Ask R.C. Jr.

Ask RC: Should Christians watch R-rated movies?

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Posted in Ask R.C. Jr. under Personal Growth, Sanctification tagged in: ,

Not long ago a friend tiptoed into a careful political assessment. Afraid it might sound something like, “Well, at least Hitler made the trains run on time,” he suggested, “Napoleon wasn’t all that bad.” I suggested that quite apart from the aggressive military conquests (which one ought, if one believes in just war, to reject) there is the Napoleonic code. Common law, our older tradition, like biblical law, is based on the right application of wisdom. Napoleon tried a different tack- he wanted to codify everything. He wanted law to be a machine, or algebra. But law is a relationship, a dance.

While we are sometimes surprised at the level of detail God is willing to delve into in the Bible, the broader reality is that He gives us broader realities. If, for instance, we define “murder” too narrowly, to only include premeditated homicide, we will miss out on unjust anger at our brother. As you recall, Jesus told us to not define our terms so narrowly. TheWestminsterdivines, in turn, remind us that we not only must believe all that the Bible says, but all that flows from what the Bible says by necessary consequence. If your neighbor is assaulted by your loose pig, you cannot escape your guilt by pointing out the Bible only talks about bulls on the loose.

The trouble, of course, is determining what is a necessary consequence and what is not. I was told in an interview once that I had been accused of legalism because of my conviction that it is a sin to send your children to government schools. The reporter wanted my response. I said, “Well, if I’m wrong, then I am a legalist, adding to God’s law. If my accuser is wrong, however, he is an antinomian, diminishing God’s law. It would be better to address the question than to call names.”

The Bible does not say that it is a sin to watch R-rated movies. The Bible does, however, say that to lust in our hearts is to commit adultery. It says to flee temptation. It says to think on these things, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable (Philippians 4:8). Will watching an R-rated movie lead you toward temptation, or will it encourage you think on whatever is lovely?

Our calling is to answer that question honestly, on our own. That is, we don’t start with the premise, “I like to watch R-rated movies. How can I construct the question so that I can keep on doing so?” And, we don’t spend our energies trying to get our brothers and sisters in Christ to answer this question exactly as we do. If you think not, then don’t. If you honestly think so, go ahead. In neither case, however, should you look down your nose at your brothers who think otherwise. Those who won’t watch such movies are not necessarily too uptight. Those who do watch such movies are not necessarily too loose. Those who do one or the other, and disdain their brothers who do otherwise have a bigger problem to deal with than movies.

One more caveat. My counsel here is for those who are in a position to make these decisions. If your church forbids you to watch these movies, don’t. If your parents instruct you not to, obey them. One thing we know for sure- God doesn’t require us to watch R-rated movies.

Okay, last caveat. Don’t let the makers of media that you’re wrestling over determine for you the nature of their product. That is, remember the people who make the movies are the ones who rate them. I would far rather have my children watch Braveheart, which is rated R than Ferngully, which was rated G. The former had brief nudity, a great deal of violence, and godly men seeking to live honorable lives. The latter had cute, little, cartoon animals, no violence, and a subtle, evil, earth-worshipping agenda. The devil, after all, is more cunning than any of the beasts of the field.