Scriptural Warnings That Apply to Television Viewing
Enlarged November 9, 2010 (first published February 16, 2010) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) -
The following is excerpted from KEEPING THE KIDS: HOW TO KEEP THE CHILDREN FROM FALLING PREY TO THE WORLD, which is available from Way of Life Literature.
Scripture Warnings that Apply to Television Viewing
The following Scripture passages have a direct application to this issue and are a loud warning to those who have ears to hear. Parents need to teach their children these biblical principles and guide them in learning how to apply them to their daily lives. It is not enough to have a list of do’s and don’ts.
“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me (Psalm 101:3).
This verse single-handedly forbids the child of God to watch the vast majority of the movies and television programs that are made today. Consider just a few of the wicked things that you or your children will see:
* The breaking of God’s commandments
* Flaunted immorality
* Casual drinking and drug usage
* Drunkenness portrayed as humorous
* Sexually alluring fashions
* Sexually enticing dancing
* Violence and mayhem
* Casual dating and petting (Parents, do you want your children to date after the fashion portrayed in most movies and television programs?)
* Mockery of the things of God
* Mockery of God’s people
* Pagan religions depicted as truth
* Situational ethics
* Occultism, paganism, humanism, evolution, and New Age error (even in cartoons and in a large number of Disney movies)
“I made a covenant with mine eyes; why then should I think upon a maid?” (Job 31:1).
This verse is similar to the one in Psalm 101:3, but it warns more specifically about looking upon women to lust after them. The Lord Jesus Christ warned, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). These verses are solemn warnings to men and boys NOT to watch Hollywood movies, whether in the theater or at home. In public, most men will not stare at a woman very long because he is self-conscious about doing that, but when he is watching a movie he can ogle an indecently-clad female, even if his wife is sitting by his side. Twenty years ago I asked a pastor friend, “Why do you think so many pastors are committing adultery?” I have never forgotten his one-word reply: “Television.”
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them.” (Ephesians 5:3-7).
This is a perfect description of the vast majority of Hollywood movies today. It also describes the sensual rock music that goes hand in hand with practically all of today’s movies. The child of God is not to participate in such things, even by proxy.
“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Colossians 3:8).
Not only is it dangerous to watch evil things but it is equally dangerous to hear evil things. There are occasions in this wicked world in which we do not have control over what we see and hear, but when we are in our homes, we do have control. And we do have control over where we go and what we do with our own time. Television programs and movies are literally filled with ungodly speech, with the things specifically and solemnly forbidden in Colossians. The ear is a gate to the heart and determines how we live. Proverbs warns, “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). The very first thing that is mentioned in that connection is to “put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee” (Prov. 4:24)!
Movies and television programs are filled with the things forbidden in Colossians 3:8. A few years ago Calvary Contender reported:
“Foul language, including curses, offensive epithets, scatological language, sexually suggestive or indecent language, and censored language increased by 94.8 percent during the Family Hour between 1998 and 2002” (Calvary Contender, Dec. 2003).
Foul language on television has probably increased that much again since 2002.
“And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened” (Romans 1:21).
“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
The Bible warns the believer to cast down every evil imagination, because the imagination is the battle ground for the soul. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he...” The imagination can go from bad to worse. The flesh is never satisfied. Sin, which began in such a “small” way in the days of Adam, had so permeated man’s mind by the days of Adam’s great grandson Noah that man’s thoughts were “only evil continually.” That describes multitudes in our day, which is not surprising in that the Lord warned, “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Mat. 24:37).
The Epistle of Romans tells us that the imagination plays a great role in the downward spiral that results in homosexuality and other moral perversions. It is impossible to have spiritual victory if one allows the imagination to dwell upon evil things. It is not difficult in this connection to see the danger of television programs and movies, and to see the role they have played in the moral downfall of modern society. They fill the imagination with vivid images that linger and that return even if not purposefully encouraged. They feed the fleshly nature, but it is never satisfied and it only desires more sensuality, more excitement, more exposure of flesh, more, more, more, and is thus led ever deeper into moral perversion.
“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
This passage teaches the child of God to choose the most excellent things in life, not those things that are borderline and questionable. It teaches him to be without offence before God. The believer should ask himself, “Would I be embarrassed for the Lord Jesus to come and find me doing this thing?” We are to be filled with the fruits of righteousness, and that means we have to be emptied of the fruits of the flesh and the world. The child of God has two natures, the old and the new, and the one he feeds and pampers is the one that will dominate his life.
“And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).
This verse warns the child of God not to participate in anything that is questionable. If you cannot say for sure that something is God's perfect will, if it creates nagging doubts, you should avoid it.
“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).
Not only are we to abstain from evil itself but even from the appearance of evil. Attending the movie theater today has, at best, an appearance of evil, because the vast majority of the movies shown there are morally vile. The same is true for watching most Hollywood movies at home. If our friends see that we watch questionable movies, they will be encouraged to watch them as well, and they probably will not even be as “discriminating” as we are.
“Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. ... It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak” (Romans 14:19, 21).
Even if I could go to a movie theater and see a movie that was 100% wholesome by biblical standards and not see any movie trailers for wicked movies, I would still be giving a bad example to others. If I go to watch a G-rated movie, I might encourage others to go and watch an R-rated one and thus sin against God. The same is true for what I watch in the home.
“Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).
The conscience is a tender thing. It can easily be hardened by unrepentant exposure to evil. This is why television programs and movies have gotten ever more wicked with each passing decade. If one of today’s PG-13 movies had been shown on television 40 years ago, it would have been condemned broadly even by many unbelievers. The same is true for rock music. Eminem or Marilyn Manson would not have been allowed on the Ed Sullivan Show in the 1950s, but there has been a steady searing of the conscience by exposure to the ever increasing moral vileness of the entertainment industry. When Christians allow themselves to watch programs and movies that they know are wrong, the conscience becomes seared so that eventually they can watch things without so much as a twinge of conscience that once would have shocked them deeply.
“For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19).
God commended Abraham because he would command his children to keep the way of the Lord. Every parent needs to take this to heart. Contrary to the tenets of modern psychology and pop child training philosophy, parents are responsible to command their children and to show them the right way in life. Love is the key to making this work, of course. The father is accountable before God to be the godly head of the home and to oversee all things under Christ. The mother is responsible to work alongside the father as his “helpmeet” in the home, and should never be guilty of undermining any godly thing that the father wants to accomplish. Each believing father and mother will stand before Jesus Christ and give account for how he or she lived in the home and how they raised the children. How wonderful it will be to hear the Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:23).
Nothing this world has to offer is worth losing the Lord’s commendation.
There is an axiom that what parents allow in moderation, the children follow to excess. If parents are even a little careless about what television programs and Hollywood movies they watch, the children will most likely move much farther into the realm of moral temptation.
The Deceptive Rating System
In the United States and many other countries, movies and television programs are rated by content; many Christian parents use the rating system, but it is an unwise and unspiritual standard.
In America, the movies are rated by the Motion Picture Association of America as follows:
G- General Audiences
PG- Parental Guidance Suggested
PG-13- Parents Strongly Cautioned
R- Restricted - No children under 17
NC-17 - No one 17 or Under Admitted
The television ratings are similar, as follows:
TV-Y - Directed at young children; appropriate for all children
TV-Y7 - Directed to children 7 and older
TV-Y7-FV - Directed to children 7 and older with more violent content; e.g. Power Rangers
TV-G - General audiences; deemed appropriate for all ages.
TV-PG - Parental guidance suggested (may have “suggestive dialogue, mild coarse language, sexual situations, moderate violence”)
TV-14 - Recommended for people 14 or older (may have “highly suggestive dialogue, strong coarse language, intense sexual situations, intense violence”)
TV-MA - intended for mature audiences
The problem with the ratings is that they are invented by men and women who are not measuring the programming by God’s Word. Instead, they are applying humanistic standards.
When measured by God’s Word, even most G-rated movies and television programs are not wholesome. They flaunt immodest and unisex fashions that influence children. Child actors are often depicted in a favorable light while being disrespectful to parents and elders. It is supposed to be “cute” and entertaining, but this type of thing influences children and has degraded society.
Beyond this, a great many G-rated and children’s programs promote occultism, New Age, weird and godless fantasy, evolution, narcissism, mockery of holy things, and pushing the envelope of childhood innocence.
Disney is one of the worst offenders. The author of the book entitled “The Gospel According to Disney” observed that Walt Disney preached a religious message through his cartoon characters, a message that “faith is an essential element--faith in yourself and, even more, faith in something greater than yourself, even if it is some vague, nonsectarian higher power” (Mark Pinsky, “Finding faith in the house of the mouse,” The Washington Post, Aug. 14, 2004, p. B7).
Disney’s animated classics are filled with pagan images and things strongly denounced by the Scriptures, such as witches and demons, sorcerers and spells, genies and goblins. Like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, the Disney cartoons present the damnable concept that there is good and bad magic. Disney often depicts witches and sorcerers as likeable heroes.
The 1940 animated movie Pinocchio depicted a man who brings a puppet to life by wishing upon a star; the puppet is subsequently visited by a Blue Fairy who advises, “Let your conscience be your guide.” The Disney fairy also preaches a works gospel that “the gift of life” is attained by “choosing right from wrong.” The fairy is attractive and likeable, but a false gospel is cursed of God (Galatians 1:6-9). The Bible warns that the Devil appears as an angel of light in order to deceive people (2 Cor. 11:14).
Walt Disney did not attend church and though there are churches on practically every main street in America, there are no churches on Main Street in Disneyland in California or Disney World in Florida. Yet Christian parents have allowed Disney’s cartoons and movies to influence their children. Pinsky notes that “few entertainment productions continue to have as profound an impact on young children as [Disney’s] animated features” and “millions of children around the world know from Disney much of what they do about the practical application of right and wrong.”
Some years back the Southern Baptist Convention called for a boycott of Disney, but that boycott was based on newer, more morally edgy Disney productions and ignored the false New Age gospel preached through Disney’s earlier movies, movies that are found in most Southern Baptist homes in the land!
When Disneyland opened in 1954, Time magazine featured Walt Disney on its cover and called him “the poet of the new American humanism.”
Even many of the old Western movies are indecent when weighed by biblical standards. The women typically wear tight, revealing clothing. The likeable heroes drink and gamble and are irreligious. Immoral bargirls are portrayed as innocent, good-hearted people, the salt of the earth, while church-going Christians are depicted as weak hypocrites and fools.
One pastor told me that he has had the custom, from time to time, of asking his sons if they find anything offensive in the home. One year he took two of his sons fishing and asked that question, and they immediately brought up a certain John Wayne movie that had put improper images in their minds.
The Andy Griffith Show is one of the most wholesome shows that has ever been produced for television, at least the early black and white programs. It teaches some basic moral lessons and presents wholesome marriage relationships. But consider the worldview. One reader who responded to our survey wrote,
“Not too long ago I realized that even the so called moral programming I watched as a child (such as Little House on the Prairie, Andy Griffin, etc.) portrayed a good life without salvation. Never once did I ever hear the Gospel and it was assumed that everyone went to Heaven.”
We must not forget that moralism is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, that people don’t go to heaven because they are “good.” Even “Otis,” the town drunk, was depicted as a really nice guy who would doubtless go to heaven if such a place existed. Andy certainly never quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that says drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
If we ever watch such things, we must carefully educate the children about the error that is taught by the program’s worldview. Parents need to discuss these things openly and effectively and not allow the entertainment fare to do the educating. They must train the children how to analyze such things biblically so as not to be deceived by the wiles of the devil.
And we should make certain that our children do not become Andy Griffith/Ole Yeller experts, that they spend more time hearing God’s Word than immersed even in “innocent” entertainment. They should know more about the Bible and truly profitable things in life than they do about some shallow Hollywood program.
Consider another “innocent” G-rated program, The Cosby Show. Unlike most other television series today, Cosby depicted an intact family, with a man and a woman living together that were actually married! But the fashions and attitudes and philosophy are not wholesome from a biblical perspective. A love for rock music is one of the show’s themes. One of the Cosby programs dealt with the subject of whether one of the teenage daughters should have pre-marital sex, and the advice was merely to wait until she was “ready” and “in love.” These programs have a powerful effect on young people because the actors are so likeable and believable. And because they are so much more decent than the average television fare, they seem wholesome by comparison, and parents let down their guards.
When it comes to the PG rating, even the secular reviewers deem “parental guidance” to be necessary with these particular programs and movies, which should be a loud warning to God’s people.
Consider “Monk,” one of the more wholesome prime time shows these days. This PG-rated program features the exploits of a psychologically damaged police detective. Though it is less offensive than most TV offerings, “Monk” is far from innocent. The women are dressed very provocatively and the program is literally filled with exclamations of “Oh My God” and other profanities. The philosophy is anti-biblical and anti-Christ. It promotes the popular myths of humanistic psychology, operates in a culture largely devoid of thoughts about God and eternity, and when God is mentioned it is either to profane His name, to debunk the miraculous, to mock religion, or to promote Catholicism.
This is about the best that Hollywood has to offer today, and it is typical PG fare.
The situation comedies are almost universally designed to brainwash the audience toward moral relativity. As Ken Matto observes in his report entitled “The Dangers of Television”:
“Television programs are designed with the purpose of reprogramming your mind by breaking down your defenses so you will accept a lie as truth. Many of the anti-Christian and immoral precepts are bellowed forth in situation comedies. They get you to laugh, then they put forth their principles and you have accepted their teachings without reservation. This is why much reprogramming is done through comedy.”
As for PG-13, even non-Christians recognize that great moral dangers lurk there and that the line between PG-13 and R is effectively non-existent.
USA Today published an article entitled “PG-13 can lull folks with false security.” It is a warning about the filthiness of PG-13 movies by a humanistic secular newspaper! The article contains the following important statement:
“PG-13 was designed, I believe, to apply the friendly PG symbol to movies that have no business even being considered for viewing by most young teenagers and preteens. The age of assignment for the rating is deceptive, and it lulls parents into a false sense of security” (Joe Zanger, editor of PG-14, USA Today, Nov. 22, 1999, p. 2D).
This is an important warning. The article also states that there is often no difference between PG-13 and R-rated movies, and even when there is a difference, it is only minor. Both types of movies routinely contain nudity, immorality, gratuitous and graphic violence, and foul language. From the standpoint of a Christian who wants to obey the Lord’s call to holiness, there is no real difference. Immodesty is immodesty. Cursing is cursing. Blasphemy is blasphemy. Extramarital sex is extramarital sex. If one movie contains a little less of these things than another, that does not make either movie acceptable before God.
The ratings have become more lenient with the passing of years. Movies that would have been rated R a few years ago are routinely rated PG-13 today. Further, the category of NC-17 (meaning no one under 17 may be admitted) has been added to replace the old filthy X rating. There is a Satanic agenda to put increasingly more godless content into increasingly more widely distributed movies.
Also noted in the USA Today article is the fact that many directors and producers actually want their movies to be rated PG-13 today, as opposed to an R rating or a PG rating. This is because young people are admitted to the PG-13 movies as opposed to the R or restricted movies and they consider them more desirable and grownup than PG movies. PG-13 movies are raking in huge receipts at the box office. Of the top 21 films that have grossed more than $200 million, 13 are PG-13, while only three are PG, two are G, and three are R.
If secular people can see the danger of PG-13 movies, why can’t God’s people! We must understand that the Hollywood-New York entertainment business is not now and never has been the friend of God and righteousness. From their inception, motion pictures and television have pushed the boundaries of morality in society increasingly farther from the standard of God’s Word. Yet more members of Bible-believing churches watch unwholesome television and movies today than ever, and there is less plain preaching on this matter today than ever.
We must remember that the movie and television ratings systems were not devised by godly people who are committed to obeying the Bible, but by secular people who are controlled by the philosophy of this world. In reality, ungodly movies are not wholesome fare for children, young people, OR for adults. PG-13 things such as nudity and foul language are not acceptable before God for adults any more than for young people.
Like the frog in the gradually-heating pot, God’s people who are careless about separating from Hollywood’s filthy fare become desensitized by it.
The following are typical quotations from reviews of PG-13 movies by professional secular critics:
A CHEF IN LOVE -- PG-13 “violence, rape, sex, nudity, profanity -- it’s pretty raunchy”
MEN IN BLACK -- PG-13 “violence, profanity, gore, vulgarity”
ANACONDA -- PG-13 “violence, gore, profanity, vulgarity, sex, nudity”
BIRD ON A WIRE -- PG-13 “considerable mayhem, as well as sex, profanity and some nudity”
BLAME IT ON THE BELLBOY -- PG-13 “sadistic, graphic violence, as well as sex, profanity, vulgarity and some partial nudity”
CLUELESS -- PG-13 “violence, vulgarity, profanity and drugs … the film’s cavalier suggestions that casual sex is perfectly acceptable for 15-year-olds and that smoking marijuana is fine as long as it's at a party are extremely irresponsible.”
PARENTHOOD -- PG-13 sex, “profanity, vulgarity, raunchy … Some of the material is so adult that an R rating doesn’t seem unreasonable”
RESCUE ME -- “is rated PG-13 but has an awful lot of R-rated material, including violence, profanity, sex and nudity”
Signs of Television Addiction
The Bible says, “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).
Multitudes of professing Christians today are enslaved to television and movies.
The following signs of enslavement is adapted from a list published by Ken Matto:
(1) You enjoy the sinful scenes on the show.
(2) You eat your dinner in front of the TV.
(3) You neglect your spouse or family for a TV show.
(4) You look forward to a TV show much more than to the next church service.
(5) You miss Sunday Night services or Wednesday evening prayer meeting for TV.
(6) Your conversation is replete with TV reviews and anecdotes.
(7) TV replaces your Bible reading or devotion time.
(8) The family altar has been replaced by a TV program.
(9) You know more about TV than Scripture.
(10) You meditate more about things on TV than about Christ and His will for your life.
(11) You begin to start empathizing with the characters the actors are portraying.
(12) You rush home so you will not miss a program.
(13) You watch TV late into the night consistently.
(14) When company visits, the TV remains on.
(15) You turn the TV on the moment you enter a room.
(16) The TV is on when you are doing your chores.
(17) You do not want people to visit when your programs are scheduled to come on, and when people do visit, you wish they would leave so you could watch your programs.
(18) You laugh at the very sins which sent Christ to the cross.
(19) You continue to watch even when Christ’s name is used in vain.
(20) You have every premium cable channel like HBO, Cinemax, etc.
(21) You begin to adopt ideas and attitudes contrary to Scripture.
(22) You find more pleasure watching TV than being with God’s people.
KEEPING THE KIDS
This book aims to help parents and churches raise children to be disciples of Jesus Christ and to avoid the pitfalls of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Statistics show that a frightening percentage of children that grow up in Bible-believing churches drop out when they reach adolescence. They either go full-fledged into the world, or they remain on the periphery of church life, or they join a contemporary church that essentially promises them they can have Christ and the world, too. We are convinced that this does not have to happen, because God has given promises in His Word about child training, but winning the battle is not easy and requires complete dedication by the parents.
The book is a collaborative effort. It contains testimonies from hundreds of individuals who provided feedback to our questionnaires on this subject, as well as powerful ideas gleaned from interviews with pastors, missionaries, and church people who have raised godly children.
The book is packed with practical suggestions and deals with an extensive number of issues: Conversion, the husband-wife relationship, the necessity of permeating the home with Christian love, mothers as keepers at home, the father’s essential role as the spiritual head of the home, child discipline, separation from the pop culture, discipleship of youth, the grandparents’ role in “keeping the kids,” effectual prayer, and fasting.
The book warns about the destructive power of hypocrisy, neglect, bitterness, carnal criticism, anger, and of fathers provoking their children to wrath.
It describes how parents can win and keep the children’s hearts.
It shows how to have family devotions and how parents can train their children to have a daily Bible reading time.
It emphasizes the importance of raising children in a sound church and lists the characteristics of such a church.
It is not enough to tell children what to do; they must be taught to apply God’s Word to their daily lives, and toward this end the book provides many powerful Bible lessons on practical Christian living, such as biblical principles for testing entertainment, principles for television and movie viewing, principles for judging clothing fashions, for making wise decisions, and for knowing God’s will.
The book contains pointers for winning children that are already rebellious.
There is an extensive list of recommended resources.
Can We Keep the Kids?
The Home: Consistent Christian Living
The Home: The Husband-Wife Relationship
Separation from the Pop Culture
What if the Kids Are Already Rebellious?
Candor, God’s Grace, and the Power of Prayer
Ten Tips for Daily Bible Reading
How to Lose Your Child Before He Is Five
A Checklist for “Keeping the Kids”
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