How are we to discern which secular media (movies and television shows in particular) is fit for consumption, and not only that, but which we can commend to others? Alan Noble from Christ and Pop Culture basically explains that a book such as Judges portrays the world as it is, and thus portrays truth, and in the context of a larger redemptive truth. The assumption here is that there are similarities between this truth and the redemptive themes that my run through secular media. To this end, I offer the following brief analysis of Judges 3:7-11 as a paradigm for true redemptive narrative, which will in time become and introduction to a sermon I suspect. Please bear with me and consider these thoughts:
Observations and Arguments. First, this book is included in Holy Scripture, so there is something that can be learned or emulated from it. Christian cultural commentators might say that it is the portrayal of truth, and that the communication of truth is always desirable. The book simply recounts people acting as they are. Second, the book of Judges portrays the sin and rebellion of the nation of Israel. Cultural commentators are quick to parallel this with the sin that is portrayed in media, and that viewing or reading about sin does not necessarily cause us to sin. An honest presentation of mankind is incomplete without the depiction of sin. Third, the book demonstrates a subsequent downward cycle of rebellion and wickedness. Judges does not end with a fairytale happy ending. So others take this to show that movies must not necessarily have happy endings. Sometimes evil appears to triumph over good, and these cases may still and often most powerfully teach a lesson or make a point. Finally, Judges is not only permissible to read but imperative, as it is Scripture. and portrays the reality of our world. Movies, likewise, portray aspects of the world and allow us to be involved and experience what we might otherwise be unable to, in order to better understand the world in which we live.
Analysis. While clearly the above are arguments given in support of media, there is not merely a fine distinction but rather a gaping hole in the argument. After meditating on the passage the differences are irreconcileable. Certainly the book of Judges records the history of the nation of Israel in the time between the Exodus and kingship. However, the account is not merely historical but also theological, written and preserved in such a way as to make a point. I concede that media makes a point as well. So one task is to compare the purpose and see if they are aligned, or even similar? What is the purpose of the book of Judges?
The purpose of the book of Judges is to highlight the faithfulness of God in contrast to the faithlessness of His people. Did you catch that? God is the great protagonist, and the judges act out his will upon the earth. It is the Spirit upon them which gives them their strength. Perhaps you don’t like my purpose. Expositor’s Bible Commentary decides that the purpose is to demonstrate that Israel’s spiritual condition determines its political and material situation. What was the purpose of the last movie that you watched? I imagine it does not have the God of the Bible anywhere near its controlling purpose statement.
With that in mind, we might now respond to the four claims above.