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A Little Ocean Ambiance
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Doctrinal Writings
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Dr. Richard Flanders
Juniata Baptist Church
Vassar, Michigan
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 any 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 unworthy of believers.

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 Corinthians. 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 of salvation that was contrary to the Gospel. The congregational meeting reported in Acts 15 clearly rejected this legalism.

"We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we [Jewish Christians] shall be saved, even as they [non-Jewish Christians]." (verse 11)
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, and from blood" (verses 19-20)
. While rejecting legalism (the keeping of laws 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 controversial 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 eat 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 the 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 not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread. Behold Israel after 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 10:14-21)
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 from the sacrifices at the Temple associated Jews with the worship of Jehovah. 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, verses 20-21). 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 approve 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 posters 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 boycott bad businesses. Calls for boycotts by A.F.A. and Focus on the Family have brought national corporations to their knees! What would be more sensible than a boycott of movie theaters altogether? Who can argue that Hollywood 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. Back when Bible-believing Christians didn't go to the movies, they still found ways of talking with movie-going lost people anyway. Must we do what they do in order to win them to Christ? Of course not.

The most ridiculous excuse for Christian movie-going is the argument that since we watch movies at home, we should be able to see them in theaters. 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!

Monthly Article
by Dr. Rick Flanders
currently Pastor of
Juniata Baptist Church
Juniata Baptist Church
5656 Washburn Road
Vassar, MI 48768
(517) 823-7848

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.

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