Should Christians watch secular films? Can we really use them to share Jesus, or should we just avoid them? In this episode of the Finding Christ In Cinema podcast, we give our answers to this important question and offer our advice on Christian discernment and what it takes to be a filter and not a sponge when it comes to engaging the culture of secular films.
For your convenience you will find each podcast segment at the time referenced below:
- 00:00:00 – Introduction
- 00:04:20 – Discussion on Using Secular Films to Share Jesus
- 01:32:30 – Listener Challenge and Feedback
- 01:46:05 – Well-mannered Frivolity
- 01:49:35 – Lightning Round
- 01:50:30 – Upcoming
If it’s billed as a Christian film, the chances of a non-Christian ever viewing it are slim. The reputation of such films – that they are by Christians and for Christians – ward off any unbelievers from seeing the film. And since all good stories share elements of the Greatest Story – should any Christians films actually contain a good story – those unbelievers will miss out on those elements.
Luckily (and thankfully) for us, those very same elements can be found in secular films. A non-believer, however, will not be looking for them as Christian themes, not because they don’t know what they look like but because they are already accustomed to such material in a secular setting. After all, one doesn’t have to be a Christian to know what love is (although being a Christian certainly fortifies that understanding in a way the rest of the world can’t #SubjectiveViewpoint).
This means that the culture of secular films is just as much as a mission field as anywhere else. That, then, means that we are allowed to watch secular films – as a part of our inherited freedom by being adopted children of God; the only obligation we have to watch them, though, comes through in the form of using them to reach out to unbelievers.
This is what Paul means when he says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” If we need to become a Quentin Tarantino fan or watch Django Unchained, for example, in order to share a common ground with someone so we can plant or water the seed of the Gospel in their hearts, then we should take that opportunity.
But Paul also warns that, while “all things are lawful,” not all things are helpful and beneficial (1 Corinthians 10:23). While we are free to watch whatever we want, we have a responsibility to guard our hearts and the hearts of our friends and family, especially those of our peers who have children (I mean, if you really think your six-year-old daughter won’t be traumatized by seeing The Crow, by all means, sir, go right ahead).
The truth is that some films just aren’t appropriate for children. Because there is a difference between the romance between Westley and Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride and the explicitly and scandalously depicted affair of Lester Burnham and Angela Hayes in American Beauty, and there is a difference in the monsters and dragons found the film adaptations of The Lord of the Rings and the horrifically grotesque figures found in films like The Babadook and the Insidious franchise.
Children should be able to rely – whether they like it or not – on their parents as filters for what they watch; likewise, as adults, it doesn’t hurt for us to have friends that can also serve us and whom we can serve as filters and not just sponges for each other.
A sponge will let anything in and will let anything out depending on the type of pressure to which it’s exposed. A filter, on the other hand, will keep the good things in and keep the bad things out. A sponge is soft and fluid and will give way to anything, whereas a filter is solid and strong and will withstand any opposing force.
Recall on what the proverbial wise and foolish men built their houses. The same can be said of our hearts and our minds. If left unchecked, they can become too soft and irredeemable; but if they’ve been transformed by God’s kindness and love, they have the potential to stand firm against any type of aesthetic experience. From that point, all it takes is practice.
Proverbs 4:23 NET
Guard your heart with all vigilance,
for from it are the sources of life.
Luke 6:45 NET
The good person out of the good treasury of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasury produces evil, for his mouth speaks from what fills his heart.
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV
19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Finding Christ In Cinema is the show where we discover Christian themes in movies past and present. Join us and together we’ll dig deeper into the silver-screen classics of yesteryear as well as the box-office hits of today. Brought to you by the Great Commission Transmission Network. View the complete show notes, including links to articles discussed, by clicking here.
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