"What is the content" simply asks how bad a movie is content-wise.
"What is the worldview" simply asks how this movie either coincides or contradicts the Christian worldview.
"Where is the Gospel" asks how can we see where the Gospel is in any movie we watch. The main difference between this view and the "What is the worldview" perspective is that asking where the Gospel is is largely a constructive endeavor while asking, "how does this contradict my worldview" is largely a destructive endeavor.
So what is my position?
I think that any one of these perspectives is open to some dangers, which leads me to my own perspective which I'll call, "What is the point?" My own view is that Christians must take into account audience, gospel and holiness when talking about any movie. Taking into account those three things should lead us to ask the overarching question, "What is the point of me watching this movie?"
We need to gauge who the intended audience is. A film discussing adult themes in realistic ways is not intended for children. We should not expect a movie talking about sexually explicit themes to talk about them in a PG or even PG-13 way. Further, movies that are attempting to depict realistic violence are not intended for younger audience.
This seems overly obvious but it is important to say. Much Christian culture evaluates all movies using a line that says, "This movie doesn't line up with my G or PG" standards. It may not. But an R rated film is also able to explore to a great level things that adults really do encounter. We must take note who the audience is.
This point really has two elements to it. If every human heart was designed for relationship with God, then we should expect that many movies will echo that longing in some way. We should also expect that without the illumination of the Holy Spirit, many directors will provide the wrong solution to that yearning. Therefore, when looking at any movie we need to ask:
- 1) Where do we see a Gospel-driven yearning? Where can we connect this back to God's big story of redemption?
- 2) Where does this movie provide the wrong answer and where can we, as Christians, provide the right one?
Finally, we as Christians need to ask if a movie we are watching will aid us in holiness and help us think thoughts that are glorifying to God. For instance, Paul lays down a fairly clear instruction regarding the life of the mind in Philippians 4:8 when he writes,
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (NIV)
Unlike some movie viewers, I think that there are some films that are simply off-limits to Christians. The idea that we are called to redeem every part of culture, while sounding good, can often lead to blatant disregard for what God has called us to do. Kevin DeYoung, in his book The Hole in Our Holiness, writes
"God doesn't ask us to get familiar with sexual immorality on the big screen, TV screen or smart phone screen so that we can engage the culture. He commands us to get away."
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 is a clear warning against sexual immorality. Paul's command in verse 18 is particularly important: "Flee from sexual immorality."
I highlight this issue because sexual immorality is so prevalent and destructive and it is portrayed so realistically in movies and TV, that we need to exercise real discernment in what we watch. We need to flee from movies that are dominated by sex. We need to flee from TV shows that are dominated by sex. This is one of the reasons why I skipped the movie The Wolf of Wall Street. Even though it was critically acclaimed, it was also saturated in sex.
It doesn't really matter if we can connect it to the gospel. It doesn't matter if we can use it to engage culture. We need to flee!
The Big Question: "What is the point?"
All of this leads to the big question, "What is the point?" In other words we need to ask, "Why am I watching what I am watching?" Is it going to harm you? Is it going to advance the kingdom? Is it going to help me engage in culture in a way that is glorifying to God? Is the content something that I am clearly told to flee from?
If the answer is no, then by all means go watch it! Watch and ask where we see the gospel! Delight in the beauty of movies and the story they tell!
If the answer is yes, however, strongly consider skipping. The life of the mind is too important to jeopardize for a movie.