Saturday, June 21, 2008

To R is human, to not, divine?

Props to the Seeking Disciple for making an interesting point in the combox of Steve's "I Am Legend" movie review post:
Since it is rated R, I by no means aim to see it but thanks for the Christian review.
I'd like to make a few quick comments on his comment. My comments are intended to (hopefully) provoke further thought and reflection on the part of the individual believer rather than to answer the question of whether Christians should watch R rated flicks.

And, obviously, much more can be and has been said, and said far better, than I say here (e.g. Prof. John Frame's article is super helpful).

1. Of course, Fred Butler rightly points out that the movie isn't actually rated R: "Actually, the film is rated PG-13. Primarily for a bit of zombie violence, tension, an occasional swear word and diseased ridden corpses."

2. But getting to the larger issue, should a Christian watch movies rated R by the MPAA (or their rough equivalent in other nations)? This begs the more general question of whether a Christian should go to the movies at all.

3. These days there can be objectionable material in a PG rated movie as much as there's objectionable material in an R rated movie. What I mean is that there's arguably as much moral "danger" to the Christian in a movie which may be clean in terms of what the MPAA would consider objectionable but which features a distinctly anti-Biblical worldview or which mocks the Biblical worldview as there is in a movie containing sex, violence, and bad language.

4. Speaking of which, when a movie is rated G, PG, PG-13, R, and NC-17, we're using the MPAA's standards rather than Biblical standards -- which may or may not coincide with one another.

5. Reels and reels of movies were filmed before the current MPAA standards were decided upon. Likewise, standards have changed over the years -- with the changing of the MPAA guards or judges. Would a movie rated PG today have been rated PG, say, in the 1950s?

6. Just because a film is rated R doesn't necessarily mean the entire film is without its mitigating virtues. By the same token, there's also something to be said for learning from depravity -- although this should obviously be carefully weighed and considered, very carefully weighed and considered.

7. What sins and temptations one Christian struggles with may not necessarily be the same or even similar sins and temptations another Christian struggles with.

8. On the other hand, as Christians we probably ought to just as soon elect not watch an R rated film if it means keeping a "weaker" brother or sister in Christ from stumbling in this particular area.

9. In the midst of all this, there's the common grace of God to take into account as well -- which, among other things, has blessed filmmakers, writers, and actors with the talents they possess, and thus allowed for feature films which aren't necessarily Christian or Biblically informed or whatever but are nevertheless good.

10. Looking outside of film, we could ask some of the same or at least similar questions about TV, music, video games, etc. And, historically, there's arguably been similar considerations involved in terms of reading banned books and other literature.


  1. The stuff on regular network TV that's free is supposed to be clean enough for general audiences. Well, just by watching the commercials and hearing all of the sexual innuendos, etc. shows that those shows are just as bad as R rated movies. Yeah, maybe the language or visual explicitness isn't quit the same, but the inference certainly is.

    One can still say the same thing without using certain four letter words. And people don't have to actually be fully nude to get "nudity."

    Regular network TV may be even more "dangerous" since that is was is supposed to be deemed generally acceptable.

    Thanks guys,

  2. To piggyback on Patrick’s point, I think this is an area where we need to strike a balance. On the one hand, there is certain extreme material which a Christian should always avoid. There is also less extreme material which we shouldn’t view a regular basis.

    On the other hand, many Christians are adult converts to the faith. Many of them attended public school. At a minimum, there’s not a lot that most of them didn’t see and hear before they came to the faith. And, in not few cases, there’s not a lot they haven’t done.

    In addition, much of what’s going on in the movie theater today is a reflection of what’s going on when you step outside of the movie theater.

    So it’s not as though, if you were to hear a swear word or see a flash of nudity, that this would plant a poisonous seed in virgin soil. We can’t practice instant amnesia and return to a mythical state of innocence. If God wanted us to avoid evil altogether, he wouldn’t put us in a fallen world to begin with (cf. 1 Cor 5:9-10).

    Finally, the Bible itself is a violent book. So violent content is not, of itself, verboten.

    The Bible uses a certain amount of erotic imagery. This picture language is designed to trigger the imagination of the reader. So sexual content is not, of itself, verboten.

    Finally, although the Bible rarely uses bad language, it does so on rare occasion, mostly in quotation. This usage is obscured by bashful translation committees. For example, I’ve never read an idiomatic rendering of 2 Kg 18:27. So hearing bad language is not, of itself, verboten.

    We therefore need to exercise discretion.