew you didn’t like lists. I was simply asking to see your thought process when it comes to discernment. To that end, could you please answer these quick questions?
    1) Is Calvin’s third use of the law (law as gratitude and normative) mere moralism?
    2) Are there movies that you would say are sinful to watch (yes/no…you don’t have to name names)?
    3) What does it mean to “put off the old man and put on the new man” when it comes to entertainment and the use of our time?

    Alexander, I’m curious, what denomination do you belong to? I think choosing to stay out of bars and cinemas is an admirable decision and I’d encourage you in it as well as to continue seeking to explain why you do it because that’s the most important thing. Our prayer should be that we spur each other on in our walk with the Lord.


  121. Zrim: if we were to look upon an unbeliever who spent his life watching tv/films, going out drinking, going to night clubs would we not conclude that he was in thrall to the idols of the world, with no concern for his soul and where he will be in eternity? Why do these things become a positive- and indeed teach us spiritual lessons (?!)- just because they are done by Christians? This sounds awfully transformationalist to me: baptising the things of the world to make them “Christian”. It is bizarre to me that those most keen to defend the spirituality of the church- i.e. its separateness and otherness and spiritual character- indulge in such confusing and conflating when it comes to the world. The church is not something that only manifests on Sabbath. We are the church! Therefore we should walk I spiritual things all week. We must engage with the world, but- as has been argued so often here- the fact we are Christian and a plumber does not mean there is such a thing as Christian plumbing. And yet according to you that is exactly what happens with worldly entertainment. It becomes somehow Christian and spiritually edifying- films teach us about total depravity (if a Christian needs someone else to tell him about the realities of total depravity something is seriously wrong).

    The church and the world are separate. The commingling being argued for is exactly what the Kuyperians argue for. It’s amazing the intellectual gymnastics we will indulge in to defend our pet pleasures.

    Jason- I’m a member in the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (or, the Church of Scotland, free and presbyterian :)). Yourself?


  122. Alexander, not quite. Enjoying the temporal things for what they are is hardly baptizing them. It’s simply understanding that creation is indeed very good and needs neither baptizing nor to be avoided. Creation is a gift of God. And from my experience, it’s usually the pietists who toggle between baptizing creation or avoiding it, never really able to affirm it as it is.


  123. But movies aren’t Creation. God did not create movies He created man, and man created movies. Man has created many things: some of them good, some of them neutral and some of them bad. Therefore you have to show why a particular thing is good or neutral and therefore lawful. And even if it’s lawful does not mean that it’s profitable.


  124. Alexander, and old lifers are the quasi-gnostics? But your view of creation seems much too unmediated, as if God does not create through man and only that which is original is creation. My guess is that you’re thankful for the medicines that restore your health. Both have the potential for ill, but film and medicine are things man takes from the original creation and procreates, thus both are gifts of God. The (ahem) list could go on and on as to what is in the created order beyond rocks, hills, and trees.


  125. I think I was very explicit that there are things which Man creates which are good- u think I actually said those exact words. This would obviously include medicine. The fact that God gave Man the m knowledge to develop medicine does not mean that everything Man creates is good. Does Man never distort of corrupt the knowledge he is given to produce evil things? When the Bible says that all shall be made new, does it also mean that in the new heavens we’ll have glorified TV sets on which we’ll watch glorified DVDs? Creation will be renewed. Will our cinemas?

    When Paul says that God is revealed in creation, does he mean when I look at the tango I see God? When I pass the local pub am I seeing the Godhead revealed? All I see are man made things. When I look to the heavens; when I look across the valley; when I look upon the ocean: there I see the work of God.

    I’m afraid you’ll have to do better if you wish me to believe God is speaking to me through the last season of Breaking Bad.


  126. Alexander, since I don’t wish you to believe God is speaking to you through the last season of Breaking Bad, I guess I don’t have to do any more than I already have. Phew.


  127. Alexander,

    Since I doubt we’ll have the glorified Interwebs in heaven, maybe you should call up your Internet Service Provider and cancel. Until then, you aren’t going to convince anyone except a handful of legalists that you are making anything other than arbitrary distinction between the cinema and, well, anything else God has made.


  128. Chortles,

    Since Andrew’s view of Christian liberty seems to be identical to the me and my Bible only extreme Baptist fundamentalism we see here in the States, it makes sense that his church is KJV only.


  129. Chortles: I like your hysterical clarification there. I certainly hope I didn’t imply I was Free Church. Of course, what I am arguing for was the view of the old Free Church before its liberalisation and would still be the view in certain quarters. I’m afraid you won’t find much pub-going, dance-attending even in the Free Church today. Especially in the heartlands of Lewis.

    Robert: I don’t know who this Andrew, from England, is to whom you keep referring. But he’s not me. Oh, and it’s me, my Bible and the Westminster Confession, Shorter and Larger Catechisms.


  130. Aye, Alexander laddie, but I hae it on guid authority that many like a wee bi’ o’ Scotch. Surely you won’t begrudge them that?


  131. Apologies for always having to take the conversation backwards a little bit. I work during the day, so I can only respond at night.

    Thanks Zrim for answering my questions (well most of them at least). “The question seems too pragmatic in design, pass”..? So as fellow Christians, we can’t have a discussion on what it means to “put off the old man and put on the new man” because it’s too practical of a question and not theoretical enough for you? I wasn’t asking for specifics, but rather just a general framework such as we will more and more have a desire for heavenly things rather than earthly things. Is that a safe conclusion we can arrive at? If it is, then maybe Alexander’s arguments awhile back about how he doesn’t have a desire to go to the cinemas and partaking in “frivolous activities” isn’t so unfounded after all and didn’t deserve the mocking that it got.

    The entire discussion has hinged around whether or not Scripture is “indifferent” in regards to movies. If Scripture is indifferent in regards to movies, then you all are correct that while one person might decide to refrain from movies, they should not be imposing that view on others. If however, Scripture is not completely indifferent in regards to Scripture, that is if Scripture does have something to say about it, then we as Christians are called to discern which movies are “within the bounds” of movies that Christians should watch. There is a third option and that would be “does Scripture say movies are inherently wrong”? I think we can throw that one out quite easily. So the question is, does Scripture say anything about movie watching? That is what I have been trying to get an answer to and it seemed like the majority of people on here were arguing that Scripture is indifferent on movies so we have no basis for saying to someone else “you shouldn’t watch that movie”. I disagreed with this and have been trying to explain why. Zrim, you have finally answered that there are in fact movies that Christians ought not to watch and so I think we can all agree now that the answer is no, Scripture is not completely indifferent and it does have some things to say about our movie watching.

    Alexander, I belong to the United Reformed Churches of North America.


  132. Jason, not to be a pain (well maybe a little), but I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that the Bible has something to say about consuming cinema, because it flat doesn’t. It does have something to say about liberty of conscience, things indifferent, passing judgment, and watching out for weaker brothers.

    As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

    One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

    Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

    “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”
    So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

    Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

    Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. It is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble. The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.


  133. No internet, no Foyle’s War on TV—well, then what about sports and good novels. Not only the greatest (Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky) but also a great novel by legalist adventists (David James Duncan’s The Brothers K)

    “I cherish a theory I once heard propounded by G.Q. Durham that professional baseball is inherently antiwar. The most overlooked cause of war, his theory runs, is that it’s so damned interesting. It takes hard effort, skill, love and a little luck to make times of peace consistently interesting. About all it takes to make war interesting is a life. The appeal of trying to kill others without being killed yourself, according to Gale, is that it brings suspense, terror, honor, disgrace, rage, tragedy, treachery and occasionally even heroism within range of guys who, in times of peace, might lead lives of unmitigated blandness. But baseball, he says, is one activity that is able to generate suspense and excitement on a national scale, just like war. And baseball can only be played in peace. Hence G.Q.’s thesis that pro ball-players—little as some of them may want to hear it—are basically just a bunch of unusually well-coordinated guys working hard and artfully to prevent wars, by making peace more interesting.”

    —Kincaid Chance, narrator, in David James Duncan’s The Brothers K (New York: Bantam Books, 1992), 517


  134. Zrim,
    To clarify, I am not arguing that Scripture says you shouldn’t watch all movies. Nor am I arguing that you shouldn’t go to a cinema. Scripture is indifferent on movies in the sense that just being a movie doesn’t make it sinful, rather it is what the movie contains that could be sinful. It is this last part that I am arguing for. I thought maybe that needed to be clarified first. Now, I asked “Are there movies that you would say are sinful to watch (yes/no…you don’t have to name names)?” and you responded with “Yes”. Now you say “I don’t think it’s quite accurate to say that the Bible has something to say about consuming cinema, because it flat doesn’t”. I’m a little confused…if Scripture has nothing to say about watching movies, how are some of them considered sinful to watch?
    The verses you give speak to food, something on which the Bible is clearly indifferent on. Even there though, you could say that Scripture does speak about gluttony, so again it’s not the food that could be right or wrong, rather the way it is consumed, but let’s not switch topics.
    Mark, I like your quote about baseball being antiwar (being a baseball fan myself…GO TIGERS!!!)


  135. Jason, look back up there at Romans 14. As you say, the Bible is silent on cinema, therefore it is indifferent, but if one is convinced in his own mind that a particular movie is sin then for him it is sin. What may be the cause of your confusion is the absence of a notion of conscience and how mine might tell me this about a thing indifferent and yours that. Maybe you suspect a form of relativism there and resist, but then I don’t know how you’d explain all the perfectly legitimate differences between upright persons when it comes to any number of things indifferent.


  136. So when you answered yes to my question of if there are certain movies which are sinful to watch, what you meant was that there are no movies which are sinful for EVERYONE to watch, but rather that each person might have their own different “list” of movies which are sinful to watch. I’m not sure why you don’t want to concede that there are certain movies which are sinful to watch for everyone. If a movie is continually profaning God’s name and making a mockery of Him, glorifying sexual immorality, murder, lying, and all other conceivable sins, you are saying that if a fellow Christian isn’t convinced in his own mind that it is sin, then it’s not actually a sin to watch that and God would look upon that act and smile as He watches His children fill their heads with sinful activities, even though they might not realize they are sinful?

    I don’t deny the notion of a conscience, nor do I deny the work of the Holy Spirit in a Christian’s life to convict and expose sin in a person’s life. I believe it is possible for someone to be partaking in a sinful activity and not realize that it is a sin and there are times when we need fellow brothers or sisters in Christ to approach us about that. I know personally how easy it is for me to become blind to sin. Would you say it’s possible to become blind to sin, to have your conscience say it’s all right to watch or do something when it actually isn’t? I know I have experienced that.

    I don’t wish to keep rehashing this over and over as we have been through all of this and obviously we still disagree, but if you could just answer my clarifying questions that would help me in understanding exactly what your position is.



  137. Jason, if we both agree that cinema is indifferent then it seems to me that the burden is pretty tough for me to tell you a film on which I draw the line should also be where you draw the line and if you don’t it’s because you’re just deceiving yourself. So, yes, it’s possible to be self-deceived, but it’s also possible that our choices over something indifferent is a matter of wisdom or even taste but not morality. Maybe you elect to consume something I deem a waste of time and resources, but I go too far to suggest impiety on your part.


  138. Zrim, you’ll note that in the above comments, I made a distinction in regards to Scripture’s indifference on movies. I agree you can’t say “all movies are sinful and a Christian shouldn’t watch them”. In that respect, Scripture is indifferent to what we call movies (just because it is a movie, doesn’t make it wrong inherently). However, I don’t think Scripture is indifferent on the content of the movies we may watch. God does give us some guidelines such as being called to fill our minds with good things and not bad, to flee temptation, walk in the Spirit vs. the flesh, put off the old man and put on the new, etc. Things which you don’t want to address because they are too pragmatic. These guidelines will direct what movies a Christian should not watch. In this way, God isn’t completely indifferent, that is having no care, in the movies we watch. He does care when His name is taken in vain on the television and His children sit there and laugh. That is our difference, so no we are not agreed. You believe Scriptures and by extension God is indifferent, that is having no concern, regarding the content of the movies we watch and that we can’t bind the consciences of other Christians in regards to the content of the movies we watch in ANY way. I believe that there are in fact SOME movies that we could say are sinful to watch because the content in them goes directly against what God has commanded us and to watch such a thing for entertainment, to laugh at sin is to participate in it (such a humbling thought for me). I find it hard to understand why it is ok to watch a movie for entertainment nonetheless that contains the sins that God explicitly commands against in the Bible, but just because they come out of a tv that makes them alright (I realize how much of a hypocrite I am as I say this).

    As I said before, it all hinges on if Scripture is indifferent as to the content of the movies we watch. On that answer we are not agreed. We are both agreed however on the logical implications after it is determined if Scripture is indifferent or not. Those are not the issue.


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