FHC HOME     Return to Pamphlet List








Entertainment

and the

Christian Life

by

Earl & Diane Rodd







All Christians face the question of what place they should give to entertainment in their lives and the lives of their children. However, the issue is of even greater importance for Christian families who educate their children at home because those families control more of their children's time and are thus accountable to God to redeem the time.




Entertainment

and the Christian Life


Families Honoring Christ
Earl & Diane Rodd 6044 Pine Creek St. N.W. North Canton, OH 44720

Phone: (330) 305-9318

5th edition - July 1994
6th edition - July 1997

Permission is granted to copy this article for personal sharing
but not for sale or other commercial purposes.

FHC is an Ohio based ministry providing encouragement
and fellowship to Christian parents who are training their children at home.

This pamphlet includes two distinct sections. The first section is a Bible study whose purpose is to lead the reader to a Godly attitude towards entertainment. The second section contains specific applications. The first is an application to the place of TV and video in the Christian home school. This section lists specific educational symptoms which we often see caused by TV and video and specific recommendations. The second application is to a higher form of entertainment - the classics.

A Biblical Attitude Towards Entertainment
In this discussion, we will look at the place of entertainment in our lives and the lives of our children. The Bible says very little about entertainment as we know it. It does say a lot about joy (e.g. "The joy of the Lord is my strength", and "A joyful heart is good medicine"), rejoicing, and cheerfulness (e.g. "Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises").

Some parents have difficulty in exercising authority over how much and what kind of entertainment is a part of their children's lives. However, home educating parents have an advantage in exercising such authority because they have taken total responsibility for the training process. Therefore, it is vital for Christian home educating families to develop a godly attitude towards entertainment.

Our modern culture contains massive amounts of entertainment including TV, radio, recorded music, videos, novels, magazines, comic books, spectator sports and movies. Many children (and adults) have difficulty carrying on a conversation about anything beyond entertainment and the entertainment industry. There are many magazines and TV programs which themselves are devoted to nothing but the entertainment industry. People are entertained by reading about and hearing about those in the entertainment industry! And yet, a person can live with no knowledge of entertainment and lose nothing of value. Last year's soap opera story is not only of no eternal value but also very quickly becomes totally irrelevant and forgotten. It is an interesting exercise to listen to the conversation of children and adults at church, in the work place, or anywhere and listen to the degree to which fictional events (or the play of others such as sports) occupy their thoughts and words.

Because it is important for home educating families to establish a Godly attitude towards entertainment, this essay offers the following short study of the 101st Psalm. Our objective is to develop a Godly attitude, not to develop a list of laws. If we live by a law which is relevant only in our day, then our children (and us) will not be able to retain our Godly behavior in new circumstances. The Psalm is a confession of a Godly way of life. It begins:

  1. I will sing of lovingkindness and justice.
    To Thee, O Lord, I will sing praises.
  2. I will give heed to the blameless way.
    When will You come to me?
    I will walk within my house in the integrity of my heart.
  3. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;
    I hate the work of those who fall away;
    It shall not fasten its grip on me.

The Psalm begins with a positive confession of how the psalmist will use his God given ability to sing, to sing of lovingkindness and justice (compare to Phillipians 4 :8). In verse two, the psalmist says he will walk within his own house in the integrity of his heart. So we need to consider how we walk in our own house. The Psalms often use the phrase "sing a new song" and Ephesians mentions speaking to one another in "psalms, hymns and spiritual songs". So we see that the Bible encourages us to be creative in using songs and music in our homes. Even without our encouragement, children will create new songs and hymns. Our responsibility as parents is to provide our children with a living Christian experience so that the songs which spring from their own lives will be spiritual songs. Of course, we must be ready to recognize a psalm, hymn or spiritual song from our children expressed from their heart. Their songs will be at their level of maturity and level of experience in the Lord.

Verse two starts out with a determined statement that he will give heed (attention) to the blameless way or way of integrity. We must not be deceived into thinking that those days provided a man with no opportunity to give his attention to immorality and impurity. However, in our day, because entertainment is so available, the opportunity abounds for us to give our attention to what is false (the news?), whatever is dishonorable (scandal), whatever is wrong (perversion), whatever is impure (an average movie), whatever is unlovely, or whatever is of poor repute (an average TV show). The list of items given above is the opposite of the list given in Philippians 4 :8 of things upon which we are to meditate.

The psalmist then makes a strong statement about what he will look at (could he be speaking directly of entertainment here?) when he says "I will set no worthless thing before my eyes." We believe that this is an excellent Biblical criterion for viewing TV, movies, videos, and plays.

Furthermore the next statement indicates the importance of looking beyond the appearance of entertainment into its root and author. The Psalmist says, "I hate the work of those who fall away." Do we know the lifestyles and philosophy of those who produce our entertainment? Have we trained ourselves to hate the work of those who fall away?

The psalmist then declares what in the New Testament is called "the liberty of the Spirit" when he says "It (i.e. what is worthless or the work of those who fall away) shall not fasten its grip on me ." Because of the penetration of entertainment (and we include a lot of "news" as entertainment), we must daily confess and keep the confession that "it shall not fasten its grip on me!"

The Psalm continues:

4. A perverse heart shall depart from me;
I will know no evil. 5. Whoever secretly slanders his neighbor, him I will destroy;
No one who has a haughty look and an arrogant heart will I endure.

Here the psalmist declares that he will keep a perverse heart away from him, and he will not know evil. This confession will keep us from nearly all contemporary entertainment. Look at the strength of his statement, "I will know no evil." NO means none!

Remember that the context of this statement is still verse 3 which speaks of what he will set before his eyes. Setting something before our eyes is an intentional act. It is one thing to encounter evil because we must live in the world (remember, Jesus was a friend to sinners), but here we are speaking of the intentional act of placing something before our eyes.

He then declares his intent to destroy the one who secretly slanders his neighbor. Yet how much of our news and entertainment consists of slander and degradation of other people? Do we watch it passively? Compare a passive watching of such degradation with the psalmist's intention to "destroy".

Finally, the psalmist declares that he will not endure one with a haughty look. Think of the arrogance of news commentators when they discuss spiritual matters. And think of the pride of "entertainers" displaying their gross sin to a worshipping public. Do we endure these?

Finally, we should read the remainder of the Psalm.

6. My eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me;
7. He who practices deceit shall not dwell within my house;
He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. 8. Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land,
So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity.

The Psalmist says that he will choose who will minister to him and it will be the one who walks in a blameless way, not the popular journalist or script writer who lives in sin.

He says that the one who practices deceit shall not dwell in his house. We believe we can make two simple applications of this principle. One is that entertainment produced by deceitful men shall not be seen in our house. The other is that deceitful practice, such as news which gives only part of the story, will not dwell in our house. God wants us to train ourselves to discern lies, and we should not allow ourselves to be dulled by constant lies. Thus we should state with the psalmist, "He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me." That means that the liar will lose his power over us.

Conclusion

God, in His mercy, has delivered us from sin and its power. Christian home educating families have the opportunity to experience the excitement and joy of living in His ways while rejecting the work of those who fall away, not enduring one with a haughty look, and keeping our eyes away from worthless things and onto the faithful of the land! This short study is intended to encourage each family in the exciting task of applying these principles in their family.

TV, Toys and Tears
Having lived outside of the American culture for 9 years and now back in the USA. we can share an observation that transcends cultures with home educating parents. The demonic monster of mammon (materialism) must be exposed, faced and defeated in homeschooling families. Entertainment and fun is not a Biblical foundation for learning. The two most common culprits are TV and video games.

Those who are deceived by the humanistic approach to learning will observe the following negativistic traits in their children (around age 7):

  1. Reading is not fun or exciting. The child may prefer audio-visual stimulus (e.g. TV) rather than books.
  2. Learning is not fun and exciting. The child may prefer toys, TV, and video games to school subjects and mature learning habits (e.g. composition, letters, essays etc).
  3. Life is not fun and exciting. The child will complain of boredom. The child may prefer documentaries on TV (movies) rather than seeing the real thing (e.g. a movie about insects rather than watching real insects outdoors; a movie about animals rather than a trip to the zoo).
  4. Reading the Bible is not fun or exciting. The child may prefer fiction or fantasy to truth and reality.
We have observed these traits in homeschooled families with a variety of backgrounds - very rich to very poor, highly educated parents to parents with little formal education, and parents from different nations. The availability of TV and toys (educational) together appears to be a deadening influence on the joy and excitement of discovering God through observing creation and reading the Bible. When the TV is discussed as the root of a child's problem, we often discover it is the parents who love the TV and really do not want to get rid of it. We find this very disturbing because homeschooling parents have consciously separated their children from negative peer pressure in public or Christian schools, and yet their own love for the world allows the TV to educate their child in very unbiblical ways. Peer pressure fostered by the TV subtly undermines a child's potential for mature character, Biblical learning habits, and a godly lifestyle.

When the symptoms listed above are caused by TV and toys, parents have often attributed the symptoms to other causes. This leads parents to extra effort, pressure and confusion because the symptoms will not go away. Happily, our experience is that when the recommendations discussed below are implemented, the symptoms will gradually disappear.

We recommend the following:

  1. Sell the TV (or place it in a closet where considerable effort is required to view it).
  2. Sell the video games. They have no value now or in the future. Some parents listen to the notion that children are learning hand-eye coordination from such games. There may be specific exercises for specific uses, but in general, video game skills are useless. Each game requires a different reflex action which has no applicability to any other task.
  3. Use the radio, the newspaper, and Christian periodicals to keep abreast of current events.
  4. Use the newspaper for discussion of current events.
  5. Use Bible based readers as a child's first reading experience. Do not use fiction, fantasy etc. that promise to "teach" as well as entertain. When a child's first readers are boring, mindless fiction, the child learns to dislike reading. Our experience is that children who use Bible based readers as their first reading experience like to read the Bible and other literature.
  6. Use every opportunity when outdoors to discover God's character qualities in His creation. Remember, all the hands on experiments you can creatively devise will not compare with the deceptive excitement and entertainment the TV can provide. Even when a child watches a scientific experiment on video, deception is still operating. The student thinks he has done it or experienced it himself but he hasn't. He has only observed a two dimensional version of it. His senses have been exploited to believe he has personally done the experiment.

    A student who watches a documentary about Niagra Falls will think he has seen the falls and experienced the falls personally, but he has not seen the real thing! This deceptive root of TV gives a false foundation of learning and experience.

    While video can be used to supplement hands on learning and textbooks, we deceive ourselves when we think that it is a replacement .

Statistics show that a child who watches TV violence has the potential to become immune to violence and partake of violence with no culpability. It seems the same with "educational" experiences on the TV. The student passively views them and his senses are dulled to the beauty and excitement of the real event occurring in reality. TV requires no thinking - the narrator does it all for the viewer. The TV requires no energy or movement - the narrator does it all for the viewer. The TV requires no dialog - the narrator and the viewer cannot interact. The TV gives the appearance of educating the viewer, but the medium does not fit the Biblical method of education which is to:

  1. Hear
  2. Speak and discuss
  3. See
  4. Write
When the TV is substituted and the Biblical pattern of education is ignored, homeschooling parents are deceiving themselves. Only when hands on learning is accompanied by hands off the TV control will homeschooling families discover the education process in their family bearing Biblical fruit.

Previous sections have discussed the place of entertainment in a Christian curriculum and home (and the entire home is a part of the curriculum). This section directly addresses the issue of entertainment in a "higher form", namely the classics and fine arts. We had considered writing about this for some time, but the final inspiration came when our 7 year old son, after seeing pictures in a book or encyclopedia, asked, "Was Michaelangelo the first pornographer?"

Western nations are currently suffering from declining literacy rates and a general "dumbing" down of curriculum. Christian parents, schools and publishers are sensitive to these trends and are attempting to provide education for children which offers a higher level of intellectual development. This desire leads to the temptation to turn to old (e.g. classical) material because of its high level of scholarship.

The use of classical learning in the Church (i.e. among Christians) has been debated since the first century. During most of Church history, there have been Christians who thought it was mandatory to teach classics such as Aristotle, Ptolemy and Caesar. Also, during most of Church history, there have been Christians who have objected to training Christian children in pagan ways. In our day, we have two options. One is to once again go around the circle of starting with a revival of Christian education (the modern Christian school movement and home schooling) and then corrupting it with pagan methods and material. The other choice is to break the circle and give our children the opportunity to rise to a level of faith and closeness to God which we did not know as children.

We must avoid the temptation to assume that because art, music, or literature is old, a classic or traditionally a part of high society, it is good by God's standards! We must judge materials using the standards with which God has gifted us in His Word!

In some cases, "classics" may not be morally objectionable in their own right, but we must recognize that our children will read or do only so many things during their learning years with us. Every minute we have them putting effort into something "good" detracts from effort into the "best."

Nonetheless, there is much in the classics that is wrong. First we will discuss some specific examples to give the reader an idea of things to look for when evaluating material. Second we will present a little used, but important Biblical basis.

Examples of difficulties with the "classics":

At this point, we must stand back and caution you that many old things are good! The point is that we must be discerning with old literature, art and music just as we are with modern works. For example, the works of Luther or Calvin will provide a very high standard of scholarship and at the same time valuable instruction in the things of God as well as historical perspective. The logs of Christopher Columbus or the writings of America's founding fathers are excellent studies for our children.

One important distinction we make is to the difference between entertainment and thought. We are very cautious about encouraging children to spend a great deal of time "studying" entertainment, even classical entertainment. Note that Greek plays, classic novels, and even Shakespeare are mere entertainment. Does it make sense to turn off the TV, stay home from the movies, and then direct our children to spend their days in entertainment of another form, often from a culture as corrupt as our own? We prefer to train children's minds with the living examples and thinking of real people. Great sermons, speeches, the lives of righteous men and women, essays, and documents are far too often neglected in the education of our children.

We believe that the Bible provides us with a basis on which to evaluate many issues relating to the "classics." First with regard to writings and studying pagan religions, we have instructions about not even naming pagan gods. God wants us to be free of their influences and concentrate on Him. Our God is a jealous God who wants our undivided worship and fellowship!

Exodus 23:13
13. "Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let {them} be heard from your mouth.

Joshua 23:7
7. in order that you may not associate with these nations, these which remain among you, or mention the name of their gods, or make {anyone} swear {by them,} or serve them, or bow down to them.

Furthermore, we have the testimony of David in obeying these commands,

Psalms 16:3
3. As for the saints who are in the earth, They are the majestic ones in whom is all my delight.
4. The sorrows of those who have bartered for another {god} will be multiplied; I shall not pour out their libations of blood, Nor shall I take their names upon my lips.

When we review the New Testament, we can see that Jesus and Paul abided by this command. When Paul was on Mars Hill, he preached Jesus after a brief mention of an "unknown god." He never mentioned the names of the pagan deities.

If we meditate on these Scriptures, we will guard ourselves from detailed studies of pagan deities as is found in studies of Greek or Roman mythology!

With regard to visual art, our starting point must be the second commandment in Exodus 20 or in Deuteronomy 5 :8.

Deuteronomy 5:7
7. 'You shall have no other gods before Me.
8. 'You shall not make for yourself an idol, {or} any likeness {of} what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.
9. 'You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth {generations} of those who hate Me,
10. but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
11. 'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

There is no indication that the New Covenant "fulfilled" or altered this basic command to avoid idolatry. In fact, the New Testament has many warnings to avoid idols and idolatry. In this article, we will not go into a full discussion of the second commandment, but ask that each of you meditate upon it and apply it to your selection of material, especially visual art. We believe that it is important to start our thinking with an attitude of thanksgiving to God that He has provided us a way of escape from the snares of the world, not that He is trying to restrict our "fun" or "enjoyment of art." We make the following observations about "art."

In summary, we believe that we should strive to raise a generation who walk in the power and wisdom of God as no other generation has. Does it make sense to train children at home so that we can make disciples of Christ and then train them in humanistic religion and pagan deities and idolatry? Does it make sense to avoid paganism on the TV and then subject our children to the pagan entertainment of an earlier age?

Footnotes

  1. Unless otherwise noted, All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Copyright 1988, The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Copyright by Earl & Diane Rodd