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Biblical Discernment: The Glory Rule

What did Paul mean when he said: Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God?
| Jun 17, 2014 | 8 comments | Series:

The Blue Marble - EarthI’m sure you’ve heard it before. “If it glorifies God, then a story is acceptable.” The statement is true at its core and a good measure of whether any particular story is beneficial or not, but it is so often misused as to be worthless.

On one hand, you have the interpretation claiming that unless it is overtly Christian in theme, content, mentions God and Jesus, has a good salvation message in it somewhere, includes Bible verses, etc., then it isn’t glorifying God.

On the opposite side, glorifying God is reduced to excellence in what one does, no matter the content, that anything goes and some use that reasoning to justify reading spiritually damaging books.

What did Paul mean when he said:

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

Context

Like last week’s verse, once again we find Paul talking about food. Particularly in this passage, meat offered to idols. Paul’s main argument runs along the lines that meat is meat. Idol-gods don’t exist. One could eat such meat in ignorance and they would not be guilty of worshiping the idol.

However, once you know, a couple of factors come into play that should bring one to the conclusion that while eating it wouldn’t be sinful, it may not be beneficial either to the eater or other Christians. One, to knowingly eat meat offered to idols places you in fellowship with demons. (1 Cor 10:20-21) Two, your witness to brothers and sisters you have influence over can violate their conscience, because of the apparent endorsing of idols it would appear to be. (1 Cor. 10:28)

On the second point, Paul asks:

Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man’s conscience? (1 Cor. 10:29)

He answers that question with our verse–whatever you do, do for the glory of God. He then ends those thoughts with the words:

Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. (1 Cor 10:33)

Application

In this context, what glorifies God? It can be summed up in one verse from this chapter:

Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor. (1 Cor. 10:24 NASB)

Or to put it another way, love for our brothers and sisters. Notice the link between love and glory mentioned in Jesus’ High Priestly prayer:

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:   23  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.   24  Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. (John 17:22-24)

It is by this love that we are shown to be Christ’s (John 13:35), and exhibit the glory of God (Matt. 5:16). Paul’s point, then, is that in whatever we do, even mundane things like eating and drinking, we participate in it in such a way that God’s glory shines in us in how we love one another, so others will recognize Him in us, and by all means, save some.

In selecting our fiction, here are some questions to ask yourself as to whether reading it is glorifying God or not.

1. Does the quality of the product reflect the glory of God? If the author hasn’t taken the time to give his readers a good story, well written and formatted, what does it say about his love and respect for his readers? A Christian author/publishing house should have enough love for others that their efforts show a reader-centric focus.

2. Does the theme(s) of the story prompt the reader to greater love? Some characters won’t. Not all scenes may, taken in isolation, glorify God in this way, but when you look at the story as a whole, does it encourage you to love your neighbor more than before? Does it convict and motivate you to love God more?

3. Does consuming this story encourage others to violate their conscience? This doesn’t mean we are subject to everyone who has a gripe about the spiritual condition of an author, but if reading a book called, Satan’s Glory, would cause another Christian to sin against their conscience by reading it, it is not very loving to ignore your brother so that you can fulfill your own liberty. Lack of love for each other hides our light under a bushel.

Take these questions out for a spin. Applying the above credentials, does my old flash fiction that appeared at Everyday Fiction, The Captain’s Chair, glorify God? Do you feel it glorifies God for you to read it?

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Paul Lee
Member

On the opposite side, glorifying God is reduced to excellence in what one does, no matter the content, that anything goes and some use that reasoning to justify reading spiritually damaging books.

Motivations are not irrelevant. You could read something for the wrong reasons. However, I think content ultimately is irrelevant to the act of glorifying God.

Books can’t be spiritually damaging on there own. The idea of carefully monitoring one’s media consumption is probably a hold-over from the early twentieth century, when media scholars theorized that media could inject new ideologies into a population, to brainwash the people.

This doesn’t mean we are subject to everyone who has a gripe about the spiritual condition of an author, but if reading a book called, Satan’s Glory, would cause another Christian to sin against their conscience by reading it, it is not very loving to ignore your brother so that you can fulfill your own liberty.

I once took out one of the New Atheist books from the library of my old college, an anthology edited by Christopher Hitchens. I felt a duty to read it. I had asked an atheist in one of my classes to show me a book that explains atheism well. I was not reading it to have a good time — it made me quite miserable. But being miserable is not necessarily spiritually damaging.

So, yes, I might read a book entitled Satan’s Glory, in order to confront and reject the worldview contained within it. The only definitive way for Christians to disable the power of such an outright evil message is to confront it and to endure it with the faith that God is greater.

 Applying the above credentials, does my old flash fiction that appeared at Everyday Fiction, The Captain’s Chair, glorify God?

That’s not the right question. The right question is, did I practice proper discernment when I chose to read your flash fiction a few minutes ago?

By your standards, probably not. I had glanced briefly at the comments and saw that someone called it “gritty,” and that’s all I knew about the story before reading it. I didn’t investigate the extent or type of “grittiness.” I didn’t ask anyone whether the themes would lead me to greater grace in my spiritual journey. I just read, undiscerning, because you said to.

Kat Heckenbach
Member

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying here, but the last point is something that is almost impossible to adhere to. If I tried to take into account everything that could possibly make my brothers and sisters stumble, or that might offend them, I would have to just not write at all. (Or write the sanitized dribble Christian fiction is always accused of being).

Anyway, this ties in with a blog post I started working on yesterday, so I think I need to link to this one in there. I’ll hopefully have it up later today.

Kessie Carroll
Member

Each person has to read and write according to their own conscience. If a person is writing thrillers, they should write the very best they can, and that includes standard thriller fare–high body count, chases, suspense, nasty bad guys, and a pretty girl.

If a person is writing romance, or kid fiction, or mysteries, or any other genre, they need to hit that genre’s tropes. But Christian sit in judgement on every single genre!

“You’re writing a mystery with MURDER IN IT? God commands us not to murder, therefore you’re going to burn in Hell.”

We can only write what God gives us ideas to write. We’re not responsible for the reader who reads our books obsessively over and over, or the one who screams that our book caused them to think bad thoughts. They bring their problems along when they read.

merechristian
Member
merechristian

My standard would be that if something is okay with your conscience and you can read it without sinning, then you decide whether you should actively advertise or not. For instance, I would, and do, actively read and watch Japanese media, and that is fine for and most people. But they have a very fantastical view of religion where they treat religions in an INO (in name only) way. They also have some other issues that I don’t think are sins, but might straddle dangerous territory for one weaker. So I wouldn’t say to a new or otherwise weak Christian “hey, here’s a great manga or anime here”. Why? Because it would lead them astray and confuse them via the purposely INO portrayal of Christianity (and other faiths too, for that matter).

For me, I marvel at the fantastical adventures, but think to myself that if this were true, I would really hate the world as the wonder of Heaven, and other things would be not there. I admire the self-sacrifice and so on of characters. Same thing with DC Comics and Marvel. In those worlds, witches, magic, the occult, are a natural phenomenon and so on, not religious. I enjoy the story, am inspired by the heroics, but I am glad that such things are not real on the earthly (super-villain battles) or metaphysical plain. I am reminded to look forward to the New Heaven/New Earth.

In general, I guess I say that I will admit what I am reading/doing, but will not go the extra mile to push something on someone who can’t handle it.

And then there is the notion of scenes that are appropriate for the genre/story/plot, so on, that could be harmful to others as they are in other films. Porn is bad, obviously, but the love scene with Leonidas and his wife in 300 is typical of such older tales, has import for how the rest of the movie flows and so on. I Am Charlotte Simmons has a fairly graphic sex scene that is absolutely squicky, to show how far Charlotte is falling. Both scenes are absolutely (in my opinion) appropriate, and I think belong in the stories. Both scenes are hard for some people to handle.

I could throw in Harry Potter, Harry Dresden, Batwoman, Buffy, others, for some examples. You know, this reminds me of the Mortal Kombat debate Christians and others had in the ’90’s.