Evaluating Movies and Shows

by Doy Moyer

While it is difficult to find movies or shows that are worth watching (for various reasons), I do believe Christians need to consider how to evaluate what they watch and hear from the biblical perspective. In recently reading Unraveling Philosophy by Groza and Moreland, I found these questions helpful:

  1. What is the point of the movie or show? Movies are not made in a vacuum. There will be an ultimate message, and we need to be able to find it. “Spend some time ascertaining the point of the movie and then ask the all-important question: Is that true? Is the movie telling me the truth or is it lying?” (239)
  2. What is the story of redemption? Story plots typically involve something that goes wrong. What is the resolution to the problem? “Another word for resolution, in this sense, is redemption. How is the wrong made right?” … “Knowing the story of redemption enables a greater appreciation of the movie. It also helps explain why its message resonates” (241).
  3. What is the perspective on sin? Does the movie make clear the ‘folly of sin’?” Is sin painted in a positive light or not? Are the consequences of sin shown or is the sin glorified? “Movies can tell the truth by exposing the bad consequences of sin, or movies can lie by painting sin in a positive light and minimizing (or excluding altogether) those consequences.” If good is painted as evil and evil as good (cf. Isaiah 5:20), and the consequences of this are not shown, we might want to look elsewhere.
  4. What virtues are promoted or denied? “A good movie celebrates characters for the right reasons; characters who exhibit virtues such as hope, courage, and loyalty” (242). Or are the “heroes” of the movie bad guys who are celebrated in their wickedness and irresponsibility?

Groza and Moreland finish with this:

“The goal is to provide a framework for thought and conversation for the purpose of discerning beauty and its relation to truth. The goal is not to read Christian themes into art where such themes do not fit, or to impose a Christian worldview against the evidence within the movie. The principle of charity requires that Christians seek to understand the message of a film as it is presented and not as we will it to be understood. Not every story is a Christian story. It is legitimate to see Christian themes where they exist. It is not legitimate, charitable, or honest to force such themes.” (243)

Perhaps we just want to watch shows for entertainment purposes. We don’t want to overthink it. But we cannot afford not to think at all. We are inviting ideas and philosophies into our minds and we will either interact with them with a godly perspective or we will mindlessly imbibe what we see and hear. Let’s be careful, therefore, how we hear, and seek to walk with wisdom and understanding even in our recreational time. If there is nothing redeemable about a story, will the time spent on it be redeemable?

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