The problem at the heart of living in a media saturated world is that, like everything in life, media is made up of truth and lies interwoven into a complicated web. All of life is a mixture of grace and idolatry. No created thing is so good as to only be full of grace (except Christ), and no created thing is so evil as to be absent of God’s fingerprints. Since God created all things for His glory, creation serves the purpose of declaring His glory (Ps. 19:1-6). However, sin has infected all creation, including humanity, causing God’s glory to be hidden by sin. God originally created man in His image for the purpose of mirroring Him in His creation (Gen. 1:26-28). Due to sin, man is unable to mirror God as clearly as he did prior to the Fall, but still mirrors Him nonetheless (Gen. 1:26-28; James 3:9). Believers especially are able to mirror God as He gradually conforms us to His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). The task of the Christian observer—who himself is sinful and who also lives in a sinful world—is to untangle all the webs of truth and lies in life for the glory of God; or as the apostle Paul said, to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Christians realize the difficulty of this task due to living in a media saturated world, but have unfortunately provided answers that do not adequately help Christians “take every thought captive to obey Christ” as they interact with media.
There are two popular approaches to interacting with media in Christianity today. Christians either live by a set of boundaries or they virtually eliminate boundaries altogether. As a result of these two attitudes, Christians either reject media that violates their boundaries or they embrace media as “mere entertainment.” Each view has some strengths, but they also have many weaknesses.
Boundaries provide Christians with a “black and white” standard to live by that practically eliminates the need for discernment. Even a child can understand boundaries, but he or she may not understand how to “test all things.” It’s easier to live by and teach others, “Don’t watch R-rated movies or listen to secular music,” than to say, “You must practice discernment by interacting with movies and music on a case by case basis for the glory of God.” For example, if we set up a boundary against watching R-rated movies, then we’ll be protected from the content of those movies that makes them R-rated. The weaknesses, however, far outweigh the strengths. Boundaries cannot save us from the reality that we live in an R-rated world, a sin-corrupted world. Also, boundaries cannot save us from the reality that Christians have R-rated hearts and minds that plague them on a daily basis. The gospel—the life, death, and resurrection of Christ to bring all creation into right relationship with God—is the only cure for the “sin-disease” that has infected all humanity and creation. Boundaries are not the gospel; therefore, they cannot accomplish what only the gospel can: salvation from our evil hearts and this evil world.
Furthermore, eliminating boundaries altogether has its benefits as well. It’s easier to live by and tell someone, “Interact with whatever media you want; it’s only harmless entertainment,” than to say, “You must ‘take every thought captive to obey Christ’ as you interact with media” (2 Cor. 10:5). Even a child can understand “enjoying media is fun,” but he or she may not understand “the purpose of interacting with media is to ‘love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matt.22:37-39). The weaknesses of this approach, however, far outweigh the strengths. Mislabeling interacting with media as “mere entertainment” cannot save us from our desire to tolerate and enjoy the sins of others or our desire to be like the evil world we see in media; only the gospel can save us. Also, embracing the myth that interacting with media is neutral (neither good nor bad), cannot save us from ourselves or others; only the gospel can. Only the gospel can save us from our wicked hearts and the wicked hearts of others.
To summarize, if you set up subjective boundaries or eliminate boundaries altogether, your life will appear easier. You won’t need to think through the numerous arguments media is making against God or the various nuggets of truth presented by these creators of media who silently admit they live in our God’s world. You, however, will lack the joy that comes with applying the gospel as the only answer for the sin-disease that has corrupted media. You will also lack the tools to enjoy God through media and all other areas of life; and thus, you will lack the ability to fully enjoy on earth the “abundant life” Christ came to give.
What are your thoughts?