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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lines in the Sand: Media

In our currrent era, it is considered impolite to expose differences. Instead, "true love" is expressed by seeking common ground. However, the church (and individual believers) have lost their relevance as they have sacrificed the truths that make distinction. The following is a series devoted to drawing the line between genuine Biblical faith and not.

If a Christian is one who has properly responded to the gospel message, and the gospel is a particular set of facts, why is it that we classify things as "Christian" that do not include the gospel?

The fact that something is created by one who is a Christian does not make their work orthodox. Television, papers and the radio are all quick to articulate that all opinions expressed through their media are not necessarily the views of the management. It's even generally understood that some of the thoughts expressed in the comments section of this blog are not necessarily compatible with my personal views or thoughts. We generally understand that...at least until we reach the "Christian section" of any media.

To illustrate (and humiliate) allow me to give an example. In my youth, I was a fan of Stryper. As a whole, most people were willing to acknowledge them as a Chrisitian band. (They even placed Isaiah 53:5 in their logo.) Yet, fans were thrown off with the Against the Law albumn. For me, and many of my peers, it was our first exposure to the "cross-over" attempt in music. What were we to do with this albumn? Eventually, my tastes in music changed and the "Styper debate" became a moot topic. However, it leaves us to ask when something is considered Christian and when it is not.

If a Christian author decides to write a book about pet grooming, does that make it a Chrisitian book? Certainly a reference to Christ is not the solution either, otherwise The DaVinci Code would belong in the Christian section. Is accuracy about Christ the standard? Can't a history book have accurate information about Christ yet not enough information to be considered Christian? Isn't the standard again the gospel?

What about an author who decides to write advice for marriage, men's issues, church growth or even weight loss? Is it a Christian book if it declines to present an accurate portrayal of the gospel message? (Don't hear me say that it should then be avoided; that is not my point. But rather, if it is devoid of the gospel message, wouldn't it be wise to say it is a book written by a Christian, but not necessarily a Christian book?) Again, if the only way one becomes a Christian is by repenting of sin and trusting Christ for salvation, and that salvation is made possible through the historical events that took place, then one is not a Christian without the gospel. Therefore, how could we deem a book, movie, album, etc as Christian if it lacks the most central information to the faith?

Here are the common objections (followed by my rebuttal) that I receive to this question:

"But the author/musician/film maker/etc was targeting non-Christians." Ok, then they should have no problem identifying it as something other than Christian, if that was not their attempt. But if they desired to introduce non-Christians to the Christian message, what in the world are they doing leaving the gospel out? Usually, the response I get is that they don't want to scare the reader away, but hope to stir up a desire to for the person to investigate issues further. I'm left to wonder a few things:
    Do we really have time to fool around? What if your book was the last they got the chance to read? What if something happens in their life that prevents their ability to "investigate further."
    Are you that sure of yourself? Are you really that confident that you will be so compelling that people will search out more of your work, or will dig further?
    Why would we need to tease? I hate when a sports radio host says, "Something incredible happened in the NBA last night, stay tuned and will tell you after the break." It drives me nuts. However, it works. I stay on the radio station (and listen to all their commercials...which is their point) just to hear the news after the break. What possibly could be our reason to feel we must "tease" with the gospel. If they are interested, they are ready. There is no advantage to making them wait until your next book/movie/album.
He/She is producing this for believers, and therefore is assuming you know the gospel and is moving on. or The gospel really wasn't his/her point. He/She wanted to address something else about the Christian faith. Please explain to me what issue in the Christian faith is not completely centered on God's redemption story to man? What area hasn't the cross of Christ affected? The idea that we can "move on" from the gospel is a farce that has infiltrated the Church. When you "move on," you "move away." A few reasons why the gospel should be articulated especially when you are writing to believers:
    1. It's glorious! What is more thrilling than sharing that though I have rebelled against my Creator and deserve His just wrath, He instead offered His Son as the payment for my sin, that He would then offer to my account the righteous life of Christ, all made possible, not by anything I have done, but simply through the gracious offer of our God. If you are a believer, do you remember the first time you responded by repenting of your ways and trusting in Christ alone for your restoration to God? Why wouldn't we delight in declaring that?
    2. Again, what area of Christian living isn't radically adjusted by the gospel? Finances? Marriage? Parenting? Employment? Contentment? They are all redefined by the gospel and our ability to honor God in all those areas is only possible when viewed through the lens of the gospel.
    3. It keeps the glory on God and not man. As a fallen man, I am so quick to want to steal the glory deserved by God alone. The gospel is the message that drives me to my knees and reminds me Who deserves all the glory alone.
    4. A non-believer will consume it. If you've produced something for publication, there is no way that it won't eventually cross the eyes or ears of an unbeliever. Why wouldn't you want to take advantage of the chance to share the "good news" with them.
I am not saying that everything ever published by a Christian must be a Christian work. Even with this blog, I will write articles about the NBA, my family, current events. I do not see that as improper, and do not believe the Christian must consume only that which is Christian (which would be impossible). But I do believe that when we call something Christian simply because it is about the church, about Jesus, about morality and any other good topic, yet avoids presenting the good news, we are placing the gospel under a bushel.

I wish there was some line in the sand, a way to delineate that which is "gospel-centric" (is that a word?) from that which is not. For something that simply avoids being anti-Jesus or anti-Biblical does not seem to be the standard for that which is Christian.

7 Comments:

  • At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Brad said…

    Do you think Esther is a Christian book?

     
  • At 7:20 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    ah, i was waiting for the fun question...figured it would come.

    i believe that the Bible is an inspired work of God that is certainly a Christian book. esther, fitting into that redemptive story of man to God (through the preservation of the Jewish nation...from whom The Seed would come) is certainly a Christian book.

    however, since nothing i produce is inspired, nor will it ever fit into the work God did when writting the canon of Scripture, it is necessary then for us to understand our need to present all things in the context of redemption.

    by the way, i can't wait to preach esther some day and show how it is a gloriously Christian book.

     
  • At 11:49 AM, Anonymous Brad said…

    Admirable answer.

     
  • At 2:09 PM, Anonymous Ted Hildebrandt said…

    It's all about "eisegesis," I suppose.

    Can't Esther stand on its own and mean something?

     
  • At 2:20 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    gary,

    do i have to acknowledge your comment if you chose to post as anonymous or with silly little aliases?

    if you do not believe that esther is a christian book, and that it contributes to the ultimate story of God's redemption plan, and as a pastor that it is your job to preach about esther in light of that redemption plan...then why even have it in your Bible?

     
  • At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Ted Hildebrandt said…

    I find it both unfortunate and insulting to be dubbed a "silly little alias."

    But I guess it is, after all, your blog.

     
  • At 1:07 PM, Blogger danny2 said…

    well, gary.

    if your personality (and my stat counter) did not reveal that it was you, i probably wouldn't call ted a silly little alias.

    that is, unless ted lives in deleware and logs onto your computer ocassionally, then i owe him an apology.

     

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