27 May 2010

That Massive, Deadly Ditch on the Opposite Side of the Road from Libertinism

by Phil Johnson

Note: I didn't participate in the comment-section of Tuesday's post, so I have no axe to grind there. I didn't watch Lost, so I don't care about the program or its much-debated ending. In fact, I'm so apathetic about it that I would not have even read Dan's Tuesday post if I hadn't noticed (fairly late Wednesday) that the comment-count had gone over a hundred. What was all the fuss about? I wondered. After reading, I decided to post my comment here.
    I should point out first of all that we rarely do movie reviews or cultural commentary on this blog, and there are two reasons for that. One is that we're much more concerned with important things that are happening in the church than we are with the trivial things that already get too much of the world's attention. (Please understand: we're neither hermits nor pietists, but what I'm saying is that the blog has a fairly specific focus, and that's on purpose.)
    The second reason is more complex. Let's face it: we usually aim our critiques at those who are having the most influence among evangelicals these days—those who are so concerned with being cool and gaining the world's approval that they show little concern about holiness. Because that has been our emphasis, we have attracted more than our fair share of very vocal legalists who are convinced that the person with the weakest conscience (or the Bible college with the strictest rules) should get to define holiness for everyone—rather than letting Scripture define it for us. They believe it is their prerogative to dictate to everyone else what's acceptable and what's not, rather than following the principles of Romans 14 with regard to matters that aren't altogether clear. Those people surface at every opportunity, and they seem to love making a fuss. Sometimes it's fairly humorous (as in the "Chiquita" kerfuffle a few years ago). Other times (like this week) the debate quickly becomes highly emotional and unduly personal.
    I don't like that. Yet I'm convinced that legalism in the name of Christ is far more spiritually destructive than the libertinism that dominates secular society.
    So here's my entry into this week's discussion. And I'm officially closing Monday's comment-thread.




egalists sometimes defend themselves by claiming that legalism, properly understood, is just what Paul condemned in Galatians 1: the sin of making justification conditional on some work or ceremony performed by the sinner. In other words, legalism is works-salvation. So, they say, if you formally affirm the principle of sola fide and preach that people can be saved without any prerequisite work, you can't possibly be a legalist, no matter how many rules you make and impose on the consciences of people who are already converted.

No. Legalism is the error of abandoning our liberty in Christ in order to take on a yoke of legal bondage (Galatians 5:1). There are actually two kinds of legalism.

First is the one recognized and despised even by the fundamentalist with his thick rule-book. It's the legalism of the Judaizers. The Judaizers wanted to make circumcision a requirement for salvation. They had fatally corrupted the gospel by adding a human work as a requirement for salvation. That is certainly the worst variety of legalism, because it destroys the doctrine of justification by faith and thereby sets up "a gospel contrary to the one you received" (Galatians 1:8-9).

But another kind of legalism is the legalism of the Pharisees. It's the tendency to reduce every believer's duty to a list of rules. This is the kind of legalism that often seems to surface in our comment-threads. At its root is a belief that holiness is achieved by legal means—by following a list of "standards." This type of legalism doesn't necessarily destroy the doctrine of justification like the legalism of the Judaizers. But it does destroy the doctrine of sanctification, and it is certainly appropriate to call it what it is: legalism—i.e., a sinful misapplication of law; an attempt to make law do work that only grace can do. Like the Judaizers' brand of legalism, it brings people under a yoke of bondage Scripture has not placed on them.

As a matter of fact, that is exactly what Jesus said about the legalism of the Pharisees: "They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders" (Matthew 23:4).

Pharisaical legalists are not content to live life in the power of the Spirit, cultivate discernment, and avoid things that are clearly profane or immoral; they make lists of rules that prohibit Christians from practically everything but church activities. It's not enough to avoid gambling; they insist that good Christians will avoid card-playing altogether. They're not content with doing things in moderation and with self-control, they make rules that call for strict abstinence from everything doubtful—and they try to impose those rules on other Christians—saddling people with a yoke that they imagine exists somewhere in the white spaces of Scripture.

You want rules? Here's a good one to start with: When it comes to the question of spiritual duties, where Scripture stops speaking, we should, too.



The Pharisees' sin was making rules that went beyond what Scripture actually said. For example, they read in the law that it is a sin to take God's name in vain (Exodus 20:7), so they expanded the rule to forbid the use of God's name at all. They invented euphemisms to be used in place of God's name (Matthew 23:22).

The Pharisees saw the stress that was laid on ceremonial cleanness in the Old Testament, so they invented all kinds of extra washings and required people to observe those as well. In fact, Matthew 15 tells how the Scribes and Pharisees tried to condemn Jesus for not making his disciples observe their extrabiblical traditions: "Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat'" (Matthew 15:1-2).

There was no biblical commandment requiring people to do any ceremonial washing before they ate. The priests were supposed to wash their hands before offering sacrifices to God, but no law required everyone to wash up before every meal.

Jesus' response to the Pharisees was a stern rebuke: "He answered them, 'And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?'" (Matthew 15:3). In other words, He rejected their tradition because it was not what the Word of God taught. Even though we all know that washing before meals is good hygiene, and a good idea, He flatly rejected their notion that it is "sinful" not to do it.

He said their legalism transgressed the Scriptures. Legalism always has an anti-biblical tendency. You cannot go beyond Scripture without ultimately setting yourself at odds with Scripture.

That is precisely what happened in the fundamentalist movement, and one of the major reasons that movement has failed so notoriously. Legalism diverts people's attention from sound doctrine, so that the typical fighting-fundie legalist is doctrinally ignorant, reserving his or her "convictions" for a silly manmade system of rules. Ask the typical self-styled fundamentalist to define the difference between imputed and imparted righteousness, and he will not be able to do so. Suggest that it's OK for women to wear pants, or for people to use another version besides the KJV for Bible study, and the same fundy will lock and load his angry dogmatism, ready to do battle or even die for some ridiculous manmade "standard." Thus, as Jesus said, they have nullified the Word of God for the sake of their manmade traditions.

Let me say this plainly: It is a sin to impose on others any "spiritual" standard that has no biblical basis. When God gave the law to Israel, He told them, "You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you" (Deuteronomy 4:2). And, "Everything that I command you, you shall be careful to do. You shall not add to it or take from it" (Deuteronomy 12:32).

The same principle is repeated in the New Testament. In 1 Corinthians 4, Paul was rebuking the Corinthians for their sectarianism, saying "I am of Paul"; "I am of Apollos," and so on. His rebuke to them includes these words in 1 Corinthians 4:6: "I have applied all these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, brothers, that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written."

That is a good guideline for how we should exercise our Christian liberty: Don't go beyond what is written in Scripture. Don't make rules to impose on others; don't devise rituals and forms of worship that are not authorized; and don't speak on such matters where God has been silent. That's the whole principle of Sola Scriptura applied to Christian living. If we really believe Scripture is a sufficient rule for the Christian life, then we don't have to add anything to it.

Nor is there virtue in applying every principle of Scripture in the strictest possible way. "Put[ting away] obscene talk from your mouth" (Colossians 3:8) doesn't mean you are guilty of sin every time you hear someone else use an obscenity or take the Lord's name in vain. "Keep[ing] oneself unstained from the world" (James 1:27) doesn't mean you have to avoid contact with the world or hole up in a nunnery (1 Corinthians 5:9-12).

If we add rules that Scripture doesn't make—especially if we try to impose our manmade rules on other people's consciences as a standard of spirituality—we are guilty of the same sin as the Pharisees and worthy of the same harsh rebukes Christ leveled at them.

Phil's signature

181 comments:

Announcerboy said...

Spot on Phil. As the husband of a dear girl who still suffers greatly from all the spiritual, emotional, and mental damage caused by growing up in 20 years of legalistic bondage, I can attest first hand to Legalism's destructive effects. It's 21st century leprosy, straight from the pit of hell, and its practitioners should be required to loudly announce, "UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN" when near others.

Sonja said...

Thank you Phil for this post; I was beginning to feel the pressure to repent for watching LOST ;-)

The extreme version on the other side is when people invoke the word, legalism, when church discipline takes place. Church leaders often exercise as much grace and mercy as possible before advancing to the various steps in Matt 18. They often take months, if not years, after much prayer, counseling, and encouraging, before reaching the final stage of excommunication. Nevertheless, legalism is a word that rears its ugly head in these situations.

CR said...

Has anyone ever known a rejoicing legalist, a legalist who rejoices in God? Maybe they rejoice in themselves for a little while but even after a while they're miserable about that too. Hmmm...

Anyway, I do sympathize with the legalists. We are legalistic by nature and we can tend think we have to earn God's blessing in our daily life. Our sinful natures doesn't like the once and for all finished work of Christ just as it doesn't like the ethical demands of Scripture.

dan said...

good post phil and much appreciated. i grew up in a fundy baptist church and for many years sweated blood trying to adhere to the rules of the church. legalism is such a destructive thing and makes me angry just thinking about it! thank God for Christians who know and understand God's grace - and point people to it instead of bashing their heads in with the iron club of man-made rules.

Steve T said...

Thanks for the sound words, I grew up in the UK amongst Open Brethren much of my experiences were good ones, it was the anti calvinistic tone that eventually caused me to evaluate my place amongst them, legalism was and is an issue in certain 'assemblies'; what has really hit home to me in recent years about legalism is just what fertile soil it is for false conversion. I also observe that some of the modren breed of militant atheists, those who claim to have come from former evangelical backgrounds grew up in legaistic enviromnents and in time
saw the hideous hypocrisy that acompanies it so often.

It's a sobering issue

Thanks again

eric opsahl said...

Greetings,
If you have time, help me see the difference between Legalism and Boundaries (which some may cry as legalistic rules). It seems to me that all Christians live by a set of "rules" or "do's and don'ts". Let me use the Pants example, can women wear pants. I don't see a Biblical prohibition for wearing pants, but I would warn women from wearing skin tight pants which show every curve of their body. In fact, I think I would prohibit my Daughter (if I had one) from wearing a skin tight outfit which could be a stumbling block to other young men. I know folks who would call me legalistic, they would say I'm imposing a standard which isn't Biblically clear. And that is true, what is modest to me isn't modest to others. So, using this example, when do standards cross over into legalism.
Eric

Deb said...

Eric:
I agree with you that we all live by our own matters of conscience. Every day we wake up we make decisions to do or not do certain things based on whether they are edifying. Paul said all things that are not sin are permissible, but not all things are profitable. So, I do believe that every person makes decisions for themselves about living every day to do or not do things that are not in themselves sinful either way.

My pastor says our own matters of conscience become legalism when: 1) we believe that we are more acceptable to God because we practice our do's and don'ts and 2) when we seek to judge others based on our own matters of conscience/boundaries.

Hope that's helpful.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

Eric,

I think if you read the last paragraph a few times you might get a better understanding of the difference. We set boundaries for ourselves, and often the result is that we become self-righteous and arrogant towards others who haven't set those same boundaries for themselves. (I'm not accusing you of that, I'm speaking from my own experience struggling with self-righteous pride.)

It is not easy to keep it in the middle of the road. It's much easier to to go to one side of the ditch or the other, either throwing all caution to the wind (liberalism) or climbing into a cave to avoid the wind at all costs (legalism).

I appreciate Steve T's comment, because we seem to forget that false conversions can take place on the legalistic side of the road too. Just get someone to "wash up real nice" and talk the Churcy talk, and we've made ourselves a convert.

One of the challenges I face with my own tendencies is when I've had a log removed from my eye and I see someone else struggling in a similar area. (modesty, soap operas, alcohol--to name a few) It's tempting to look down on them or cultivate bitterness toward them rather than to get close to them and ask good probing questions (as Christ would), which might better get to the heart of the matter.

Christopher said...

Did Eve sin in doing this? Let me know if this is not part of the conversation and chop it off before anyone answers...

When the Serpent asked Eve about GOD's commandment she told him that she could not eat of it OR TOUCH IT. Was this a form of Pre-Legalism?

Mark B. Hanson said...

All of us, because of our own specific temptations, may need to set boundaries beyond the scriptural commands in our own lives, or around the lives of our families. Where boundaries become legalism is precisely the point where I begin to believe, or teach, that the boundaries God has set for me are His will for everyone.

A (hopefully) neutral example. Suppose when I was young I was addicted to baseball - had the cards, watched the games, spent my waking hours memorizing batting averages. Then I became a Christian, and decided that baseball was an idol. For the sake of my own soul I stay away even from the sports section during the season.

Now at work I overhear a Christian brother talk about taking his son to a game this weekend. My words, "How can you be a Christian and watch baseball?" are legalism rearing its ugly head.

bp said...

when I've had a log removed from my eye and I see someone else struggling in a similar area. (modesty, soap operas, alcohol--to name a few) It's tempting to look down on them or cultivate bitterness toward them rather than to get close to them and ask good probing questions (as Christ would)

There's the rub, Merrilee. You put "soap operas" in the category of a sin that someone is struggling with, and said that asking probing questions is the thing Christ would do. Yet, as soon as I suggest that it could be a sin, I'm labeled a legalist sitting in a massive, deadly ditch.

Robert said...

I believe I have seen this same attitude in my church. There is a clear divide in the church between people who live differently. One of the main divisions is parents who homeschool and parents who don't (as well as working mothers vs. stay at home). We have a church that is clearly not unified and to me it is just very sad. It frustrates me greatly.

I am reading a book on church membership and church discipline and I can definitely see that our church doesn't seem to be following the model of church members who are committed to one another. People show up for church and might go to a work day here or there, but they are only going to be involved in the lives of people who have similar interests. I feel like we are only centered around the church building and not the body of Christ. This, to me, is the great danger of legalism. And let me tell you, it isn't something that is out in your face...it is very subtle and hidden beneath the surface. When you get close enough to see and feel it, though, it is very painful.

DJP said...

...I would not have even read Dan's Monday post....

1. Snif.
2. But would you have read my Tuesday post?
3. Thanks for the extra day to work on my Harry Potter post.
4. Yes, I know; I just volunteered to delete any posts trying to go off on Harry Potter.
5. Really good post, thanks.
6. I think a good measure of the spirit you're whacking away on is simply the very fact of reading that post and thinking, "Why, this post is about a TV show!" — very distantly analogous to reading Psalm 23 and thinking, "Why, this psalm is about those filthy shepherds!"

Karen said...

Legalism is evil... no question. It's a huge testimony issue and I've seen unsaved friends mock the legalism of certain Christians and brush off evangelical Christianity as a whole because of it. Remembering my time at BJU and in some churches associated with it makes my hair stand on end at times.

All that said, I read your previous comment threads and it did honestly seem to me, at face value (maybe you had some hidden meaning in there that I just missed) that you Pyro folks were mocking someone who objected to the idea of Christians being bothered by watching sex scenes on television. I don't think you could throw that kind of objection into the "legalism" category. Why do you feel that people who don't watch that stuff (and it's the reason I never watched LOST) and question those who do are legalist? Do you really think the Bible is silent on whether watching people engaging in sexual immorality might be incompatible with renewing our minds and being transformed by the Gospel?

An honest question. I just wonder if I'm being overly strict, in an unbiblical way, when I don't watch sex on TV. And if I voice concern that others do watch and enjoy that. And say they're Christians. Am I missing something?

DJP said...

Since that was answered several times in the meta (and since those answers were simply ignored by complainers), Karen, I'd suggest this. Find the answers, think about them, and if they're still unsatisfying, repeat the answers here and explain why they're unsatisfying to you .

DJP said...

...unless Phil wants to go a different direction, of course. I'm just commenting because I wake up well before him and most decent people.

cy said...

Dear Phil, thank you very much for addressing an issue that I have personally been struggling a lot with. I have many friends who love to watch tv shows and engage in recreational activities and quite often I join them in doing these things.

However I also understand God's command to preach the gospel and the importance of saving souls for Christ and the glory of God. On top of this, I understand the importance of studying God's Word, exhorting and encouraging our brethren in Christ, interceding for our church leaders, brethren, and non-believers, and finally the importance of spending time with God our Father in prayer.

Yet time is limited, so my first question to you would be for advice. Considering that this is what God calls us to do, and not all activities are profitable or edifying in the sense that it accomplishes the above, is it still possible for me to participate in all these activities with a clear conscience? And if it is not done with a clear conscience is it sin? (As Rom 14:12 says, "whatever does not proceed from faith is sin") Or is it possible to also consider such activities as profitable or edifying? I have heard Paul Washer once said that he would like to take his kid out to eat icecream and glorify God. That really got me wondering, where do we make a distinction between the sinful pleasures of this life and the ones God means for us to have?

My second question would be for your kind help on interpreting the following verses.

1 Cor 10:27 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

How do I glorify God in watching movies for instance?

The whole book of Ecclesiastes (correct my interpretation if I'm wrong) points out that everything is meaningless and futile except to fear God and keep His commandments for that is the whole duty of man. Is it meaningful then to watch Iron Man 2 which will pass away? Or to engage in activities which do not last for eternity? Certainly God's Word through this book is eternally true and is still true for this time when Christ has come.

Finally, what would you make of a Christian who encourages others to find their whole joy in Christ and the spiritual blessings which God specifically proclaims as ours through Christ in His Word. And this meaning that they find their joy in nothing else. Sometimes I find that when I have tasted something so sweet, everything else pales in comparison. I wonder if the same could be said of Christ.

I am truly sincere about receiving some help in understanding God's will in these matters, I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit. (If I may use Paul's words) And thank you for your ministry on this blog. God bless your work, and the work of all of you who write here.

DJP said...

How do I glorify God in watching movies for instance?

How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

Andrew said...

<>

Well said. When I was growing up in a Fundamentalist/Gothard context (talk about your classic double-whammy!) I heard the phrase "we prefer to err on the side of right" used to justify so many things--including the racist campus policies of BJU.

When you err, it doesn't matter which side you are on. It is still an error.

Hayden said...

Susanna Wesley once said this in regard to sin:

Take this rule: whatever weakens your reason, impairs the tenderness of your conscience, obscures your sense of God, or takes off the relish of spiritual things; in short, whatever increases the strength and authority of your body over your mind, that things is sin to YOU, however innocent it may be in itself.

Notice the caps. Look, we have great freedom in Christ and we have to be careful not to look down on people that we are supposed to love. This legalistic attitude really divides the local church. Remember we are called to bear alongside of each other not divide and conquer.

I will say this, as a Pastor I try to be careful how I express my freedom in Christ as it relates to movies and tv. A bunch of guys took me out to see the latest Iron MAN movie for my birthday and someone jokingly said, 'I am going to have a hard time looking at you in the pulpit the same way knowing that you like Iron Man'. OUCH! Needless to say, I took pause and learned.

mikeb said...

Legalism is not true salvation.But the Bible does require us to think, do and say certain things once we are saved. This does not mean we should go around imposing on unbelievers, as if they could be saved by doing works.

The hard question Phil raises is "When it comes to the question of spiritual duties, where Scripture stops speaking, we should, too."

Where exactly does Scripture stop?

Many things are implied in Scripture but not stated forthrightly. This leaves many Christians to interpret things the way they see fit, which is usually more wordly.

For example:

Is covering your body with tattoos a sin? Is allowing your children to be taught that God is not real (evolution) a sin? Is wanting to have a two income family so you can purchase more stuff a sin? IS dressing "goth" a sin?

We mustn't go to far either direction. There is legalism on the one side, and there is complete watering down of God's word on the other.

The Pharisees, as bad as they were, did some things right (tithed their spices, etc), but their real problem is that they neglected the weighty matters of their godly walk.

Also, we need to ask ourselves "what honors God more?" "All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify." It's not a sin for women to wear pants, but in today's culture where the gender lines are constantly being smeared, we must ask ourselves if our little girls shouldn't dress more like ladies.

cy said...

How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

Interestingly I was just studying that passage. Though Paul quoted the pagan philosophers, that doesn't imply that he agreed with everything they said. I suppose then that for those who know themselves to be more susceptible to temptation or to being misled or who are not as spiritually mature should refrain from doing things which might lead them into sin.

But as to how reading pagan philosophers glorifies God, perhaps it is the same with glorifying God in eating and drinking, it is not the act itself but the attitude involved, the purpose for doing and the heart of thanksgiving and praise.

DJP said...

All that's okay, Cy, but you still did not answer my question. I think it'll be helpful for you. Look at the passage, and tell me: How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

I am assuming that he did do it. So look at the passage, take a few hours, think it over, tell me: how did he do it? What did he do with it?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "Yet I'm convinced that legalism in the name of Christ is far more spiritually destructive than the libertinism that dominates secular society."

I'm not as convinced as you are.

Biblically, I can think of the libertinism in the time of Noah or in Sodom and Gomorrah.

With regards to the liberal-fundamentalist divide back in the early 1900's, and if one had to choose which was more destructive to people's souls between liberal Christians/Christianity and fundamentalist Christians/Christianity, I'd say that liberal Christians and their liberal Christianity was more destructive. Clearly so.

Eg., If I had to discern between which of these two people were more destructive to people's souls:

Liberal Christian Brian McLaren or Fundamentalist Kent Brandenburg

I'd say Brian McLaren is far, Far, FAR more damaging to people's faiths than the fundamentalism of KJV-only Kent Brandenburg.

DJP had a recent post on his BibChr blog titled Liberal Self-Image Vs. Reality and the meta touched upon liberal Christians.

As DJP said: "Well, one way or another, I whack on them [liberal Christians] just about every day, 5-7 days a week, on two blogs."

Anyways, I'm not defending Pharasaic legalism of either the fundamentalists OR the liberals because there MOST certainly is liberal legalism, liberal fundamentalism, and liberal pharasaicalism, but if I had to say which is worse for the body of Christ between:

(A) Kent Brandenburg, Liberty University, and Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary

or

(B) Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, mainline liberal denominations, and liberal Emergers

....

I'd say (B) is far worse. No question.

P.S. Incidentally, I thought your series last year on gambling crossed over the line into legalism. Although I'm sure that was not your intention to do so.

Merrilee Stevenson said...

bp:

You wrote:

Yet, as soon as I suggest that it could be a sin, I'm labeled a legalist sitting in a massive, deadly ditch.


I hate it when that happens.

As a sinner saved by grace, it's difficult not to be hypocritical when dealing with other sinners (saved or unsaved). But we must remember the grace that we received, and be mindful that pride and arrogance are just as abominable as lust and drunkenness.

donsands said...

Great post.

Two types of legalism. Yep. Never really saw it like that before.

I was in a holiness legalist church for a year.

It's being self-righteous + grace. It was very difficult to even discuss the things of normal life we do with these holy rollers.

I thank the Lord he broke me free from these legalists, and I didn't become one myself, although I was a bit of a legalist, and was headed that way.

Have a blessed Day in His glorious grace.

Joey Phillips said...

TUAD,

Funny, I thought Phil's articles on gambling were some of the most excellent examples of making an argument regarding a gray issue (in my opinion, not his) without crossing into legalism that I have seen.

sbrogden said...

To stay narrowly focused on the two types of legalism, and not delve into specifics, it struck me that the first type is the easily recognized one - works based salvation. The second one is the less easily recognized works based sanctification. It is Christ who saves and Christ who sanctifies.

That Crazy Christian said...

Fine and dandy Phil, but it doesn't answer why I was, and others like me who DARE question the three of you (mostly Frank and Dan), are mocked and ridiculed consistently on this blog. (Which has a real endearing effect, let me tell you)

All I asked about Monday's post was if we had better things to do with our time than watch television. Dan decided to be a smart alec and not answer the question.

I asked what the difference was between what he was doing and what many churches (that we often ridicule) do in having a World of Warcraft Sermon Series, or and American Idol sermon series (on Idoltary! Get it get it? You aren't laughing. . . ), or in the example I linked, a 24 sermon series. Dan decided to mock me instead of answer the question.

I finally asked why we Dan didn't, you know, talk about the Bible, instead of using some dumb depraved TV show to try and make his message more appealing. Dan just flat ignored me.

Perhaps, Phil, you can answer my questions.

Look, nowhere am I saying a Christian can't watch TV, or like sports (as I do), or sew, or go fishing, et. al. I'm not saying that a Christian must spend 100% of his time trying to "do the things of God" (for lack of a better term). I never said it was sinful, or that you had to add what my little version of holiness is to your life in order for it to actually be holy.

I asked if we had something better to do than watch TV. I asked what the difference was between what he was doing and what he would otherwise ridicule. And finally, I asked that if Dan had a good message to teach on Monday, why didn't he just teach it, why the props and sideshow? Those questions deal with being a good steward of ones time, hypocrisy, and plainly teaching God's word. . . issues where the Bible most certainly is NOT silent.

Perhaps Phil, you can provide me with some answers without all of the attitude. I genuinely want to know the answers.

Also Phil, perhaps you could address, maybe here, maybe in another post, the repeated abuse and attitude portrayed by Dan and Frank who mock and ridicule instead of answering honest questions.

Frank Turk said...

I'd say Brian McLaren is far, Far, FAR more damaging to people's faiths than the fundamentalism of KJV-only Kent Brandenburg.

Um ...

... um ...

... uh ...

... no comment.

Stefan said...

We're a mixed family—by God's grace, I'm a believer; my wife is not yet, but (God willing) may very soon be saved.

If I have a choice in what to watch on TV, it's generally the news, action movies, and documentaries on historical and cultural topics.

But I am exposed to a lot of what passes for mainstream Hollywood television, as well, and express or communicate my discomfort with certain things, although in a spirit of grace, because my wife doesn't yet see these things.

I will say this: to say that Lost is about illicit relationships is like saying that Genesis is about polygamy. And futhermore, to say that the last post was about a TV show was to completely miss the point. The point was to show how Scripture is so much better than even the best that the world can offer.

And Lost is actually one of the cleaner and more family-friendly shows on television. It's actually A LOT less scandalous and A LOT less binding on the conscience than any number of top shows these days that are (presumably) aimed at a family audience—for example, Dancing with the Stars, Survivor, and American Idol.

SandMan said...

Karen wrote:
How do I glorify God in watching movies for instance?

DJP wrote:
How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

Acts 17:28:
"'for in Him we live and move and have our being,' as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.'"

Paul now quotes from two different Grecian writers. The first quote is from Epimenides (c. 600 BC). The second is by Aratus (c. 300 BC). Paul also quotes from Aratus in Titus 1:12. In their original contexts, both quotes are referring to Zeus, the main god of Grecian mythology.

So, Paul uses the familiar to facilitate the unfamiliar (namely YahWeh) into the conversation. Paul saw the opportunity to discuss the true and living God by first acknowledging their current beliefs about god(s).

So, watching a popular TV show that prompts you to consider and discuss the vast superiority of Scripture, and magnify God for His sovereign hand in the past, current, and future events of history; then, blogging about God's glory in a place where thousands will read it is glorifying to God?

I'm sold.

That Crazy Christian said...

Also, note to a poster named Gabby, and also to a lesser extent, Dan.

It was pointed out yesterday that I have some movies and possibly TV shows in my profile that I don't think I would recommend to people to watch as they are not really very edifying movies.

Allow me to explain:

Yes, there was a time in my Christian life where I filled my head with filthiness in the name of being free and able to do so in Christ.

I have since come to a place, about a year ago, where I realized that my time could be better spent not parked in front of a TV or Movie screen filled with filth of all sorts. It is from my own experiences and my own struggles with sin fueled by this type of entertainment that I ask questions (not condemn, I know it can be different for everyone) like "don't we have better things to do with our time."

As for why it was still in my profile. . . well, I must be candid and simply confess laziness and that I had forgotten those things were a part of my profile. I ask your forgiveness and thank you for pointing it out. I ought to be more diligent about what the public sees especially when confessing Christ as Lord.

I plan to clean up that profile right now, and if you look at my facebook page, you'll see that I had already cleaned it up there some time ago. (I update my facebook page much more diligently and frequently)

All of that said, my questions still stand.

Pastor Pants said...

bp, drop the bone! PLEASE!!

Otherwise, some good stuff here in the meta:

CR:"Our sinful natures doesn't like the once and for all finished work of Christ just as it doesn't like the ethical demands of Scripture."
Steve T:"Legalism is... fertile soil... for false conversion"

Great stuff!

To take and run a little with those ideas...

As CR suggests, the sinful heart of man hates the suggestion that salvation is in Christ alone; it cannot simply rest in the finished sufficient work of Christ. So we rely on God to draw us and make us alive.

Yet still that sinful heart resists the sufficiency of God; so often Christians cannot simply rest in the finished sufficient Word of Christ. Think of all the "fun" DJP has had in the metas of his recent posts on this issue!

One can see how easily those who reject the latter may have already rejected the former. Steve T's claim makes perfect sense in that light.

How our wicked hearts love to feel that God has somehow sold us short rather than "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph 1:3)! Not that we would ever put it that way...

And, before we get to far from the original topic (i.e. LOST), this is how it should have ended:

http://i.imgur.com/wtzBE.gif

Frank Turk said...

TCC said:

Fine and dandy Phil, but it doesn't answer why I was, and others like me who DARE question the three of you (mostly Frank and Dan), are mocked and ridiculed consistently on this blog. (Which has a real endearing effect, let me tell you)

Since [a] this is only the second time I've seen your handle at this blog, and [b] there's simply no mocking in the meta to Dan's post (please -- find it; I'd love to see what you consider mocking), I have no idea what you're talking about.

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

John Piper's reasoning in his post about why he doesn't have a tv or rarely goes to movies sounds a lot like a legalist's -- but one that I agree with.

http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/TasteAndSee/ByDate/2009/4023_Why_I_Dont_Have_a_Television_and_Rarely_Go_to_Movies/

Most believers cannot watch movies or tv shows with explicit sexuality and not be spiritually impacted.

That Crazy Christian said...

"How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?"

Well, considering I'm a philosophy major, let me try to answer that.

The pagan philosophers of the day were teaching a way of thinking, a way of life, and a religion. They weren't trying to entertain.

Paul didn't memorize famous catchy songs, nor did memorize those great one liners from the local pagan street theater (or at least not that we can see in Scripture).

He memorized the ideas he was contending with in much the same way we would know something about Jehovah's Witnesses or Postmodernism.

Pastor Pants said...

@Sandman - spot on!

The key issue for me with regards to secular TV and movies is interaction.

When ungodly ideas of any ilk crop up in stuff my kids watch I encourage them to interact with it: what is wrong with that? How does that compare with Scripture?

In this way we can learn from what we watch and God can be glorified.

My concern is watching ungodliness and letting it waft over me, subtly lowering my abhorrance of sin and my acceptance of it. Interaction is how we can ensure that we glorify God in our viewing habits.

That and a fast forward button! You'd think that one had not been invented yet...

Anyway, in DJP's original post that is exactly what he did - he interacted with the programme resulting in the focus coming away from the imperfect show to the all sufficient God. I am convinced that is how we glorify God in our viewing.

That Crazy Christian said...

"Since [a] this is only the second time I've seen your handle at this blog, and [b] there's simply no mocking in the meta to Dan's post (please -- find it; I'd love to see what you consider mocking), I have no idea what you're talking about."

(a) I used to post under the handle jmarinara and on occasion under my real name. I recently changed it to reflect my new blog.

(b) why? You wouldn't take me seriously if I did.

Here: I'll quote what I was thinking about when I said that -- "That's hysterical.

Bringing the Bible to bear on an immensely popular show is a waste of my time.

But chasing after homework assignments from snarky snipers who can't accept the simplest, most obvious correct - that would be a brilliant use of my time.

Pass."

Now you're going to tell me "Why he's not mocking you by callign you a snarky sniper and implying that you're too dumb or thick headed to take his obviously perfect correction! No, he's just giving you obviously perfect correction and you're wasting everyone's time by being dumb and thick headed!"

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD: "Biblically, I can think of the libertinism in the time of Noah or in Sodom and Gomorrah"

Yeah, the way I said it probably overstated the case. It's like saying death by fire is worse than death by drowning. Both are destructive in the ultimate sense. It's probably a pointless comparison.

But here's what I was thinking when I wrote that: Jesus was born and lived in the single most soundly religious culture in a vast Roman empire that was totally corrupt with licentiousness, utterly false religion, political corruption, social opression, and a host of similar ills.

Where did He focus the weight of His critiques and jeremiads? Against the Pharisees, the strictest sect whose main error was their legalism.

Why did He deem that a more urgent problem than all the ills of Rome? I suppose it was because by adding to and thus nullifying the Word of God, they were twisting and stifling the one message that held the promise of redemption for people weighed down with all those other sins.

I think fundamentalist legalism in the second half of the twentieth century had precisely the same effect. Fundamentalist legalism made the very sound of the word holiness odious and noxious, even in the church.

In fact, I'm convinced rigid, anti-intellectual fundamentalists are as much to blame as the neo-orthodox and liberals for the popularity and influence of Brian McLaren. Have you ever noticed how many of the most vocal and determined Emergent iconoclasts are former fundies?

Regarding gambling: whether it's "legalistic" to say gambling is a sin or not hinges on whether you think there's any merit in the dozens of arguments I made showing why I think gambling violates multiple clear principles and commandments of Scripture. If you think otherwise, counter those arguments, and I'll yield to your point of view. But merely dismissing the arguments doesn't count.

That Crazy Christian said...

BTW Frank, why don't you take a stab at my serious questions.

Phil Johnson said...

TCC: "All I asked about Monday's post was if we had better things to do with our time than watch television. Dan decided to be a smart alec and not answer the question."

Well, let's be honest: It looks like a smart-alek question, coming from someone whose profile lists several R-Rated movies as favorites and Death Cab for Cutie, Queen, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers as his favorite music.

Someone pointed that apparent discrepancy out and you didn't answer that question, as far as I can see. It seems to me you ought to cut Dan at least as much slack as you yourself demand, huh?

Christopher said...

Question: Was Eve being "legalistic" when she told the Serpent that GOD said to not eat or even touch the Fruit?

That Crazy Christian said...

"Someone pointed that apparent discrepancy out and you didn't answer that question, as far as I can see. It seems to me you ought to cut Dan at least as much slack as you yourself demand, huh?"

Certainly Phil, I definitely understand this point. Which is why in the comments on your post here (comment #33 specifically), I apologized for this oversight and gave my explanation.

I again apologize here.

As for why I didn't respond to it yesterday, I work evening shift and have the type of job where I'm lucky to see a computer (or a desk for that matter) once a year.

I would have placed my explanation in the comments on Dan's post and apologized there, but you guys closed the ability to do that.

Ok, now can you please answer my questions.

Stefan said...

Christopher:

Yes, and good catch. That nuance (what Eve said to the serpent) is something I never noticed until someone pointed it out in a Bible class I took.

cy said...

How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

The purpose for Paul quoting the pagan philosophers in Acts 17:28 was to demonstrate that what he brought to ears of the Greeks was not truly entirely "strange things" since even their own poets knew that they have a necessary and constant dependence on God's providence. Thus Paul showed that God was indeed directing them to seek Him (v27) though they were still unable to seek Him successfully (Rom 3:11), and proved to them that they are without excuse since God's invisible attributes of His eternal power and divine nature as the Creator have been clearly perceived.

By reading pagan philosophers, Paul glorified God by helping the Greeks see clearly once again what can be known about God through His general revelation. Had he not done so, he would not have been able to relate to them as well.

Gabby said...

That Crazy Christian - you specifically addressed me and I'd like to just say that there is no need whatsoever to apologize to me for anything. That said - I am glad that you took my post to heart and did clean up your profile, as it was disturbing to me. For the life of me, I can't see why Christians fill their heads with movies or shows that take our Lord's name in vain and bring shame to that very name which we profess to love so dearly.

Thank you for clarifying and taking the time to share that, and for accepting my point.

As for your questions - I'll leave those for better minds than mine.

BrettR said...

In my twenties I was a rebel sinner against God and against the legalistic labyrinth I was raised with. I bowed at the feet of "Libertinism." When I was saved from both by Christ, the libertinism was very easy to shake off. It mostly had to do with keeping my pants on. But "that massive, deadly ditch on the opposite side of the road" is one that I have to repent of every single day because it is such an easy ditch to fall into. It is so easy to take on a new law and feel a sense of momentary security than to trust in the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification in his good timing. Thanks for the post, Phil.

So, I don't have to burn my Apple Dumpling Gang VHS tape?

DJP said...

Pastor PantsAnyway, in DJP's original post that is exactly what he did - he interacted with the programme resulting in the focus coming away from the imperfect show to the all sufficient God.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. I realize the overwhelming majority got that, but still, when it's your punch you've mixed for your guests, it only takes one or two putting nasty floating things in it to be a heart-breaker.

Phil Johnson said...

TCC: "I apologized for this oversight and gave my explanation."

Sorry. I missed that. My bad.

TCC: Ok, now can you please answer my questions.

Sure. I'll be back to do that within the hour.

cy said...

Question: Since Scripture is all-sufficient as the writers on this blog so strongly affirm and believe in, is it still necessary, in the preaching of the gospel, to bridge the supposed cultural gap between the gospel message and non-believers with an understanding of their culture?

With regards to That Crazy Christian's comment that "Paul didn't memorize famous catchy songs, nor did memorize those great one liners from the local pagan street theater (or at least not that we can see in Scripture).", I think that sometimes entertainment itself portrays a lot about the attitudes of society as well. In the case of the post on Lost, I think Dan did point out how it was relevant to understanding the falleness of man.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
That Crazy Christian said...

"Phil: Sorry. I missed that. My bad."

No worries.

"Phil: Sure. I'll be back to do that within the hour."

Thanks. :-)

That Crazy Christian said...

Gabby:

Thank you for your kindness. :-)

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"In fact, I'm convinced rigid, anti-intellectual fundamentalists are as much to blame as the neo-orthodox and liberals for the popularity and influence of Brian McLaren."

Again, I'm not as convinced as you are.

"Have you ever noticed how many of the most vocal and determined Emergent iconoclasts are former fundies?"

Well, by the logic of that argument I can note the following:

(1) Have you ever noticed how many of the most vocal and determined theistic evolutionists are former Young-Earth Creationists (YEC's like Fred Butler and John MacArthur)?

(2) Have you ever noticed how many of the most vocal and determined atheists are former professing Christians?

P.S. With regards to the gambling series, a number of counter-arguments were made in the original metas and there were a fair number of folks who disagreed with you. Let's leave it there.

Pax.

Jim Pemberton said...

I have to observe that Paul makes some provision for guarding the conscience of those whose faith is weaker because some sinful pattern before their conversion requires some self-imposed man-made rule(s). The example, of course was of meat sacrificed to idols.

But this is no excuse to impose such legalism on others since it is that of a weak faith.

I've seen "boundaries" bandied about in the comments. While some boundaries could be considered spiritually binding, there is a need for non-spiritually-binding rules among us that we might have a healthy social order. These are not germane to a discussion of spiritually binding rules.

Solameanie said...

Phil and all..I really appreciate this post. It illuminates an area where I always seem to have the hardest time in discussing the topic of legalism to people. When some of us warn against certain practices and behaviors, the opposition generally throws up the charge of legalism and focuses on the behavior in question, rather than the heart principle of what underlies said behavior. "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient."

For lack of a better example, tattooing. I find the practice distasteful, but as soon as I say that, the "legalist" charges start flying. I'm more concerned with what's motivating the tattooer to tattoo rather than someone wanting to go through life looking like a bad cave painting.

In the end, hiding God's Word in our hearts so that we might not sin against Him is the best answer. And let Him work out specific issues with us as we grow in grace and knowledge.

Phil Johnson said...

Before I come back to answer TCC's question, let me say this:

I too am genuinely concerned about the tendency of some Christians who seem to immerse themselves in worldly entertainments and often give the appearance of "using [their] freedom as a cover-up for evil" (1 Peter 2:16). It seems to me that tendency has reached epidemic proportions among evangelicals. It often seems to be celebrated and even encouraged in the pages of Christianity Today.

And yet, the moment you voice such a concern or state the principle of 1 Peter 2:16, people seem to crawl out of the woodwork who wish to be more specific than Scripture is. What Peter said is not sufficient for them. They want to draw clearer, more rigid boundaries than the apostle did, and they want to impose those rules on everyone. They vie with one another to see who can establish the strictest standard. And that misses the whole point. First Peter 2:16, 1 John 2:15-16; Romans 12:1-2; and a host of similar NT commands and principles are given to govern our own consciences--not to commission us to police the consciences of others.

Here's a classic piece written by G. D. Watson near the start of the 20th century. It contains a lot of sound wisdom for people on both sides of the legalism/libertinism issue.

Oh, and one more thing I keep meaning to say: If you can't see why there's no inconsistency between (on the one hand) saying a preacher standing in the pulpit ought to preach the Word and not exegete pop culture and (on the other hand) watching and commenting on some icon of pop culture in a context other than some corporate church gathering whose purpose is worship, then please don't fancy yourself an expert at "discernment." I'd say discernment is precisely what you lack.

Selah.

I'll be back later with answers for TCC.

Lynda O said...

"I will say this, as a Pastor I try to be careful how I express my freedom in Christ as it relates to movies and tv. A bunch of guys took me out to see the latest Iron MAN movie for my birthday and someone jokingly said, 'I am going to have a hard time looking at you in the pulpit the same way knowing that you like Iron Man'. OUCH! Needless to say, I took pause and learned."

I read Spurgeon a lot, and in one sermon I read recently, he told the story of a young unsaved man who had been greatly affected by the preaching and wanted to talk to the preacher. He spent the rest of the day with the preacher, but for the rest of the day the preacher gave a very worldly, ungodly example so that the young man never was able to discuss his need of salvation with the preacher. The young man remained in his sin, unconverted, and years later as a hardened unbeliever, came to visit the preacher as he was dying -- and confronted the preacher with his sin of not living the godly example that he had preached.

Maybe the Pyros here would say that Spurgeon was a legalist, and perhaps he was... but Spurgeon is quoted here every week, and Spurgeon's story (he said it much better than my paraphrase) makes a good point about how we are to live the faith that we say we believe. Certainly the New Testament gives many exhortations to holy living, to come away from the world -- also that not all things are beneficial, not all things are edifying.

John said...

This may be the best Pyro post ever. Fundamentalism has become so irrelevant that many of my good evangelical brothers are falling into the same trap without knowing it. Praise God for grace and good discernment!

Respectabiggle said...

As to which is the more dangerous ditch to fall into:



The libertine usually knows that he's doing something wrong, and often is looking for a way to escape it.



The legalist is convinced that he's doing something right, and if he's dissatisfied, often thinks that the way to purge that feeling is to redouble his legalism.

CH said...

TCC, to respond to your huffing and puffing I'm going to quote Shakespeare:

Gertrude: "Me thinks the lady doth protest too much."

stratagem said...

Hey, I remember being told by some good preacherly folks a few years back that Jesus didn't make water into wine, he made it into grape juice!
Never mind that there was no refrigeration in the 1st century, never mind the comments about people becoming drunk on wine at the wedding party. No reasoning will suffice - it HAD to be grape juice! lol

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"That Massive, Deadly Ditch on the Opposite Side of the Road from Libertinism"

Another observation is that the labels of "legalism" and "fundamentalism" and "liberalism" are relative terms.

For example, the TeamPyro blog and the co-bloggers here, Phil Johnson, Daniel J. Phillips, and Frank Turk, have all been described as legalists, fundamentalists, judgmental Pharisees by other professing Christians.

And so for PJ to go off on the evils of fundamental legalism, these other professing Christians would simply laugh and say it's just one legalist telling off another legalist.

Lynda O said...

As to Paul reading the pagan philosphers ... I've always supposed (perhaps wrongly) that Paul actually had studied the pagan philosphers as part of his classical education from Gamaliel, pre-conversion, not in his years of the missionary journeys... not that it actually matters for this discussion.

The point of course is how Paul referenced these philosophers in his presentation of the gospel to Greeks, by highlighting truths that even pagans understood -- as Paul also pointed out at other times such as Romans 2:14-15.

Many good preachers also will use "sermon illustrations" such as references from movies or comic strips (for example, Peanuts, or even Calvin and Hobbes), to highlight a truth of human nature in comparison/contrast to what God's word says.

rwt said...

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. II Cor. 5:10

If I choose not to watch sex scenes or listen to blasphemies on TV, does that make me a legalist? Every believer is going to have to give an account to Christ one day for how he or she used his or her time. I personally am concerned about the account that I will have to give.

I don't try to impose my views on others, but I will encourage them to consider whether their actions will bring a reward or a rebuke at the bema.

After all, He redeemed me and He has every right to expect me to live for Him. If that's legalism, then I'm guilty.

Phil Johnson said...

Sorry this is a tad late. I'm busy this morning:

That Crazy Christian: it doesn't answer why I was, and others like me who DARE question the three of you (mostly Frank and Dan), are mocked and ridiculed consistently on this blog. (Which has a real endearing effect, let me tell you)

I can't speak for Dan and Frank, and I can't read every comment posted daily to our blog. Also, without specific citations, I can't be sure what you are talking about. But:

1. We point out from time to time that mockery per se isn't always wrong or inappropriate. Jesus used satire, sarcasm, ridicule, harsh words, and bitter invective against the Scribes Pharisees, and Sadducees.

2. As the dialogues of Christ demonstrate, mockery can be the ideal response when someone is being deliberately obtuse, unnecessarily provocative, or otherwise disruptively mischievous.

3. Still, we must exercise extreme caution when lampooning anyone. Derisive language is like a surgeon's scalpel; when used inappropriately or without extreme care, it can do far more damage than good, and it should never be waved around indiscriminately.

4. I personally try to limit my use of the scalpel to the very worst serial offenders. I confess that I used to break it out much more quickly than I do today. Then again, in the early years of the blog, we attracted a lot more commenters whose only aim was mischief.

I do read enough of Dan's comments to know that he is quickly frustrated when people thoughtlessly derail the topic, and that happens a lot, despite his frequent admonitions. He's even more frustrated when someone angrily (or obnoxiously, or feigning personal injury, or otherwise histrionically) demands an answer that has already been given. People who have missed something rather obvious in a post or comment-thread (just as I missed your earlier comment) do regularly post their comments in a huff, inappropriately--and Dan almost always calls them on it. Someone yesterday suggested that's his standard reply to every critic. That's a gross exaggeration, but admittedly, he does it a lot, because we get a lot of comments and questions from people who didn't bother to read carefully before objecting. I'm more prone than Dan is to point out what the critic missed. Dan's style is to let them do their own homework. And I think that's legitimate, no matter how many careless critics complain about it. To those who claim Dan uses the "read it again" response when the answer really isn't there in the first place, I say: Cite one example. I've never seen Dan make that reply in circumstances where it didn't fit. In fact, there are scores of replies from Dan where he'll say things like, "Glad you brought that up . . . ." My advice: when Dan says, "Read it again," take his advice. I bet if you truly look, you'll see what you missed before.

Take it from me: Frank is as good-natured and tender-hearted as he is clever, funny, and poignant. He's smart enough that I'm certain he'd be capable of extreme cruelty if that's what he intended, but I have never seen him be deliberately cruel.

(cont.)

Phil Johnson said...

Part 2:

That Crazy Christian: I asked what the difference was between what [Dan] was doing [in Tuesday's post] and what many churches (that we often ridicule) do in having a World of Warcraft Sermon Series, or and American Idol sermon series (on Idoltary! Get it get it? You aren't laughing. . . ), or in the example I linked, a 24 sermon series. Dan decided to mock me instead of answer the question.

I don't see how you think his answer was "mockery." He was certainly pointing out that your question isn't a very good one, and he was trying to motivate you to do some thinking of your own. Terse, perhaps, maybe to the opoint of being snippy. But it wasn't "mockery."

Here's the answer to your question (which, as a matter of fact, has already been given by me and others in Tuesday's and today's thread): Scripture commands preachers in teaching roles in corporate church gatherings to preach the Word in season and out. It is sinful for a preacher standing in the pulpit to neglect that duty, particularly if he replaces it with exegesis of some worldly icon, as if that were more important than what God said.

A blogger--who is essentially doing public journaling, thinking out loud, or trying to provoke others to think--has no such duty. If you were a preacher and spent your time in the pulpit talking about the dangers of hypoglycemia (as a preacher I once knew did), I would say you are sinfully neglecting the duties of your calling. If you were a preacher who as a hobby devoted a blog to that subject, you would not hear a peep of criticism from me. Different circumstances, different duties. It's not the same thing.

That Crazy Christian: I finally asked why . . . Dan didn't, you know, talk about the Bible, instead of using some dumb depraved TV show to try and make his message more appealing. Dan just flat ignored me.

None of us answers every question in every thread (see Rule 1 in the right sidebar). It's not always clear which questions are being asked in sincerity and which ones are merely quarrelsome. Given the overall thrust and direction of our blog (see the topical labels in the lower right sidebar) the question doesn't ring with a tone of deep sincerity. We do ordinarily talk about biblical topics, but not always.

It's a question I would have quietly let pass, too. It could have been asked with a pugnacious motive, and I wouldn't normally assume someone whose profile lists a lot of '80s dark-metal rock bands as favorites would be asking a question like that in humble sincerity. (Yes, I do usually check the profiles of first-time commenters before I reply to them, and it often determines to some degree the tone of my reply, or whether I reply at all.)

(cont.)

Phil Johnson said...

Part 3:

That Crazy Christian: Look, nowhere am I saying a Christian can't watch TV, or like sports (as I do), or sew, or go fishing, et. al.

Then it's not clear why you raised the question in the context of Tuesday's comment-thread.

That Crazy Christian: I asked if we had something better to do than watch TV.

Consider that question in the light of the NT. It was Judas who asked if "something better" might be done with the alabaster box of perfume that was poured on Jesus' feet (John 12:4-6). Jesus took His disciples into the wilderness for R&R--a hiatus from things "like ministry." Someone might ask, "Couldn't they find 'something better to do' than just lounging in the desert? How about 'redeeming the time'?" Scripture doesn't ever encourage that kind of obsessive fastidiousness.

The appropriate question is whether--and how--purely recreational or entertainment activities, hobbies, or other personal interests can be done to the glory of God. Those who don't know the answer to that invariably default to drawing boundaries and outlawing activities, and they think their rules should apply to everyone alike. That's not a sign of spiritual maturity.

Sven Pook said...

@Sandman:
Dead on, Dude!! Can I say Dude? Is that allowed? ;-)

@That Crazy Christian

I must say, I don't even know if I have anything in my profile, I don't even remember filling one out, plus I can be lazy over such things as well, so I understand that.

The first time I came here a few weeks ago, I saw that I could use a Google account to sign in, when I signed in I and saw my screen name, I vaguely recalled doing something on some website somewhere.

In a different post, you said, "He memorized the ideas he was contending with in much the same way we would know something about Jehovah's Witnesses or Postmodernism."

Question: Don't you think that the producers of famous catchy songs or playwrights, or of modern TV shows have a worldview that we need to understand to combat as well?

Perhaps I should change my profile to include my blog . . .more political in nature, I feel far more qualified to comment on that sort of thing, having never finished a M.Div. I don't want anyone to think of me as a troll. People can see my profile there:
www.theconversionfactor.net

jeremy said...

Q: How do I glorify God in watching movies for instance?

A: How did Paul glorify God by reading pagan philosophers so closely that he committed them to memory?

Is that really your best answer? Seriously? Perhaps Paul read and memorized them prior to his conversion, perhaps not. Either way you compare apples with oranges.

I would suggest answering the question and not deflecting it. Words that say that people did sinful things are not the same thing as pictures with sound of them doing the same things.

The issue isn't that the show is unchristian, it is that the Scriptures have a lot to say about what we put before our eyes, and in that detail the entire comparison with the writings of pagans falls apart.

There really can only one question to answer: Do a given show/movie/video/whatever put things before my eyes that Scripture tells me not to look upon?

If you think the answer to that question is "No" them make your case. I believe that quite a few here have tried to make their case to the affirmative.

Personally I am on the fence, but am truly surprised at the types are arguments that are being lobbied in the shows defense.

~Mark said...

The heart of the issue isn't as much watching/listening etc; (with the obvious exception of the shows/movies which exist purely to uplift sinful attitudes and actions) as how much of ourselves that we invest in those things.

Personally it disturbs me when I get in a group of Christians and they talk about a tv show as if the characters are real and they get so passionate about it that their eyes take on that familiar frenzied gleam and their voice becomes excited to a high pitch. No, I'm not exaggerating, and no it isn't rare.

I watch some tv too, and I have favorite shows. I'm not trying to tell people to sell their tv sets or never go to the movies or dance or drink alcohol. I just know that when I come away from those groups so personally invested in these things I don't have much edification.

Y'know those people with whom the conversation always somehow turns to Christ? You talk a bit about sports or tv or movies but then invariably you start to talk about the things of God?

Those are never the people who get the frenzy eyes about a tv show, or plan their lives around the NFL championship game and will ignore or even yell at their family for disturbing them

Phil Johnson said...

TUAD: "And so for PJ to go off on the evils of fundamental legalism, these other professing Christians would simply laugh and say it's just one legalist telling off another legalist."

Of course they will. And your point is?

I say let them state their opinion, and let them give whatever rationale or biblical argument they have for it with as much care and detail as I have tried to do. And we should listen to their point of view and give their arguments whatever weight they legitimately deserve. We might actually have a fruitful dialogue. (I've actually had several fruitful dialogues on the subject with fundamentalists and "progressives" alike.)

But (as with the issue of gambling), we need to bear in mind that mere dismissal of a person's logic or evidence is not am argument; it's just contradiction. (See Monty Python 101.)

Or perhaps you're suggesting that all matters on which Christians hold long-standing differences ought to be ignored or waved aside as unresolvable and therefore insignificant. If so, you might want to review Postmodernism 101 and consider why that type of thinking is spiritually deadly--no better than either libertinism or legalism.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "Of course they will. And your point is?"

What I mentioned before: "Another observation is that the labels of "legalism" and "fundamentalism" and "liberalism" are relative terms."

But upon further reflection, I'd wager that everyone on this thread has been guilty of the sin of "legalism" in some form, degree, or type. Including the Pyro co-bloggers of Phil Johnson, Daniel J. Phillips, and Frank Turk.

And as I mentioned above, liberals are guilty of their own legalisms as well.

Unless somebody wants to come and post that they've never committed the sin of legalism.

So in sum, it's just one legalist telling off another legalist.

(The legalist doing the telling off just might be legalist about some other thing.)

Frank Turk said...

Ah, the edification of being a team member on a popular blog.

TCC said:

Now you're going to tell me "Why he's not mocking you by callign you a snarky sniper and implying that you're too dumb or thick headed to take his obviously perfect correction! No, he's just giving you obviously perfect correction and you're wasting everyone's time by being dumb and thick headed!"


I think what I have said already is that you are complaining about something that is not relevant to Dan's point. Does that make you "dumb"?

It actually makes you unteachable -- the kind of person Prov 12:1 talks about. But, of course, I am relating Scripture to something happening on Earth, and we all know that this approach is itself worldly and inherently wrong.

But that said, DJP telling you that he's not going to take homework assignments may be "mocking", but not any more "mocking" than it is to ask the question in the first place -- through an intransigent looking away from the point of the original post -- Dan's moral turpitude. Because he has watched LOST.

Now, if I were to mock you, I'd find a way to make a LOST joke out of it. You know: like asking if you got your questions from the smoke monster that came out of the dubious reasoning you've obviously been using. It wouldn't be as half-hearted as saying that I won't take any homework assignments from people who aren't really reading my post anyway.

You know: becuase we should do things well, and not half-heartedly.

And to answer your question(s) seriously, I don't have cable at my house, and the only TV we watch is TV my wife and I agree is fitting for our children. We are way better off without network television in principle, but there are still some shows we enjoy which are worth watching.

And I recommend Netflix Wii streaming to everyone. It's brilliant.

Stefan said...

rwt:

What you're describing doesn't sound like legalism to me, but just the exercising of a Christian conscience.

Everyone else:

A lot of brothers and sisters—and coming from different points of view—have raised some good points here.

But apart from the bigger question of whether we should be watching TV at all or not (and I didn't have TV for half a decade, so I see both sides of the issue), focusing on Lost (of all shows) is odd. It's a scripted drama aimed at an adult audience, and yet it is comparatively clean and family-friendly.

I honestly can't recall a single sex scene in the TV show Lost, but maybe I missed it. There have been depictions of romantic relationships, but as far as I can recall, always between either two people who are married to each other, or between two single people, and rarely or never more suggestive that what one might see in a G-rated movie.

But even those romantic scenes are such a small part (maybe 1% at most?) of the overall show, that I am not ashamed to say that I watched the show, and to say that it is family friendly—with the caveat that there's some pseudo-theology in there that requires discernment!

By contrast, there are a lot more scandalous shows on television that are ostensibly aimed at a family audience, attract millions of viewers, including many (at least professing) Christian participants and viewers, that should ring alarm bells—Dancing with the Stars and Survivor are probably the most egregious examples (for totally different reasons), but American Idol as well (and not so much because of the show's title, but for other reasons).

one busy mom said...

"Let me say this plainly: It is a sin to impose on others any "spiritual" standard that has no biblical basis."

Amen!

As to which is more destructive: legalism or libertinism - I have no idea, but strongly suspect legalism.

Thanks for the great post on this!

I've been very involved in a movement (home schooling) that is good in itself, but attracts elements that at times have been up to their eyeballs and beyond in legalism. Sadly, over the years, I can attest firsthand to the devastation caused in various families - and probably churches too - by that legalism. It's so easy to slip into legalism, to ignore any and all reproofs & unknowingly slip into a "holier than thou" mentality. Been there - done that. The opposite of legalism (and libertinism for that matter) is spiritual discernment - which is also a lot more work than a simple list of "do's" and "don'ts" and I suspect takes a lifetime of being "molded into the image of Christ" to fully achieve.

Barbara said...

Seems this all must be what Jesus was referring to when He talked about straining gnats only to swallow camels.

Seems to be an awful lot of gnat-straining going on. Had a women's Bible study on one of MacArthur's books not too long ago and you could surely tell the legalists of the bunch - "this isn't for me, it's for those other people" and trying to pick the point all the way down to what woman can teach which class in what situation as if to be able to pinpoint every single exact situation in order to know who can teach when and where and what - and it began to get so ridiculous that I just turned to the woman next to me and said out loud, "This is where we really have to be careful that we don't lose sight of the spirit behind the Word, in context, what is really intended here by the Holy Spirit who authored this word, so that we don't fall into legalism, and this is where it's so important to know your God through your Savior through the whole counsel of His word and rest in His grace as you strive to put off the old man and put on the new, just seeking to obey with that new heart out from under the veil."

Or something like that.

It's sad to see all this picking apart over something that is not even foundational to the Faith once-for-all delivered to the saints. Isn't that what we're here to contend for? While I myself am one of those who does not subscribe to TV and rarely watches movies, my not watching Lost was a point of personal taste and conviction but not something I'd beat other people over the head for nor break fellowship for. And I loved the point that Dan drew out of the unsatisfactory ending. It was a launchpad for shared insight, not the main course of the post.

Gnats & camels...

Stefan said...

Per my last comment:

It troubles me that I just expended defending a television show on a blog about Christian theology, discernment, and practice.

But questioning the morality of watching the show in the first place was a red herring that (a) missed the point of Tuesday's post, (b) unfairly ascribed sinful behaviour to the author, and (c) led the discussion away of Scripture (the point of the post!) and into the territory of unnecessary divisiveness.

Is it legitimate to explore the merits of worldly entertainment? Yes. Is it legitimate for a Christian to forsake worldly entertainment because it binds his or her conscience? Yes. Is it wrong for one Christian to violate the consience of another Christian? Yes, it is wrong.

But ironically, the point of Tuesday's post was to point us to Scripture, and the ensuing debate did everything to lead the discussion away from Scripture.

That Crazy Christian said...

Phil,

First and foremost, I want to thank you for your thoughtful response despite your busy day.

Most of what you said answered my questions and I have a better grip on your viewpoint (and presumably those of your fellow bloggers here)

A few small items which you may choose to address or not address as they are details and you've already dealt with my main idea.

"That Crazy Christian: Look, nowhere am I saying a Christian can't watch TV, or like sports (as I do), or sew, or go fishing, et. al.

Then it's not clear why you raised the question in the context of Tuesday's comment-thread."

I'm trying to raise the issue as a "should we" question, not a "can we" question. You post today was to highlight that something we may not personally do is sometimes permissible for someone else. You are correct, and will get no argument from me. My point though was more of a "should we", not a "can we".

From where I sit, I see no redeeming value to Television. I also see no redeeming value to sending your children to public school.

Can I point to Scripture and say that we are in sin if we do either of those things? Nope. Can I make the point that we shouldn't do them anyway? Yep.

I also think you missed it with the John 12 reference and the alabaster box of perfume. I think Jesus was more making the point that she was giving up something costly to show her love for Him, and that was a better use of it than even feeding hungry people.

But, I get your overall point.

Thanks again Phil, your straight answers minus rudeness have helped me understand this topic. :-)

stratagem said...

I can honestly say that I have never been treated with anything but respect and grace by Phil. I am totally sincere in saying that. He is the "real deal" in terms of balancing off holiness and grace, in my experience. He isn't condescending or snarky or bristling at being questioned about something; he also doesn't pretend to be perfect or something he isn't. In other words, he is truly a work in progress by the Lord.

I can't see how anyone who has read his blog or listened to his teachings could conclude otherwise unless they are in serious need of guidance but don't want it. That's just my view, though.

SandMan said...

Sven said:

@Sandman:
Dead on, Dude!! Can I say Dude? Is that allowed? ;-)


I don't know... But thanks, Dude!

Jay E said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark Patton said...

So papa bear comes in with a long explanation that basically points out the cubs one and two are ok by him...then goes on to restate that this is a whole Chritian liberty issue that needs to be taken seriously....which is met by a "well, yeah I see your point. I just wanted to come to your house and proclaim I disagree." Yes?

Rob said...

Thanks Phil for the excellent message on the dangers of legalism. It does raise a question for me: if the Judaizers wanted to make circumcision a requirement for salvation, and Paul pointed out the error of this, then why are there still so many Christian families who have their boys circumsized today? It's not a big deal, but just something I've wondered about in this day and age of modern hygiene. Is there a legalistic danger for Christians to even doing this anymore?

Also, I totally agree with the earlier commenter who praised the grace and civility in your responses - its definitely appreciated when a "theologically-impoverished" "complainer" like myself visits the meta to leave a comment. From what I've read in past comments you're very cordial and informative in your responses - a good practice that really should be shared by the other team Pyro bloggers.

CR said...

TCC,

I'm not sure if you understand what ungodliness or sin (singular) is. You (and others) are thinking of sin in terms of plural. Not a day (or probably an hour) goes by where we always redeem the time. This is what true godliness is: loving the Lord God with all of your heart, mind and soul, all the time, every single day and also your neighbor.

You seem to be fixated on sins ( plural) and not the essence of sin which is ungodliness. Now you're taking a swipe at parents who put their children in public schools.

Now you should never violate your conscience, TCC. If you're asking the question should "I" meaning you watch TV or send your kids to public then I would defend your right to answer that question in the negative. But you contradict yourself when you say you cannot answer from Scripture that TV is sin but you can still make the point that we should not.

I also want to give you a very stern warning. You said you cleaned up your profile and made some big changes in your life in the past year. That's great. But if your motivation to stop doing these things is motivated by earning favor or avoiding disfavor from God instead of love and gratitude for what God has done, is doing and will do, you're going to be a miserable person. I say this because what's missing from your comments is gratitude. You're going beyond biblical self-examination and making up a list like no TV no public school like any other legalist.

Phil said...

Dan,
Your original LOST point Tuesday reminds me of what CS Lewis said in Mere Christianity "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world" and it made me think that each of us have a unique set of desires and longings that go unfulfilled that were put there by God specifically for the purpose of getting us to look up and pay attention. Moreover, we all have triggers that are designed by God to set off these desires.
For you then, LOST was a prick by God in exactly this way, the TV show was the trigger.
I think this is absolutely beautiful when Phil's point is added:
To take away the trigger for no reason is at the same time to take away the ability to feel the unfulfilled desire. In other words you squash the work of God to no purpose (or your purpose).
Of course Phil said much more than that and I do like the division of sanctification legalism vs justification legalism, but thanks both of you, I would not have put the pieces together otherwise.

Stefan said...

Correction to my 10:40 a.m. comment:

One brother did remind me offline that there was one suggestive scene in one episode of season 3 of Lost, which I had forgotten about.

d4v34x said...

Phil,

I think your OP is spot on, but I think it misses the point. The legalists in the pyro readership are not the only ones with responsibilities regarding doubtfull things.

Sure the one that doesn't partak shouldn't judge the one who finds the liberty to partake, but the one that does eat ought not judge the one who doesn't.

This is easier for both parties if they don't parade their self-allowance and self-strictures on the internet. (Re: the parallels between Lost and the pagan philosophers Paul references: making a culturally relevant reference is one thing. Detailing how the much anticipated finale of a series failed to deliver on the promise of the six years of weekly viewing invested in it is another)

I'm sure Dan is happy and uncondemned in the thing he allows himself. But the first part of that verse is probably more relevant: "The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God."

Frank Turk said...

Aha -- the weaker brother.

I wonder if these chronically-weaker brothers have ever seen their activities -- like leaving their churches, or heaping scorn on others who say with their mouths that Jesus is Lord who do not (for example) stop watching TV altogether -- as quenching the smouldering wick or abusing a weaker-still brother? That is: what will they actually give up, using the principles they espouse, for the sake of the one whose conscience is weaker than theirs who lets their wives wear pants or, heaven help us, sips a beer when at a business dinner with non-Baptists?

Anything? Time will tell.

NewManNoggs said...

Thanks Pastor Phil. Your succinct take was especially helpful to me in sussing out these issues.

I think that those of us who have been saved from an especially wicked past (the prodigal sons among us) have a greater propensity towards this mentality. For those readers here who have or do struggle with this, Pastor Mac's "tale of two sons" series and John Piper's "Future Grace" are very helpful and in-depth resources that expand on what I think Phil is tryin to get across.

d4v34x said...

Frank,

My wife wears pants. We watch Lost. I give up my liberty to go to movies, among other things, in order to minister (lay capacity) to my local congregation. I give up the right to discuss certain things in their presence to help them grow otherwise.

That tar won't stick.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

On the subject of legalism, I used to be one of the worst sort - like the Pharisees I used my set of rules (that honestly I couldn't even follow) to crank down on people "Less holy" than me, while on the inside I was full of dead men's bones and all kinds of hypocrisy. Praise God that He saved me. True enough I still battle hard against legalistic tendencies, and what keeps me sober is remembering that I couldn't make God's standard to begin with, I can't now, and it's only by His grace that anything good grows in me, or goes out of me. Though I still have a responsibility to persevere and pursue holiness, it's by His grace that I can. Amen.

MSC said...

I would love to see a post by team-pyro (and somehow instinctively I am drawn to what Phil would say) on what principles of Scripture ought to guide the Christian in making discerning choices about what to watch (e.g. TV/ movies) that incorporates the issues of legalism, libertinism and the matter of what brings glory to God.

I would love for that post to be as practical as possible without dictating specific instructions that go beyond scripture. Furthermore, what kind of lattitude do we have in applying said principles? For example, is it ever wrong or right to watch a sex scene or is it impossible to have a clear set of principles that will automatically answer that question? Is there always a measure of doubt to whether or not you are doing the right thing? Does the stronger/ weaker brother come into play? Does unique temptations to specific individuals come into play? I think this is vastly important for the majority of christians.

Seth Benge said...

Maybe I'm missing something, but all the shows talked about here are on primetime on network TV. There are no F-bombs, no nudity, maybe some innuendo. Some of the ideas presented could be harmful. I didn't watch Lost, my wife got into it while I have been away, but I can't imagine it would provoke such a reaction. I think some movies are much more insidious, like say the Golden Compass, which are totally PG (or even G) but the ideas presented are aimed at children. I’ve seen the movie and if I knew another Christian saw the movie I wouldn’t think anything of it. Each of us at some point is responsible for making our own decisions about what we can be part of or watch or listen to. If I knew someone who was planning to watch such a show/movie I might caution them about the movie or the overall themes and I wouldn’t allow my children to watch something I knew they couldn’t handle. This could just be my reaction because I can’t stand, I mean I hate when other people become involved in my life without invitation. Remember the Proverb is to seek wise council, not give it without someone asking.

Seth Benge said...

I think there are a couple of points which from reading the blog on a semi-regular basis and commenting occasionally I would like to make-
1. This isn’t my blog or any commenter’s blog it belongs to those who run it, therefore they make the rules.
2. Phil, Dan and Frank have a reformed theology so guess which way their posts are going to lean. I’m always amazed by people who comment who are reformed and are flabbergasted at a certain view expressed in the posts.
3. Many people ask questions when there are answers already in the posts or the meta. They want one of the Team Pyro bloggers to give them a straight yes or no to a question they should be able to answer themselves. Sometimes to me as a reader this seems like a trap set for one of the bloggers, no matter which way they answer the questioner has a response to simply “prove a point”
4. The Team Pyro bloggers can be sarcastic, or whatever you want to call it, this is at times appropriate and Biblical, get over it. If you don’t like then don’t read the blog.

DJP said...

Seth: #3.

Thank you. Srsly.

Rachael Starke said...

I've been behind on my Pyro reading, so was catching up with the last couple posts on my iPhone while getting my monthly manicure. By the end of it, I was suddenly horribly convicted that I needed to flee the shop and give the money to missions instead....

:) Kidding aside, d4v34x, I was wondering how not doing things you're free to do for the sake of the weaker brothers, actually helps strengthen them? Surely one of the goals of sanctification is for feeble knees to be strengthened?

Frank uses the term "chronically weak"; in our house we talk about the "professional weaker brother" - the person who makes a vocation out of binding others' consciences without cause.

As some others have said, this attaching of extra-Biblical law to either justification ("You can't possibly be a Christian if you go to movies") or sanctification ("You can't possibly be a godly Christian if you go to movies") is a misuse of the law.

Not to use anecdote as a proof, but my conversion and sanctification bears this out. I was raised in an ultra-fundamentalist home of the skirt-wearing, no-rock music, and no T.V. on Sundays (except sports. They were somehow permissible.) variety. The fruit of this upbringing was an outwardly submissive, inwardly rebellious, God- and parent-hating teenager. When God saved me in college (after I'd left home), I dove into all the externals of Christianity - Bible study, discipleship, owning a MacArthur Study Bible, foregoing alcohol and R-rated movies - all to little effect on the real root sins of self-centeredness, pride and lust. But as God graciously deepened my understanding of the gospel, and particularly things like the doctrine of regeneration (thanks in part to this blog), the Holy Spirit, true life in Christ -

that's when I began to change. My stage as an outward legalist was a stage of immaturity, not maturity.

Now I look at various issues of freedom and ask - what sins am I battling (rather than others, whose hearts I do not know)? Will this freedom affect my battle positively, negatively, or have no effect? E.g. I've got a pretty sharp tongue. I can wield words like a blunt, rusty hatchet at times. A while back I realized that ranty talk radio was hindering my battle - my fleshly love of smart mouthy talk was being fed by smart mouthy talk. So, for quite a while, I said no to it. Fed my mind with other things. I'm changing. I'm not more godly because I don't listen to talk radio. I'm more godly because more of the gospel has gripped my heart.

But I would never look at my situation and extrapolate that it's a sin for Christians to listen to talk radio.

stratagem said...

I think the thing I often confuse myself about is: There are so many impossibly-high standards detailed in Scripture, yet not all that many actual, clear, "thou shalt not"s.

A good example is the "not yet" post a few days ago, dealing with profanity. The only clear "thou shalt not" in Scripture deals with taking the Lord's name in vain. Yet, there is also an ideal held up of keeping one's language God-honoring. I suppose, therefore, based on what Phil is saying in this article today that forbidding anything beyond what is clearly forbidden in Scripture (God's name used in vain) is legalism? We can still encourage people to hold to a higher standard but not require it of them. That is, in keeping with the idea of what is in the last paragraph of this post? Right? Or, wrong?

Jim Pemberton said...

Re: not that many "thou shalt not"s.

Amen! And I would go farther than that. All the commandments are summed up in precisely two Great Commandments that are decidedly positive: 1) Love God 2) Love each other. Yet it is precisely these two that are overlooked the most when we resort to rank legalism.

bp said...

Phil, I concur with those who have pointed out your graceful replies, so I'll address this to you. Mostly I replied to the LOST post because I was taken aback by the irony of it coming so closely after the Sam Kim post (Not yet. We’re getting there) and the Mark Driscoll post (What to do with a mass of credible critics). But what matters is not what I, or anyone thinks or feels, but what the Bible says on the subject.

I’m guessing that all the readers here would agree that it’s wrong for a Christian to watch pornography, even though there is no verse that says “don’t watch pornography.” Why? Because there are verses that equate lusting with adultery and we know that watching pornography leads to lust. Well, I propose that the same can be applied to watching tv shows/movies with sexual immorality or scantily clad women (or men I ‘spose). And I propose that even though there is no verse that says “don’t watch shows that have filthy language in it” there are verses that say that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Cor 15:33), and that we are not to even associate with those who practice filthy talk or sexual immorality (Eph 5:7).

There are always those who will then say, “Aha! Women are dressed scantily everywhere, so I guess we all have to live in a cave somewhere!” or “Aha! People I work around cuss and swear all the time! I guess I need to quit my job and go live in a cave somewhere!” But living in the world and being exposed to the sinful culture around you and being disturbed by it (as Lot was) is waaaaayyyy different than turning on your tube or plunking down 10 bucks to watch it, don’t you agree?

And yes, there will always be those who will say that taken to the extreme, this will lead to no tv, no internet, no electricity, burkas, etc.., kind of like a WHACK to the head in order to stop all dialogue. Or saying, “Legalist”! which (sometimes) is used to mean, “We’re ALL sinners, so get off your high-horse and quit judging!”

But anyway, if your readers are looking at both sides and still aren't convinced because they see a lack of Scriptural support, then fine, go your way in liberty. But if not, I don't think it's good for anyone's spiritual growth to have someone along side them, telling them they needn't be concerned because they have liberty. There are probably just as many who are prone to liscentiousness as there are to legalism.

Let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit (2 Corinthians 7:1).

I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me (Psalm 101:3).

Barbara said...

*sigh* and as I read my own comment over again I see a seed of my own self-righteousness sticking through even that, which once again just accentuates the sheer hopelessness of having any kind of genuine holiness or goodness of my own, when even the holiest of my desires are corrupted by sin.....

Seriously. Ugh.

I hate that in me. I hate that arguments bring that out such that even in my grief over all these things, all it takes is for me to open my mouth in a hope of contributing, to come back and show me my sinful heart.

O wretched woman that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

Seth Benge said...

Bp-
Let me give this a try-
The post about Kim and Driscoll are about Pastors or teacher who we are told are held to higher standard, James 3:1. Not only that but they post the sermons etc.. online. So not only are they teachers (open to a higher standard) but he they are advertising himself to the world as a teachers of the Gospel who are cursing etc... Not only that, but your critizing Dan for holding a teacher to the proper Biblically spelled out level by drawing in and using at the least a grey area, starts to look like your just trying to “win” the argument, looking for any little gotcha moment. Which is probably why the replies were a little edgy. To compare Dan using Lost as starting point for a post about how the Bible is better than any manmade writing to a pastor who curses? Come-on, I don’t buy you really think they are the same or even close.

Melinda said...

Thank you so much for these last few days of posting. It has forced me to look at myself and examine whether or not I fall into legalistic tendencies. Ouch!

BTW, loved your 3 part response to TCC, Phil.

Stefan said...

Why do I suspect that if Dan had written a post the day after the Superbowl on how the drama of a football game pales in comparison to the real life-and-death struggles of believers on the Christian path, that there wouldn't be a peep from anyone?

And yet professional sports are no more or less worldly and idolatrous than any other form of secular entertainment. And there is a lot more lasciviousness and innuendo in almost every beer ad on TV (as featured especially during sporting events) than in 6 seasons of the television show in question.

DJP said...

I want Seth to lead seminars in Blog-Reading Comprehension.

Seth Benge said...

Thanks Dan. Could I have one those wireless headset microphones for the seminars?

I see some typo's in my response though. Sorry about that.

David Rudd said...

Frank,

Spot on with your "weaker brother" comments. Thank you.

bp said...

Stefan,
Professional sports are not idolatrous unless one idolizes them. I assume you don’t think that’s ok. Sexual immorality and profanity are wrong in and of themselves. Many people in the other thread have said that there’s sexual immorality, profanity, and a host of other things in LOST.

p.s. If there’s all that junk in the beer commercials, why do you watch them? It wouldn’t be a bad thing (it’s sad that I have to put it that way) to make a covenant with your eyes, as Job did.

bp said...

Seth, I'm not criticizing Dan for holding a teacher to the proper Biblically spelled out level. I agree with him that Sam Kim should be held to that level. And Driscoll too for that matter. But don't you see any disconnect at all between requiring pastors to abstain from filthy or sexual language and saying it's a grey area for us to sit and be entertained by tv or movies full of the same?

If there is irritation in my posts, it probably stems from years of trying to explain to my daughters why they couldn't go to movies filled with sexual immorality, strong language, etc.. when many of their Christian friends could.

Seth Benge said...

You’re assuming Lost is the same as Kim’s cursing. As I said I don't watch it, so I can't totally defend it. But I know a couple of things-
1. Its on prime time network TV and there are certain rules for prime time.
2. I personally know Christians who watch it, including my wife, who aren't offended by any sexual content.
3. Dan didn't use this from the pulpit but on a blog (huge difference).
4. Your point would be valid for certain movies and shows, especially ones where cursing or nudity was prominent.
5. There is freedom in Christ and there are standards of holiness.
6. There is the abuse of freedom and there is holding others up to a non-Biblical standard.
7. To go from “don’t criticize a Pastor who curses during sermons” to “you shouldn’t watch Lost” is to jump from one extreme to the other.

bp said...

To go from “don’t criticize a Pastor who curses during sermons” to “you shouldn’t watch Lost” is to jump from one extreme to the other.

No Seth, not, "don't criticize"..it's more like, If you're going to criticize a Pastor who curses during sermons, you shouldn't watch Lost (if it's as bad as many have said).

bp said...

Btw Seth, RE: #2, did you mean that there is no sexual conent or they aren't offended by the sexual content?

candy said...

Couple of points.

Yes. There was a sex scene in LOST that was distressing and was a good time to go get a snack.

I agree with Phil that maybe fundamentalism is more distressing than a Brian Mclaren. I have been on the receiving end of fundamentalism myself, and it contributed to the eventual crash and burn of my first marriage. It enabled me to carry a burden of weight trying to measure up to what I thought God found acceptable in me and enabled my oldest daughter to try and work through years of acute criticism from those in the fundamentalist camp. Not that there are real issues with Brian McLaren of course.

For a good perspective on culture and Christianity, read Francis Schaeffer or Nancy Pearcy's book, Total Truth.

bp said...

Sorry, I should have answered this all at the same time. Re:

1. Oh well then, it must be all right.

3. What can I say? Same disconnect.

4. Point taken. I thought this was in Lost. (though I'm wondering if "scantily clad" might be in it).

5. Agreed.

6. Agreed.

jlosinski said...

So what of blasphemy in entertainment? I've found the following analogy helpful:

I woulden't pay someone to stand in front of me and blaspheme God, so why would I pay to sit and watch someone do it in a movie?

I know this isn't a justification issue, but it is a sanctification issue- why allow yourself to be entertained by programs that blaspheme God?

Mike Riccardi said...

...I would not have even read Dan's Monday post....

But would you have read my
Tuesday post?

Wait just a minute.




Does that mean Monday's thread wasn't supposed to be shut down?

>:^O



...



:o)

Seth Benge said...

Ok then amend my #7 point to
7. To go from “if you're going to criticize a Pastor who curses during sermons you shouldn’t watch Lost” is to jump from one extreme to the other. Either way it's the same leap. They can’t show nudity in prime time on network TV, I think there might fewer rules on cursing but still no F-words though. Not even sure how steamy a love scene could be. "Scantily clad" women maybe, but that means different things to different people. One person might be able to watch a show like DWTS (another one I don’t watch) and just notice the quality of dancing; another might watch and just see young women in less than normal clothing. Once again, still a HUGE difference from watching any of this to saying the words as part of a sermon.

Your response of “1. Oh well then, it must be all right.” Is exactly what you keep doing, you are taking a point and then trying to take it to some infinite degree. It’s a leap of logic in order to try and invalidate the entire point. As if I said because a show (any show) is in primetime it is ok, no what I said was there are certain rules for shows in prime time. My points are connected and build on one another.

bp said...

Sorry Seth, I don't see the connection. In-fact, I see a disconnection.

Pastors can't curse or talk sexually.. ..us watching others do it on tv, not a problem.

Lost is on prime-time tv, and there are certain rules for prime-time... ..I'm not saying that makes it ok.

Stacy McDonald said...

Thank you for this post. Excellent!

I thought some of your readers might be interested in a couple of similar posts on legalism from my blog a while back:

http://yoursacredcalling.blogspot.com/2010/01/legalism-yours-mine-and-ours.html

http://yoursacredcalling.blogspot.com/search/label/Legalism

Zaphon said...

Stacy McDonald:

Thou shalt not engage in shameless self-promotion.

:-)

Zaph

CR said...

Rachael,

Your 4:16 pm comment is one of the best comments I've ever read on legalism. Especially the comment on focusing on sins that we are battling. Thanks. Don't ever get behind again on your Pyro reading. :=)

CR said...

bp: I’m guessing that all the readers here would agree that it’s wrong for a Christian to watch pornography, even though there is no verse that says “don’t watch pornography.” snip snip

And I propose that even though there is no verse that says “don’t watch shows that have filthy language in it” snip snip


I knew some one would make this comment. There is a difference, bp, between watching pornography and people having real sex vs. people acting out saying bad language. Note: I'm not saying it's okay for everyone to watch a movie with a bad word.

CR said...

Bp: Pastors can't curse or talk sexually.. ..us watching others do it on tv, not a problem.

Again, there is a difference between people acting out using bad words (I've already dealt with why watching pornography is always wrong) vs. a pastor using bad words, because he is really saying and meaning to use those bad words when he shouldn't.

The issue is age/maturity appropriateness. You don't let a child watch a movie with the use of a bad word much for the same reason you don't take a 4 year old to watch Jurassic Park.

Terry Rayburn said...

1. Good post on the two forms of legalism.

2. There are also other forms of legalism. One of the most common is the false belief that God loves or favors us on the basis of our behavior.

Call it Performance-based Christianity.

This coin has two sides: the self-righteous side which causes us to be puffed up with pride if we think we're performing pretty well compared to so-and-so; and the despair side which causes us to feel like God is angry and sullen toward us if we aren't performing very well today.

Both sides of the coin are absurd, since it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Even when He chastises His children, He does it in love to bring us back in fellowship with Him.

3. Legalists and Libertines have one thing in common:

They are not in close communion with Jesus (at least at the same time they are being legalistic or libertine).

Augustine's famous quote, "Love God and do what you want", though maybe too stark in its simple form, has the wisdom of that principle of Scripture that "if we walk by the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh".

4. It's much better to be Jesus-obsessed than sin-obsessed. In being sin-obsessed, we can still be far from close communion with Christ.

But in being Christ-obsessed, in close communion with Him, the things of earth grow strangely dim, as the song goes.

CR said...

bp: Stefan,
Professional sports are not idolatrous unless one idolizes them.


Not true. (First, a few qualifiers, I don't mind sports and am not against watching them on any day). Gotta put qualifiers especially with this crowd. But professional sports not idolatrous?? Of all the days to put certain professional sports on TV, why do the have to be on Sundays? Do you think that's by accident bp? No. It's right from the devil himself.

Having said that, let's say I wanted to be a legalist. I would say, you shouldn't watch any sports on Sunday. It will take you away from the Lord's Day. There's nothing redeeming in watching sports on Sunday? I know people that hold this view. How do they get around it? They record it and watch it the next day.

If I wanted to be a real good legalist I would say, you shouldn't record it either. Because it shows up in Nielsen ratings and we're a hindrance to others by giving these games credence. In fact, we shouldn't watch any professional sports that play games on Sunday (which would be all of them). So, we should just watch college games because they mostly play on Saturdays. Wait...wait...but headhunters go out and recruit these guys for professional sports, which again, play sports on Sundays, which again is a stumbling block for some who cannot resist watching sports on Sundays. Therefore, no college sports, we should just go to our kids high school games. Wait...wait...but some of these kids go off into college and some go off to professional sports. It's a sin for Christians to put their kids in high school sports. That reminds me, doesn't the Masters College have college sports? Sin!

Do you see how this can be taken to the nth degree?

PS - I happen to believe that the Lord's day should be set aside to fellowship with God's people, not watch sports and "spend with family" per se. But I can't say it's sin for people to watch sports on Sundays and not spend their whole day with the brethren.

Rachael Starke said...

Well, I'm glad it was helpful CR. As tough as my journey has been, I can even see God's sovereignty in working out both my challenging upbringing, and my early years of immaturity and patterns of sin, for God's glory.

BP, if I can just testify from experience both as one of two daughters, and now with three of my own to raise - I was raised to believe that sin was something I could catch, like an infectious disease, from watching movies, listening to music with strong beats, and reading Judy Blume books. I had to learn the very hard way that sin is, in fact, a genetic condition, one that cannot be suppressed. We can, perhaps, mask our daughters' genetic condition by walking behind them, constantly covering them with anti-bacterial lotion; but we can't cure it. For that they need a full transplant of their DNA. And when they receive it, that new DNA will gradually express itself, helped by our encouragement, but ultimately not supressed by the world. Our job as mothers is to help administer the tests that expose their true condition to themself, and then offer them the lifesaving cure.

one busy mom said...

bp: you said

"If there is irritation in my posts, it probably stems from years of trying to explain to my daughters why they couldn't go to movies filled with sexual immorality, strong language, etc.. when many of their Christian friends could."

First of all, yes your irritation comes through loud and clear. And as a mom w/ 5 children myself I can sympathize with your frustrations about a lot of the media out there.

However, as others have pointed out here, I think you:

1. missed the point of Dan's original post

2. are under the impression that the TV show mentioned ("Lost") is a much worse show than it is

3. perhaps because of #2, feel that folks here are hypocritically supporting watching or endorsing smut.

4. probably because of both #2 & #3 are becoming increasingly frustrated

So, first of all, know that you are and will be in my prayers. Second, I'm certainly no expert on current TV shows or movies -I live in the middle of nowhere & have no cable or reception...so I only see what we occasionally rent. One of which is this show. I'm not here to defend every aspect of "lost" or even encourage anyone to view it, but just for your info - the majority of episodes I've seen would most likely be rated "G" - perhaps with a handful of "PG"'s thrown in over all the years. (Certainly nothing as remotely smutty & shocking as in a comedy I just foolishly rented...it was PG13).

Back to Dan's original post: he simply used a relatively benign TV show that many people have followed (or were familiar with) to illustrate man's inneptness & limitations and contrast that to the perfection of God. The purpose is the key here...pointing us to God and to consider His greatness.

As others have explained, there's a huge difference between that and what Kim and Driscoll are doing. The latter are using foul mouths while preaching to fit in w/ folks who don't want much to do w/ God in the first place. The purpose seems to be to make themselves look cool - not to point to God.

Anyway, there are much brighter folks here who can and have explained these things much better than I ever could. But my heart really goes out to you, and I hope in some way this explanation helps clear up some points of contention.

Solameanie said...

Lynda, I don't think Frank, Phil or Dan would call Charles Spurgeon a legalist. Especially Phil.

To all: My word verification for this comment is "scarket." I like that. I mean, really, really like that. In fact, I'm going to claim it as a new word to describe a rant. Example: "Some subjects are guaranteed to send me off on a scarket."

boyd said...

All this talk about whether watching movies or programs is sinful kind of misses the point. Some people get real picky about sexual content but don't seem to be bothered by several murders as long as the actors wear adequate clothing.
What I get from the article is that all of us fall into legalism from time to time if we aren't careful. It is easy to judge others who don't follow our manmade traditions and observances.

Stevemd said...

You become what you behold.

allen said...

Some late to the game thoughts:
1.Dan observes the culture and gives a God-honoring contrast to it--the point of the post.
2.Kim and Driscoll, etc. ape the culture as a ministry model.
3. Huge difference!
4. True holiness/Christ-likeness is much more than TV abstention and "right" clothing.
5. Sin is not out there somewhere. It's much closer! It will require God's power to root out and replace with true righteousness.

d4v34x said...

Rachel Starke: I was wondering how not doing things you're free to do for the sake of the weaker brothers, actually helps strengthen them? Surely one of the goals of sanctification is for feeble knees to be strengthened?

First of all, Paul makes it clear that giving up things we have liberty to do prevents serious damage to weaker brothers.

"For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died." Rom 14:15

"And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died . . . Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble." I Cor 8:11+13

I doubt the biggest spiritual need in the lives of those (adults) whom I teach is that they lay hold of their liberty to go to the movie theater. That may be a need, but there are other needs greater in priority.

Many things I have to tell them that they are not yet able to bear.

Barbara said...

Well I have a question.

As lay women, as mothers - we are absolutely within our realm of responsibility to scold our children and forbid certain things from coming into our houses.

But isn't it not only presumptuous, but even also sinful for us to continuously sharply rebuke a trained elder/teacher who is not our son, whose teaching we have chosen to sit under by reading and partaking of them, and who has given his Biblical reasoning, just because we may not agree with his watching the TV show that he mentioned? I mean, really - who are we? Isn't there a line there, biblically speaking, as women, given the privilege to learn, that we should be approaching with caution and respect?

Barbara said...

That was directed to bp. You gentlemen are on your own. :)

Jim Pemberton said...

Barbara, great point. Elders are to be the strongest among us spiritually and parents morally responsible for the spiritual growth of their children. And are the spiritually strong and responsible ones not also to be the greatest servants? Modern polemics is not a great example of this except where the spiritually strong sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron. Average Christians may be wounded, some mortally, in that battlefield. But the spiritually weak among us may have some additional rules imposed on them temporarily by their elders to protect them until they grow stronger. It's a disservice that I have seen where Christians are often not strengthened as they ought to be.

Solameanie said...

If I become what I behold, I'm in a world of trouble. I'd have to walk around with a bag over my head.

Instead, let's thank the Lord for His saving grace and sanctifying power, and His promise to complete the work He began in us.

Barbara said...

Well my point here being - as women, if we are choosing to sit under and partake of their teaching, are we not also to submit ourselves in these matters? It's not like a secular blog that we can just come and go and pass judgment on as we please - we have God-given roles here....right?

candy said...

Barbara. I think there is a difference in debating, however contentiously, with fellow believers on a blog, and sitting under an elder/teacher. A blog is a forum so to speak. I think the caution is not so much that we are women, but that we learn to be courteous in our exchanges.

Barbara said...

Candy,

I suppose - I guess it depends on why we read. I come to learn, to learn how to think biblically about the matters of the world and so for my part that would be within my role. And it is regarding matters involving the Kingdom and so we still have to be careful about how we approach these things and each other, surely.

Stacy McDonald said...

"Some people get real picky about sexual content but don't seem to be bothered by several murders as long as the actors wear adequate clothing."

The difference here is that a murder on television is not real. No one is being harmed. But that women really is undressed and you really are watching.

If my children play cowboys and Indians in the front yard using *gasp* toy guns, I'm not going to have a problem with that. But if they were to start taking off their clothes...well, you get the point.

Stefan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stefan said...

CR:

Thank you.

One Busy Mom:

You summed it up quite well and clearly—certainly better than I ever could, for all my verbosity.

BP:

For the record, I don't generally watch sports on TV. I never have—I'm one of those oddballs for whom they're not my cup of tea.

But my wife and I do watch television, and TV commercials (of all kinds) are unavoidable. I don't go out of my way to watch them, but neither do I go out of my way to avoid watching them.

The imagery in commercials doesn't phase me, because all advertising is so transparently about selling something. Regardless of what the product, medium, or imagery, the vast bulk of advertising is designed to manipulate and seduce us into buying something, by attempting to play on our lust, greed, covetousness, pride, envy, or fear.

But it is impossible to avoid advertising of all kinds (not only TV commercials but billboards, magazine and newspaper ads, radio ads, etc.) in this society. Better that we develop a critical attitude towards it, so that we're not sucked into thinking that we have to go out and buy the latest cereal, car, clothes, candy, or cheeseburger.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Stevemd said...
"You become what you behold."

Solameanie said...
If I become what I behold, I'm in a world of trouble. I'd have to walk around with a bag over my head."


John Piper said: "When the object of our delight is moral beauty, the longing to behold is inseperable from the longing to be. When the Holy Spirit awakens the heart of a person to delight in the holiness of God, an insatiable desire is born not only to behold that holiness, but also to be holy as God is holy."


I think this may be what Stevemd is trying to say. :)

jeremy said...

I am not sure I buy the "Pastor's should not do it but it's ok for as to watch it" argument.

1. For starters pastors are not held to a higher standard than the rest of God’s people. They simply are not. Every qualification of a pastor is something we are all commanded to bear out in our own lives as well (including teaching cf. Col 3:16).

What pastors get is not a higher standard but (go on now read the text) a double judgment. Their penalty for infractions of the Law will be more severe. There are not two standards of holiness, one for pastors and one for the laity. Rather there is one Holy God whom we are called to be holy even as He is holy.

2. Secondly, do we not learn at the end of Romans chapter one that to approve of evil (i.e. gladly watching and being entertained by it) is actually worse than the doing of it. I'm pretty sure that's what Paul says in that last verse.

I think it is a much worse form of legalism to try and make a moral separation between those who do and speak sinful things, from those who sit on the sideline (or couch) and applaud it.

John said...

Wow. I come back a day later, and Phil is flirting with 150. And yet, most of them miss the meat of Phil's post.

"You want rules? Here's a good one to start with: When it comes to the question of spiritual duties, where Scripture stops speaking, we should, too."

Not to get all snarky, but perhaps we might actually try this?

bp said...

Stefan, if the imagery in the commercials you described don't phase you, that's not a good thing. Again, being exposed to cussing, sexual immorality around us in our daily lives and being grieved by it, is not the same as sitting and watching it on purpose. It would be like Lot or Noah being disgusted by the depravity around them and then (for entertainments sake), forking out a shekel to sit and watch a play of them doing it.

bp said...

OBM, I do appreciate your concern. And I do understand Dan’s point, I’m simply making my own point. I’m not comparing Dan’s illustration with Kim and Driscoll. I’m comparing his watching a tv show that I thought was full of bad language and sexual immorality with Kim and Driscoll.

Allen, point #4:

True holiness/Christ-likeness is much more than TV abstention and "right" clothing.

I’m pretty sure you’re not saying that we can therefore watch what we want and dress how we want, so I don’t know what your point here is. Unless it’s the typical, “we’re all sinners and fall so short, so why bother trying?” point.

Barbara, I agree with Candy.

Rachael, I agree. It’s a total “heart” issue.

Jeremy, great post.

stratagem said...

After reading these comments I am concluding that I must never have come in contact with the extreme form of fundamentalism described here, despite having been a Christian for about 35 of my 50 years now. Of course, I know every church has made-up rules it imposes on people; but I would say that nothing I've seen in that department even comes close to the danger level that McLaren-ism does, for instance. Nothing that would imperil someone's ability to believe the Gospel (as McLaren-ism does).
I guess I've just been lucky - or rather, blessed!

Stefan said...

BP wrote: "Stefan, if the imagery in the commercials you described don't phase you, that's not a good thing."

Me: Perhaps "doesn't phase me" was not a good choice of words. It disgusts and upsets me, but it doesn't tempt me. I have enough temptations in my own life apart from television. And I am a sinner saved by the grace of God. I saw more than enough of the world and what it has to offer before I was saved, and by God's grace I have been saved from that.

BP wrote: "Again, being exposed to cussing, sexual immorality around us in our daily lives and being grieved by it, is not the same as sitting and watching it on purpose."

And so I try to avoid watching programs with sexual immorality and cussing. Where have I ever said otherwise? It has already been demonstrated to you that you were relying on a false description of Lost.

My wife has a wider latitude in terms of what she is willing to watch on TV than I do, but she is not yet saved (I was saved after we got married). If I'm uncomfortable with something we're watching, I will avert my eyes or express my concerns, but with grace, because she doesn't yet see things the same way I do.

And when I have control of the remote, I tend to watch news, documentaries, and action movies. Yes, the latter is entertainment, but the former two are for the purpose of edification.

BP wrote: "It would be like Lot or Noah being disgusted by the depravity around them and then (for entertainments sake), forking out a shekel to sit and watch a play of them doing it."

Me: I am a sinner, and I pray for God's mercy every day. I strive for holiness, and repent every day, because pursuing holiness in this world is a daily struggle. But it is in Christ alone working through the Holy Spirit that I will find sanctification, and the same goes for you and every other believer.

That being said, your last sentence is a bridge too far.

bp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bp said...

And there is a lot more lasciviousness and innuendo in almost every beer ad on TV...I don't go out of my way to watch them, but neither do I go out of my way to avoid watching them

doesn't phase me" was not a good choice of words. It disgusts and upsets me, but it doesn't tempt me


You’re not tempted to lust when you watch beer commercials with half-naked women? Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. It would probably (definately) be good for you to go out of your way to not look at it.

It has already been demonstrated to you that you were relying on a false description of Lost.

Some said there was profanity and sexual content, some said no.

That being said, your last sentence is a bridge too far

Why?

bp said...

Btw Stefan, do you think that my Scriptural arguments are so ridiculous that you would sarcastically compare it to saying we shouldn't eat a medium-rare steak?

Stefan said...

BP:

Do you even read my comments, or just pick things out of context to object to?

I wrote, "And so I try to avoid watching programs with sexual immorality and cussing." I also avoid watching movies with half-naked women in them.

"Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall."

Yes, I agree 100%! And, "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling."

Which is why I expended so much energy in my last comment pointing out that I am not above temptation in general, and that I am daily in need of God's grace.

And so are you. Do not be blinded by pride into thinking that you can avoid sin simply by building a hedge of protection around yourself.

And one more thing.

I extended grace and charity to you throughout the long discussion on whether God speaks to us today in the same way that He did to the prophets and apostles. Yes, you and I had different answers to the same question, but I tried to explain myself in a fair, evenhanded, and sympathetic manner—even when others were more curt.

Surely the least you could do is extend the same level of grace and charity to me, instead of questioning my sanctification?

DJP said...

Do you even read my comments, or just pick things out of context to object to?

Welcome to my world.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

DJP said: Welcome to my world.

That was funny, DJP; I feel for you. :) Who said you can't have fun here at Teampyro? This is more fun than watching I Love Lucy reruns, or Lassie Come Home, or Ozzie and Harriet....

BTW, I will never, ever again, tell people NOT to read Harry Potter books or The Shack. I have learned my lesson. Legalist! HUH!

bp said...

I usually read your comments multiple times, actually. What's out of context about my reply? Yes, you said that you try to avoid watching programs with sexual immorality and cussing. But you also said that you don't go out of your way to avoid watching commercials that have more lasciviousness and innuendo than 6 seasons of Lost. That's what I was referring to.

How was my comment lacking in grace and charity? (aside: Was your comment to Dan in the other thread that was an obvious mockery of me full of grace and charity?) I did not question your sanctification. I gave Scripture to show that it's not wise to say that you're not tempted by scantily-clad women. I suggested it wise to go out of your way to avoid commercials that you describe as worse than all the episodes of Lost.

I'm sorry if I came across as prideful. I know what a wretch I am. But I don't think that since I am as prone to falling as you are (or vise versa), that I (or you) should therefore keep our mouths shut. The Bible tells us to correct and exhort. God uses us to help each other move forward in the sanctification process.

bp said...

Dan, I read your comments mulitiple times too. And your posts. I know...shocking, huh?

donsands said...

Here's a good old fundamentalist-libertarian church:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CLmjVDQMQUs&feature=player_embedded

Jacob said...

Interestingly, it is those who wish to do whatever they want and still maintain the label of "Christian" who trumpet most loudly the mantra of Christian liberty.

Yet Scripture also speaks MUCH about our new status in Christ, the Holy Spirit indwelling us, how we then ought to live, and many exhortations to holiness, what we should think on, etc. But as soon as you mention any of THOSE passages (not even in an accusatory or judgmental way, mind you), immediately the cry of "legalist" is raised much like one would commonly employ the race card - as something completely tangential to the actual matter at hand (yet emotionally efficacious for the right audience) in order to divert the discussion away from the core of the issue, which is spiritual discernment (and the result of lacking it, which is Christians partaking in unholy things).

Christians today know little about the holiness of God, in large part thanks to modern entertainment that distracts us and takes so much of our time that could be spent studying about our great God.

It is not to earn anything, but in striving out of love for our Savior, recognition of the Spirit of God implanted within us, and proper fear of God the Father, that will lead us to seek to be holy as He is holy.
Learn more about the holiness of God and so many of the "gray" areas of life (certain TV programs, music choices, playing video games, and other time wasters) are no longer so difficult to discern for their lack of merit or worthiness of our time, money, and participation.

Bottom line: If Christians knew more their God and sought his will and kingdom foremost, they wouldn't be so engrossed in the vain things of this present evil age, and there wouldn't be a discussion in the first place nor any being wrongly labeled as legalists who simply wish to lovingly exhort their brothers and sisters to the things of God and holiness in word & deed.

Sure, there are probably plenty of actual legalists out there, but the term is MOST often used today by "Christians" who don't want to hear the truth about the entertainment they partake in and love. This is often a sign of a deeper spiritual issue.

There's nothing more hurtful and insulting than when one attempts to bring a loving caution or kind encouragement to (perhaps so-called) brothers and the response is a defensive clamor that it's just legalism to actually dissect and discern what message a movie is actually conveying or to warn others about the contents of it. It's really the cry, "Let us enjoy our sin!" But you can call it "Christian liberty" if you want. (Not talking to you, Phil, but to the many American "Christians" who twist Christian liberty in order to do such things.)

Jacob said...

Btw, like Phil, I don't care a bit about Lost. I've never watched it and I don't care whether any of you do or don't. My previous comment is addressing the subject matter of Phil's post, because it touches on a much broader, deeper issue that is rampant in the so-called church in America today.

MSC said...

Phil Johnson said: “Let me say this plainly: It is a sin to impose on others any ‘spiritual’ standard that has no biblical basis.”

You quote 1 Cor. 4:6 about not going beyond what is written and then you say: “That is a good guideline for how we should exercise our Christian liberty: Don't go beyond what is written in Scripture. Don't make rules to impose on others; don't devise rituals and forms of worship that are not authorized; and don't speak on such matters where God has been silent.”

You end by saying: “If we add rules that Scripture doesn't make—especially if we try to impose our manmade rules on other people's consciences as a standard of spirituality—we are guilty of the same sin as the Pharisees and worthy of the same harsh rebukes Christ leveled at them.”

I agree with the substance of what you are saying, but I wonder if these statements need to be qualified. I am a graduate of TMS. The TMS website publishes a code of conduct that all TMS students must abide by. In part it states:

“… It is expected that students at [TMS] will maintain the highest of standards in personal conduct and biblical conviction. The seminary does not presume to be a monitoring or censoring agency for all activities but does expect personal testimony and outward evidence of maturing Christian convictions, concern for the conscience of others, and a willingness to submit to the authority of mature Christian leaders. Accordingly, as examples of the numerous ways to enhance the testimony of the individual and of the institution, the seminary requires conformity to the following Code of Conduct…”

Included in that code are the following:
“The seminary standards for appearance and dress are to be fully respected [including dress shirts and ties].
Personal discipline in the discerning use of radio, television, and the printed page is expected. This includes total avoidance of pornographic programming, films, and literature.
Students are required to abstain from such practices as gambling, the use of beverages for intoxication, the misuse of prescription drugs, the use of illegal drugs, and tobacco.”

Some may say that these requirements go beyond what is written. In some regards that case could be made. For example nothing in scripture prohibits the use of tobacco. As a student (and I believe most would agree) I never thought of these requirements as being legalistic. I believe they are standards of conduct that are important for men training for ministry. You probably wouldn’t have many of these requirements for church membership. Certainly, GCC does not. And perhaps an argument could be made for why one institution does and the other does not.

My question is, at some point do you not make certain choices (the application of Scriptural ethical principles) in which you abstain from certain practices because they hinder your growth in godliness? For example, not watching a TV program that is sexually suggestive? Is it not also appropriate at times to impose those standards on others (such as the case with the TMS code of conduct)? It seems some people in the comments section are being castigated for having standards that some would say go beyond scripture and thus they are branded as legalists. Some may brand the TMS code of conduct as legalistic standards. I am sure you don’t regard them as such. Again, I agree with the substance of what you have said and see no conflict with establishing standards so long as external adherence to such standards is not in itself the substance of godliness. I believe the latter would be legalism. The main force of your argument seems to be that specific standards should never be imposed on others. If that is the case, how does TMS justify imposing standards for its students?

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Mary Elizabeth Tyler: "BTW, I will never, ever again, tell people NOT to read Harry Potter books or The Shack. I have learned my lesson."

Ok. Telling people to not read The Shack might earn you the label of being a "Legalist" and being labelled a "Legalist" is worse than telling people to not read The Shack.

I follow your argument.

Jim Pemberton said...

I think it's funny that we try to come up with a rule for not being legalistic. The point is not what rules we follow and what rules we don't. It's what rules we need - and different ones of us need different rules for different stages of our spiritual development (Rom. 14) and for different circumstances (Mark 2: 23-28). So obedience is a pastoral matter, not a legal one.

Is it okay to watch questionable things on TV? How do we know they are questionable unless someone with discernment happens to watch it? You don't want to normalize a diet of culturally accepted sin, but you can't sharpen your discerning blade on a bed of cotton balls either.

John said...

@MSC
I am also a seminarian, and also must abide by a student code of conduct. However, while this code of conduct is certainly meant to be "Christian", in that it reflects Christian values, it does not (as far as I can tell) ever imply that the conduct proscribed is about sanctification. Rather, the school has to maintain a kind of order and decorum, and does so by utilizing a code of conduct. So does my employer, the military, and almost any regular, organized institution.
As humans, we need this kind of order. But it is very, very thin ice when we start "applying" the Bible by creating extra Biblical laws, especially when we start to see these rules as having a kind of sanctifying power. There is, however, a Biblical category for wisdom.

For example, I live in the deep south, where many Christians are "dry", and many smoke. Such is the culture. In Europe, drinking adult beverages is a healthy social activity, while smoking is associated with organized crime. It isn't wrong to alter these kinds of behaviors for reputation's sake. But let us not arrogate moral betterment through such choices.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Hi TUAD:

I was being facetious. I was also hoping someone would pick up on this. I think there is a real danger in swinging so far in avoiding (as you say) being called a legalist, that we neglect to stand FIRM on Biblical principles, when Scripture gives us clear warrant to do so.

The two examples I used (Harry Potter books and The Shack) were used to make a particularly clear point, that because of their excessive use of sorcery, witchcraft, and idolatry and because of their overall egregious nature it makes it far easier to Biblically sound the alarm.

You can be SURE I will continue my RANT against these God dishonoring, belittling, useless books.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Hi TUAD:

I was being facetious.
"

You were?

"I think there is a real danger in swinging so far in avoiding (as you say) being called a legalist, that we neglect to stand FIRM on Biblical principles, when Scripture gives us clear warrant to do so."

You mean...

Like people could be Legalists or get legalistic ...

for yelling and telling others to not be legalists?

OoooOOOooooOOh. Ooo-kay. I gotta process that one.

;-)

donsands said...

"It seems some people in the comments section are being castigated for having standards that some would say go beyond scripture and thus they are branded as legalists." -MSC

Yep. That's gonna happen. And then there are the real legalists.

I was reading Galatians 2 yesterday, and Paul says we are dead to the law, and the law is dead to us. He says, we were crucified on the Cross with Christ. He says we are dead, yet we live. Yet not us, but Christ in us. The law is powerless, and has no condemnation for us any more. Jesus took it out of the way by living a perfect righteous life for us, and then dying for our sins, and for us personally.

I think once the Church nails the Gospel down, and understands what our righteousness is, and what it means to be forgiven, then the heart will become so full of love and gratitude, that we will be motivated to love , not only our Savior, but His law, though it has no more sway in our lives.

Then we will be able to discuss righteous deeds, when we realize we have no righteousness ourselves.

Stefan said...

BP:

Thank you for clearing things up. Really. But this has to be put in perspective.

When Driscoll says that Seattle is the most unchurched city in America, I live in Vancouver, which is probably the most unchurched city in all of North America.

I live in a modern-day Corinth of 2 million people, commuting 25 miles through the heart of the city every day to and from my IT job. My wife is not yet saved, and we live in the "already-not yet" tension of the kinds of married couples that Paul was addressing in 1 Corinthians 7.

There is not only one commandment ("Thou shalt not commit adultery," as expanded upon by Jesus in Matthew 5), but nine more commandments, and they all have broad application to all aspects of our lives.

Every time I try to solve a problem without praying to God about it, I'm breaking the 1st commandment. Every time I get engrossed in mindless diversions, I'm breaking the 2nd commandment. Every time I piously add "God willing" to a promise and then break that promise, I'm breaking the 3rd commandment. Every time I enjoy secular entertainment on a Sunday, I'm breaking the 4th commandment. Every time I put off calling my mother for another week, I'm breaking the 5th commandment. Every time I get angry at a driver, I'm breaking the 6th commandment (Matthew 5:22). Every time I allow my eyes to wander for even a second, I'm breaking the 7th commandment. Every time I take an extra 5 minutes on my lunch break, I'm breaking the 8th commandment. Every time I think I should be earning more, I'm breaking the 10th commandment.

I am exposed to all manner of temptation every day, and I sin every day. I hate myself for sinning, repent, and seek God's mercy every day.

In the overall scheme of things, however, TV commercials are just a drop in the bucket of all the temptations I face, and so in that sense, no they don't phase me, because there are so many other things out there that already feed my sinful heart.

I fear God, even though I often act as if I don't. We all stand under God's righteous wrath, and face His impending judgment. I thank Him that He chose to save me anyhow before the foundation of the world, since He knows the beginning from the end and knows what sin lurks in my heart.

What grace and mercy is this, that He gave His one and only Son Jesus Christ, and allowed the one sinless man in all of history to bear God's wrath for the sins of His adopted sons and daughters.

And so I stumble and crawl back to the Cross, and strive for holiness knowing that I can't do it on my own, but only through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit gradually working sanctification into my heart.

Stefan said...

...Oh, and every time I lie, I'm breaking the 9th commandment.

(I was trying to include the complete set.)

Stefan said...

BP:

I was praying for God's mercy all the more yesterday, because I was allowing myself to get upset, and that probably came out in my comments.

To complicate things, God has been leading my wife and me through a major trial, and it seems that He has answered our prayers in an unexpected way, but it requires a major decision on our part with an unknown outcome, and we had to make that decision yesterday.

In fact, each time I was in the middle of writing a comment to you yesterday, my wife called me to discuss the matter at hand. We are under a lot of stress, and are turning it all over to Jesus. It takes faith on my part, but even more faith in her part, since she's not yet saved.

I've also deleted the other comment I made yesterday on the other thread, because I wrote it in a moment of exasperation, and it's not in my nature to make sarcastic comments.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi,

I haven't been faithfully reading over here, but I saw that I was referenced (in a comment) as a poster boy for brand #2 legalism. I actually don't disagree with Phil's article per se. Much more could have been said by Phil, but it wasn't a book, just a blog post.

We shouldn't add to scripture but neither should we reduce the bible to a few commands we think we could keep. It really isn't the rules at all that are the basis of spirituality.

However, (and you knew this was coming) I believe where evangelicalism has failed in a great way is in the second premise issues. Eph 4 says 'let no corrupt communication proceed from your mouth,' but it doesn't say what 'corrupt communication' is. We have to assume truth in the real world to make that application. I don't tell our people that it is a sin to go to the movie theater. I don't tell them it is a sin to own or watch TV. I don't tell them it is a sin to use facebook. I don't tell them it is a sin to play cards. It might be more convenient to have men like myself be that way. And I'm an expository preacher who preaches through books, presently in 1 Kings, Revelation, and Luke, so I don't find myself harping on issues that much.

I think there is a value for a preacher to espouse the benefits of not using facebook or not attending the theater as an application to certain passages of scripture. But there is also the application of verses like these, that are second premise applications:

Abstain from fleshly lusts.
Deny worldly lusts.
Be not conformed to this world.
Make no provision for the flesh.
Flee fornication.
I will not be brought under the power of any.
Be ye holy as I am holy.

Scripture does not give us liberty to sin, to disobey scripture, to be a stumbling block, or to be factious within a church (on non-scriptural issues). I do believe we should Rom 14 and accept one another in non-scriptural issues, matters that are doubtful. But what are non-scriptural issues? Can we say what is immodest? Should we? At what point has some kind of lack of clothing become nudity?

If I'm still a poster-boy, so be it.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"I haven't been faithfully reading over here, but I saw that I was referenced (in a comment) as a poster boy for brand #2 legalism."

Dear Pastor Kent,

That would be my comment at 6:46 AM, May 27, 2010. Sorry if you did not care to be identified as a poster boy for fundamentalism, but you were the only "fundamentalist" I could think of that the Pyro bloggers would know.

I still stand by my statements in that comment and I'm re-affirmed in those beliefs by you've wrote in your initial comment, Pastor Kent.

Thank you. Pax.

bp said...

Thanks, Stefan. I appreciate that. I, too, am aware of my total inability to keep God’s commandments. I know that I repeatedly break them every single day. But knowing that doesn’t make me give up in my striving for holiness (in the strength only He provides). There are things that I can do to avoid being exposed to it. Like not staring at the magazine covers at the check out lanes (body image/perfectionism has always been a problem for me), or averting my eyes when my depraved flesh would rather stare at something that is dishonoring to God (whether it be a commercial, a billboard, or what have you). Do I always avoid? No. But I don’t think that our failure to perfectly obey should lead us to a “we’re all guilty so it doesn’t really matter” sort of attitude.

I still believe that it’s hypocritical for us to chide pastors for offensive language and sexual talk while at the same time saying there’s nothing wrong with us watching others do the same in the name of entertainment. Maybe I’m a hypocrite too, for even bringing this up since I have watched things that were dishonoring to the Lord. But I think what’s more important than our track record is whether or not we justify our sin or realize it’s wrong, and desire to go the other way, resting in and rejoicing in our perfect law-keeper who has borne all the Father's wrath for our sin and failures. And isn't it important that as His people, we encourage one another in this, despite our inability to perfectly obey?

Btw, I relate to your situation. My husband is also an unbeliever. After going to church for 20+ yrs, he said he was tired of faking it (a relationship with God), and that he didn’t believe in prayer or a relationship with Him, but still thinks he’s saved. I know the difficulty and I will pray for your wife’s salvation.

Stefan said...

BP:

Thank you, and I will pray for your husband as well.

In Christ,
Stefan

bp said...

Thanks Stefan.
Btw, my husband is also in the IT field and our oldest daughter is going to S. Korea in Aug. to teach ESL.

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

Today's devotional by John MacArthur "And lead us not into temptation," is worth reading.

Here is a excerpt: "Jesus is concerned that we truly desire to AVOID the danger and trouble sin creates. Saints should so despise sin and want to ***escape it at all costs*** that they pray in advance to avoid sin rather than waiting to defeat it when tempted."

I also want to compliment Phil on a very balanced article on this fascinating subject. I have read it at least five times and glean something new each time.

ngearhart said...

This is a helpful post in several regards.

One element I struggle with is the use of Pharisees as an example of the category of sanctification-legalism. I guess when I read about Pharisees I struggle to find any place where they embraced in righteousness other than their own!

Perhaps a better place to find an example of this category would be in Peter's mistake mentioned by Paul in Galatians 3:14. Paul says that the gospel was at stake, even here. Still I think it is safe to assume that Peter hadn't sold out justification by faith alone. Instead, there was some sanctification implication to this cave in to the fear of man. And that makes sense because it seems that anywhere one finds legalism (of the justification or sanctification sort) one is certain to find the fear of man lurking beneath the surface.

At least, that's how it works in my heart.

bp said...

Phil,
Something I was thinking about today. You said in this article:

Pharisaical legalists are not content to live life in the power of the Spirit, cultivate discernment, and avoid things that are clearly profane or immoral; they make lists of rules that prohibit Christians from practically everything but church activities

I'm assuming that you also think that I'm being legalistic, and that watching movies with language and sexual content is a grey area, so I find it perplexing that you state here that there should be an obvious avoidance of things that are clearly profane (like profanity?) and immoral (like sexual immorality?)

Phil Johnson said...

bp: "I find it perplexing that you state here that there should be an obvious avoidance of things that are clearly profane (like profanity?) and immoral (like sexual immorality?)"

My meaning should be clear if you have followed the thread: We should avoid doing things that are profane or immoral.

The Bible itself describes things that are profane and immoral, so you cannot reasonably argue that it's an automatic sin if you hear or observe or read about someone else's sin. (See also 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, cited in the post above.)

Obviously, if you as viewer approve of or derive some perverse vicarious pleasure in another person's evil deeds, that's sin (Romans 1:32). So what one person might watch with a pure heart and even be repulsed by might well be a temptation or an occasion for sin for someone else. (See "Others May, You Cannot," also referred to above.)

Again, if someone purposely watches things that incite lust, that's sin as well. But it's not really necessary to portray Rob and Laura Petrie sleeping in separate beds in order to preserve the purity of the viewing audience, and it's not inherently sinful to be exposed to a story in which someone commits adultery--or even worse. Otherwise we would know nothing of the events that led David to write Psalm 51.

I think a number of commenters have explained these things fairly well in this thread.