The Christian and drama

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BertMulder

Puritan Board Junior
Was wondering how on this forum, where so many topics pertaining to dogmatics and the Christian walk are discussed so soundly in many cases, at the same time the most horrific movies are discussed, nay, promoted, We even have a subforum devoted to movies? There seems to be there a contradiction. Is the Christian addicted to Hollywood?

Cases in point:

A proposed blasphemy: Synod of Dort: The movie
LOTR - don't like the books because of their theme, although supposedly RC 'christian', heard say the movie is bordering on satanic (Hollywood corrupting what christianity is found in the book?)

It is our contention that drama, as such, is wrong. In support of that contention, the standpoint taken was that the actor is wrong to take on the personality of another. It may be that the reader is not immediately convinced by that judgment. I can readily understand that. For many years, when the same argument was presented to me, I was not entirely convinced of it. I am now.

However, that is only one element in our contention that drama per se is wrong. Several other significant objections against drama must be raised. The validity of these additional objections does not depend on the main point of the previous editorial.

One serious indictment of drama is that it plays out real life situations. Leaving out for a moment that this will include dramatizing sinful deeds, consider the question: May one play the part of a righteous man? Is it legitimate to act out praying for forgiveness of sins and for grace, having family devotions, and going to church? Dear reader, think about this. Playing church? Acting out prayers? Having the director say in the middle of a “prayer” — “Cut! Start over. That did not sound right”? What blasphemy! Surely God is not entertained by such. Isaiah 29 reveals what God thinks of a people whose lips speak the right words, but their hearts are far from Him.

However, there is another element in drama that makes it utterly abhorrent to the transformed, believing mind of the Christian. That element is the portrayal of sin in all drama.

Sin is the transgression of the righteous and good law of God (I John 3:4; Rom. 7:12). God reveals His holy being and righteous will in His law. By giving the law, the holy God commands “that even the smallest inclination or thought contrary to any of God’s commandments never arise in our hearts” (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 44).

Every sin is an act of rebellion against God (Ps. 5:10, et al). Therefore, “every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life and in that which is to come” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, Q. & A. 84).

Read the whole article by Prof. Dykstra here:

http://www.prca.org/standard_bearer/volume81/2005jan01.htm
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
LOTR is "bordering on 'satanic"????

Drama is a sin????

Brother with all due respect remember Christs words about tithing the mint & the cumin.

Drama (either live or recorded) can not be a sin because of the example of scripture.

i.e. God commanded his prophets to engage in 'drama' & 'recorded' it,
God would not command his prophets to engage in sin,
Therefore, drama is not sinfull.


Also consider the example of Christ how he quoted from Greek drama's when challenging Saul, remember that "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" is a quote from Agamemnon.
Anyone who has trouble with LOTR would run screaming from a production of Agamemnon, yet our Saviour was familiar with it & quoted it!

Consider the Holy Apostles and the many quotes from contemporary works of fiction and drama that were used by them to illustrate points.

Consider again Christ when he teaches and how he uses drama.
"Consider (i.e. imagine) a certain man (i.e. a non-existent fictional character) how he... (engaged in fictional activity). Would you say Christ is teaching by way of deceit? God forbid.

What our Lord did whenever he used pables was to engage in a form of drama.

Be very carefull brother, I have seen this before in some parts of the Dutch reformed church and it almost always leads to legalism & pietism. These things are always the enemy of true holiness.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
I agree that there is much to object to in the content of much modern drama and that such things must be strictly guarded and controlled.

However, having read though the read though the PRC’s literature on drama while thinking though this subject some years ago, I disagree that the form of drama is inherently evil.

Just some short thoughts;

Their proposition that drama involves hypocrisy or rebellion by the actor against who God has made him ignores the fact that dramatic acts are done in a very specific context where everyone knows that a performance is going on for a particular reason. If we chose to ignore context like that, by the same logic we might accuse the Lord of lying when he told his parables since he was describing events and people that did not exist.

I do not see how the dramatic presentation of ‘good deeds’ so to speak, is sin. If we take this course we must condemn all fiction, paintings etc. The PRC articles do distinguish the two, but it seems the distinction they draw is rather arbitrary. Why is it a sin to act out someone doing such and such, but not a sin to write an imaginary story about the same? Or to paint a picture of it? Or to imagine such in your mind? There are logical distinctions that can be made, but I don’t think biblical ones can be. That said, I do believe things like prayer, preaching etc ought not to be dramatized. But that does not say anything about the legitimacy of the form of drama itself. To my mind the principle is the same as that of sculpture or painting. All because it is a sin to create an image of God does not make the creation of images of other things wrong.

Regarding the portrayal of sin in drama, I think we need to remember context again. Bible stories all portray sin but they do not glorify it nor revel in it. I am not saying any kind of sin can or should be portrayed. If filmmakers were to keep within lawful bounds I do think they would be unable to portray a lot of the things they do in modern film. But I do not believe that any portrayal of a sin within the context of a storytelling endeavor is per se sinful. If there has been no physical commission of a sin (say stealing: no one has been deprived of their property) and no one has committed the sin in their hearts, does the physical depiction of something really amount to the real act? I don’t believe so. I think the bible’s use of stories in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ’s use of parables in the new does show that simply presenting sin in the context of a story is not the same as playing with sin.
 

Kevin

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree that there is much to object to in the content of much modern drama and that such things must be strictly guarded and controlled.

However, having read though the read though the PRC’s literature on drama while thinking though this subject some years ago, I disagree that the form of drama is inherently evil.

Just some short thoughts;

Their proposition that drama involves hypocrisy or rebellion by the actor against who God has made him ignores the fact that dramatic acts are done in a very specific context where everyone knows that a performance is going on for a particular reason. If we chose to ignore context like that, by the same logic we might accuse the Lord of lying when he told his parables since he was describing events and people that did not exist.

I do not see how the dramatic presentation of ‘good deeds’ so to speak, is sin. If we take this course we must condemn all fiction, paintings etc. The PRC articles do distinguish the two, but it seems the distinction they draw is rather arbitrary. Why is it a sin to act out someone doing such and such, but not a sin to write an imaginary story about the same? Or to paint a picture of it? Or to imagine such in your mind? There are logical distinctions that can be made, but I don’t think biblical ones can be. That said, I do believe things like prayer, preaching etc ought not to be dramatized. But that does not say anything about the legitimacy of the form of drama itself. To my mind the principle is the same as that of sculpture or painting. All because it is a sin to create an image of God does not make the creation of images of other things wrong.

Regarding the portrayal of sin in drama, I think we need to remember context again. Bible stories all portray sin but they do not glorify it nor revel in it. I am not saying any kind of sin can or should be portrayed. If filmmakers were to keep within lawful bounds I do think they would be unable to portray a lot of the things they do in modern film. But I do not believe that any portrayal of a sin within the context of a storytelling endeavor is per se sinful. If there has been no physical commission of a sin (say stealing: no one has been deprived of their property) and no one has committed the sin in their hearts, does the physical depiction of something really amount to the real act? I don’t believe so. I think the bible’s use of stories in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ’s use of parables in the new does show that simply presenting sin in the context of a story is not the same as playing with sin.

:amen: well said, brother.
 

LadyCalvinist

Puritan Board Junior
I sympathize with you brother Bert. So much that Hollywood puts out these days is sickening. I am tired of hearing the Name of the Lord taken in vain, I am tired of profanity, and of the glorification of sin. I am tired of Christians being the butt of ridicule (a practice by the way, that Hollywood did not start. Ben Jonson wrote plays mocking the Puritans, and the Romans made fun of Christians as well). It is well known that the Puritans hated the theatre and in the early church they would not baptize an actor and people who attended the theatre could be excommunicated. There is a long history of Christian antagonism to the threatre.

That said, I have read a number of articles in the Standard Bearer on the subject of drama, and have not been completely convinced. They may in fact, be right, but right now I just don't see it.

However, the sermons by Samuel Miller and Increase Mather on the theatre are devastating. I find myself agreeing with Miller when he says that attending the theatre is a Criminal Waste of Time. I have spent countless hours in front of the TV and most of it was a waste of time. I am increasingly convicted about what I watch.
At Fire and Ice I found an article by Richard Baxter on what kind of books Christians should read. He asks if it is worth the time, are they better things you could be doing with your time, is it edifying? Could I be more profitably employed elsewhere?

I am still struggling with this whole issue. I intend someday to read Jeremy Collier's work on the Profaness of the theatre as well as several items that SWRB has on this as well. For the mean time, I am trying to build up a video library of material that I think is edifying. Movies such as the Robe and Quo Vadis which remind of the sufferings of the early church and make me ask myself if I would have the courage to face the persecution they faced; movies about missionaries and pastors. I think the whole subject of how we are to spend our leisure hours has not been sufficently dealt with in the Christian community.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
Historically drama has been considered sinful by Christianity. This is one that I've been chewing on for a couple years myself. Here are some links that address drama.

However, drama wasn't condemned because of a rejection of common grace. That seems to be a novel approach.
 

Timothy William

Puritan Board Junior
Good responses all, but one thing does still bother me about drama, literature etc. How does one portray the workings of God, in particular the Holy Spirit, in fiction? While this may not seem an obvious problem, God not being a named character in most fiction, the actions of characters indirectly reflect the workings of the one who is sovreign over them. If I create a Christian character who sins then repents, or an unbelieving one who turns from unbelief and trusts Christ for his salvation, then I am indirectly portraying the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Even if I only portray the unregenerate going about their lives, I am still portraying Him by omission, as He chooses not to act in their lives. I wouldn't really feel comfortable writing something where He was a character - who am I to imagine a world where God acts differently to how he has acted? Is this not similar to doubting the wisdom of God's decrees, and thinking He would have been wiser to have sovreignly decreed things differently or directly intervened differently in human history to how actually has? I wouldn't want to write a story in which a friend of mine acted in a particular way - might he not justly feel annoyed if he thought my portrayal was different to how he really would act in such situations? How much more so should this apply to God, who not only might act differently in the situation I have invented, but, as far as my invented situation differs from reality, has actually decreed that reality be different to the imaginings of my mind?

Curiously, though, I have no problems with consuming fiction created by others (depending on the content and artistic merit of course) for I think of it as looking into the imaginings of their minds - I am not imagining something different to what God has decreed, but rather I am looking at something which God has in fact allowed to come to pass, namely someone else imagining reality being different to how it actually is. I'm fairly sure that my views are inconsistent, but for some reason I never had the same sensitivity to this issue when consuming fiction as when trying to create it.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Was wondering how on this forum, where so many topics pertaining to dogmatics and the Christian walk are discussed so soundly in many cases, at the same time the most horrific movies are discussed, nay, promoted, We even have a subforum devoted to movies? There seems to be there a contradiction. Is the Christian addicted to Hollywood?

Cases in point:

A proposed blasphemy: Synod of Dort: The movie
LOTR - don't like the books because of their theme, although supposedly RC 'christian', heard say the movie is bordering on satanic (Hollywood corrupting what christianity is found in the book?)



Read the whole article by Prof. Dykstra here:

http://www.prca.org/standard_bearer/volume81/2005jan01.htm

Let me guess: this guy doesn't read novels, either, because, being fiction, a novel is, therefore, a "lie". (sigh....)
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Maybe there should be a distinction here between drama that incorporates a Christian message or some kind of biblical narrative, and drama like "A Man from Snowy River?"

Christ definitely used parables and stories to teach (how much or little of those stories being true is only known by the Lord) - still, they were the language of the common people. People love stories. The Prodigal Son is held even in secular cirlces as the "greatest" short story ever given.
 

caddy

Puritan Board Senior
Reading Cosmos in Chaos Philip Schaff's Interpretation of Nineteenth Century American Religon:

The observance of the "Christian Sabbath" was also an area of cooperation between civil and religious authrities because of the dual character of the day. Civil authorities must uphold Sabbath observance because of its social value as a day of rest. In addition, there could be legal restrictions placed on Sunday activities in order to safeguard its religious function. Schaff citied a New York Supreme Court decision which prohibited "theatrical and dramatic performances" on Sunday, since they fell under the general category of actions "which tend to the destruction of morals of the people, and disturb the peace and good order of society." P.148
 
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