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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

What is wrong with a Christian attending the Cinema or the Theatre?

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away, Proverbs 4:14,15.

When recently registering by phone with a company I was asked to select a security question. The first suggestion made by the telephone operator was: what was the first film I had ever seen at the cinema? I had to tell her that I have never been in a cinema in my life and therefore needed a different question.

This made me stop and rethink: what is wrong with a Christian going to the Cinema or the Theatre?

At our ministers' week of prayer in January past one of the men when preaching lamented that in days past when someone came to know Christ as Saviour there was never an issue about whether it was right or wrong to go to places like the cinema. Converts knew a Christian should not be found in such places.

One of the questions that Free Presbyterian ministers are asked at their ordination or installation to affirm is:
Will you publicly denounce the great public vices of drinking, dancing, gambling and the pleasure crazes of this present evil world and by example live righteously, soberly and godly before all men?

Attending the cinema falls into the category of the 'pleasure crazes of this present evil world'. Yet sadly today more and more professing Christians see nothing wrong with going to the cinema.

Here is an outline of what is wrong with a Christian attending the Cinema or the Theatre.

I. It is wrong because of the concept.
The Cinema/Theatre is a place of worldly entertainment. That is why it exists and that is how it is advertised. It is a place to be amused and entertained by the ways, habits and practices of the world.

Is it right for a Christian to seek entertainment? Is it right to seek entertainment in what is a pleasure craze of the world?

Surely it is not. The Christian finds all their joys in Christ and in Christ alone. The Saviour is not to satisfy only part of the deepest longings of the human soul and not others. Christ is all that a Believer wants or needs. As Charles Wesley said in his hymn: Jesus, Lover of my soul:
Thou, O Christ, art all I want
More than all in Thee I find

Christ is found in the means of grace and not in a cinema or theatre! Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them, Proverbs 24:1.

II. It is wrong because of the company.
The Cinema/Theatre is a place where the ungodly resort. Like the pub, club, discotheque or dance hall, it is a place which attracts a certain type of people. The world love their own company. The unconverted would hardly be attending the cinema/theatre in their droves if it was anything else.

That is hardly surprising. What is surprising is that a Christian would want to be among this type of company.

The Christian is to be separate from the world. We may be in the world but we are not of the world as to its spirit. What does it say about a Christian who feels at home among the unconverted as they go about seeking their pleasures?

III. It is wrong because of the content.
There is hardly a film produced today that is not objectionable in some way. Whether it is bad language, immorality, anti-scriptural views of the family, or extolling the liberties of sin it would be difficult to find a film that is watchable.

The Word of God instructs us what we are to set before us:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things, Phil 4:8
.

It also warns about the harm that is done when setting sin before our eyes:
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners, 1 Corinthians 15:33.

The Psalmist made a covenant with his eyes to set no wicked thing before them:
I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes…, Ps 101:3.

May the professing Church return to the old paths, wherein is the good way. Let our prayer be that of Jeremiah: renew our days as of old.

75 comments:

Stephen Collins said...

I whole heartedly agree with you Rev McClung
When I was saved in 1986 The Lord took away my desire to go to the cinema and the dance hall. If it is okay for a Christian to go to these places why would the desire have been taken from me?
Stephen Collins

Rev Brian McClung said...

Stephen

I apologise for not putting this comment up sooner. I thought I had, so I am very sorry for the delay.

Thank you for your support and you make a very valid point. When someone is converted old things pass away and all things become new, 2 Cor 5:21.

The Lord bless

Rev Brian McClung

Gerry said...

you said One of the questions that Free Presbyterian ministers are asked at their ordination or installation to affirm is:
Will you publicly denounce the great public vices of drinking, dancing, gambling and the pleasure crazes of this present evil world and by example live righteously, soberly and godly before all men? Would buying luxury cars come into that pleasure crazes of this present evil world. As in the buying of a plain ordinary car is a necessity but a luxury car is an indulgence.

I could not help but notice the type of car on which the loud speakers were mounted on your photograph of an out door outreach. would an ordinary Ford or Vauxhall not have sufficed there, after all how could one have a car like that if one sold all that they had, given the money to the poor and taken up the cross, the reward being in heaven as Jesus said when being asked what was needed to be done to inherit ever lasting life

And how can a Free Presbyterian Minister live righteously when the bible says there is non Righteous No not one Romans 3:10 (King James Version)**

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

** I note you say at start of Blog webpage that bible quotations are from the Authorized version, Have you noticed that BibleGateway.com does not list the Authorized Version, so hopefully you will accept the good old faithful reliable KJV

regards

Gerry

Gerry said...

Rev Brian Mc clung said "Thank you for your support and you make a very valid point. When someone is converted old things pass away and all things become new, 2 Cor 5:21. "

thats not 2 Cor 5:21. That verse reads For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Gerry

1. The car is not mine. Even if it was, I don't see the problem.

2. As to living righteously I think you should read before you write. Specifically read Titus 2:11-14. You will find that the world 'righteously' appears in v12:
For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,
Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

There is a considerable difference between 'none being righteous' - a reference to our natural state before God and 'living righteously' - the requirement for holiness in the life of a born again believer. Justification is always accompanied with sanctification.

3. I fail to understand your point about the Authorised Version & the KJV. They are both the same. Although the American KJV does change some words from the English version.

I just prefer to call it the 'Authorised Version'.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Gerry

That should read 2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

In using Blogger I don't have the facility to edit comments after they are posted.

If a mistake is made it has to stand or else delete the whole comment entirely or post another comment pointing out the mistake and correcting it.

Brian McClung

Andrew Mc said...

The non attendance of the cinema by some Christians has always been a puzzle in my mind. I was hoping that stumbling across this blog would enlighten me, but in all honesty I'm a little more confused than before.

As you state cinema and theatre are pleasure crazes of this modern world and therefore justifying or absence from such places. Is every craze of the modern world then opposed by Free Presbyterians?
For example; playing Golf, riding a bicycle, using the internet, go-kart racing, ten pin bowling.
These are all places frequented by many unconverted as well so a similar argument can be used as applied to cinema going.
The content of the film is a valid point I feel, however most non cinema attenders have TV sets, so this issue obviously is not foremost in their mind.
So in essence what is distinguishable between watching film with family content at the cinema and bowling in Dundonald on a Saturday afternoon?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew Mc

Every craze is to be opposed if it is a 'pleasure craze'.

However, it is vitally important to distinguish between what is a pleasure craze and what is recreation.

Recreation is that which fits the mind and the body for service to Christ. A pleasure craze is that which indulges the carnal appetites of our sinful nature.

Brian McClung

Anonymous said...

So applying this logic means that "using the internet, go-kart racing, ten pin bowling" do not constitute "that which fits the mind and the body for service to Christ", thus should not be indulged.

I find the banality of this argument annoying, particularly considering that your church once decried the political arrangements of 1998, and now sit in power happily with murderers in Stormont. Your leaders have also twisted what the bible says concerning separation and forgiveness to suit their own agenda.

Put this right or at least address it, and perhaps we'll listen to your arguments against the cinema.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Anonymous

Firstly, your words might carry a little more weight if you had any courage to your convictions and put your name to what you have to say.

It seems however I have touched a bit of a raw nerve!

Secondly, to answer your points:
1. Applying what logic exactly? Mine, yours or someone else's?

2. Anything that does not fit the body and the mind to serve God in this world is not an appropriate use of a Christian's time. This is not my logic but the teaching of Scripture.

I have pointed out before and I will do so again there is a considerable difference between entertainment and recreation. Maybe if you made this simple distinction you would understand the point a little better.

3. I fail to see the parallel between the point in question and Stormont. No one I have voted for is sharing power with murderers in Stormont. My opposition to murderers in government is known to anyone who cares to read the posts on this blog.

4. Maybe you could outline what has been 'twisted concerning separation and forgiveness to suit someone's own agenda' and by whom exactly and what you mean by 'putting it right' or 'addressing it'.

When you do I will be in better position to respond

Brian McClung

Andrew Mc said...

Thank you for your reply. So you destinguish between pleasure crazes and recreational activity.

I would be interested if you could elaborate a little more.

For eg how watching a film at home is constituted as acceptable (I presume you say this would be recreational) however to watch that very same film in the cinema across the road is feeding the carnal mind (I presume this is referred to as a pleasure craze).

I am confused about who decides what is a pleasure craze and what is recreational.
What advise could you give to a Christian about making this destinction

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew Mc

The problem is not with watching a film per se. There are many kinds of films that are beneficial, such as historical, biographical and topical.

The problem is with the concept, the company and the content of films watched in a cinema. You have jumped over the first two issues to the last one.

The first two issues alone should teach a Christian to avoid the cinema. We are to be separate from the world and avoid all appearance of evil.

Neither should they be setting any wicked thing before their eyes, Ps 101:3 I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

I would hazard a guess that very few if any films shown today in the cinema do not contain bad language, immortality, innuendo, attacks upon the Biblical concept of the family.

How can any Christian sit and watch these things? How can watching or listening to these types of things benefit the body and mind of a Christian and fit them to serve Christ?

Brian McClung

Andrew Mc said...

Sorry for the delay in coming back to you.

I want to just get a little more clarity on a few points. I'm certainly not trying to be controversial or to prove my point. I'm simply trying to get a feeling of how you reach a decision.

So there are 2 key issues

1 CONTENT OF THE FILM. I accept the content of what we watch is paramount to any debate over cinema attendance. However I think you would be hard pressed to disagree that if you watch film (ABC123) at home and find its content acceptable, then in no way can the content of film (ABC123) be offensive whilst watched at the cinema.

2. THE COMPANY Of course the company we keep is a valid argument also, however bearing in mind that while at the cinema there is little or no communication with any other people it is probably not a place were any negative influence would be imposed. However we justify being in public places, like sports, bowling, 12th celebration where influences which are arguably significantly more negative than the cinema take place.

Surely if the argument is the company then we has Christians must withdraw ourselves from all such company no matter where it is.

Surely if the argument is about the content, then it should be about what we watch and not where we watch it.

To let you know where I'm coming from, I actually have some difficulties with having a TV in the home, however see cinema attendance as much easier controlled, policed and regulated and less likely to be a stumbling block to peoples walk with God than a TV

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew Mc

I highlighted three key points on this issue. The first and most important being the concept of attending the cinema. It is a place of worldly entertainment. That is how it is marketed. The Christian should not need to the world's entertainment at any time. Christ is more than all they need to satisfy the innermost longings of their souls.

For a Christian to be there, never mind who they are with and what is been shown, is tantamount to saying that the things of God/Christ do not completely satisfy, I need something more. I for one find that totally unscriptural.

Is wasting time following the world's tinsel a proper use of our time when keeping in mind that we will one day answer before God for our time? After all we are commanded to redeem the time.

On the issue of content it is correct to say that there is nothing wrong with watching a film per se. There are Christian films made about a whole host of topics. That which is deemed watchable at home should be watchable anywhere.

How many films shown in cinemas today contain bad language, immorality, sexual innuendo, immodesty, subtle, and not so subtle, attacks upon the Bible, the person of Christ, the concept of the family as defined by the Bible, fatherhood, etc?

Is a Christian who attends the cinema prepared to sit through these. I don't find them researching the content of films beforehand. It would be impossible to do so.

I am reminded of the comments of Romans 1:32 in reference to those who take pleasure in those who commit the gross sins previously highlighted. Much of the secular film content of today is full of the sins highlighted in Romans ch 1. What does that say about the people who take pleasure in watching these sinful things?

With respect to the company surely if the cinema as a place of entertainment attracts the ungodly it is no place for the believer. In that it is no different to the pub, club, disco, dance hall, etc. You can measure the uprightness of any form of activity by the character of those who it attracts to engage in it.

There are times when it is impossible for the Christian to live apart from the world. However we are not to unnecessarily place ourselves in such company, Ps 1:1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

For that very reason I seldom attend a Twelfth demonstration. In the last ten years I maybe have been at one and came home saddened and grieved at the decline in Biblical Protestantism.

Rev Brian McClung

Andrew Mc said...

Once again, has been a while since I was here, thanks for taking the time to respond.
I think in essence we are in danger of repeating the same debate, but I think the summary is that choosing which places are acceptable and which are not is mostly about personal opinion rather than scriptural authority.
- You decide that a cinema is an attraction of the world that attracts the ungodly, however I know in reality that the company in these places is not as negative as bowling in the Odyssey or attending a Band Parade. The issue I have with people opposoing the cinema I feel it is a bit of a hobby horse from the old days, you have admitted that you have some issues with 12th July etc, but there are no blogs or sermons or ordination oaths regarding this. Why is this? If we apply your logic there is such a list of events and venues we could exclude. Why is the cinema listed, why not the band parades and the football matches.
I still feel if you reflect on some of your arguements you may see the fine line that is being trodden in some aspects, eg, cinema attendance indicates that God does not satisfy, yet Free P minsters going to the mainland on Saturdays for the League Football Games is boasted about on Facebook. Are they chasing the tinsel of the world? If attending attractions of the world are an indication of how much God satisfies, are they demonstrating lake of satisfaction in God. (I trust you understand I use this as terms of illustration and not a serious accusation)
I have only ever been to about 4 football matches in my life, one of which was in England and I can assure you that the choice for me every time (providing the content is suitable, which I admit is extremely difficult, but not impossible)is an evening at the cinema.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Andrew Mc

Where we go is never about personal choice. Nothing in a Christian's life is about ever a personal choice. Everything in life for a believer is about the will of God and obedience to that will in each one of our lives. It is the Scriptures alone that govern those choices.

It is not me but the Word of God that commands us to: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him, 1 John 2:15.

This is not referring to the physical world but the sinful, anti-God, anti-christian spirit that is ever abroad in the world in every generation and certainly so today.

You are also wrong on the point about opposing drinking. Free Presbyterian ministers do promise at their ordination to: "denounce the great public vices of drinking, dancing, gambling and the pleasure crazes of this present evil world and by example live righteously, soberly and godly before all men." We have preached against these things. You will find links, either articles or sermons, on this blog to these issues.

Whatever others do, that is no reason to lessen the standards of separation from the world. They are not our guide. I certainly wouldn't be attending a football match and I don't think any Christian should. The points you raise about them are entirely valid.

It is no surprise, although it is deeply saddening, that as worldliness is rife in the church, the church has lost its influence on the world. I believe it was one of the Puritans who said: "I looked for the Church and found it in the world: I looked for the world and found it in the Church."

It is separation from the world that gives the Church her 'cutting edge'. Lose that and we become as Samson, 'like any other man'. Sadly that is what is happening today!

If believers who knew the blessing of God in the past could see that closeness to the world, in things like cinema/theatre going, was harmful to a Christian's walk with God and separation from the world; and the atmosphere and content of these places have certainly not improved with the passing years then I am happy to side with them as being more aware of the harm that these things do than modern opinion.

Here is a link to a number of articles on the Theatre/Cinema: http://www.covenanter.org/Practical/Theatre/theatre.htm

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

When I went to the cinema to see The Dark Knight Rises, twice, because its gospel themes resonated with me so deeply (the hero taking all the blame on himself, being beaten and thrown into the deepest pit, rising out of the darkness and winning victory for his condemned people), and then again to Les Miserables, twice, because its gospel themes resonated with me so deeply (wretched sinner, thief, vagabond steals from the one who shows him kindness and instead of being punished, he is exonerated and vindicated, and loved by his master, etc. etc., it is too rich in law and grace to go on within parenthesis), I had no idea I was committing such gross sin. Thank you for opening my eyes to the law around the law!

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

I would have grave doubts whether any film, based on pure fiction which is produced, directed and acted in by the ungodly could ever have gospel themes that resonate with a Christian. As the Scripture asks: .

The Bible commands us to live by the principle outlined in .

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

The films resonate with deep truths about Christ to Christians because we love Him. The films have such impact on people in general because the themes and contours we find repeated in all stories are echoes of the Great Story of the One on whom all of reality has been founded.

Why are we so moved at a hero's triumph through adversity? at a protagonist's self-sacrifice? Why is it such a satisfying resolution when the hero dispatches his enemies and is united with his bride at the finale? Why is it that the age-old dramatic structure of exposition, conflict and resolution (cf. creation, fall, redemption and consummation) is what we expect our stories to follow? Even the films and stories that buck this trend seem odd to us simply because they have departed from this formula.

Even though undoubtedly the unsaved people making those films did not intend to point us to the LORD Jesus Christ, what's to stop us plundering Egypt? Not because we're into "making Christianity relevant" but because the world must be made relevant to Jesus and His Father's agenda? Why not take every thought captive to Christ? Pressing even *Hollywood* into the obedient service of Jesus sounds like something both Moses and Paul would take great delight in doing, no? Surely better than always fleeing in fear that our "holiness" might be tainted by the world (in which case, is our "holiness" even worth mentioning)?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

The themes you highlight are more in keeping with false religion than Bible religion. The films of the world exalt the creature not the Redeemer! As the renown John Trapp once said: 'Pleasure, profit and preferment are the worldling's trinity'.

The traits you highlight are those which cause the sinner to think that they can live without God and that they don't need Christ. The world would not be interested in watching or listening to that which highlights that by nature we are rotten sinners through and through, who are unable to do any good before a holy God and are destined for eternal wrath.

It is very telling that you should use the term 'Egypt' in association with attending the cinema. Instead of 'plundering Egypt' as you suggest we are commanded to 'forsake Egypt', as Moses did, Heb 11:24-28. Egypt is the place where the pleasures of sin are enjoyed for a season. No Bible believing Christian would ever want to be anywhere near that which has the characteristics of Egypt about it. A 'place where the pleasures of sin are enjoyed for a season' is a very apt description for the cinema or the theatre.

The world will never be 'made relevant to Jesus and His Father's agenda'. The world is and will always be opposed to Christ. That is why we are commanded not to love the world, neither the things that are in the world…, 1 John 2:15. The world presently wars against God and Christ and will always do so until Christ comes and destroys the system of this world and reigns in righteousness.

The basis idea of 'holiness' is 'separation'. The word 'holy' in the Old Testament comes from the verb 'to set apart'. This was a principle repeatedly taught and illustrated by the Lord in His Word in O.T. times. Holiness tainted by the world is not holiness at all and is not worth having. Again often illustrated in the Bible.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

Thanks for your response. I agree that the vast majority of filmmakers' intention is to exalt the creature rather than Christ. The overarching philosophy of most Walt Disney films, to pick a random example, is profoundly evil ("believe in yourself"; "find the hero within you") despite its seeming innocuousness. And we as followers of Jesus can highlight the poison of such teaching.

But although these films work against the gospel of Christ (much more than some films that have swear words in them), we can also highlight that, without knowing it, the filmmakers have tied themselves to a dramatic structure etc. that follows the foundational Story of all reality. The hero (Hercules, Aladdin, Pinocchio, Prince Charming, whoever) in some ways reminds us of Christ the True Hero, triumphing through adversity, judging the wicked, winning His Bride, etc. etc. "The hero we're looking in all the wrong places for ... let me point you beyond these faint echoes to the Real Jesus of the Scriptures who's so much better ..."

I spoke of plundering Egypt because that's what the LORD commanded Moses and the ancient Church to do in Ex 3:22 and what they did in Ex 12:36. They used the spoils to proclaim the gospel so clearly set out in the Tabernacle.

You are right that the world is opposed to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is at enmity with Them. Its obsessions and agendas are set against Christ. We are all sinners through and through. This is a vital part of the message of the Scriptures and must be proclaimed with vigour.

But we dare not stop there as if that's the big message we need to get out to a world that doesn't want to hear it. There are plenty of films that show wicked people getting their just deserts. TV screens are full of ads and TV programmes telling us we don't measure up, we need to improve, we're lacking in such-and-such a department, if only we buy this product or have this experience or perform these exercises life will be better, we'll be improved ... The world laps that up!

True, it's not the LORD's judgment of the human race - His is much deeper - but we mustn't kid ourselves that the world hates being confronted with talk of judgment and condemnation or being told to repent ... Many people in the pews prefer an angry gospel to the gospel of salvation through judgment ... the gospel of Christ on the Cross. Often it's the grace and love of God in Christ that sinners most despise. Doesn't Paul say the Cross is foolishness to sinners? If the main emphasis of our ministry is judgment all the time ... if that's what the world associates us with ... then we must stop tickling their ears!

Yes, "holiness" means being "set apart", being different ... but Christ is the Holy One *in our midst* (Isaiah 12:6; Ezekiel 39:7) ... That's the expression of His holiness. Not that the Set-Apart-One stands apart from sinners but that He stands in solidarity with them, tabernacling among them to seek and save them.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

There are fundamental flaws in what you say:

1. These types of story lines that you highlight are not accurate portrayals of the Gospel. Invariably, where there is a 'hero', he/she is flawed in some way. There is invariably an overlooking of these failings for the greater good. This is not a faithful representation of the Gospel. It is nowhere near it!

2. God only blesses the ordained 'Means of Grace' as the way whereby we present the gospel effectively to sinners. Without His blessing any presentation of the Gospel will accomplish nothing. The only means that God blesses are those ordained by Him in His Word. Drama/film/theatre do not have the sanction of God and therefore are not acceptable means of presenting the Gospel to anyone. This is why Bible religion opposes Drama in worship. The chief means that God employs is 'preaching'.

3. A presentation of the Gospel that lacks or reduces the proper emphasis upon the wrath of God towards sin produces professions of faith that lack repentance. This is the blight of modern day professing Christianity.

It is the sinner's condemnation before the law of God that produces, first, conviction of sin and then, secondly, repentance from sin. This is what is sadly lacking in much so-called gospel preaching today. Before a sinner can be made to desire Christ, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, they must be first taught why they need Christ. Their 'need' is not some 'lack' in their life of fulfilment which Christ will supply if the sinner but turns and seeks Him [This is the gospel of easy-believism]. Rather the fact is that the sinner is condemned before God and under His wrath.

One of these presentations of the gospel leads to empty professions, the other leads to genuine repentance and true conversion.

The natural heart will most gladly receive a gospel that doesn't highlight God's judgement and the need of repentance. The unconverted will more readily embrace a gospel which permits them to have the world, and its places of entertainment like the cinema, while maintaining a profession of Jesus Christ.

However, the world just mocks at the Christian who seeks to mix the world and following Christ. Just as the sons in law of Lot did when he came to them to warn of the coming judgment of God upon Sodom. Lot had tolerated the sins of Sodom and lived alongside them and now he was warning people of the end of sin. It was little wonder his sons in law mocked him. The life had contradicted his words.

If sin is such a serious thing that it will bring the judgment of God upon it then Christians need to live that reality out in their lives every day. That reality requires separation from the world in all its forms.

4. Christ never presents Himself among a worldly people. When Israel departed from the Lord and commenced to live as the nations of Canaan did, the Lord left them. The Lord's command to us is: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy, 1 Peter 1:15,16.

Worldliness is, I believe, the greatest problem facing the professing Church today. Its robs a Church and Christians of their power. In times of revival one of the issues addressed was separation from the world and a putting away of practices that had crept in which were not honouring to God and in keeping with His Word.

It has been the view of historic Bible religion that attendance at the cinema/theatre is an expression of that spirit of worldliness.

Brian McClung

George Quin said...

As someone who has never attended a cinema, I could not agree with Reverend McClung more. Even the thought of sitting anywhere near a heathen who would indulge in the sadistic pleasures of films such as the Princess Diaries, Madagascar or The Nativity 2 makes me feel physically sick.

And as for the rating system, I think the decision to give “Wreck it Ralph” a PG certificate is a DISGRACE. Back in the 60’s it would probably not have even been cleared, let alone be given an 18 rating.

I think as Christians our pleasure should come from sitting in a darkened room in silence. Mind you, even that bares a striking resemblance to attending the cinema.

meneksh said...

Thanks again for your response.

Some thoughts on each of your points, if I may:

1. I suppose my question was, Why do we love a good story, especially a good love story? Why do these stories resonate not only with believers but also with countless multitudes down the ages?

The ancient Greek myths and legends, the classic fables and fairy tales, the tragedies, comedies, adventures, romances ... Why do these hold such power over humanity?

Why do the stories we love always follow the same basic pattern?

Isn't it because they are all versions of the Great Story, the Divine Romance of which Solomon spoke in the Song of Songs? Isn't that, deep down, what moves me to tears when watching faint echoes of Christ's story, however flawed or altered, played out even on a cinema screen? I'm certainly conscious of weeping precisely *because* such-and-such a character reminds me, however imperfectly, of my Saviour? Is this something I should be ashamed of?

Or is that Story just one of countless others and the fact that there are basic similarities probably just a big, boring coincidence?

Is the gospel just a rip off of more ancient, foundational myths? "The NT writers stole from ancient Greek mythology" ... "Moses' creation account was copied from the Enûma Eliš", etc. This is the kind of thing we hear in historical–critical readings of Scripture, no?

Is it not rather because Christ is the Logos who drives all reality? Isn't it because "Christ for us" is the underlying explanation and reason for life, the universe and everything?

And surely if stories of "flawed heroes" cannot in any way be even echoes of the gospel, oughtn't we to be stamping out the practice of preaching certain characters in Scripture -- all flawed -- as "types" of Christ?

2. I am all in favour of preaching as the primary ordained "means of grace" for proclaiming Christ to sinners. But Calvin, who also believed this, was not averse to speaking of creation as "the theatre of God's glory", where the glory of the Triune God is always on display. Perhaps you would say he was ill-advised to speak in those terms?

Great Christians, such as the Puritan John Bradford and the American theologian Jonathan Edwards, were fond of allowing creation to teach them gospel truths -- not general truths about "a higher power" but specific gospel truths about Christ. And not as alternatives to preaching but extensions of it.

David in Psalm 19 throws a few out for us to consider, and Apostle Paul in Romans 1 and 10 believes that this is what creation was designed to do -- preach Christ. Paul in Acts 17 was happy to press even pagan philosophy -- teachings which, unlike the sermon of creation, were *opposed* to the living God -- into the service of Christ.

And if "biblical religion" is opposed to Drama in worship (not that I'm in any way interested in introducing Drama into church services or suggesting it as an alternative to preaching), what is going on in the rituals and sacrifices of the ancient Law of Moses? Are priests and dead animals *actually* taking away sins ... or are these men in costumes play-acting the role of Someone Else, representing, standing in for, the One who can and will actually remove sin? Aren't they God-ordained performers in a God-ordained production, at least in some way?

meneksh said...

3. If Scripture speaks of the wrath of the Lamb, then let us not ignore His anger at our sin. Let us preach the dangers of sinking sand. Let us confront sinners with the Law of God that condemns them. But let's be sure that Christ is the content of both Law and Gospel. Let's not merely injure sinners with the Law but let Jesus put us to death ... and make us alive in Himself.

Let's not misdiagnose our condition or create a wrong impression that sin is only a matter of external behaviour or moral code. The Pharisees saw sin in this way and were therefore very big on judgment and condemnation because as long as they steered clear of certain behaviours and adopted others they could go to town pointing out everyone else's "sins". (As I said before, the world loves judgment and condemnation.) But Christ defines what sin is (John 15:22,24; 16:9).

And Christ also defines what the gospel is (Romans 1:1,4). He *Himself* is our Salvation. If He is offered to desperate men and women there can be no such thing as impenitent faith or faithless repentance.

Christ is everything. Let us make sure that He is not clouded or obscured by a salvation that can *seem* to be conditional upon the commission or omission of certain acts (such as circumcision; or not eating certain kinds of meat; or not socialising with certain kinds of people; or avoiding the interior of a cinema).

Let's be sure our ministry is not marked by "gospel, yes, sure ... BUT the meat of my message, what I really want to spend most time talking about, is Law, Judgment, Condemnation, Wrath and Damnation" syndrome -- which is really not gospel ministry at all.

Let's ensure our emphases do not produce the mistaken assumption on the part of our listeners that we urge Christ *merely* because He saves from the great condition of "worldliness". Rather, do we not offer Christ to those around us simply because *to know Him* is salvation ... and He is altogether lovely.

4. Christ is the One numbered among the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). He is the Friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). He is Good and Upright *because* He instructs sinners in His way (Psalm 25:8). He is the Holy One not because He keeps His distance, but *as He is in the midst* of unworthy people (Isaiah 12:6).

And yes, He withdraws from His people (Ezekiel 8–10), and hides Himself in the darkness ... But not because He loves to torture and condemn, but to make us thirst in His absence, to make us long for Him. (His alien work, as Luther said, is to judge and damn; His proper work is to restore and redeem [Isaiah 28:21].)

What is our holiness like? Like the LORD's, to whom all the flagrant sinners gravitated towards ... or like the Pharisees', who kept away from the "ungodly", "sinners" and "scornful" (Psalm 1) ... not recognising that these were descriptions of *them* ... and not recognising the Blessed Man either?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


The 'ancient Greek myths and legends, the classic fables and fairy tales, the tragedies, comedies, adventures, romances…' have no parallel with the Gospel. That is easily seen in the reaction of the Greeks to the preaching of the Gospel. It was 'foolishness' to them. They didn't equate it with their myths and legends. They saw no parallel.

The difference between these types in Scriptures is that the Old Testament characters were real and the circumstances of their lives that set forth Christ in shadow were ordained of God. The characters in films do not match these two points. Furthermore the Scriptures are now complete. We don't need 'representations of Christ' outside of the Bible.

The creation does not preach 'Christ' as you claim. If it did there would be no need for the Scriptures. Creations teaches the glory of God. That is the contrast that David sets down in Psalm 19. Verse 1-6 deal with natural revelation; vv7-14 with special revelation.

Your comments about the Old Testament system of worship, I feel, are irreverent. We live in the NT age and the means appointed by God for today in His Word do not include drama. Romanism which rejects the Bible as the final arbiter of faith and practice rejects this with its 'drama' of the mass. But no Bible believer should do so.

Those whom Christ saves He makes holy. Justification and sanctification always go together. A person who is saved is a new creature. If there are no signs of sanctification in a life there is no justification in that life. Christ saves sinners to make them like Himself: For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens, Hebrews 7:26. Hence, His command in 1 John 2:15: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.


Brian McClung

meneksh said...

Thanks again, I am grateful that you have taken the time to reply to me.

Please forgive me if I haven't expressed myself clearly.

• Just because pagan cultures saw no parallel between their stories of gods walking the earth, dying and rising, it doesn't mean there's no connection.

Aren't all the unregenerate "blind" to the truth?

My point was twofold:

1. The common claim is Christians stole their story from ancient pagan myths and legends. I contend that the pagans got that from the ancient Church.

The gospel hope that gripped the antediluvian Christians -- that God would walk the earth as one of us, encounter adversity and death, yet triumph through that adversity over His enemy -- is as old as the hills ... at least as old as Genesis 3:15.

Nations and cultures that came in contact with early OT believers may have imbibed and adapted their gospel hope into their own systems of thought. All stories derive from THE Story.

2. On the level of "worldview" or "overarching framework", the philosophy that these myths propagate, because they do not have Christ as origin, goal or centre, are incompatible with the gospel.

Yet material within these frameworks can be used to present the Christ from whom they were originally stolen. Taken captive to Him. Employed in the service of the gospel.

Surely expanding people's vision to see that Jesus is bigger than we can ever imagine is a good thing?

Isn't it at all profitable to point out that ancient myths and legends, modern stories and films which grip our minds and hearts are only pale imitations of the One who can really grip our minds and hearts, satisfying us forever?

After all, if everything *He* said and did were written down, the world wouldn't be big enough to house the volumes ...

Don't you see any legitimacy in this? Even a little?

• If we "don't need 'representations of Christ' outside of the Bible", then is any remark I make to someone else about a "Christlike" action or person superfluous or even sinful ... unless it actually happened?

Can it not count in any way as evangelism/profitable conversation?

But how can I be sure that some of the stories used by ministers in the pulpit actually happened?

You might say, "Ah, but stories and personal experiences recounted in the pulpit are not 'representations of Christ'."

If a story about a "good deed" or a "faithful witness" is not in some sense a "representation/imitation of Christ" then it's just moralism and exaltation of man.

Perhaps then you could discourage extra-biblical stories being told in the pulpit/children's meetings?

meneksh said...

• You say "Creation doesn't preach Christ", it only preaches "the glory of God".

Isn't the Glory of God bound up with the Person of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6)?

Could we not even say that it's one of His titles (Ezekiel 8:4; 9:3; 10:19; 11:22; 43:2)?

Does God have some other glory outside of Christ?

Is "glory of God" just a general term meaning "God's power and majesty"?

If God's glory presented in creation is no more specific than that, might not God just be Allah?

Is God's "power" just the same as that of any other unitarian all-powerful being, or is it something more specific and decidedly different (Romans 1:16)?

If creation's not preaching Christ, how can we speak in any sense of a revelation of God in creation, "general" or otherwise, given that Christ is *THE* Revelation of God?

If creation's preaching a Christless god, isn't creation inherently evil and not "very good"?

Is "general revelation" heretical?

If the "glory of God" preached by creation says nothing about Jesus the Spirit-anointed Son of the Father, or about His saving work, how can anyone with a general belief in a "higher power" or "omniscient all powerful being" be "without excuse" (Romans 1:20)?

Surely Muslims, JWs, Jews, Mormons, Greek philosophers or Satanists have listened to the message of creation obediently if that's all it's saying?

If "general revelation" is Christless, doesn't that *provide* them with an excuse?

Are "general" and "special" revelation opposed?

Is David mixed up when he draws gospel truths from the sun, which is like a Bridegroom coming out of His chamber, a Strong Man running a race?

Surely the sun's rising from the ground to banish the darkness is a glorious gospel picture of the True Light of the world, who in His course from *east to west* shows the Way to the people in darkness, exiled *east* of Eden, back to the Presence of the living God?

meneksh said...

• I am sorry that you found my comments about the Old Testament system of worship irreverent. My choice of language was intended as an attempt to respond to your contention that drama/theatre is completely incompatible with Scripture.

Now I must reiterate that I'm not interested in advocating drama as a legitimate form of worship in a Sunday service. Please bear that in mind as you read the following attempt to break down for you my argument.

I highlighted that, in the Old Testament priestly/sacrificial systems, "this" represents "that", simply as a way of explaining the purpose of the priests, sacrifices, altars, etc., and showing that this is the same principle used in drama/theatre:

Actors stand in and play the role of someone else, complete with costume and props to help convey the story, just as symbolism is an important tool used in theatre.

They do this before a watching audience.

Now, note that:

Around the Tabernacle in the middle of the camp the people of God are gathered to be taught truths about the Central Character of all reality, to see His life and work performed and explained before their very eyes.

The High Priest is standing in for the Great High Priest; the sacrificial animals are standing in for the True Sacrificial Victim (who is standing in for us, acting in our place); the priests' garments symbolise truths about the Great High Priest; etc. etc. etc.

Speaking of the OT sacrifices and priests in this way also demonstrates that, at the very least, the elements of theatre are not incompatible with the Scriptures.

In other words, theatre/drama/role-play/visual storytelling are not irrevocably or irredeemably opposed to the Word of Christ or the gospel, as its basic elements can at least be found in seed form in the Scripture and role-playing/visual storytelling/acting has been used in the purposes of the living God in the service of the gospel.

In using words like "role-play", "acting", "costumes", which don't appear in Exodus, Leviticus or Hebrews, my intention was not to denigrate the Old Testament ordinances but to suggest one useful way among others of upholding their true meaning and purpose.

I have simply used a means of explanation that is basically a faithful -- if slightly less familiar -- way of explaining the biblical truth that the priests and sacrifices are not actually dealing with sin but pointing to Someone who can.

I suppose that, in a similar way, you have used biblical verses that contain no mention of cinemas, dance halls or theatres to explain a basic principle of non-conformity to the world.

So if the basic elements of theatre (visual storytelling, actors playing parts, etc.) are being employed by the LORD in Scripture (even minimally) ...

and if John Calvin doesn't see the term "theatre of God's glory" as mixing worldly with profane ...

and if an audience gathering before a raised platform to fix their attention on a Story of a Hero seeking and winning His Bride, triumphing through adversity, defeating His enemies, etc. (given that this is what should happen every Sunday) is a precious and not an inherently worldly event ...

could we say that the theatre is not fundamentally or inherently anti-Christian/anti-gospel/anti-Bible?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

There is no parallel between the world's stories and the gospel. At the centre of the world's story is always some good deed by man. The gospel says there is none that doeth good no not one!

Aspects of creation may indeed illustrate the Gospel once it is taught by the Bible. However, there is no knowledge of the gospel without first the knowledge of the Scriptures being imparted. Someone may see illustrations of the gospel in creation only because they have some knowledge of the Bible.

Creation teaches there is a God but sinners need the Bible to teach them about the Saviour. This is why Biblical Christianity has always been concerned with getting the Scriptures into the hands of sinners across the world. Creation/natural revelation does not teach the truth of the Redeemer. This is a fundamental tenet of Bible religion.

While creation may illustrate the gospel; the means, however, that God blesses to the salvation of sinners is His Word expounded and applied.

Now, why would anyone want to forsake the means that God promises to bless and employ something that God has never said He will bless? The Gospel preached is the dynamite of God, Rom 1:16. Therefore why would any Christian want to employ something other than this? There is no logic to this.

God's work is to be done God's way if it is to have God's blessing. That's unless we believe that mankind can contribute something themselves outside of the means God has promised to bless.

The difference between the solemn worship of the Old Testament and drama of any sort is that the Old Testament worshipper wasn't playing at make believe. He was in earnest with no pretence, so there is no parallel. Furthermore as I pointed out we are presently in the New Testament age where that form of worship present in Old Testament times is no longer allowable. Hence drama is forbidden in New Testament worship and historic Christianity has always accepted this, along with the worldliness of attending the theatre or its modern day equivalent the cinema.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

Thank you for your response.


You wrote:

There is no parallel between the world's stories and the gospel. At the centre of the world's story is always some good deed by man. The gospel says there is none that doeth good no not one!

We seem to have been speaking past each other on this issue. Even critics, authors, playwrights and screenwriters with non-Christian agendas are prepared to speak of intentional and unintentional "Christ-figures" and "redemption" in their work and others' work. This area seems to hold no interest for you. That's fine. We're all different.

Again, if there's no need for "representations of Christ" outside the Bible (except for imitators of Christ, i.e. Christians ... and, of course, the bread and wine at communion), are you going to clamp down on non-verifiable stories from ministers' experience, told from the pulpit, in which certain people are held up as "Christlike" ... or depicted as performing a good deed?

I understand what you're saying, that no story is a patch on the real thing ... true. But the Real Thing is what shapes reality, is what the universe is founded upon, and is what makes the world go round ... so it's not surprising that in the Father's providence no story seems able to escape the mould of the Real Story.

meneksh said...

You wrote:

Aspects of creation may indeed illustrate the Gospel once it is taught by the Bible. However, there is no knowledge of the gospel without first the knowledge of the Scriptures being imparted. Someone may see illustrations of the gospel in creation only because they have some knowledge of the Bible.

Creation teaches there is a God but sinners need the Bible to teach them about the Saviour. This is why Biblical Christianity has always been concerned with getting the Scriptures into the hands of sinners across the world. Creation/natural revelation does not teach the truth of the Redeemer. This is a fundamental tenet of Bible religion.

While creation may illustrate the gospel; the means, however, that God blesses to the salvation of sinners is His Word expounded and applied.


What I was arguing for, and what I believe the Bible teaches, is that objectively all of creation proclaims the gospel of the Triune God revealed in Christ. Gospel truths are read *out of* the creation, not *into* it.

If creation teaches merely that there is a God, that could be any god. Paul says anyone who listens to creation will be "without excuse" on the Day of Judgment. Does that mean those without "a doctrine of god" go to hell, while anyone who believes in "a god" gets entry into the New Creation?

If it just tells us general things about the power and majesty of this god, then it may as well be telling us about Allah, and thus creation's message is opposed to the gospel. "General" and "special" revelation are opposed.

No. Paul says in Romans 1 not that faint, general truths, but that the deepest, hardest things about God -- the invisible things -- are clearly seen. How can what's invisible be clearly seen?

Colossians 1:15 ... Christ is the Visible Form of the Invisible God.

Christ is the One in whom the Invisible God is made visible.

Creation can and does proclaim the living God because creation proclaims Christ.

"General revelation" is not supplying a basis for "special revelation" as if "Jesus Christ/the gospel/the Trinity" is simply the icing on an Islamic/Greek philosophical/unitarian cake. "General" revelation and "special" revelation proclaim exactly the same message.

But you are right, we need the Scriptures to read that revelation of Christ in creation correctly.

As Calvin said, the Scriptures are like reading glasses that give us eyes to see, for example, the gospel of a seed that goes into the ground and dies, and from that death new life and many seeds spring (John 12) -- just like Christ the True Seed.

That gospel of Christ has been written into creation, designed to teach us about Christ ... but we are blind, we cover our ears, we will not see or listen, and so we need the spectacles of Scripture to show us the Way who confronts us in every detail of His creation.

The living God has chosen to do His evangelism through the Church preaching the Word of Christ.

meneksh said...

You wrote:

Now, why would anyone want to forsake the means that God promises to bless and employ something that God has never said He will bless? The Gospel preached is the dynamite of God, Rom 1:16. Therefore why would any Christian want to employ something other than this? There is no logic to this.

God's work is to be done God's way if it is to have God's blessing. That's unless we believe that mankind can contribute something themselves outside of the means God has promised to bless.

The difference between the solemn worship of the Old Testament and drama of any sort is that the Old Testament worshipper wasn't playing at make believe. He was in earnest with no pretence, so there is no parallel. Furthermore as I pointed out we are presently in the New Testament age where that form of worship present in Old Testament times is no longer allowable. Hence drama is forbidden in New Testament worship and historic Christianity has always accepted this, along with the worldliness of attending the theatre or its modern day equivalent the cinema.


I have no desire to proclaim anything other than the gospel -- through word and deed -- drawing always from Scripture and from all the resources available from the created order, which the Scriptures allow me to see clearly.

This includes preaching the gospel to myself, good practice for all Christians as it's not just the unsaved who need to hear the gospel.

There may be many Christians in parts of the world without copies of the Bible, who have memorised what they can, but appreciate more and more the gospel preached in creation, and draw on all the resources they can to preach Christ to themselves.

I take your point about the sincerity of worshippers (although many worshippers we know were insincere and didn't trust in Christ), but this in no way undermines the elements involved (priests playing role of Great High Priest, props representing other things) that also happen to be some of the constituent elements of theatre.

Not that I am trying to reduce the OT Law to mere theatre ... just showing that elements were there and it's a helpful bird's eye view to have to illustrate the difference between shadow and reality.

As you say, the OT Law has passed -- what about NT worship? If we must stick rigidly to the Bible always, and drama/theatre of any kind is banned, is using examples from literature in preaching forbidden?

What about using oratory, voice projection, variation in tone or pitch, sermon structure, any kind of stage technique or stagecraft -- surely all unnecessary when the power lies in the gospel itself? Surely the more rubbish and simple in style we are the clearer the power of the gospel?

Why take up any time with preaching techniques at all when training preachers?

meneksh said...

More could be said on that. In any case, Thomas Brainerd didn't believe the theatre to be inherently worldly or anti-Christian, but neutral:

Theatres are either safe or pernicious, either moral or immoral, in their tendency. If they be moral and instructive, as they claim to be, then it is my duty to urge you to go, and my duty to lead the way. If, on the other hand, they be wasteful of time and money, and most pernicious in their moral bearing, then I am under a solemn obligation to warn this audience against their influence.

The problem when it comes to topics like this is that people begin to deal in hypotheticals. "Can I go if such-and-such a condition is in place?" "No, because what about such-and-such a prohibition?" "Well, what if ... ?" etc.

We almost start to imagine sin and righteousness in the way the Pharisees did, in terms of an abstract moral code, where sin is defined theoretically and behaviourally rather than relationally -- that is, in or out of relationship to Christ (Romans 14:23).

When people impose or begin to lay down laws concerning cultural practices, almost tying the authenticity or otherwise of someone's salvation to the observance or non-observance of these laws, that's when we should begin to ask whether another gospel's being preached, one like we find in the recurring appearances of the "circumcision group" in the NT (e.g. Acts 15).

Freedom in Christ and the gospel itself is jettisoned or seriously undermined by this kind of imposition of laws regarding cultural issues.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

These 'Christlike-figures' and 'redemption' characters are the world's definitions and not the Bible's. The 'Christ' of the world and the 'Christ' of the Bible are two different things. The natural mind simply doesn't know what true Christlikeness is, for to be able to make that judgment, 1 Cor 2:14: But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

What you say about creation and the Gospel is in contradiction to the first section of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of faith:
Although the light of nature; and the works of creation; and providence; do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal; Himself, and to declare; that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing His will unto His people being now ceased. Proof Texts: Rom 2:14, 15; Rom 1:19, 20; Ps. 19:1, 2, 3; Rom 1:32, with chap. 2:1; 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Cor 2:13, 14; Heb 1:1; Prov 22:19, 20, 21; Luke 1:3, 4; Rom. 15:4; Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; Isa 8:19, 20; 2 Tim 3:15; 2 Peter 1:19; Heb 1:1, 2.

Creation is not sufficient to teach the gospel to anyone. Having the Bible and knowing what it teaches about the Gospel, you then may illustrate a gospel principle from creation, but this is somewhat different.

You fail to appreciate the significance of the canon of scripture being completed and the doing away with the Old Testament form of worship. The elements of OT worship were God ordained means, blessed to the heart of the worshipper. In the NT age God has ordained to bless the preaching of His Word. Therefore drama or anything that comes close to it is forbidden.

Nor could I see how any use of the voice that lack sincerity and genuineness could be blessed of God. God doesn't bless pretence. I'm sure the Saviour raised and lowered His voice as He taught but not in an insincere way as part of a stage performance.


Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

As to the quote you take from Thomas Brainerd and which you use to assert that he "didn't believe the theatre to be inherently worldly or anti-Christian, but neutral"; this is a completely false representation of this man's views!!!!

Have you actually read through the lecture from which you take this quote. It is entitled: "INFLUENCE OF THEATRES: A LECTURE ON THE NATURE AND TENDENCY OF THE STAGE, BY THOMAS BRAINERD, 1840". It nowhere is 'neutral' on attending the cinema. In fact he says the very opposite. This is what he did have to say on attending the theatre:
"These are public institutions daily forced on your attention and mine. Believing them to be most mischievous in their moral tendency, most ruinous to the happiness of families, and most fatal to the prospects, temporal and eternal, of our youth, – who has a right to complain if I express concerning them my deliberate convictions?" He goes on to give his convictions. He lists 5 reasons why he is against the theatre:
1. "The first objection which I shall urge against theatrical amusements, is their waste of time".
2. "My second objection against theatrical amusements, is the waste of money which they occasion".
3. "My third objection against theatrical amusements is, that their moral tendency in all ages and among all nations has been most eminently
pernicious."
4. "Fourthly, The tendency of dramatic tragedy is to harden the heart against sympathy with real suffering."
5. "Finally, Contemplate the impurity of most of the plays acted in the theatre."

I am happy to rest my case upon the timely words of this man whom you have drawn my attention to! I believe it is providential that you have misquoted this man, as I believe he gives us all some pertinent advice.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

You wrote:

As to the quote you take from Thomas Brainerd and which you use to assert that he "didn't believe the theatre to be inherently worldly or anti-Christian, but neutral"; this is a completely false representation of this man's views!!!! Have you actually read through the lecture from which you take this quote. It is entitled: "INFLUENCE OF THEATRES: A LECTURE ON THE NATURE AND TENDENCY OF THE STAGE, BY THOMAS BRAINERD, 1840". It nowhere is 'neutral' on attending the cinema. In fact he says the very opposite. ... I am happy to rest my case upon the timely words of this man whom you have drawn my attention to! I believe it is providential that you have misquoted this man, as I believe he gives us all some pertinent advice.

Admittedly, my point here could have been better expressed and I didn't expand on it because I was doubtful over whether to include it. I did read Brainerd's lecture and I was not seeking to take his views out of context or misquote him -- I just meant that he does not object to the *form* of theatre, regardless of its content.

You wrote:

You fail to appreciate the significance of the canon of scripture being completed and the doing away with the Old Testament form of worship. The elements of OT worship were God ordained means, blessed to the heart of the worshipper. In the NT age God has ordained to bless the preaching of His Word. Therefore drama or anything that comes close to it is forbidden.

Nor could I see how any use of the voice that lack sincerity and genuineness could be blessed of God. God doesn't bless pretence. I'm sure the Saviour raised and lowered His voice as He taught but not in an insincere way as part of a stage performance.


My point was simply that to speak in any kind of way to engage an audience's attention and elicit a particular response using tone, pitch, gestures, etc., is to employ hallmarks of performance or theatre, regardless of the speaker's sincerity or otherwise.

If we want to make sure our NT worship contains anything that can even have the appearance of drama, oughtn't we to encourage preachers to speak in flat, unexpressive tones, without any additional adornment? Or perhaps forbid them from being seen for fear that what they are doing might be mistaken for theatre performance?

Of course I don't believe this for a second. Any insistence on remaining dull and expressionless as a rule in preaching would be an extra-biblical law that is likely to restrict preachers' freedom. The same for a ban on using apt illustrations from works of fiction.

Equally unhelpful would be the calling into question the sanctification (and thus salvation, given that sanctification and justification always go together?) of a preacher who does this.

We want to use the resources at our disposal to proclaim Christ winsomely. This is not to say that the Bible is insufficient for our preaching! For the Bible itself turns our attention to the resources available in the creation around us that present Christ to us.

meneksh said...

You wrote:

What you say about creation and the Gospel is in contradiction to the first section of the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of faith ...

Creation is not sufficient to teach the gospel to anyone. Having the Bible and knowing what it teaches about the Gospel, you then may illustrate a gospel principle from creation, but this is somewhat different.

What I'm saying is consistent with Scripture, though.

If creation doesn't preach Christ, then creation is a heretic.

If we say that there is revelation of God in creation but there isn't revelation of Christ in creation, then Christ is not the Revelation of God. That means there is knowledge of God outside of Christ. Christ is dispensable to our understanding of revelation.

If we are justified and condemned on the basis of our response to the gospel, how does what is revealed in creation render us "without excuse" if it's telling us something other than the gospel?

And why does Paul in Romans 10 point to the witness of creation in Psalm 19 as an example of the gospel being proclaimed if creation isn't preaching the gospel but just saying, "There's a god"?

Someone who believes, like Anthony Flew, that "there is a God", is no nearer to being saved than someone who insists, like Richard Dawkins, that "there isn't".

A "concept of 'God'" is not the Way, the foundation, the entrance, the starting point. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. We start with Him or we're lost.

Unless creation proclaims Christ, it has nothing whatsoever to say about the living God.

And given that all creation was made by, through and for Christ, it makes sense that it will bear His signature and testify of Him. Perhaps this is why Paul can say the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven (Col 1:23).

No-one that I know of, through simply sitting by herself looking at a tree, has trusted in Christ. I am not teaching that simply by observing creation someone can become a Christian.

We need the Scriptures and the evangelism of the Church as that's the way the Father has ordained for the salvation of sinners. Only the preaching of the gospel by the Church is the means by which the Spirit opens people's eyes to Christ and creates faith in Him.

But when we present Christ we are always re-presenting Him to people who have continually and wilfully been ignoring Him as His creation proclaims from end to end, "Here is Christ. Trust Him!"

meneksh said...

You wrote:

These 'Christlike-figures' and 'redemption' characters are the world's definitions and not the Bible's. The 'Christ' of the world and the 'Christ' of the Bible are two different things. The natural mind simply doesn't know what true Christlikeness is, for to be able to make that judgment, 1 Cor 2:14: But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

This is a fair point. But those who know Christ can and have recognised Him -- or aspects of His character -- in stories that were never intended to show Him off, and our hearts leap.

Those in love see their Beloved where others will see whatever else has captured their hearts. We are moved because we see a reflection, not of oursleves or human nature at its best and most noble, but of Someone else, however faint.

And this is because no matter how "free" sinful humanity might consider ourselves to be, in the Father's providence our basic stories and ideas cannot escape the Logos who shaped our hearts and minds in the beginning ... of whom our basic stories are all faint or distorted echoes.

People who think they've carried out a cinematic/literary/dramatic/poetic study of humanity/the purpose of life/the human condition may not realise that their work has merely touched on one aspect of *His* story, *His* character -- however garbled other elements of their work may be. Same with writers/directors whose themes and ambitions are less grand.

Let's have an ever-expanding view of Christ and His gospel. He must fill our vision. He refuses to be boxed in and limited by our puny view of Him -- He is Lord over all creation and can use even the work of sinful men's hands to proclaim His glory.

As Robert Frost wrote, "We dance around in a ring and suppose / But the Secret sits in the middle -- and knows."

julie said...

Most of this debate is above my head, however as a cinema goer there are a couple of inaccuracies I would like to address. Firstly the cinema of today bears no resemblance to that of a few years ago - the atmosphere is, in fact, greatly improved. Smoking is not allowed, and hasn't been for as long as I can remember, there is no alcohol within the theatre, only in the specially separated area, the immorality of the 'back row' no longer exists. It is possible to time one's visit in order to avoid the adverts - many of which are objectionable. It is also possible to research your chosen film and its content prior to visiting the cinema by using a website such as http://christiananswers.net/home.html which provides film reviews written by and for christians. I have nothing but respect for those christians who choose not to attend the cinema or theatre, provided they also refrain from watching t.v. and attending places such as ten pin bowling alleys, ice skating arenas and most shops. The reason? Most of these places play unsuitable and unpleasant rock music, and are havens for gambling (lottery and slot machines) and alcohol, not to mention the immorality of the way those in the world dress and the lewdness of magazines and newspapers clearly displayed for all to see. Short of living in a bubble it seems to me impossible for a christian to separate from the things of the world entirely and still be an effective witness to the Gospel - at the end of the day people no longer go to church, that they are seeking *something* is in no doubt, but, to me, a normal everyday sitter in the pew, it appears that, more and more, we must meet unbelievers in places outside of the church building and be ready to give an answer for the hope that lies within. I speak as one who has had many occasions to present my muslim in laws with the Gospel and the message of Christ whilst playing cards! something which I know the free p's heartily disapprove of, but, i am the only Christian they know.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

I was giving you the benefit of the doubt in that you had lifted the quote but had not read the article. To discover that you had read the article and presented this man's opinion in this way is astonishing. There is nothing in all that he says to suggest that he is, in any way, neutral about any part of attending the theatre.

The employment of 'tone, pitch, gestures, etc.' are not hallmarks peculiar to a performance, they are peculiar to sincere speech which is what any preacher is to use. Yet they are secondary to the words that he employs and where preaching descends into a performance where the emphasis is upon 'tone, pitch, gestures, etc.' above content, it has lost the blessing of God. It is God Himself to commanded His prophets in old time to 'cry aloud'. This was not to engage in a performance as you suggest but rather to intimate to the people of the day the seriousness of the issues at hand.

Again there is no parallel between the performance on a stage and quoting by way of illustration from a work of fiction. Paul after all quoted heathen poets three times in the Bible during his preaching by way of illustration. This underscores the point about the need of a warrant from scripture for all that we employ in worship as taught in the regulative principle.

Again what you say about creation is simply not consistent with scripture. Paul clearly states what creation teaches in Rom 2:20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

It is true that God's eternal power and Godhead are common to all three persons of the Trinity but that is not what you are saying with respect to Christ. You are stating that Christ as the Saviour is taught in creation. He is not.

As Robert Shaw clearly points out in his exposition of chapter one of the Confession:
There are few doctrines of supernatural revelation that have not, in one period or another, been denied or controverted; and it is a peculiar excellence of the Westminster Confession of Faith, that its compilers have stated the several articles in terms the best calculated, not only to convey an accurate idea of sacred truth but to guard against contrary errors. In opposition, on the one hand, to those who deny the existence of natural religion, and, on the other hand, in opposition to Deists, who maintain the sufficiency of the light of nature to guide men to eternal happiness, this section asserts,–
1. That a knowledge of the existence of God, and a number of his perfections, is attainable by the light of nature, and the world of creation and providence.
2. That the light of nature is insufficient to give fallen man that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.
3. That God has been pleased to grant to his Church a supernatural revelation of his will.
4. That this revelation has been committed to writing, and that the Holy Scripture is most necessary, the ancient modes of God's revealing his will
unto his people being now ceased.


I repeat his second point: The light of nature [ie creation] is insufficient to give fallen man that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Creation is certainly a revelation of God, however it is not a full revelation or a saving revelation, as Shaw says in point 1 above.

To argue otherwise is to attack the doctrine of Scripture.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

Respecting whether we can see shades of Christ in stories never designed to do so - What is not there in the first place, cannot be seen but by invention and a fertile imagination. This is not dealing with reality but is a world of make believe. As Christ is not in the productions of the ungodly in reality in the first place, because the ungodly cannot know Christ as He is spiritually discerned, 1 Cor 2:14; to argue that a Christian can see something that is not there is fantasy and would be outrightly rejected by a Christian if the ungodly were to use the same type of approach.

Furthermore this type of reasoning that sees Christ in everything is subjective and dependent upon the knowledge or otherwise that an individual has of the gospel. This is contrary to God's revelation of Himself. God's revelation in the Scriptures is not subjective but objection.

Brian McClung

Meneksh said...

Rev. Mr. McClung,

You wrote:

To discover that you had read [Brainerd's] article and presented this man's opinion in this way is astonishing. There is nothing in all that he says to suggest that he is, in any way, neutral about any part of attending the theatre.

You are correct. He said, "Theatres are either safe or pernicious, either moral or immoral, in their tendency." Given his either/or distinction, I was inaccurate to use the word "neutral".

The point I was attempting to make was in relation to your claim that "the concept" of theatre/cinema is wrong/unbiblical.

If the biggest issue at stake for Brainerd were that the concept is fundamentally wrong, he would not say, "If [theatres] be moral and instructive, as they claim to be, then it is my duty to urge you to go, and my duty to lead the way."

His objections are not to the form but to the content, and because of that he is critical of the time wasted, the money spent and the impact on morality.

The place where Brainerd comes closest to rejecting the form/concept of theatre is the section on tragedy numbing audiences to genuine tragedy. But that's more of an objection to the seeking of constant thrills and emotional experiences, and the heart becoming hardened by habit ... not an objection even to fiction per se or to re-enactment/storytelling/performance that are fundamental elements of theatre.

(It may be that watching Schindler's List or La vita è bella in the cinema inures audiences to the plight of the Jews during the Holocaust ... !)

It is a point I believe I have established elsewhere that seed-form elements of theatre are employed in the Scriptural record -- from gathered audiences/onlookers watching the LORD perform His marvellous works, to prophets/priests/kings enacting the role/story of the True Prophet, Priest and King.

In bringing this up I was saying no more really than that the form/concept of theatre is not inherently sinful. A fact the godly John Calvin must have realised, borne out by his positive use of the term "theatre" to speak of the creation.

Meneksh said...

You wrote:

The employment of 'tone, pitch, gestures, etc.' are not hallmarks peculiar to a performance, they are peculiar to sincere speech which is what any preacher is to use. Yet they are secondary to the words that he employs and where preaching descends into a performance where the emphasis is upon 'tone, pitch, gestures, etc.' above content, it has lost the blessing of God. It is God Himself to commanded His prophets in old time to 'cry aloud'. This was not to engage in a performance as you suggest but rather to intimate to the people of the day the seriousness of the issues at hand.

It has been noted by his biographers that Whitefield used his dramatic gifts in his sermon delivery. This is not to charge him with insincerity, or with elevation of style over content. He was employing his gifts for the LORD.

There are often times when it's necessary for a preacher to dwell on details that are not his main point but which set up and lead into what the LORD has laid on his heart. On such occasions the preacher may find that he needs to increase his enthusiasm above what it is at that moment for the benefit of his hearers, to maintain their attention.

He is not being insincere but is self-consciously adapting his disposition to elicit a response from, or excite the interest of, the congregation.

This is unavoidable. It is also an essential element of the showman or stage performer's craft.

It is also forbidden if an insistence on the blanket prohibition of drama/theatre -- or even the appearance of such -- in Church services is to be followed.

This is another minor point anyway, again relating to the question of whether the concept of theatre is sinful. I only raised it after you insisted that drama or anything close to it is forbidden in NT worship.

Regardless of the issue of OT worship being set aside, the fact that the LORD used elements of theatre at any point in history again undergirds the contention that the concept of theatre is not sinful.

Meneksh said...

You wrote:

Again there is no parallel between the performance on a stage and quoting by way of illustration from a work of fiction. Paul after all quoted heathen poets three times in the Bible during his preaching by way of illustration. This underscores the point about the need of a warrant from scripture for all that we employ in worship as taught in the regulative principle.

Quoting from fiction was raised in light of your claims that i) NT worship ought to be free from drama or anything close to it, and ii) the unregenerate's stories convey nothing of Christ and the gospel.

If i) is true, then logically and consistently it follows that employing illustrations from Shakespeare's theatrical productions is forbidden in preaching. These plays' purpose was to entertain the worldly. And bear in mind that theatre attendance is inherently sinful.

We dare not bring the world into the Church!

If ii) is true, we'd be best to stay away from using Aesop's fables/the Grimms' fairy tales/Tolstoy's War and Peace/Twain's Prince and the Pauper/etc. to illustrate biblical moral truths when preaching.

For if these convey nothing of Christ in the gospel to us, why bother going to them for illustrations of truths/realities that are only available to us by -- not to mention meaningless without -- faith in Christ? (Cf. Romans 14:23.)

If these are unable to convey anything of Christ in the gospel to us, how can they be fit to teach us moral truths/profitable truths/insights into reality of any kind, given that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and our good works are stored up in Him (Ephesians 2:10)?

If moral/practical/metaphysical lessons/teaching on holiness and godliness can reach areas where Christ in the gospel cannot, is Christ in the gospel an inferior message to that of moralism (even if it's "biblical" moralism)? Shouldn't we rather encourage the study of ethics or metaphysics than proclaim Christ?

Is the gospel of Christ irrelevant to everyday life?

Does this provide a warrant to divorce morality from the gospel? Is Pharisaism right?

If our answer to these questions is "No," and if ii) is correct, then preachers should not go to the writings of the unregenerate to extract material as illustrative examples of what they're preaching.

Meneksh said...

You wrote:

Again what you say about creation is simply not consistent with scripture. Paul clearly states what creation teaches in Rom [1]:20: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

It is true that God's eternal power and Godhead are common to all three persons of the Trinity but that is not what you are saying with respect to Christ. You are stating that Christ as the Saviour is taught in creation. He is not.


Let's think about Romans 1:20.

• What are the "invisible things of God"? Not obvious, easily attained things. Not vague things. The deepest things. Hard things. Hidden things.

• How can these deep, "invisible things" be "clearly seen"? Well, who is the Image of the Invisible God? Who alone makes visible the Hidden, Unseen, Unknown and Unknowable God?

We know nothing about the Father except what we know in Jesus. If creation mediates the Father to us, Christ is not the only Mediator. He is a Word, an Image of God, not THE Word and Image.

• What is God's "power"?

At the very least the power of God announced in creation will be gospel-shaped/gospel-flavoured, given that the Christ who died and rose is the One through whom God is revealed.

Otherwise the deepest things of God have nothing to do with the gospel. Not to mention the horrendous thought that Christ is not the Revelation of God and that deep down God is not Christlike at all.

It's certainly not naked power and sovereignty -- "lording it over" His creatures. That's how Allah markets himself -- Satanic self-exaltation and tyrannic rule.

The power of the Triune God revealed in Christ is a power that stoops in servant weakness, not subjugating but saving, opening out the life of God through the Godforsakenness of the Cross.

God's power is the gospel. That is borne out by the immediate context (Romans 1:16).

Meneksh said...

• What is God's "Godhead"?

What makes God "God"? Who is God, essentially?

The loving relationship between the Three Persons is constitutive of the divine nature. God is Father, Son and Spirit in loving relationship.

If we say the divine nature is unitarian divine substance, our doctrine of God is essentially unitarian, and Christ is excluded from our definition of God.

Christ must be the Beginning, the Starting Point, of all our thinking and speaking about God, if we are to take Him seriously as the Word and Image of the Father.

A doctrine of God that fails to start with Christ or excludes Him from the outset will not be able to accommodate Him down the line.

We will end up trying to fit Christ into our prefabricated notions of "God" rather than making sure our doctrine of God is based on, defined by and shaped by Him.

If we want to define the Godhead/divine nature without reference to the Father's love for the Son in the unity of the Spirit, we must be aware that our doctrine of God ceases to be fundamentally Christian at this point.

Meneksh said...

• And how can "what can be known about God from creation" leave everyone "without excuse"?

Because creation preaches the gospel of Christ who alone reveals the Triune God.

Paul is not saying that general + special revelation render humanity without excuse. He is saying that on the basis of what creation tells us alone, humanity is without excuse.

If creation preaches the existence of a unitarian spirit being who is the all-powerful creator, then Islamists are not without excuse. Creation gives them an excuse for believing that Allah is LORD and Jesus is not.

If we say that "special" revelation (specific gospel truths) builds on "general" revelation (non-specific, non-gospel, vague, general truths about God), are we saying that Christ Himself is not the Revelation of God?

Are we saying Christ, His Father and Their Spirit are not fundamental to the being of God?

If this is the kind of god creation lets us know about, then creation lets us know about a fundamentally different god from that of "special revelation".

If the deepest things of God have nothing to do with the gospel, then the living God is not a saving, gospel God all the way down.

Thus, if we penetrate to the depths of God's being we will not find the Slain Lamb on the throne, but ... what?

A collection of impersonal attributes/perfections?

Something dark and unknown behind and beyond the God revealed to us in the Crucified Christ? A god whose glory is different from the Cross?

And if the creation around us isn't singing the praises of the Lamb, why should anyone pay any attention to it?

Meneksh said...

You quoted Robert Shaw's exposition of chapter one of the Confession:

There are few doctrines of supernatural revelation that have not, in one period or another, been denied or controverted; and it is a peculiar excellence of the Westminster Confession of Faith, that its compilers have stated the several articles in terms the best calculated, not only to convey an accurate idea of sacred truth but to guard against contrary errors. In opposition, on the one hand, to those who deny the existence of natural religion, and, on the other hand, in opposition to Deists, who maintain the sufficiency of the light of nature to guide men to eternal happiness, this section asserts,–
1. That a knowledge of the existence of God, and a number of his perfections, is attainable by the light of nature, and the world of creation and providence.
2. That the light of nature is insufficient to give fallen man that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation.
3. That God has been pleased to grant to his Church a supernatural revelation of his will.
4. That this revelation has been committed to writing, and that the Holy Scripture is most necessary, the ancient modes of God's revealing his will
unto his people being now ceased.


You wrote:

Creation is certainly a revelation of God, however it is not a full revelation or a saving revelation, as Shaw says in point 1 above. To argue otherwise is to attack the doctrine of Scripture.

I don't see where I have denied or attacked the doctrine of Scripture. I have maintained that:

Christ is the Word of God and the Scriptures are the Word of Christ;

the creation sets forth Christ (otherwise it preaches a false god) -- "general" and "special" revelation aren't different or opposed;

sinful humanity wilfully refuses to heed the sermon of creation that pours forth speech about Christ;

the Scriptures are required -- read and preached by the Church -- as the spectacles through which we can read creation's witness to Christ rightly. This is how the living God has chosen to do His evangelism. The Spirit opens humanity's eyes to Christ and His reality not by leaving us to figure it out from the creation alone but by the evangelism of the Church.


This differs markedly from anything that Deism propounds.

Athanasius (De Incarn., Chapter 3):

How could men be reasonable beings if they had no knowledge of the Word and Reason of the Father, through Whom they had received their being? ... But, in fact, the good God has given them a share in His own Image, that is, in our Lord Jesus Christ, and has made even themselves after the same Image and Likeness. Why? Simply in order that ... they may be able to perceive the Image Absolute, that is the Word Himself, and through Him to apprehend the Father; which knowledge of their Maker is for men the only really happy and blessed life. ... They could look up into the immensity of heaven, and by pondering the harmony of creation come to know its Ruler, the Word of the Father, whose all-ruling providence makes known the Father to all.

Meneksh said...

You wrote:

Respecting whether we can see shades of Christ in stories never designed to do so - What is not there in the first place, cannot be seen but by invention and a fertile imagination. This is not dealing with reality but is a world of make believe. As Christ is not in the productions of the ungodly in reality in the first place, because the ungodly cannot know Christ as He is spiritually discerned, 1 Cor 2:14; to argue that a Christian can see something that is not there is fantasy and would be outrightly rejected by a Christian if the ungodly were to use the same type of approach.

Furthermore this type of reasoning that sees Christ in everything is subjective and dependent upon the knowledge or otherwise that an individual has of the gospel. This is contrary to God's revelation of Himself. God's revelation in the Scriptures is not subjective but [objective].


It may be that this approach would be outrightly rejected by a non-Christian. If you're concerned about that, a Christian who refuses to go to the cinema might also be outrightly rejected by the ungodly.

Such a Christian could be seen as just as nutty as someone who claims she sees echoes of the gospel in the films she watches.

But both approaches can provide opportunities to share the gospel.

I was initially speaking of preaching the gospel to myself while attending the cinema (i.e. not going to the cinema to indulge in carnal pleasures).

But when I or others have brought this up to non-Christian and Christian friends, I have also seen it give them pause for thought.

In evangelising/preaching to others, to ask an atheist, who believes that ultimate reality is impersonal (time + chance + particles, or whatever), why he/she lives as though ultimate reality were not that way can be a very powerful thing.

That is, when it comes down to it, the films they watch, the books they read, their hopes and fears ... these all reveal that their conception of ultimate reality is love.

People with worldviews that attempt to reduce ultimate reality down to faceless, loveless, meaningless, impersonal matter still live as if life is all about knowing and being known, loving and being loved, etc. etc.

Why do we live in a world where this is so?

Because at the Centre of Reality is the Father loving His Son in the unity of the Spirit, and the Son pouring out His life for His Bride. The universe is founded upon this love. The chief end of man is to glorify and enjoy this Triune God who is love.

Yes, we all naturally have skewed concepts of that -- but love is the common theme running through all films I've seen. Some convey this more powerfully than others. There's a famous aphorism that filmmakers often refer to, that "Every film ever made, every story, is about love." It's very revealing.

It's not about being dishonest or overly imaginative. Was that what Paul was doing in Acts 17 when he took words from a pagan philosopher which were not about the living God, and applied them to the living God?

Rev Brian McClung said...

Julie

There is a world of difference between presenting the gospel to sinners and attending places of worldly entertainment for no other reason than being entertained. If the world doesn't see a difference in the way a Christian lives then it is no surprise that they want nothing to do with their gospel. The Bible commands us to avoid all appearance of evil, 1 Thess 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

It is the failure to separate from the world that causes the Church of Jesus Christ to lose its power to influence an ungodly world. I would suggest that this is the chief feature of the Church of Jesus Christ today. It has no power to influence an ungodly world. Why has it no power? Because it is compromising with the world and the practices that were once shunned by born again believers in the past, as expressions of worldliness, are now deemed to be okay and indulged in by many who profess to belong to the Lord.

That is why Free Presbyterian ministers take an oath at their ordination to 'denounce the great public vices of drinking, dancing, gambling and the pleasure crazes of this present wail world'. Following after these things robs any Church and Christian of their power to see anything accomplished for the Lord.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

Sorry for the delay in posting comments. [I added the change to give an explanation for delays which I felt I owed to you and others]

There are two points under discussion:
1. The issue of attending the theatre/cinema.
2. The secondary issue regarding whether creation teaches the gospel.

On the first it has been the historic, evangelical position, based upon the Word of God, and that for many a day, that attending the theatre/cinema is an expression of worldliness. I entirely agree with this thesis and do not see any reason that you have presented that would make me change my mind on the issue.

I firmly believe that the powerlessness of the Church of Jesus Christ today is directly attributable to the ingression of worldliness into evangelical Christianity. This is nothing new and has always caused a loss of spiritual power and effectiveness. It is intensely sad when professing Christians think that the answer to this powerlessness and lack of effectiveness is closer associations with the world so that we might influence them and win them to Christ. It didn't work for Lot in Sodom with his family and it won't work today either. It indeed may extract professions of 'Christianity' but it is a Christianity totally alien from the Word of God.

2. Does Creation teach the Gospel? It illustrates spiritual principles but does not teach the gospel and this is a vital distinction. For an illustration you need first a source of teaching. Creation does not teach the Gospel. That is plain from portions such as Hebrews 1:1,2: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds. Paul is here speaking about saving revelation. He does not say that God spoke in time past from creation. He goes back as far as the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact he does not mention creation at all when speaking about saving revelation. That should speak volumes to us!

Creation teaches unfallen mankind that there exists a glorious God. It cannot teach a fallen sinner the way to God. This is why special saving revelation is required as Paul highlights in Heb 1:1,2. The sinner is even blind today to the first and cannot see God in creation. Again what I am saying is the position of historic reformed Christianity.

The Gospel is a 'mystery'. It is not known to man and never known without special revelation from God. It could not possibly be present in a film produced, directed and acted in by the ungodly whose minds are blinded by the God of this world. I repeat the point I made in a previous reply about 'seeing things that are not there'.

It is the exposition of this special revelation alone that God promises to bless. I don't see the parallel between your issues with public speaking and the argument for drama. The principles of good public speaking didn't originate with the stage and therefore can't be argued that to employ them is to countenance drama.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

Many thanks again for taking time to reply :)

1. The issue of theatre/cinema attendance. You say that being found in places frequented by the worldly is a no-no. Going back to your original post, one of your main reasons is the company. "[T]he ungodly resort" there, "attending ... in their droves", so why would Christians want to be in such company?

In the Gospels, the LORD Jesus Christ always seemed to attract certain types of people: Sinners. He was the place where the ungodly resorted in their droves. He made Himself at home with them, in their company, in their houses, at their parties. He called Himself their Friend. Where Jesus is concerned, to stay away from where Sinners flock is to stand with the scornful Pharisees.

What was it about Christ that Sinners wanted to be in His company? Do Sinners feel the same about us? Perhaps they go to "worldly" places to avoid us!

The popular Christian slogan, "Christians are in the world but not of the world," can often be heard as: "Christians are in the world [which is a shame, there's nothing we can do about it, but remember we're escaping to heaven soon!] but [striving by God's grace] not [to be] of the world [so let's grit our teeth and keep the world at arm's length]."

In John 17:14–19, both Jesus and the disciples are "not of the world" to begin with. Yet they are not taken out of the world, but both are sent into the world (because that's where the worldly are!).

The Church is to be holy, separate, distinct from the world. This does not mean that we are to be prickly, withdrawn, fearful, defensive -- judging those on the outside (1 Cor 5:12). Whatever 1 Cor 9:19–23 looks like in practice, we can be sure it's not that!

Jesus tells us that what is to distinguish us from the world is our love for one another (John 13:35), which flows out of the love that He has for us (John 13:34).

If this is what sets us apart from the world, that means that the world doesn't reject us primarily because we "know what we believe and we tell it as we see it no matter how unpopular", or because we "take a stand against error", or because we refuse to fraternise with certain people, or because we "uphold moral standards". (The BNP does that kind of thing with great ease!)

That's not to say that standing firm in faith, opposing error and avoiding false teachers play no part in following Jesus (e.g. 1 Cor 16:13; 1 Pet 4:2–4; 2 Tim 3:1–5), but we must recognise that these things in themselves can be entirely fleshly. (Cf. 1 Cor 13.) And we are certainly not called to be moral policemen.

The love that marks out the Bride of Christ is out of this world. It is extravagant, counter-intuitive, other-centred, self-sacrificial. Such love that forsakes ease and comfort in this life only makes sense in the light of the New Creation hope. This love is constituted by, conformed to and centred around the Cross. The world rejects this love as foolishness. This love, embodied in Christ, appears to the world to be the way of death, not the way to life.

And yet the world longs for such love. It is sought in both legalism and licence, "spirituality" and materialism. The world tries to recreate such union and communion in its relationships and social gatherings, whether these be characterised by closeness and inclusivity or exclusion and isolation. The world often extols such love in marriage ceremonies and commemorative events.

And all the while True Love is available, held out to the world, in Christ the Head, on display in His Body.

meneksh said...

The world wants this love, but it doesn't want Christ. In Adam, humanity has forsaken Christ. Cut off from Him, everyone is full of emptiness, thirst, hunger, longing. We have dug broken cisterns. No-one seeks after Him, but all seek to fill His absence and cover our guilt. One of the ways in which this is seen is in our insatiable appetite for amusement and entertainment.

What countless multitudes think they'll find in entertainment, but what entertainment never delivers, is delivered in the Christ who came down to us, sought us, and relentlessly pursued us through hell and death, loving us more than His own life. He is everything we need.

In that sense the Crucified God judges, not merely the cinema or the theatre or those who go there, but all of humanity as enslaved pleasure-seekers, sinful lovers of ourselves, not lovers of Christ and our neighbour. Everyone is condemned already, even before they step through the doors of a cinema.

But when in Christ, we are liberated from slavery to these things. They are set in their proper context. We no longer live for them but for Christ. And everything we do, we now do to the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31).

A Christian may object to cinema attendance on the basis that it is deliberately putting oneself in a position to be bombarded with worldliness. Regardless of whether there is an "objective" right answer to the issue, that person is right to avoid going to the cinema, as to go would be acting against his conscience.

Another Christian may have no problem with the cinema, given that anybody who has ever engaged in conversation with a non-Christian, read a newspaper, or walked around a city centre, has deliberately put himself in the way of unprofitable worldly propaganda. It's a necessary part of following the LORD Jesus. That and other reasons are why this Christian is convinced in his own mind that he is at liberty to attend the cinema.

Part of our freedom in Christ relates to cultural practices concerning which others might judge us. However, freedom in Christ does not mean that we run roughshod over our brothers and sisters but instead that we serve them. If the second Christian offends the first brother in this, he is not to insist on his rights but to relinquish them for his brother's sake. (Cf. Rom 14; 1 Cor 8–11; etc.)

If someone objects to a cultural practice and imposes a prohibition on the church family, claiming that someone cannot truly be a Christian unless they adhere to this prohibition, this is very wrong. We should make a concerted effort to attend the cinema as much as possible to fly in the face of this "other" gospel.

meneksh said...

I would venture that, just as reading newspapers or novels can be instructive, even sobering, so too can watching films/plays. You yourself have said that there are many kinds of films that are beneficial.

Christians have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2). We see things through His eyes. In Christ, we see the great longings and hopes and fears of a lost world shown up all the more clearly. Every cry, complaint, wish, etc., put in the mouths of characters on the stage or screen, corresponds with what we find in Scripture again and again.

As we watch, read and pay attention to the world around us the Spirit of Christ in us scrutinises, diagnoses and exposes the world's false gospels and solutions and presses upon us once again the One who is the Question to humanity's answers and the Answer to humanity's questions.

As I've said before, very few films set Christ forth as the Divine Logos, the One in whom all sin is judged, in whom true reconciliation is effected, in whom all hunger is satisfied. Christ's presence is sorely needed. But even though He's absent, it's Christ's absence that is felt, not someone else or some abstract life-principle.

Above all, liberty in Christ means we are free to love and serve our neighbour. That must include spending time with the lost as Jesus did. To do so is not compromising but doing something like what we see Paul doing throughout Acts, in 1 Cor 9, etc. In all of this He is explicitly imitating Jesus Himself (1 Cor 11:1).

We can cut ourselves off from the world. We can refuse to read the papers. We can live in ignorance of the cinema or theatre apart from when something immoral/blasphemous is released/staged that we can protest against. We can refuse to spend much time with sinners lest we be corrupted -- aside from concerted evangelistic campaigns, before we return to our holy huddle.

But I can't help thinking that if our prime concern is to be different from the world rather than an obsession with Jesus, with loving Him and one another, the ones we'll end up looking very different from are the apostles and the Post-Pentecost Church.

meneksh said...

2. Does creation present Christ? Heb 1:1,2 isn't an exhaustive treatment of revelation. Taken by itself it could look like it is only in these last days that God has spoken to us by His Son, which contradicts John 1:18 for a start (not to mention the rest of Hebrews 1)!

I know space is limited, but I feel you have side-stepped my questions arising from reading Rom 1:19,20. Are you advocating such a thing as Christless revelation of God?

The creation's testimony about God is maximal not minimal (even the invisible things are clearly seen). Surely this means it is saying more than "there exists a glorious God"?

If the gospel plays no part in that maximal testimony, what kind of a god is creation proclaiming? Not a Gospel God. Not the Crucified God.

What is the "glory" of this "glorious God"? Who is this God? Father, Son and Holy Spirit? None of the above?

And why does Paul in Rom 10:14–18 quote from the "general" revelation part of Ps 19 to answer the question, "Have they not heard [the good news]?"

Isn't the song of creation pouring forth praise to the One seated on the throne, and to the Lamb (Rev 5:13)?

In light of Col 2:3, I'm still intrigued at your agreement with the notion of extracting illustrations of spiritual principles from a) creation, which you say bypasses Christ, and b) works of fiction by unsaved writers, who are opposed to Christ!

There's precedent in Scripture for a) because creation proclaims Christ.

There's biblical warrant for b), when unsaved men speak or illustrate the gospel without knowing it (e.g. Gen 50:20; Jn 11:49–52), and/or when such things are pressed into the service of Christ (e.g. Acts 17). Yet you claim it's not legitimate to say that exactly the same applies to theatrical productions/films!

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

1. There is a world of difference between sinners coming to Christ and believers being found in places of worldly entertainment. To conflate the two is unscriptural and in my opinion a little foolish. Separation from the world is clearly taught by the Bible. Why do professing Christians refuse to accept its plain teaching on this point?

I think in quoting 1 Cor 13 you missed verse 6: [Charity/love] Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth. Surely that is another argument not to be found where pleasure and entertainment is derived from films which do not honour God or His truth.

You are sadly mistaken if you think the world wants 'true love'. It doesn't! It cannot! It wants its sin that is why the world generally for example strives for the secret of long life. The natural heart is totally depraved therefore it can never chose or desire what is good. The unconverted heart loves sin in its various forms. They are so in love with sin that they never want to leave this world.

You reasoning about attending the cinema is alarmingly wrong. Your argument is a licence for the individual Christian to do as they think best. Your reasoning could equally be used as an argument for going to the pub as well and a whle lot of other places a Christian should never be found! This was the mark of departure from God in the days of the Judges, cf. Jud 17:6; Jud 21:25.

The Christian, as Paul reminds us, is under the law to Christ, 1 Cor 9:20,21. God commands us to flee every appearance of evil. If that doesn't take in the cinema/theatre, and such like places, then words don't mean anything. As I pointed out before it has been the historical evangelical position that attendance at these types of places is not in keeping with a profession of the Gospel. The spirit of seeking to attend these worldly places of entertainment is a far cry from that of the Psalmist in Psalm 101:3: I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

2. You are simply wrong about Heb 1:1,2. It is an exhaustive treatment of revelation. John 1:18 doesn't contradict Hebrews rather it agrees fully with it. Creation does not present the gospel & Christ as Saviour. Here is what John Gill had to say on Romans 1:19 to answer that point at the same time: There are some things which could not be known of God by the light of nature; as a trinity of persons in the Godhead; the knowledge of God in Christ as Mediator; the God-man and Mediator Jesus Christ; his incarnation, sufferings, death, and resurrection; the will of God to save sinners by a crucified Jesus; the several peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, particularly the resurrection of the dead, and the manner of worshipping of God with acceptance…

The natural revelation, ie. creation, was provided for an unfallen world. It was never designed for a world fallen into sin and spiritual darkness as is now the case. It didn't need to teach Christ and the gospel as when God made it the world was without sin. Sin entered afterwards and immediately upon its entry God commenced to give special revelation, cf. Gen 3:15, the promise of a redeemer. This could never have been known from creation. It never was its purpose! Why shoehorn something into creation that was never there in the first place and was never its intended purpose?

Rom 10:18; Col 2:3 & Rev 5:13 have no bearing whatsoever upon this matter. Rom 10:18 is an example of the very point that I was making whereby spiritual principles can be illustrated from the natural world. Paul is drawing a parallel between the natural revelation going into all the world and the gospel being preached in all the world. The fact that he does is an argument in support of what I am saying, for if creation taught the gospel why would we need to send preachers into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature from the BIble if people could learn it from creation? When missionary go into tribes with no gospel knowledge, they teach that there is a God from nature and from the Scriptures; they teach that there is a Saviour exclusively from the Scriptures.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

I haven't posted your multiple comments [I think there were 7 in total in your most recent reply] or responded as I am short of time to read multiple comments. I pointed that out on the comments policy and did post a subsequent multiple reply from you and did respond.

If you want further comments posted then you need to reduce your last set and future comments to one per reply. Then I will take the time to read and respond.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

- All seek after "life" & "love". Jesus is both, but no-one's seeking Him. World's OK with having what Jesus offers, but not Him.

- Surprised Rom 14, 1 Cor 8–10, Col 2 & Gal are unfamiliar to you.

- What do you say about the following features of holiness/separation/being different from world? John 13:35; 1 Cor 10:29b; 9:22; 10:33; Mt 11:19; 9:10,11; Lk 15:1,2.

- Heb 1:1,2 & Jn 1:18 don't disagree but Heb 1:1,2 is not exhaustive doctrine of revelation. Treatments of rev based on it alone say it's *only* since incarnation that Father has spoken through Son.

- You've confused X (natural theology) with Y ("general revelation"). X thinks it can know/define God without God the Word. Y doesn't ignore God the Word. *From God's side* the invisible things of God are revealed in creation because the One who makes the Invisible God visible is the content of creation's sermon. Unless God the Word is proclaimed by creation, creation is silent concerning God. Otherwise you deny Jesus THE Way & Truth. *From our side* it involves seeing properly God's self-disclosure – something we can't & won't do in fallen condition. Sinful humanity is like student in class listening to headphones rather than teacher. Bible = spectacles to focus our vision.

- Re: your claim that creation's original purpose wasn't to set forth Christ as this would only have been necessary post-Fall. (Is Christ unnecessary pre-Fall?!) Irenaeus said that Christ was "Saviour" before Fall & He formed creation in order to be the scene of His incarnate work. 1. Creation's goal wasn't Adam in Eden. Adam & original creation very good but incomplete. Adam only a pattern of the One to come (Rom 5). 2. Gospel proclaimed pre-Fall (e.g. Gen 2). 3. It's Satanic theologia gloriae (Mt 16) to claim creation's perfection could have been achieved without Christ's suffering. 4. Creation & redemption are held together in Bible & can only be approached through One Word who is both Creator and Redeemer. 5. Is "Jesus" (Saviour) a mask, or a Name revealing His essential nature? Paul (1 Cor 8) calls Him this in a pre-Fall context. 5. Jesus (Jn 10:17) claims that Crucifixion & Resurrection are integral to & constitutive of the Triune life. To cut God loose from His saving activity is to imagine a false god.

- Rom 10:18, Col 2:3 & Rev 5:13 are v. important. Rom 10: Paul's not drawing a parallel but answering direct question. Why would he prove that *the gospel* has been heard by saying that *gospel-less* revelation has gone throughout earth? Col 2: Have some of these treasures, unavailable outside of Jesus, locked up in Him, somehow slipped out and easily accessible to creation? Rev 5: Why is creation's song about Father and Slain-Lamb-Son?

- "Why preach gospel if they've heard it from creation?" is like saying the Reformed doctrine of unconditional election renders redundant the responsibility to evangelise.

- If Christ Jesus is not the God proclaimed from start to finish, the god being proclaimed is sub-Christian & not Christ who is Lord & *Saviour* in equal measure. Result: God viewed as Sovereign Law-giver over & above loving Father, Self-giving Saviour & Life-giving Spirit. Leads to a) compartmentalised Christian life dividing sacred and secular; b) "Christian" ethos where legalists fit in more than licentious.

Rev Brian McClung said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

Yes, I most surely do argue that a Saviour was not necessary prior to the Fall, as our first parents were sinlessly perfect, although not infallibly so.

Adam was his own mediator. He had a true knowledge of God, a perfect holiness and a flawless righteousness. He could, and he did, meet with God without the need of any other mediator. There was no need of another mediator until sin entered and all mankind in Adam became separated from God.

God has revealed Himself in His works of creation, hence the term "natural" revelation. This revelation of God in nature is accessible to all mankind without distinction, hence the term "general" revelation…Furthermore, natural revelation, addressed as it was originally, to unfallen man, has nothing to say to fallen man about salvation. Dr Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms.

I can't put it any better or more succinct than that, so I rest my case!

Brian McClung

Meneksh said...

I would rather not say the following but feel I must.

Who is the God Adam knew in Eden? John Owen said that the Voice of God walking in the Garden (Gen 3:8) was Christ, as no-one has seen the Father at any time (Jn 1:18). This Divine Person had had dealings with them pre-Fall ("I commanded ...", Gen 3:11).

How horrendous to say the default position is unmediated encounter with "God". How horrible to make Christ unnecessary!

How horrific to make sin more fundamental than Christ, given that sin defines Him and His role rather than the other way around (Jn 16:9)! Does that explain your seeming obsession with sin over and above Christ? For you, where grace (Christ) abounds, sin doth much more abound ...

... yet effectively for you Christ doesn't even abound!

He's not preached by creation. He doesn't make Himself available to sinful people. There's no way anyone could even see a shadow of Him in a story, film or play. Adam didn't need Him before Gen 3:6, so presumably He won't be needed in the New Creation where there's no possibility of sin.

Presumably, after 10,000 years of no-one sinning and no-one to save, the old old story of the Man called Jesus with nail-scarred hands will become outdated.

Presumably in Gen 2 the gospel of the Man whose bride is formed through his death-like sleep is a superfluous oddity in a creation that had an entirely different purpose.

What I've heard from you is that Jesus is a theological luxury rather than THE theological necessity. At best, Christ crucified and risen is a detour from what God's really like. How He is toward us in the gospel does not reveal who God is essentially. Jesus Christ is not really the Word of God and God remains essentially unknown. Horrendous!

My repeated point has been that Christ is THE Icon of god. Creation is not another icon but only points to him.

By saying creation reveals God but says nothing of Christ, you have undermined solus Christus, and you have not even attempted to answer any charge that you have denied solus Christus.

You have simply asserted things and ignored the biblical arguments set before you. You haven't engaged with Scripture at any depth. You have seemed more content with quoting extra-biblical authorities. This is not only something for which you criticise Roman Catholicism; it's also a hallmark of cults.

Your comments have highlighted the impoverished theology that stands behind your position on cinema. It has led you continually to downplay Christ.

All of which we should see as horrendous!!

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

I would like to see John Owen's quote. As we have already discovered in this exchange your quotes are extremely dodgy and not what they seem! I would hazard a guess that John Owen sees Gen 3:8 as a type of Christ. Which is totally different from what you allege. This is another example of what I said some time ago about illustrating Gospel/spiritual principles from creation. Again this is totally different from claiming that creation reveals the Gospel. It did not.

There are some serious misunderstandings or worse in what you allege:

1. The God that Adam and Eve knew in the Garden was the one and only true and living God. Adam didn't 'see' anyone, he 'heard' a voice! It may well have been the second person of the Trinity. It was most definitely not Messiah/Christ! 'Messiah/Christ' was one promised down through OT times and is a name which belongs exclusively to the 'Godman' who was incarnated in the Virgin's womb at Bethlehem. God the Son has eternally existed but the person of Jesus Christ exists from Bethlehem. As Isaiah put it: a son was given, a child was born. This unique person, a 'Godman' exists from then until eternity to come. There are types of Christ in the OT pointing forward to Him but Christ as a person exist from Bethlehem.

2. Prior to the Fall Adam stood before God on the basis of a Covenant of works. If he had obeyed he would have secured eternal life of all his posterity. Up until he sinned he did not need a Saviour or a mediator. Adam prior to the Fall was like the holy angels, who are able to this day to enter God's presence by their own righteousness. Christ's didn't die for the holy angels yet they dwell in His presence. Adam pre-Fall stood on the same basis. The nonsensical idea that Adam needed a Saviour prior to the Fall turns on its head the covenant of works and what Paul says about the first Adam and second Adam in 1 Cor 15. If Adam needed a Saviour prior to the Fall then either he was created less than perfect by God and not holy and righteous as the Bible states or the Fall actually took place before the Fall as recorded in Gen 3. One is unworthy of God; the other is just plain nonsense!

I have no interest in repeating myself about the cinema. I simply quote again the words of 1 John 2:15: Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

Please submit your comment in proper English and I will upload it and respond. Otherwise I won't!

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

Gladly!
- So 1 Cor 9:22 etc. play no part here?
- Some Bible verses you quote can't be saying what you claim they say. Still you repeat your view (denying Christ is *the* sole Icon of God), even insisting on backing it up without the Bible. So to charge me with "extremely dodgy" quotes is unfair.
- Owen's Works, Vol 18, "Appearances of Son of God under OT", pp.216–220 (newer reprints renumber it as Vol 17): He by whom all things were made ... did in an especial and glorious manner appear unto our first parents ... before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice of the Father. Not a type, but the Word Himself *appeared* to Adam, walking in the Garden, mediating the Father.
- You say God in Eden may well've been the Son. What was He doing if not mediating the Father? The Persons' roles from Gen 1 aren't a departure from who They've always been in eternity past. That says Christ doesn't truly reveal God. To speak/act by bypassing/ignoring the Son goes against the Father's being & will; He's always expressed Himself through His Eternal Word & Image. It subverts the Son's mediatorial role to say God's actions in the economy aren't predicated upon/revelatory of His eternal being.
- "Son" not "Christ" in OT is a pedantic & inaccurate distinction. The Son has always been the One anointed by the Spirit. The Spirit always flows from Head to Body & that's as true of OT saints like Bezaleel & David as it is of us. Calvin repeatedly said *Christ* in OT appeared. Any objections must be taken up with Peter (1 Pet 1:10,11) and Paul (1 Cor 10:4; Phil 2:6,7). Either Paul's inaccurate or he thinks it's OK to call the Son "Christ" & even "Jesus" before He's incarnate.
- "Christ as Saviour pre-Fall" is more of a supra/infralapsarian issue. Reformed theologians don't have to bin Cov of Works in order be supra (i.e. God's desire to *redeem* is prior to His permitting Fall). The Cross isn't an afterthought/response to fallenness, but crux of God's purposes. God's desire has always been for the glory of the Cross as the way to win a bride for the Son (Gen 2). Our God loves to *save*. Having something to *redeem* is the reason for creation. That's why the glory & boast of God is the Cross of Christ. Sin can't thwart that determination; it fits within God's redemptive purposes, not the other way round. God desires to redeem men as men, not simply as sinners. That doesn't turn 1 Cor 15 on its head. Paul speaks of corruptible vs. incorruptible flesh, but doesn't stop at *fallen* Adam; he goes back to creation. The 1st man Adam, *of the earth*, had one kind of glory. But he, as created being, was corrupt-able & became corruptible, not the finished/perfected article, and only a pattern of the One to come. But there's another kind of glory, that of the 2nd Man, *the Lord from heaven*. Adam couldn't achieve that. We're never told that he'd one day just reach this glory himself. Adam had to put it on, i.e. be clothed with Christ incorruptible. Perfection/completion through the Cross (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) was always intended. Thus the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world is held out to Adam pre-Fall.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

Just as I thought! Another misquote! The whole quote reads somewhat differently from the slant you have put on it. Here is the complete sentence and the wider context:
It is therefore most probable, that, in the great alteration which was now coming upon the whole creation of God, — mankind being to be cast out of covenant, the serpent and the earth being to be cursed, and a way of recovery for the elect of God to be revealed, — He by whom all things were made, and by whom all were to be renewed that were to be brought again unto God, did in an especial and glorious manner appear unto our first parents, as he in whom this whole dispensation centred, and unto whom it was committed. And as, after the promise given, he appeared “in a human shape,” to instruct the church in the mystery of his future incarnation, and under the name of Angel, to shadow out his office as sent unto it and employed in it by the Father; so here, before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice or Word of the Father.

1. John Owen begins these comments with words which interestingly you left out: "It is therefore most probable…". This alone gives a different flavour to the quote. Probable = "likely to be the case or to happen". Somewhat different to the emphatic statements you have been making on the topic and illiciting the support of various authors. [I would like to read the quote from Calvin as well]
2. These comments of John Owen are referring to the Lord's appearance to our first parents after the Fall and not before the Fall. This much is evident from another part of the quote that you conveniently left out: "…as he in whom this whole dispensation centred, and unto whom it was committed". In using the words "this whole dispensation" it is obvious that John Owen is not speaking of the dispensation of man's innocency prior to the Fall but of the time after the Fall has taken place. After the Fall they most certainly needed a mediator. No one disputes that. This does not establish the need for one before the Fall!
3. Significantly John Owen nowhere in this quote uses the words/phrase: "mediator" or "mediating the Father". That is your 'eisegesis' of his words. You are putting words in his mouth!

To define who 'Christ' is can never be labelled 'pedantic'; nor is what I said an inaccurate distinction; nor does it contradict Paul or Peter. 'Christ' is a title for the person of the Godman. He was promised down through OT times. He can't be promised all through the OT age and also be present all through the OT age. It has to be one or the other. If Christ was present then there is no more need for types and shadows. However these types and shadows did exist and continued until the Godman appeared.

Supralapsarianism leads to many things, including hyper-calvinism, but I wasn't aware that it required Adam to need a Saviour prior to his Fall into sin!

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

- On misquotes: You've stopped appealing to a handful of proof-texts after actual consideration of them. (Indeed, you've studiously avoided many biblical passages in the course of this exchange.)

I haven't misquoted Owen. Sure, as a scholar addressing scholars his context differs from ours, & he's thus more measured than I am. (He can afford to be: he's not contending with imposed space restrictions.) That doesn't overturn the point he carefully establishes. He's aware there's no categorical biblical statement that "the Son was in Eden"; nonetheless textual evidence & theological thinking strongly urge this conclusion. The phrase "most probable" (which elsewhere he can follow up with "yea indeed undeniable") only blunts his conclusion if you want it to. He's very much arguing for the Son/Word as the One appearing to Adam.

So, moving from English comprehension to theology, the quote still poses less of a problem for me than you. The Word appeared. Why's this Owen's verdict? What's the Son doing there in Gen 3? What might the title "Voice of the LORD God" mean? And why does the Voice indicate (3:11,17) that *He* spoke the command to Adam in 2:16,17 (*pre-Fall*)? Why, when He had no business doing so? Can't the Father do His own work?

- On "Christ" referring only to *incarnate* Son: A Calvin quote? Certainly! (You've not read Institutes then?) "The God who of old appeared to the patriarchs was no other than Christ." (I.xiii.27.)

I'll throw in Jonathan Edwards for free (History of the Work of Redemption, I.iv.1, my emphases):

This redemption [i.e. the Exodus] was by Jesus Christ, as is evident from this, that it was wrought by him that appeared to Moses in the bush; for that was the person that sent Moses to redeem the people. But that was Christ, as is evident, because he is called "the angel of the LORD" ...

Calvin also said OT saints "had and knew Christ as Mediator, through whom they were joined to God and were to share in His promises" (II.x.2). They looked forward to the Promised Christ (Comm Ex 29:38, "by this sacrifice the minds of the people were directed to Christ"), obviously, but they had & knew Him there and then, the Spirit-Anointed One ("Christ"), the Logos incarnandus.

P.S. You'll need to show me how you're not flatly contradicting Paul & Peter.

- On Supralapsarianism: Thanks for your concern! Though I think it's obvious I'm no hyper-Calvinist. Now, to engage with the issues: I treated "Christ as *Saviour* pre-Fall" as a supra- matter. "Christ as *Mediator* pre-Fall" is at heart a Trinity question. Church fathers, taking seriously multiple statements of Christ in the Gospels, were adamant that the Son was the Hand of the Father through whom He conducts all His work, & that for the Father ever to bypass/ignore the Son would go against both His nature & His good pleasure. The LORD Jesus Christ stands at the Head of creation. All things were created through Him. Creatures cannot bypass Him to gain access to the Father, whether or not sin's in the picture. Mediated communion with God is essential to Trinitarian faith.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

I believe I could easily multiple proof texts! What I have avoided are texts that are quoted by you without ever stating what you understand that text to teach. The way you use proof texts and quotes it would be difficult to know what you are inferring they teach. I have no intentions of second guessing as to what they are referring to. If you expound a text then I will seek to address it.

You have indeed misquoted John Owen and your latest reply is an attempt to justify that misquote. This is easily proved. John Owen's quote makes no reference at all to the time/circumstances of our first parents in Eden prior to the Fall. He specifically mentions Gen 3:8 in the wider section from which you took the quote. This verse is a reference to the time in Eden after the Fall, when our first parents did indeed require a mediator. If you care to read a little further back you would have found that this was indeed what John Owen was referring to. On page 295 of my edition he writes regarding 'The Word/voice of the Lord' and this is what he clearly states: it first occurs in them [the Targumists] on the first appearance of a divine person after the sin and fall of Adam, Genesis 3:8. How much clearer can it be! John Owen is in agreement with the Jewish commentators that the term 'the word/voice of the Lord' first occurs on the first appearance of a divine person after the sin and fall of Adam and he mentions Gen 3:8 for good measure. If words mean anything then John Owen is not implying, as you have repeatedly alleged, that this was a reference to life prior to the Fall, where the Son was 'mediating the Father' to use your language. No one of a reasonable mind could argue that he does.

I have no difficulty with the Eternal Son appearing to Adam and Eve prior to the Fall. My contention is that He was not there as their Mediator as Adam and Eve did not require one. Our first parents were without sin. A mediator is required where sin exists and where that sin needs atoned for. It is sin that separates from God and hides His face and places a sinner under His condemnation. As Adam and Eve were not sinners but sinlessly perfect they did not require a mediator. It may indeed have been the Son of God who communed with them in the garden but He was not there as their mediator.

Again with respect to the quotation from Calvin's Institutes, if you cared to read a little further again you would find Calvin speaking about the advent of Christ at Bethlehem. You can't have a coming advent of someone who is really and truly present in the world. I understand Calvin to be referring to a pre-incarnation appearance of the Son of God in a human form. Your own further quote from Calvin proves my point, where you say that: They looked forward to the Promised Christ… Why would they be looking forward if He was already present? These appearances are types of Christ. Melchizedek would be an example of this. But as Paul argues in Hebrews the person of Jesus Christ is superior to Melchizedek. In what sense would Melchizedek be superior if your contention be true?

Brian McClung

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

What you allege most certainly does impact upon the Covenant of Works. If Adam needed a Mediator prior to the Fall and if "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world was held out to Adam pre-Fall" then the covenant of grace is already in vogue. Adam must already then be a sinner needing grace and redemption; a second Adam is already present and at work even before the first Adam has failed; as the mediator is one who secures eternal life by His work, then Adam must already be spiritually dead and in need of this new life. The proposition is just ludicrous!

I don't contradict Paul or Peter for neither of them are speaking of Adam prior to the Fall. When Paul speaks of 'corruptible' flesh he is speaking of sinful flesh. He uses this term to describe those who are subject to death. This could not be a reference to Adam prior to the Fall as he was not subject to death until after the Fall.

I don't know what you believe, but you argued for this thesis by saying that it was a Supralapsarian viewpoint. Usually when someone defends what they believe from a particular viewpoint it would be usual to assume that they must believe what they are saying! It is also interesting that in this context you should quote Calvin who is generally accepted not to hold to a Supralapsarian viewpoint. I would be very interested in reading the wider context of Jonathan Edwards quote.

Some questions for you:
1. If "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world was held out to Adam pre-Fall" as you allege, then how can Gen 3:15 be described as the proto-evangel, the first setting forth of the covenant of grace?
2. If Adam was created with a perfect righteousness, holiness and knowledge, Eph 4:23,24; Col 2:10 in what sense did he need a mediator?
3. Do all Supralapsarians, in your opinion, hold to this view that Adam needed a mediator prior to the Fall?

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

- Texts you won't/didn't give full account of, I expounded & you ignored subsequently include Rom 14; 1:19,20; 10:18; Ps 19; Col 2:3; Heb 1:1,2; Rev 5:13.
- You eisegete me by saying I say Owen argues for all I argue. All I claimed for him was he said "the Voice of God walking in the Garden (Gen 3:8) was Christ, as no-one's seen the Father at any time". This he clearly argues. The next bit was my own comment: "This Divine Person had had dealings with them pre-Fall" (apparent from Gen 3:11,17 which refers to 2:16,17). If the division was unclear, blame limited space! You're OK with Owen's claim anyway, yet miss its implications while waxing lyrical on tangential issues (supposed misquotes). Why've you not spent as much time addressing eisegesis of Rom 1? 
(NB: St John [Jn 1:1] finds the first mention of the Word even earlier than the Targumists [Gen 1].)
- You argued "don't call pre-incarnate Son 'Christ'", yet Peter, Paul (1 Cor 8:6; 10:4; Phil 2:6,7), Calvin & Edwards do. Now you argue "the Son appears in human form as a type of Christ", & somehow this means He's not really & truly present in OT? Moses disagrees! Calvin says OT saints BOTH i) have Christ then & there, the pre-incarnate Person, present, active, committed to redemption; ii) look forward to the One they know & love becoming flesh & effecting this redemption. Isn't Jesus truly ours now? If so is it absurd to long for His future advent too? NO!
- Issues you still ignore re: Son in Eden pre-Fall: Did Adam see the Father? Jn 1:18 says no. Why not? Why's the Son the Father's "Voice" to Adam? Why doesn't the Father command in Gen 2? Is He acting through the Son? Of course: why did the Father not only redeem but *create* *through* the Son? He doesn't act any other way. Christ as Father's Mediator/Agent/Hand/Priest is doctrine of God stuff before it's hamartiology stuff. Sin doesn't alter Triune ways; it just shows off the gracious God more clearly (Rom 5:20). Christ remains our Mediator eternally. It's only due to our unbreakable union with the Son that we'll fellowship with the Father as sons, even in a sinless universe; it's all down to Him. If that union breaks, it's over for us.
- I hold to Supra & argue for indiscriminate gospel preaching so clearly I'm no hyper-C! Do all Supras hold the view that Adam needed a Mediator pre-Fall? All *Trinitarians* should!
- "Lamb slain from creation" is a clue. "2nd Adam already present & at work even before 1st has failed" is beautiful, not ludicrous. Good to call Gen 3:15 proto-evangel, yet strictly the gospel was proclaimed before that (you've blogged on Gen 2). Or is gospel truth found before Gen 3:15 eisegesis?
- 1 Cor 15: Is Paul talking about sinful flesh in 44–47? Jesus is needed by man as *sinner* & even as *creature*. Natural earthy Adam was a life-borrower: it could be taken from him [Gen 2:17]. He didn't have life that's gone *beyond* death (44). How would Adam have achieved that had Fall not happened? Good works? He needed Life founded in the everlasting God. He needed the Spiritual heavenly Man, the Life-giver. I don't claim Adam's a sinner pre-Fall but incomplete (read my unpublished comments). Contra Edward Irving the Son didn't assume fallen flesh, but was as Adam was pre-Fall – very good, sinless, yet needing to reach His goal/be made perfect, which comes through suffering (Heb 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). In New Creation is no possibility of Fall, unlike Adam in Eden. Adam's not the destination. He's the acorn. Jesus is the mighty oak. Adam's incomplete until united to Christ. He's created for that union. End goal is Son as firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29) so humanity needs to become sons *in the Son*. Not even sin, death & devil can thwart that.

Derek said...

I agree with you Revrend McLung. We need more Faithful Men of God like yourself who Sound the Alarm against wickedness, apostasy and immorality on every Hand.

The old standards have gone sad to say. Our wee Country that has enjoyed so much Blessing from the Lord is now nowhere Spiritually. Nowadays folk who Profess to be Saved think nothing of being found in the Dens of iniquity like the Pictures and the Theatre, the Dancehall and the Disco, the Clubs and the Pubs. Back in the Days of Revival when the Great Preacher WP Nicholson was Preaching the Blood and the Book and many folk were getting Saved, my these places were frowned upon. If only folk were as keen to be out at the prayer meeting, and please note I'm not just talking about the Young Folk in our Congregations!!

I just skimmed the comments here but my its sad to see so many so called Christians forsaking the old paths just so they can fit in with the World. These folk don't have a leg to stand on because their so compromised the unsaved don't see them as any different from them selves!! They can't support their practice from Gods Word and when The Lords People ask them to give account of them selves as you have done, they retreat as we've seen here for they have no answer to give!! If folk these days would stand up and be Counted and lay their lives on the Alter for God we would see a Mighty Moving of God even in our day across our Land.

And its no good folk saying you might as well be at the Pictures if you have a Television in your House for I got rid of mine as I was so fed up of seeing so many sodomites and republicans on it and I haven't missed it a bit, The Lord has Blessed our House these 3 Years because of it!!!

Derek

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

First of all sorry for the inordinate long delay in posting your comments and responding to them. It just seems that every time I would think about doing do there was always something more pressing to do with regards to 'work'. This is after all a 'personal' blog, so it takes second place when others things are more urgent in Church life. Postings on the main blog have been light because of this as well. I also acknowledge receipt of your subsequent posts asking about whether they would be posted. I can only reply through the comment section and its not the place for every comment like that. So sorry again.

There are four points under discussion here: 

1. The issue of attending the theatre/cinema. 

2. Whether creation teaches the gospel.
3. Did Adam and Eve prior to the Fall need a mediator?
4. How are to understand Christ in the Old Testament?

In addressing the specific points you made in your last reply I would say the following.

1. I have no reason to avoid texts. It is not much use to quote a text without explaining what you understand that text to mean. I have no desire to second guess what you might understand a text to mean. Where you have explained what you understand a text/passage to mean I have sought to deal with it. If I have omitted to do this with some text then mention it again and I will address it. But first give what you understand that text clearly to teach!

2. You have argued for much more than: "This Divine Person had had dealings with them pre-Fall". You have argued that "the Word Himself 'appeared' to Adam, walking in the Garden, mediating the Father". See comment made on 10th June 2013 @21:22. It is wholly inaccurate of you to say otherwise. It has nothing to do with space either.

I have sought to explain that to suggest this is simply wrong. I am not going to go over the many reasons again.

Regarding the fourth point you seem to conflate who the 'Word' is and who "Christ" is. The "Word is the eternal Son, the second person of the trinity, a spirit being. 'Christ" in the person of the Godman, the eternal Son incarnated, ie. united to a human nature. The eternal Son has always existed and has even appeared in a human form at various times down through Old Testament times. These were all types of the person of Jesus Christ. The person of Jesus Christ begun to exist in the womb of the virgin as outlined in Luke 1:35.

To pick up on one of the texts you just quote but never explain, 1 Cor 10:4: And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ; was the literal rock the person of Christ? Or was the literal rock a type of Christ? I believe it to be the second of these two possibilities. I believe that to be the consistent teaching of the Scriptures.

Brian McClung

meneksh said...

No worries – life’s busy!

1. Cinema/theatre – all storytellers play with the same ingredients so all stories are echoes of THE Story.

2. The Story’s written into creation by God the Word, the Creator. Creation reveals the invisible things of God, not because creation’s another revelation alongside *the* Revelation, or another icon alongside *the* Icon of the Invisible God, but because creation proclaims the Icon – it preaches Christ. If it doesn’t preach Him then knowledge of God is available outside of Christ. This reduces Christ to merely *a* Visible Form of the Invisible God, not *the* Image and Icon; just *a* truth about God, not *the* Truth. (When I demonstrated this in detail from Rom 1, you didn’t come back to show how the passage could be saying – against me – that “general” rev is Christless revelation.)

3. One reason you say creation doesn’t preach the gospel is that its original purpose wasn’t to present a salvific message, as this would only have been necessary after Gen 3. Yet the gospel’s proclaimed before Gen 3 (e.g. 2:18–24). Part of your argument was the claim that prior to the Fall, Adam & Eve didn’t need a mediator. I’ve shown this is a bizarre notion, not least because the act of creation itself was mediated through Christ. He’s the one point of contact between God & creation before the events of Gen 3! I might add this: “Even if man had remained free from all stain, his condition would have been too lowly for him to reach God without a Mediator” (Calvin, Inst. II.xii.1).

I called on John Owen to help me show that God the Son/Word is the walking, talking Voice in Eden of Gen 3:8. You said I’d misquoted Owen by a) claiming he said the Word mediated the Father before Gen 3:8, which I didn’t say – I just pointed out 3:11,17 that showed God the Word was the Speaker of Gen 2:16,17 (pre-Fall); b) adding my own gloss: the Word was “mediating the Father” in Eden. Yet why would the Son & not the Father “appear unto our first parents” (Owen) & speak for Himself? & why’s this a disclosure of God the Son’s “distinct glorious person, as the Eternal Voice of the Father” (Owen)? Is it an error to call Someone who speaks on the Father’s behalf the Father’s Mediator/Intermediary/Representative? These are questions you’ve still not answered (along with questions posed to your exegesis of 1 Cor 15).

4. Indeed, it feels like you’ve simply repeated your previous comments irrespective of my reply, not considering any subsequent objections that render your position untenable. This is illustrated by your repeating the argument that one shouldn’t call the pre-incarnate Word “Jesus Christ” (which, along with the “‘misquoting’ Brainerd/Owen” episodes, seems a neat way of avoiding the deeper issues at hand), despite my showing where Peter & Paul (not to mention Calvin & Edwards) are happy to identify the Logos incarnandus as both “Jesus” & “Christ”.

Is the LORD Jesus conflating “the Word” & “Christ” when He says, “I have come down from heaven”? Oughtn’t He to have added a caveat like: “Strictly speaking I didn’t come down from heaven, for I’m the Godman Jesus Christ, the Word united to a human nature. The Person who came down from heaven was pure spirit being who was *then* united to a human nature which is where I, as Jesus Christ the Godman, come in. But what I’m basically saying is that I, or a version of Me, sort of came down from heaven.”

Though I appreciate you’re trying to uphold the incarnation, such talk veers dangerously close to the Nestorian heresy of driving a wedge between Jesus of Nazareth & the Eternal Son (in effect a denial of the incarnation). In Phil 2:5 Paul’s happy to call the pre-incarnate Person (who would subsequently do what’s described in 2:7ff.) “Christ Jesus”, & also in 1 Cor 10:4 to give the Name “Christ” to the pre-incarnate Person travelling with Israel. Note that it was “the spiritual Rock that followed them”, distinguished from created rocks that were merely types of Him (unless you think the rock in Ex 17 travelled with Israel!).

Rev Brian McClung said...

Meneksh

1. You comments on attending the cinema are becoming more and more outlandish. Are you seriously saying that: all storytellers play with the same ingredients so all stories are echoes of THE Story ? Does this include the immoral shorelines, those with foul language; those which denigrate Biblical marriage, Christian manhood and fatherhood?

2. I repeat a point I have made before. If Creation teaches the cross then we don't the Bible [special revelation] nor do we need to spend a fortune translating the Scriptures and sending them out to other parts of the world. Nor does missionaries need to spend years learning a native language, translating the scriptures to teach the cross when all they need to do is point to nature. Creation teaches there is a God but does teach the cross. I pointed out previously the statement of Dr Alan Cairns in his Dictionary of Theological Terms Furthermore, natural revelation, addressed as it was originally, to unfallen man, has nothing to say to fallen man about salvation.

You have mentioned Romans ch 1 again. I take it you are referring to v20 which reads: For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. Now where does it mention that creation teaches the cross here? This text tells us that creation teaches two specific things: (i) God's eternal power & (ii) His Godhead or deity. To argue for wanting else is to find something that is not there.

There is no proclamation of the gospel in Gen 2:18-24. Why would Gen 3:15 be then commonly described as the 'protoevangel' ie the first gospel proclamation? A proclamation of the Gospel requires the death of a substitute. Gen 2:18-24 doesn't have this. It is at best an illustration of the Gospel for those looking back with the benefit of hindsight who have come to know the substance of the gospel. If as according to you Adam did need a Saviour then what do you understand the Scriptures to mean when it speaks of his original creation in 'righteousness'; remembering that this is what is renewed in us in Christ by regeneration, cf. Eph 4:24?

If you read John Owen with care he is speaking about what happened after the Fall and not before it. His points are entirely understandable in this light. Again John Owen never said that the Voice was meditating the Father prior to the Fall.

What you actually said about Paul & Peter is: Any objections must be taken up with Peter (1 Pet 1:10,11) and Paul (1 Cor 10:4; Phil 2:6,7). I fail to see what bearing these texts have on the issue other than to illustrate the point I made that references to Christ in the Old Testament are to be seen as types of Christ. Paul does not say what you claim. He is not calling the pre-incarnate person Christ Jesus in Phil 2:5-. He is writing after the incarnation!

Regarding what Paul meant in 1 Cor 10:4 when he said that the rock was Christ - is this literally Christ or a type of Christ? Any reasonable interpretation would say a type of Christ. That is easily proved I believe as the literal presence of the Son of God, the angel of His presence, to give Him His full and proper Old Testament title, is specifically said to have been at that very same time going before Moses and the Israelites, on their journey to Canaan, and not after them as 1 Cor 10:4 says, cf. Ex 23:20,23; 32:34; 33:2. The Rock which followed is therefore a type of Christ and most definitely not the substance, for the substance was in front of the people leading them.

Regarding the rock following them I understand that Moses smote one rock and water came out in the region of Sinai and that he spoke to other rocks during the wilderness journeyings to obtain water and inadvisedly struck a second rock and was punished.

Brian McClung