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A Little Ocean Ambiance
GOING TO THE MOVIES
Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
At one time in evangelical and fundamentalist churches, good Christians
didn't go to the movies. Man, has that ever changed! Today it seems that
everybody attends the movie theater, saint as well as sinner,
fundamentalist as well as liberal, "contemporary" trendsetter as well as
staid traditionalist. The reason for the change in policy among
Bible-believers is not in any improvements in Hollywood, nor is it in
new translation of a Bible verse! A variety of reasons are given by
evangelical movie-goers, but they do not make a lot of sense. Maybe the
shift has come because the old-timers who thundered against the theater
never gave us adequate scriptural reasons for shunning the shows. Maybe
the evangelical understanding of holiness is changing.
Make no mistake about whether or not the fundamentalist evangelicals of
the past denounced movie going. From the silent films of the 1920s
through the colorful extravaganzas of the '50s, and '60s, everything
Hollywood put out was rebuked from the pulpit. The story-lines, the
actors, and the provocative scenes were all exposed as morally degrading
and unfit for Christian consumption. Serous disciples of Jesus were
admonished never to set foot in a movie house. Sunday School teachers
were not allowed to go to the movies as long as they held that sacred
position. Born-again people who lived lives "separated from the world"
would just never attend a Hollywood film. They didn't want to be in a
place that showed them, and they didn't want to finance the movie
business with their ticket money.
A younger generation, and some older fellows with a taste for change, do
not buy this standard or the reasons that were given for it. They have
their own reasons for going to the movies, and they certainly are going.
Some argue that the invention of videotapes and DVDs for viewing movies
at home has dismantled the whole issue. Others say that since everybody
goes to movies today, Christians need to see them in order to enter
intelligently into the public discussion. Some laugh at the idea of
refusing to finance Hollywood through buying movie tickets since nearly
every business these days finances some kind of vice in one way or
another. They see no reason for Christians to shun movies. They don't
think there is any Biblical reason for labeling this activity as
However, the Bible does teach a principle that applies directly to the
movie question, and says that we ought not to go. It relates to the New
Testament ban on "meats offered to idols" (Acts 15:28-29), and is
thoroughly discussed in three chapters of Paul's First Epistle to the
About the middle of the first century, the great Jerusalem church
assembled to consider the charge that some of its members had been
preaching heresy. Missionary evangelists complained that "certain men
which came down from Judea" were teaching in newly-established churches
full of new converts that "it was needful to circumcise them, and to
command them to keep the law of Moses." They were saying, "Except ye be
circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved" (See Acts
15:1-6). These "Judaizers" were insisting that all Gentile believers in
Christ become Jews in order to be considered Christians. They were also
saying that faithful obedience to the laws and statutes of Israel given
by Moses is necessary to one's salvation. They taught a legalistic way
salvation that was contrary to the Gospel.
The congregational meeting reported in Acts 15 clearly rejected this
"We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jewish
Christians] shall be saved, even as they [non-Jewish Christians]."
It was decided that
"we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles
are turned to God; but that we write unto them, that they abstain from
pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled,
from blood" (verses 19-20). While rejecting legalism (the keeping of
to achieve salvation), they set standards for how believers in Christ,
saved by grace, should live.
"For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no
greater burden than these necessary things; that ye abstain from meats
offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from
fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye
well." (verses 28-29)
The standard against eating "meats offered to idols" became
in the church at Corinth a few years later. So the Apostle Paul defended
it in Chapters 8, 9, and 10 of his First Epistle to the Corinthians. The
main reason this divinely-given epistle gives for believers to abstain
from eating this food is the principle of right associations. Notice how
it is taught and applied.
". . . to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things,
and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we
by him. Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with
conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an
idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled. But meat commendeth us
not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we
not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of
yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see
thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol's temple, shall not
conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which
are offered to idols . . ." (1 Corinthians 8:6-10)
"Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry. I speak as to wise
men; judge ye what I say. The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not
the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it
the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread,
one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel
the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the
altar? What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is
offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing? But I say, that the things
which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God:
and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils. Ye cannot
drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers
of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils." (1 Corinthians
In these passages, Paul counsels the Corinthian Christians to be
sensitive to the consciences of the people around them. Many believed
that the meat of the animals offered to the images of the gods conferred
magical power to the one who ate it. Eating this meat certainly
associated a person with the idol in the public mind. The cup and bread
of communion certainly associates us with Christ. The eating of meat
the sacrifices at the Temple associated Jews with the worship of
In the same way, partaking of food from offerings devoted to a false god
was a form of having "fellowship with devils," Paul argues, and "ye
cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils" (Chapter 10,
Forms of the same Greek word are translated "communion" in verse 16,
"fellowship" in verse 20, and "partakers" in verse 18 in the Authorized
Version of I Corinthians 10. That word is koinonia. And this word means
partnership or participation. The truth taught in this section of
scripture is that it is wrong to be associate oneself with wrong. That
same truth is taught in Ephesians 5:11.
". . . have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness . . ."
Christians who ignore the implications of their actions when they do
things that seem to endorse or approve evil both hurt other people and
offend the Lord. That's why first-century believers were not to eat at
the idol's temple. It's also why twenty-first-century believers should
not go to the movies!
The issue really is not
ticket money. It is endorsement of evil. We
should not go into a tavern to drink a soft drink in order not to
of that business. Taverns are not really in the soft drink business,
although they do sell soft drinks. They are in the alcoholic beverage
business, and everybody knows it. Christians deplore the devastation
brought into society and on families by beverage alcohol, and they
denounce the sin of drunkenness. Therefore they ought to refuse to
endorse the business of dispensing booze. That is why they should stay
out of taverns. Since movie theaters are not really in the "family-film"
business, we should not go there even to see a "family film"! The
in the lobby and the images in the previews remind the movie-goer of the
kind of business the theater really is. They are in the business of
presenting shows that undermine morals and oppose Christian principles.
This is why Christians should not endorse the movie business by going to
the movies. An occasional "clean" film doesn't change the fact that the
movie house is in a dirty business. It was the question of association
that was the main and most scriptural reason the fundamentalists of the
past boycotted the movies.
Modern evangelicals and fundamentalists have not forgotten how to
bad businesses. Calls for boycotts by A.F.A. and Focus on the Family
brought national corporations to their knees! What would be more
than a boycott of movie theaters altogether? Who can argue that
has done and is doing harm to the Christian foundations of our country?
We often hear the argument that Christians must be movie-goers in order
to join intelligently into the public discussion. Everybody these days
sees the movies, we are told. Evangelicals simply must see them too in
order to talk with unbelievers about things they understand. The truth,
however, is that "everybody" in the "old days" attended movies, too.
when Bible-believing Christians didn't go to the movies, they still
ways of talking with movie-going lost people anyway. Must we do what
do in order to win them to Christ? Of course not.
The most ridiculous excuse for Christian movie-going is the argument
since we watch movies at home, we should be able to see them in
Since the movies haven't cleaned up since the "ban" was in force in our
churches, the capability of showing them at home argues more for not
renting videos than for going to the movies! A film that is punctuated
with profanity, spiced up with racy scenes, riddled with blasphemy, and
philosophically anti-Christian is not a healthy thing to be viewed at
home! Because some do does not excuse others to go to the movie house to
see them. It is wrong for Christians to watch Biblically objectionable
movies at home, isn't it? How does this sinful practice justify another
sinful activity? Of course in this argument we recognize a common method
of deception used by the Devil. He tells us that sin in our life is
reason to give up serving God. The Lord's logic says that serving Him is
reason to give up the sin! The Devil also argues that sin at home
justifies sin outside the home, but his reasoning should not carry any
weight with God's children, should it?
Now more than ever, dedicated believers ought to disassociate themselves
with the evil in the world. We cannot "go out of the world" (I
Corinthians 5:9-11). Casual contact with sin or sinners does not
constitute endorsement of evil. However, patronizing a business that is
fundamentally opposed to their beliefs is clearly wrong for Christians.
We ought not to go to the movies!
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church|
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
Dr. Rick Flanders Biographical Data
Converted in 1963 through a radio ministry.
Earned B.A. and M.A. degrees from Bob Jones University.
Honorary D.D. from Pensacola Christian College.
Pastor at Juniata Baptist Church since 1973.
On BCPM Board, (Baptist Church Planting Ministry)
and also MACS. (Michigan Association of Christian School)
- Articles published in the;
- Sword of the Lord
- Baptist Preacher,
- Christian View of the News,
- Pulpit Helps,
- Maranatha Watchman
- Church Bus News,
- and other national periodicals.
His Majesty's Service
In His Service,
Teaching the Word
To Glorify Our Lord
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