Christian Discernment: Engaging with Excellent Entertainment

April 15, 2020 at 4:40 PM

The Question of Entertainment

As Christians, the question is posed to us: What will we do about entertainment? This question has never been more important for us than in these times of isolation, when people are turning to entertainment more than ever before. Some would argue that we already faced a pandemic before COVID-19 came upon us, and that would be the pandemic of entertainment-worship. So, how will we handle this pandemic – not of coronavirus, but of entertainment-worship? How will we live God-glorifying lives in an entertainment-glorifying environment? To begin answering these questions, we must first remind ourselves that not all forms of entertainment are sinful or idolatrous. Entertainment can be enjoyed without being worshiped; in fact, entertainment should be enjoyed. Entertainment was created by God to be enjoyed by His creation. The difference is that God created entertainment as a means through which to glorify Him, not to glorify entertainment itself. We are not called to worship the creation, but the Creator (Romans 1). In that light, it is paramount that we as Christians have sharpened minds tuned to the Word of God so as to be discerning regarding what we take in. The Bible lays out helpful principles for discerning what is to be filtered through the mind. In this time of COVID-19, when entertainment calls to us in our state of quarantine, it would do us well to remind ourselves what God says about discernment in the Christian life. With that in mind, let us consider three simple, biblical filters through which we can sift our entertainment.

Filter One: The Philippians Test

The first test for Christian discernment regarding entertainment is the Philippians Test. The Philippians Test is named for the passage on which it is derived:

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

Can the movie or game or book or whatever is in question be sifted through the Philippians 4:8 grid and still come out as ‘good’? Is what is being communicating true? Is it honorable? Is it right? Pure? Lovely? Of good repute? Excellent? Worthy of praise? This is the most crucial test for any form of entertainment – if it fails this test, it is not worth the time but instead wastes the time. Moreover, the eyes and ears are gateways to the mind. The renewed mind will not want to be – no, rather, must not be – flooded with the old, foul seas of worldly wisdom woven through filthy films, secular songs, and inappropriate art. The renewed mind must rather be sprinkled with the most pure and lovely cleansing of the Savior. And a mind cleansed by the pure and lovely Savior means a mind committed only to experiencing pure and lovely entertainment. Indeed, such entertainment is a gift from God.

Filter Two: The Edification Test

The second test is the Edification Test. Is the form of entertainment edifying for the Christian? Now, ‘edification’ is not a word you will hear every day, though you have probably heard it before in Christian circles. To ‘edify’ is from the Latin word aedificare which means ‘to build up.’ So, ‘edification’ means ‘the building up of’ in English. So, we can ask, does the entertainment build up the Christian? In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul warns: “’All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” So, while something may be ‘lawful’ in that it objectively finds its way through the Philippians test, it subjectively may not be edifying. What does this mean? It means we consider questions like this: Does the book have themes which personally affect you? Does the movie pander to past temptation? Does the song resurrect memories which ought to remain dead? If the answer to any of those questions is “yes,” then the entertainment fails the Edification Test. In such a case, we must refrain from that entertainment. Now, to be clear, edifying entertainment can be anything from a good, hearty laugh to a heart-warming tale. While not all entertainment needs to quote the Bible, edifying entertainment will not go against it. So, the Edification Test will vary from Christian to Christian. It answers the question: Does the particular form of entertainment ‘build up’ or not?

Filter 3: The Beautiful Test

The final test for excellent entertainment is the Beautiful Test. This one is quite straightforward: Is it beautiful? In other words, is the song good poetry? Is the sport demonstrating skill? Is the painting decorated carefully? Is what is being watched, admired, heard, or read done beautifully? In Psalm 27, the psalmist declares, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple,” (italics added). The Lord Himself is beautiful – how much more, then, should what we as His people watch be beautiful? This sort of beautiful is not the pseudo-beauty heralded by the culture, but a deeper beauty created by God and founded in Who He is. This beauty addresses questions such as, “Does the book flow together, or is it disjointed?” “Does the movie work hard to portray things as accurately and pristinely as possible, or is it rather sub-par?” “Is the plot well-written, enjoyable, and ethically right, or is it upside-down, questionable, backwards, or downright boring?” Such questions are helpful in distinguishing between the beautiful book and the careless cacophony. All men are created in the image of God, with gifts given by God, to be used to the best of their ability to God’s glory. If what is made by these men does not utilize gifts such as creativity, ingenuity, and innovation to the best of their ability, then we must consider whether the book is really worth the read, the movie really worth the watch, the song really worth the listen, and so on.

The Goal of Entertainment

In the end, both objectivity and subjectivity must be accounted for when discerning whether entertainment is excellent or not. There is a standard of what is godly and what is sinful. This is where we consider the Philippians Test for God’s perfect, unchanging standard. It is also true that Christians are unique. What may be edifying for one Christian may not be for another, and this must be taken into account. Finally, we are created in God’s image to do what He has gifted to the best of our ability for Him, and we must ask: Is the entertainment beautiful? Meaning, is it objectively beautiful in light of God’s standard yet subjectively beautiful in light of individuality? Overall, the goal of our entertainment, as is the case with all we do, is precisely what God’s Word tells us it should be:

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)

The ability to discern our entertainment as Christians is always necessary in the amusement-saturated culture, but how much more in times of pandemic and isolation as this! We must be ready to both defend against the god of entertainment while still glorifying the God of gods, the Lord of lords, and the Only True God. We must know, from the foundation of Scripture and from the unique way in which God has made us, whether what we are about to entertain ourselves with is godly, edifying, and beautiful.