/ / Articles

Hollywood Worldviews And Safe Fiction

“It is not only true, honorable and right to proclaim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but it is also true, honorable and right to proclaim that Satan is the father of lies”—Brian Godawa
| Jun 2, 2014 | 24 comments | Series:

HollywoodWorldViewsCoverAuthor and sometime Spec Faith guest Brian Godawa wrote an excellent nonfiction work examining the belief system behind movies entitled Hollywood Worldviews (IVP). The book applies to all stories, I believe. In chapter one Godawa addresses the topic that comes up so often in a discussion about Christian fiction: “Sex, Violence & Profanity”.

In dealing with these issues, he first acknowledges that many movies seem preoccupied with integrating evil into their stories. He also verifies that many studies show a connection between the vile acts of violence, sexual perversion, and profanity and an increase in degenerative social behavior.

However, Godawa points out that those studies do not differentiate between movies that put such behavior in divergent contexts. For example, Schindler’s List, a movie about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, is filled with man’s inhumanity to man. And so is Friday the 13th. Except, the point and purpose of depicting violence in the two movies couldn’t be more different.

But the question remains. Should Christians be a party to either kind of film? Godawa makes it clear that a decision about this issue should not be one we arrive at based on our own wisdom:

The ultimate sourcebook for most media watchdogs is the Bible. And it ought to be—without its definition of a universal objective morality, we have no absolute reference point for right or wrong . . . The Bible alone provides a justifiable objective standard for making moral judgments that transcend the whims of personal opinion.

The_Holy_BibleHe then explodes the myth that the Bible does not contain any sex, violence, or profanity. While I think the “profanity” section is a little weak, Godawa adds a section of blasphemy that I think is helpful.

But the strength of his argument, in my view, isn’t that the Bible contains activities such as incest, rape, murder, adultery, and so on. I suspect most Christians know this is true, at least on a limited basis, if not as extensively as Godawa demonstrates.

Instead, the key for me is his handling of a verse often used to support “sanitized stories”: Philippians 4:8—“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

From Hollywood Worldviews:

Readers of Bible passages like this one often misunderstand the language to be expressing a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” approach to spirituality. But ignoring the dark side is not at all what the verses are indicating.

It is not only true, honorable and right to proclaim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but it is also true, honorable and right to proclaim that Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44) and that false prophets are his minions (2 Cor 11:14-15). It is not only pure, lovely and of good repute that Noah was depicted in the Bible as a righteous man, but it is also pure, lovely and of good repute that all the rest of the earth around him were depicted as entirely wicked (Gen 6:5). It is not only excellent and worthy of praise that Lot was revealed as a righteous man, but it is also excellent and worthy of praise that the inhabitants of Sodom were revealed as unprincipled men “who indulge[d] the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise[d] authority (2 Pet 2:10).

Godawa next addresses the scriptural admonition (Ephesians 5) to expose the deeds of darkness and to bring them to the light.

I think this exhortation applies not only for wicked deeds but also for false belief systems—the very reason why I feel so strongly that Christians need to look behind our culture’s art to the worldviews each piece espouses, the very reason I believe there is no such thing as safe fiction.

– – – – –
This article, not specifically about Christian speculative fiction but applicable to it, first appeared, minus some editorial changes, at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in February 2010.

24
Leave a Reply

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Leah Burchfiel
Member

Welp, we already had a jeremiad about scary, scary secular humanism, I guess there was only so much time before we got to scary, scary relativism. But really, we should move on to fresher pastures than “Hollywood does not have a conservative Christian viewpoint.” That horse has been flogged enough.

 

In other news, I have this song stuck in my head, and I have this terrible compulsion to listen to it over and over:

http://youtu.be/CvAANskPPMg

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Oh yeah, Soul Eater. I like the track Konfrontation from it. They just adapted Soul Eater NOT into an anime too.

I don’t know how far you’re into it, but there’s a pretty decent Christian example in the series in Dr. Franken. How he became on the side of good resonates with anyone who struggles with sin in their lives, and reminds us that sometimes people have to clutch to goodness as a lifeline, and not because they are good or deserving themselves.

Plus also, Patty and the giraffe. And Shinigami chop!

Leah Burchfiel
Member

I just got started on the first anime. And Sword Art Online when I have enough battery juice to sit at the coffeeshop for an hour or so.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Yeah. the problem with film is that its hard to show negative behavior without glorifying it. TV Tropes had an entry based on what Truffault said about being unable to make an anti-war film; to show the horrors of war seems to fascinate people as much as repulse them. With books, there is more of a dialogue and distance between producer and consumer, and you have this a little less. You can make a case about being film-literate and realizing how it uses a lot of sub-rational tricks that can work with or against its message.

Tiribulus
Guest

(From our offline dialog Rebecca as you requested)
I am told by someone I trust to simply ask you directly.

Do you believe that God approves of His children consuming visual media with real life nudity, sexual portrayal and or the verbal abuse of His name?

Am I correct in my assessment that that you, following Godawa are condoning the production and onscreen portrayal of sex and nudity in true to life visual cinematic realism with real people? Along with profane blasphemous language? That this falls under Paul’s principles of liberty for those “mature enough” to partake? Have I concluded this in error?

I have not even gotten to the brain splattering, bone snapping, bowel bursting blood thirsty violence, but at least that’s fake. Your answer may save us a lot of time.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

I’m not Rebecca, but it sounds like you have already come to a conclusion about your own questions — e.g., that Rebecca might accept this, but even if she doesn’t, that accepting this would be an un-Biblical point of view and potentially sinful. 🙂

Question: apart from any use of “argumentum ad outrageousum” — e.g. “on the surface your belief sounds absolutely outrageous!” — I would ask a few return questions:

First, what Scriptural commandments are we actually dealing with here? For example, does the Bible emphasize how Christians ought to strive for holiness in Christ and mortify the sinful flesh within us, such as thoughts and actions of personal sin no matter how the temptation arose? Or does the Bible emphasize avoiding bad influences outside of us? (Hint: Jesus discusses the actual source of sin and where the battle begins in Mark 7.)

Second, is there a difference between actual sin onscreen and acted-out representations of sins such as violence, especially in writing? Note that I am not speaking of visual media that actually shows sinful actions that actors actually performed in public for money, such as the Game of Thrones television show with its plain pornography. It is confusing at best, and deceptive at worst, to conflate the two — and it would leave us in a lurch when Scripture itself describes sin or violence, especially without immediate condemnation (e.g. polygamy).

Third, what answers already exist to these questions? Godawa alone offers several reminders such as the above response to the misreading of Phil. 4:8 (which is often used to justify very untruthful stories or even doctrines in the name of ensuring they are “nice”). You can find more of his work on SpecFaith here. I also suggest my article Ten Wrong Ways to Discern a Story as a helpful start to exploring the topic from a Biblical perspective.

Fourth, it’s always best to start with this question (which is naturally why I left it for the last): what is the chief end of all this stuff anyway? In other words, what is the chief end of fiction and stories at all? If we suspect they have no chief end, that will be an unquestioned assumption behind any challenges to story content such as swearing and sex. If we believe the chief end of stories, the central justification(s) for us using them at all, is something like entertainment, or moral edification, or evangelism, then that is where the discussion should really start — because that is not the answer that Scripture would give.

These questions are meant not to pass any criticism, but to challenge and sharpen and best of all to point to God’s Word and to the truth and beauties of Christ. It’s great to have you at SpecFaith (I’m curious how you know Rebecca!) and I look forward to further discussion.

Tiribulus
Guest

I’m talkin to her. I wasted enough time on you before.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

#Christlikeness

I did not recall previously having the pleasure.

Tiribulus
Guest

If it becomes useful to me I will at some point link our rather extensive previous conversation that I think I believe it appears you have actually forgotten. I cannot however link the one you deleted from Patheos I believe it was. With all due charity Stephen, as I say, I am talking to her. Not that I would go out of my to make it so, or that I would ever wish you any ill, but trust me. You are NOT looking forward to further discussion with me any more than you were the last two times. Being that I’m the one who remembers, take my word for it.

Rebecca is under no pressure from me, but she has agreed to this exchange and as soon as she answers my question above, which I suspect she is not as comfortable with as you are, we will go forward. These are not new positions, they were held for hundreds of years until the 1960’s, but especially the media siege engine of the last 2 decades. The Westminster Larger Catechism is my witness for instance. However the church today spends far more time on necromancy, flesh eating ghouls, gruesome violence, blasphemy and previously unheard of debauchery than they do the great works of high doctrine and holy practice anymore.

I have a high regard For Rebecca. I would really love for that to continue. I have seen her strength in the scriptures and her heart for the lost.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Greg,

First an apology. It is true that by now my “introductions” to your various internet comments number two, possibly three occasions! I must chalk that up to either a bad memory or simply a mental “blending” of folks who go about the internet a-fixin’ to fight. Yes, that is the part where the apology trickles away into an internet-comment challenge (a practice with which you are clearly very, very familiar!). Of course, only you and the Holy Spirit can know whether that is your motive, but the unalterable fact is that you come across this way. And that alone is worth calling into question your methods, if not your motive or fears for the lost.

Rather than get defensive or excuse this “minor” sin by virtue of the fact that unsaved people are going to Hell (alas, very true) or that the Church is in trouble and compromising (also very true, yet presumably you alone can save her?), I would ask: are you imitating Christ in your actions? Are you certain that your desire “for the lost” is not for an imaginary group of “the lost”? After all, you don’t seem to show much heart for the potential “lost” right in front of you — because indeed, if you’re right about anyone here on SpecFaith being un-Biblical or deceptive, it is both fitting and loving to be concerned for our souls. And in that case, why are you blasting the lost rather than showing compassion for them to a) search the Scriptures, b) stop their false teaching?

Becky has responded above as you can see, and for my part I would say this:

1) Try some plain ol’ better manners. Not once do we find the apostle Paul or any other missionaries storming into a public venue and a) demanding to have a private conversation with only one person, b) being rather trollish to others who hope to get involved (or who ignorantly make re-re-introductions, such as myself). In fact, the only time Paul got hot under the collar and opted for such rhetoric as yours was versus false teachers who promoted legalism.

2) Previously you have suspected or feared being banned from a site. I realize this has happened elsewhere and it can be startling. At present no admin at SpecFaith has any such intentions; we only ask that discussion be truly open and interactive. Also, why try to set and enforce your own personal “house rules” when you arrive at someone else’s “house”? It comes across as manipulative and strange.

3) As Becky pointed out, you seem to want to have a personal conversation in a public venue. That simply can’t happen given the nature of the internet. Other people (like myself) are free to chime in. And since I’ve already done so, I must point out that you haven’t yet answered my worldview-digging questions from before: about what this whole popular culture thing is for anyway. Someone who jumps into a discussion without trying to understand the other side’s actual beliefs or views not only accidentally violates at least half-a-dozen truths from the Book of Proverbs, but is a poor missionary and Gospel emissary even to his own people. Previously I’ve wondered whether you even know what view you are critiquing, and without agreeing on that there is no chance you would ever understand that view or that we could have worthwhile discussion. So my suggestion is this: Before deciding to be in “grief” over someone’s supposed acceptance of false teaching, why not make sure you know what the other person actually believes? Deciding this even with people you know in real life can be challenging enough, but it can be done even over the internet. (Thanks to God’s sovereignty I was able to find a wife this way.)

4) Finally, someday I might assemble a list of “boilerplate” questions for folks who are new to the whole idea of “let’s explore/discern/enjoy popular culture for the glory of God as a direct and holy Gospel calling , not primarily as a means of mere worldly entertainment or as a means to worldly ‘evangelism.'” Our Faith Statement says more about how SpecFaith staff writers approach this:

We believe God can and does let His truth be echoed in His creation, for all truth is His truth and remains so even if it is found in a story that does not specifically credit Him. Still, we believe the Bible is the only inspired, infallible, and authoritative Word of God, and our only sure source for knowing Who God is, what the Gospel is, and what we must do in response.

But until any longer “boilerplate” Frequently Asked Questions piece, there’s this feature I wrote a while back called Ten Wrong Ways to Discern A Story. Really, if you have questions about the general approach to popular culture at SpecFaith (though this piece specifically reflects only my view), this is a great place to start. Otherwise you’ll only end up the newbie arriving late to the discussion and clapping out of rhythm, which is simply awkward all around.

I’d be glad to pursue further relevant discussion at that article, including any specific questions asked about the Biblical arguments I have offered there. E.g.:

Christians can disagree, Biblically, on many secondary issues. Those could include baptism, end-times views, worship styles, or even which Bible translation is the best to use.

But let’s imagine that Christian 1 says, “No one can enjoy this sinful story and glorify God.” Along comes Christian 2. He says: “Well actually, I can.” What may Christian 1 say in reply? Inevitably, he is forced to call his brother or sister a liar. “You didn’t really enjoy that story for God’s glory, did you? You only enjoyed it because it gratified your flesh. You’ve deceived yourself and you’re also trying to deceive me. Instead, follow God’s commands of holiness.”

That is not the approach that the apostle Paul takes regarding “disputable matters.”

Paul saw no conflict between living in holiness and being familiar with the Word that itself includes accounts of violence and prostitution. Paul also commands against false teaching, contrary to Scripture, that results in “an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions” (1 Tim. 6:4).

If a Christian claims, “You can’t ever do that and honor God,” and any other Christian who is clearly Gospel-driven and -motivated says, “Well, I do” — even if only one solid Christian gives that rebuttal! — the first Christian’s claim is suspect. It must be supported with direct Scripture. Making appeals to verses about holiness, or the need to think only about good things (Phil. 4:8), does not apply. One must instead show specifically that the other brother is lying.

Tiribulus
Guest

For the record Stephen, you are typing into the air. I am not reading your comments. Just to save you some unnecessary work and us some clutter. OR… maybe you just like typing.

In case this is not clear. No , this is not my site. Please type all you want., but I will be talking to Rebecca. I learned my lesson with you.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

Greg, this remark comes across as one by an un-Christlike and small man.

It seems clear you don’t want to deal with actual challenges to your view on things, and would prefer seeing other human beings as simply parts to play with on the internet — or cartoonish targets to shoot as in a video game.

Who would believe your claims of “being grieved” or any overtures to want to have an honest conversation for the spirital betterment of anyone else?

Defend your behavior with Scripture. Otherwise any truth you stumble upon or want to proclaim — such as that Jesus is Lord or that holiness and truth matters to the Church — will continue to look like a lie when said by you.

Your overt and rather strange attempts to shame and manipulate other people — this is “lording over” Gentile-style leadership, not the servant-leadership Christ modeled! — must be called out for what they are. It is not yet site ban-worthy, but it would be local-church-condemnation-worthy.

I don’t know much about your age and background, but this is the attitude of someone who happens to find the loaded gun of Biblical truth and fires it indiscriminately. You need real-life training, in Biblical truth and grace.

Step back from this discussion — and the whole often-illusory world of the internet if necessary — and discuss my charge of your sinful behavior with a friend or spiritual leader in your real-life church. Otherwise, you are simply trolling for “followers” on the internet, trying to set yourself up as spiritually superior, and playing the equivalent of video games and wasting your life.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

On the other hand, maybe you’re just plain ol’ trolling to get a rise out of people because you’re bored. 😛 In which case I “fell for it” and ended up violating the truth of a Proverb myself: “Answer not a [troll] according to his [trolling].”

Tiribulus
Guest

First Rebecca, I should not have started this by jumping on you the way I did. Please forgive me. Since then, it appears my attempts to repair the path of discussion have not been successful. I ask only that you hear me out and that take my word that I’m merely asking questions. Not attacking. Please.
Rebecca says: “Let me show you how this looks to me by turning it around. What would you think if I said, Greg, your comments to Stephen grieve me. Say it isn’t so. Have you verbally abused or beaten your wife or children?”
This scenario bears no similarity to the one I have brought. Absolutely nothing in my remarks exists in the same galaxy as wife or child abuse. I charitably challenge you to demonstrate otherwise. In other words no reasonable person based upon my comments here alone could ever possibly come to that conclusion. Unless as I’ve asked, you can demonstrate otherwise.

What IF you knew of online instances where I have quoted someone like say, “Willy Wifebeater”?. What if I had reviewed his book “Wife beater Worldview” (bear with me please). Now in this hypothetical analogous situation, I have not cited enough of this book in the review to reveal whether Willy actually believes in wife beating or not. But you see me using the same language and principles in pretty much the same way all other believers in the wifebeater worldview have and do. You’ve read quite a few of them.

You’ve also read Willy’s articles in other places where he has clearly advocated wife beating. Furthermore there are videos on youtube where willy himself is seen advising others on the godly and properly contextualized practice of the art of wife beating.
Alarmed, you now ask me: Greg, am I to assume that following Willy you are an advocate of wife beating? That would be a perfectly legitimate question and one I shouldn’t be shocked or offended at fielding. Here we have a man that is everywhere seen to advocate wife beating and here I also am citing him as a positive authority on worldview. That, my sister is the actual parallel to the scenario in this thread. How is it uncharitable to merely ask you if you believe the same thing as the author of a book you have positively reviewed? On top of all that, what would you think if you couldn’t get me to instantly denounce wife beating?

In spite of all this, I have backtracked, declared that I will try to assume nothing and simply asked you what you believe. I say again with all gentleness, your example is simply not analogous. My pitching a bit of snark at Stephen produces no legitimate suspicion of wife beating. My hypothetical scenario which matches our actual situation here in every detail, does.

Rebecca says: “It simply is not appropriate to hijack a comment thread to discuss your own agenda.”
I will only copy and paste it you deny it, which I can hardly believe you’d do, but I asked you to tell me where to ask you these questions, suggested a couple possibilities myself and YOU specified here. That’s why I’m here.

Rebecca says: “Why, when you’ve said repeatedly that you think I’ve represented accurately the principles of Scripture, do you think I am not doing so in this issue?”
Because people do it all the time. Would you like a list of just the famous ones? (I can seriously produce one) Folks of immense capability in the scriptures with decades of scholarship, who go into an enraged hypnotic trance when you dare pin them on their diminished mortality as regards art and media. Interpretations never before countenanced in the history of protestantism in order to rationalize worldly amusements they love. Just about every body and communion before the 1960’s would have been aghast at what is perpetrated upon the word of God to make debauchery, blasphemy and blood into high art and a woefully misguided notion of cultural engagement. That’s why. I am hoping with everything I have that that is not you.

Rebecca says: “You’ve made an uncharitable judgment,”
I continue to heroically resist any judgement at all.

Rebecca says: “and are grieved and saddened by what you suppose my opinion to be.”
But that’s the point. I can’t get you to tell me what your opinion is 🙂 Those are question marks up there my friend. I am doing all I can to escape the temptation to assume and am asking.

Rebecca says: “And then you want me to prove to you by answering your questions that your judgment is in error.”
I only want to know what your view is. Don’t you ever ask anybody what they believe about something? You do hereby, as does absolutely ANY other human being whose eyes should fall upon this page, have my invitation to ask me what I believe about absolutely ANYTHING. Any ten things. Let’s make it twenty. I will answer, honestly, directly, unequivocally and with a smile. You will never have to beg me to tell you what I believe about anything.

Rebecca says: if I am in sin, you may confront me, not if you think I might be and you want to peer into my opinions to see if you can find some sin in my heart.”
You have my solemn word of honor. I have backed out and recanted my assumption and am therefore NOT trying to find fault. Lord help me, it’s just the opposite! I am also not your Father, husband or pastor. I presume no authority in that regard. I am simply a brother who sees an incredibly pervasive and crippling influence in the church that has been addressed by you, at least indirectly, in this thread. Or it certainly seems so, if I could just get you to tell me your answer my simple questions. If it’s not obvious, I’ll tell you mine. They are found from question 91 through the ten commandments in the Westminster Larger Catechism. THAT is biblical holiness.

Rebecca says: “I am confronting you as a brother in Christ. You have offended me by assuming the worst without giving me any reason why you were suddenly grieved and saddened by my post.”
I have now recanted my even if somewhat justified as spelled out above, still uncharitable assumption and do yet again reiterate that I am simply suspending an opinion until I hear your answer.

Rebecca says: “Finally, can you honestly say your opinion of Brian Godawa has nothing to do with your response to me?”
My opinion of Godawa was established long before this conversation. I have been researching and dealing with this group of issues on a literal daily basis for a year. Of course I knew about the guy, though I did return to some those resources and make unflattering comments since this conversation started. (though admittedly, he is somewhat better than many)

Rebecca says: “If that’s the case, then point to one thing in my article that made you think I am straying from Scripture.”
Again, by favorably reviewing a book by a man with certain views, you leave the nearly insurmountable impression that you share those views. I am resisting that impression. If and when you tell me your views, we can go forward. What could possibly be wrong with that?

Tiribulus
Guest

The duplicate is an accident 🙁 I apologize.

Tiribulus
Guest

The TRUTH

Scroll down please.