What TV Does to Us Spiritually

I am not against television per se, but I am a firm believer that the cumulative effect of many hours spent watching TV is a spiritual and mental dullness that can rob a Christian of the ability to think biblically, and therefore, to live biblically.

Greg Beale states this so eloquently in his recent excellent book on idolatry, in which he makes the point of Psalm 115:8—that those who worship idols become like the thing they worship. That is, the idols of our hearts, against which we are warned in 1 John 5:21, change us, as we give ourselves to them. The greatest deception in the world since the Fall has been that people can worship gods beside Jehovah without being destroyed in the process. Beale, then, applies this principle to television-watching today:

Many Christians watch television, and many watch it when they want to sit back and relax and not have to use their minds much. This can certainly be a form of relaxation, but it can also become an uncritical openness to the media’s worldview. Subtly, unconsciously, we absorb this worldview by a kind of mental osmosis. And what is the typical TV worldview? It is a worldview with little to no awareness of, or sensitivity to, God’s working in everyday life, in the details of our life.

Have you ever heard a TV character say, “Well, let’s look at Scripture and see what God says about this. Let’s pray about this”? Or when have you heard someone on TV say, “Let’s go to the pastor and learn what the Bible says about this problem”?…

The absence of God in mainstream media should alert us to the fact that when we uncritically leave ourselves open to the perspective of the media’s worldview, then slowly but surely, it leads us to cease thinking of the things of the Lord in the details of our everyday life. In this worldview, God is not active in the specific affairs of the world or in our individual lives.

At this point you may be thinking, “Yes, but the shows I watch are not that bad! I don’t watch shows with immorality, or extreme violence or profanity.” (That’s how I was starting to justify myself when I was reading this!). But Beale proceeds to show why this is, in fact, so dangerous to our hearts and minds:

And when we imbibe this worldview uncritically, it makes us feel a little bit abnormal, a little bit unnatural in relating to God and being sensitive to his sovereign activity in our daily life. We may even feel awkward mentioning this to anyone, whether to believers or unbelievers. I would dare say that many Christians have been more influenced by the media than they would admit. The media’s worldview has subtly become an idol we easily reflect. And that mindset–that God is not active in the daily affairs of people–can destroy us. What we revere we resemble, either for ruin or restoration.

Greg K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (IVP, 2008), 299.

Wow, this is convicting. If you, like me, at times fail to speak freely of God’s working in your life to believers or unbelievers alike, it could very well be that you have been made to believe that such expressions are abnormal, and are best kept to yourself. This influence may come from many sources, but it is certainly pervasive on television. What a contrast between the way life is lived in the community of a Spirit-filled, Scripture-centered church, and the way it is lived in the world! But how often have we adopted the more reserved and silent worldview, resulting in the absence of God in our speech because that is where we truly live. In this case, our spiritual expression in church on Sundays becomes the exception to our behavior, rather than the rule.

So here’s the challenge: let us cast off the deleterious effects of such an idolatrous worldview by any means necessary (Heb. 12:1-2). Whether the source is television programming, our friends and family, or even our reading material, let’s reject this empty worldview and return to a bold, verbal acknowledgement of the sovereign and ever-present working of God in our lives! In doing so, we will be returning to genuine worship of God, and as a result we will resemble what we revere to our own restoration.

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God is a Personal God, and Only Christianity Can Explain That

A good many people nowadays say, “I believe in a God, but not in a personal God.” They feel that the mysterious something which is beyond all other things must be more than a person. Now the Christians quite agree. But the Christians are the only people who offer any idea of what a being that is beyond personality could be like. All the other people, though they say that God is beyond personality, really think of him as something impersonal: that is, as something less than personal. If you are looking for something super-personal, something more then a person, then it is not a question of choosing between the Christian idea and the other ideas. The Christian idea is the only one on the market.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

lament for a friend

David’s lament for his friend Jonathan stands as one of the most touching expressions of grief for a friend in all of ancient literature. Read these selected verses from 2 Samuel 1 to feel the intense sorrow of one friend for another.

19 “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!

20 Tell it not in Gath,
publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon,
lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,
lest the daughters of the uncircumcised exult…

23 “Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles;
they were stronger than lions…

25 “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! “Jonathan lies slain on your high places.

26 I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
very pleasant have you been to me;
your love to me was extraordinary,
surpassing the love of women.

27 “How the mighty have fallen,
and the weapons of war perished!”

 

Maybe Evangelicalism (and Fundamentalism) Doesn’t Really Exist Anymore

Based on the reactions to the Al Mohler story in Christianity Today, Carl Trueman makes a strong argument against the existence of evangelicalism as a movement in any meaningful sense. This is a much abbreviated version of the same assertion D.G. Hart made a few years ago in his book, Deconstructing Evangelicalism. Both believe that the term “evangelicalism” has become so anemic that it cannot stand on his own.

Trueman’s point is something to consider, not only for evangelicalism, but also for other “movements,” such as fundamentalism. Think about it.

How Yoga Reveals the Sad State of American Christianity

A few weeks, Al Mohler, the President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY posted an essay on his blog about yoga. Like most things Mohler writes, this article was a well-argued critique based on careful research, sound logic and biblical teaching. In fact, for the past twenty years he has proven himself to be one of the sharpest Christian minds around, with a thorough knowledge of history, philosophy, culture and theology. Saying he has a “sharp Christian mind” is not intended in any way to minimize his intellect compared to non-Christian thinkers. I have yet to hear any non-Christian offer an argument against any one of his positions that holds a candle to his erudition and persuasion. So saying that he has a sharp Christian mind is actually a complement because his thinking tends to be thoroughly sound and thoroughly Scriptural.

Mohler’s article exposing the New Age roots of yoga is nothing original, as he admits. Yet, when an AP writer’s response to Mohler was picked up by Yahoo, a firestorm ensued. Mohler’s blog was swamped with protests, many of them angry at his “ignorance” on the issue. What was so disappointing (though not all that surprising) was the fact that the majority of the responses were from professed Christians. Mohler wrote another post expressing his puzzlement and dismay at the nature of the responses.

The tenor of many responses reveals several stunning failures of American Christianity:

First, many Christians are biblically illiterate, knowing very little of the Scriptures they claim to believe is the Word of God. This is evident in Mohler’s observation that none of the comments–not a single one–makes a biblical or theological argument engaging the issue.

Second, because of biblical illiteracy, many Christians are completely lacking in discernment when it comes to ethical and cultural issues. Most responses sent to Mohler defended yoga on grounds of the personal spiritual benefits of the practitioner with no concern for the heathen origins of yoga. By such logic, almost any practice could be justified on the basis that it “helped a person spiritually.” This is the essence of paganism–one’s happiness or enlightenment becomes the standard by which everything is judged. Jeremiah encountered the same response to his preaching against the pagan practice of offering cakes to the Queen of Heaven (Jer. 44). Even in the face of Jeremiah’s confrontation, the people insisted on continuing the practice because “it was beneficial.” Mohler writes,

I have been treated to arguments like these. From a “devoted Southern Baptist church member who resents your ignorance”: “I get much more out of yoga and meditation than I ever get out of a sermon in church.”

From “a Christian who goes to church every service”: “My favorite image I use in yoga is that of Jesus assuming a perfect yoga position in the garden of Gethsemane as he prays.”

And, to cap it all off: “How do we know that the apostles and early Christian guys did not use yoga to commune with Jesus after he left?”

The final failure of American Christianity is a result of the first two: the faith and lifestyles of many Christians are so indistinct as to be syncretistic, a mixture of weak Christianity and heathen ideas. Such faith would be unrecognizable to the apostles and many Christians throughout history. Syncretism is seen in the runaway popularity among Christians of such syncretistic expressions as The Shack, The Secret, Avatar, and Glen Beck’s revivalism. It is seen in the lives of Christians who proclaim their love for Jesus on the same Facebook that shows pictures of themselves scantily clad in bikinis or trashy Halloween costumes.

Yoga is not close to being the greatest danger to biblical faith in America, yet this exchange between Al Mohler and his critics reveals that it is symptomatic of deeper problems. Those Christians who do not return to a faith grounded in Scripture that shapes a lifestyle consistent with Scripture will descend into a syncretism indistinguishable from paganism and unbelief.