A sometimes commenter here, Steve, just left this comment on my last post (which was a post reflecting once again on the TV mini-series The Walking Dead); Steve commented:
I’d like to open a “can-o’-worms”. This is the second post in which you have praised worldly entertainments and mentioned your involvement with them – most Christians seem to share your enthusiasm (see Christianity Today issue after issue as an example). I respect your heart, intelligence, and biblical understanding, so please consider devoting a blog to giving a reasoned/biblical defense (if that’s the right word – you’re not on trial!) for such involvement. What is/has been the affect of TV, movies, etc. on the Christian life and the strength of the Church? I would like to hear your perspective if you have time.
I responded to Steve in the comment thread to that post, you can read my response by clicking here. You will notice that I somewhat responded with a bit of ‘passion’ if you will, especially in regard to what I perceived as the kind of sentiment that was informing Steve’s comment; if in fact that impulse is there (i.e. a kind of legalistic Fundamentalism). My guess would be that Steve would avoid the whole Fundamentalist label and appeal more directly to the holiness sections of Scripture (fair enough!).
I want to attempt to respond further to Steve’s question, but by way of an indirect route; a route where I will be building toward something of a more direct answer to Steve’s question. I won’t get to a direct answer in this post. Let’s begin.
Steve’s question is a matter of ethics, but we can’t have a proper ethical discussion without a proper theological discussion, and without recognizing the role that certain theological foundations might have, by way of implication, towards having a theologically robust discussion in regard to ethics and Christian holiness. In attempting to get into this, we are going to make a rather abrupt turn, right about … now.
Jesus’ Humanity is the Universal Ground of All Things
Common Grace is often appealed to by Dutch Reformed theologians as the underlying reality that holds all of God’s good creation together; whether ‘secular’ or ‘sacred’. In a sense, according to this view, all things are indeed sacred; all things belong to God, one way or the other (the good and the evil alike see Matt. 5.45). But I am not Dutch Reformed, I am an evangelical Calvinist. As such, since I am evangelical Calvinist, I have another theological grid to appeal to, yet pretty similar to the concept of common grace, just personalized. In other words, I see a universal bond underlying all of reality, and it isn’t a qualitative understanding of grace (like in the Dutch Reformed trad), it has to do with my doctrine of election. The underlying bond, beyond, holding all of reality together, charging reality with its ultimate purpose, is in God’s choice to be for us pro nobis, to not be God without us, but God with us Immanuel. The ultimate bond is found in God’s free un-coerced choice in Christ to ‘elect’ our reprobation, our humanity for himself, and in turn, in a wonderful exchange give all of humanity his elect status as the dearly beloved Son of man for us.
What this view does is erase an us-versus-them mentality. It brings all of humanity together in Christ. In contrast to the classical view of election and reprobation, it does not segregate some of humanity into an elect special status over against a reprobate damned status of humans. It allows us then to see people as people, people whom Christ loves, died for, prays for, and lives for. It implicates the way we engage with the ‘world’, and in fact it calls Christians to be ‘worldly’ Christians (I am reminded of Bonhoeffer here). We live from God’s life in Christ that is worldly in its proper orientation and purposeful direction, towards a beatific vision of God that is full of life and grace; not just for some of creation, but for all! Does this mean that there is an endorsement of people living under Christ’s election for them, to continue to live in ‘sin’ and active rebellion towards God. No! My point is that as an implication of God’s life for all of humanity, all of humanity is redeemable (and redeemed), which includes culture, entertainment, etc. There is still something ‘good’ about creation (eschatologically), not determined by creation, but by its Creator, and in Christ’s recreation/resurrection. If so, there is light and darkness together (as we live in the now and not-yet), and we as Christians are called to discern the light even in the midst of the darkness (not a black or white task, always).
How does any of this kind of rambling on my part get at Steve’s question? I think at a basic level, and for early starters, it means that we shouldn’t think in an us-versus-them when it comes to creation, and creaturely expressions (like art, story-telling, etc.). Instead, I think it calls us to critically engage with the world, not run from it, and even recognize that within the fallen structures and expressions of humanity, behind it yet, is Jesus Christ. Not usually endorsing it, but judging it, reversing it, and ultimately making all things new (we are responsible to live in this complex as the light, and notice light where light is present and darkness where it is present … a complicated task indeed).
The Walking Dead represents an aspect of the creaturely expression that Christ can commandeer and use as witness to himself. Certainly not every aspect of human ingenuity is good (because we still live in the old order of things, even as we live from the in-breaking new), in fact much of it is found ‘wanting’ and condemned by the good of God’s life in Christ. But by God’s grace, there are still elements within all creaturely expression (well much of) that God can use to bear witness to him. And I see some of that, even as I am being entertained (critically as it may be) in the story of The Walking Dead.
This post turned out to be more of a ramble than I wanted. I have some quotes I wanted to share, but I am going to wait and put all of that together at a later time.