The "Theology" of Christian Movies

Discussion in '2004 Archive' started by Dr. Bob, Mar 9, 2004.

  1. Dr. Bob

    Dr. Bob
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    Attached is an article "THE MENACE OF THE RELIGIOUS MOVIE" by renowned Christian author A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

    Have to admit it blew me away and gave much to think about the whole medium of tv/movies. Five minute read and worth it.

    http://www.biblebb.com/files/tozermovie.htm
     
  2. Debby in Philly

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    To quote the article:

    "The harm lies not in the instrument itself, but in the evil will of those who use it for their own selfish ends."

    This article makes some valid points concerning motives. But to apply it to the type of film expressly made by Bible-believing Christians for educational purposes (which leaves out "the Passion") is silly. Following that logic, we would have to say that all of the pictures and charts we use in Sunday School are wrong. Every object lesson you've ever seen presented is wrong. As a teacher, I cannot agree with that.

    Also, note that this person went to home to be with the Lord in 1963. That was when "gospel films" were just beginning to come out. I spent many Sunday nights as a teen watching a gospel film, which was followed by a youth leader "summing up" the message of the film (always using the Bible), and asking for a response to the gospel from those attending. The medium had been used by God to bring many to Him, and it still is. The "Jesus movie" project will attest to that. But again, it all depends on who makes the film, what it contains, and in what context it is applied that makes the difference. The decision to use the medium or not is not the question.
     
  3. Helen

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    Got another cuppa tea, read the article...

    I don't like religious movies, but that is about the only thing Tozer and I are agreeing on! I disagree with almost all his reasons!

    Rather than repeat his reasons, even in summary, here are my responses to them by number:

    1. Does it violate the Scriptural 'law of hearing'? No. There is NO Scriptural 'law of hearing'! All creation itself testifies to God -- and this is seeing. Miracles in the Bible were performed for the express of purpose of inspiring belief. This is seeing. This is, dare I say it? -- experiencing! Jesus used parables involving the everyday experiences of the people -- things they knew, had seen, had experienced. These parables were of course limited in explanatory ability, nevertheless, our Lord used them. And what about the deaf? They hear nothing. And yet some of the most faithful and devout Christians I know are among my deaf friends.

    If we are to deny seeing as a method of telling the Gospel, then let us all be blind! Let us get rid of the flannel graphs we use for the children. Let us get rid of books! Let us only listen to the Gospel as they did in the Middle Ages when the people were illiterate and had to depend on whatever the priests told them. In fact, understanding that that was not enough, stained glass windows telling parts of the Gospel or Creation or Flood stories became an integral part of the Middle Age cathedrals!

    2. I agree 90% here, with the proviso that even entertainment can cause people to think, and that is always worth something! However, when I think of religion as entertainment, I do not think of religious movies. I think of the Crystal Cathedral. I think of televangelists. I think of "Touched by an Angel".... As flawed as they might be, I'd rather have movies such as "The Ten Commandments" any day; they treat the subject seriously.

    3. Acting does not necessarily imply a violation of sincerity. Every time I used a different voice when reading Scripture to portray different speakers so my children would keep the people straight, I was acting. Acting can be a way of helping people see the impact and meaning of something. For instance, we talk about the Prodigal Son eating pig slop, but how many Americans (especially) today have the slightest clue about what 'pig slop' meant then? Not sanitary, manufactured, biochemically balanced grains and such, but SLOP! Showing it on film might be a very good way of illustrating just how far down that once-rich young son had fallen.

    Bringing up the Pharisee as an actor is not accurate. The Pharisees were not confronted for their acting, but for their blatent hypocrisy. Granted, this may be considered a form of acting, but to push this definition onto all stage and film acting is erroneous. Stage and film actors 'usually' know when enough is enough and once the day or the play is finished, it's back to their normal lives. This is not the same as the Pharisees at all. The Pharisees wanted their hypocritical actions to be taken seriously as being 'really' who they were. Actors and actresses rarely make that mistake.

    4. The older religious movies are not meant to be an 'improvement' on Scripture. They were meant to illustrate some part of it. This could be done well or badly, same same as the reading or telling of Scripture can be.

    5. Although there is no spiritual gift of 'movie actor,' there is of teaching. And sometimes (speaking as a retired teacher here), that teaching can involve acting! In teaching, getting the point across is the whole idea, and teaching does NOT mean just hour after hour of lecturing!

    6. I fully agree that a movie cannot take the place of a sermon, but it can certainly supplement it later, to help drive home a point! For instance, I have tried to explain to my hearing friends the problems encountered by my deaf friends, and how they MUST have their own culture, for culture is a child of language. But until the video "Thinking Deaf" was made, my words were not making the impact I wanted them to make. TELLING the kids that millions of people passed through the Red Sea did not make the impact I wanted it to make. SHOWING them that scene from Ten Commandments helps, because the masses of humanity moving through an area was something they had not been able to understand before (we are country folk). I do not plan on seeing "The Passion", but I am guessing that simply saying "Christ was crucified for you" might take on a different impact and meaning for many after seeing the movie!

    7. While I agree that the movie industry as a whole will reap the rewards for the immorality of most films both in this life and the next, the fact is that there are those who have benefited greatly from some wonderful movies. Helen Keller would be an unknown had the movie not been made. But as it was, actors and audience gained a much more profound understanding into the world of the multiply handicapped. "South Pacific" not only had magnificent music, but taught valuable lessons about some aspects of World War II and about racism. "Oklahoma" introduces an older way of life and community but did not forget to include the problems of Judd and the traveling salesman! The gentleness of "Harvey" has never ceased to make people a little more aware and understanding of harmless eccentricities. And we all loved "Princess Diaries", not just for its happy ending, but for its portrayal of the 'ugly duckling' being transformed. "Beauty and the Beast" (unintentionally, I'm sure) showed that death results without love and only love can give life. It was not a far cry from that movie to my applying the lesson to the fact that God is love for my kids.

    All that said, my reasons for disliking most religous movies are different:

    1. As in "The Passion", shock value is exploited. From what I understand, the movie excels in both gore and Mary, and while the Roman Catholic church has also promoted both during its existence, it is not something I want to subsidize with my money.

    2. Visual effects rarely carry the impact of reality, no matter how hard the filmmakers try. The violent impact of Noah's Flood, the horror of slaughtered babies by Herod, the glory of the Transfiguration, the shock and joy of the Resurrection -- there is no way to really get something like this on film. The problem is, there is no way to really get the full impact in words, either! So we do what we can.

    3. Religious interpretations are inevitable in filmmaking, and often those interpretations are being made by those who are not believers. Thus, there is an unholy mix of what the Bible says and what others either want it to say or add to it for the sake of sales.

    4. Films can imprint ideas on the mind which are not intended by the Bible. The picture of Jesus as looking like an actor can become quite imprinted, so that when we read that there was nothing in his appearance to attract us to Him in the Bible, we simply pass that idea by and don't really comprehend it. The chronic picture of the Ark in cartoons and such with two giraffes sticking their heads out the top or sides is so bizarre as to almost negate the reality of what happened. Cute, but bizarre...

    That's enough for now...I'll try to be back later if this turns into a discussion.
     
  4. vaspers

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    Helen, I'm starting to get addicted to your posts.

    Let me say that I teach Junior High Sunday school students witnessing skills through skits and puppets, they act roles through the puppets, one puppet is Christian, one is unsaved.

    But I like A.W.Tozer a whole, whole lot. Have Gems of Tozer book and Knowledge of the Holy.
     
  5. All about Grace

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    Tozer wrote at least one classic that every Christian should read (The Knowledge of the Holy). That being said, he simply misses the boat in other areas such as the blending of theology and methodology. If you follow his logic to its natural end, he disqualifies himself in that he WROTE (most likely with a communicative means -- typewriter) this article. Tozer's beliefs about methodology shows one reason why the modern church has been so left behind -- we have failed to separate our theology from our methods.

    As can be seen in Tozer's article alone, it is extremely difficult to be consistent with his view on methods.
     
  6. aefting

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    I don't understand what you're suggesting. Are you saying that what we believe about God, our theology, should not drive our methods?

    Probably, our methods reveal what we really believe about God. I think that is actually part of Tozer's point in The Knowledge of the Holy.

    Andy
     
  7. blackbird

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    I try to attend the annual FBC, Jacksonville, Florida's Pastor's Conference---once, several years ago Dr. Vines included a video clip of several warplanes taking off from a Aircraft Carrier's flight deck---went along well with his message--artfully done---I'd do something like that---but takes a lot of money!
     
  8. dianetavegia

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    Vaspers, one thing that has been stressed at every 'puppeteer' class I've had through AWANA or the SBC is that we should NEVER allow the puppets to be 'Christian's'... esp. animal or character puppets. Now, I understand what you're doing and it sounds like a great idea but wondered if YOUNGER children might be confused by this?

    I think, and this is just MY opinion, that kids over 6 or so understand it's just a 'play'. I have Christian videos where the puppets are 'Christians' and show them to the 3 and 4 year olds. Shhhhhhh!!!

    Anyone can answer but Vasper's post just triggered that thought from the back of my aching head!

    Diane
     
  9. All about Grace

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    The message is timeless. Methods are not.
    The message never changes. Methods change constantly.
    The message drives our methods but our methods are driven by the need to make the message relevant.

    Check out the discussion under "what makes a church relevant" in the General Baptist section.
     

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