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Discernment in entertainment is really cultural discernment, and we need it

theater sign

We are told to be in the world but not of the world. What this means is we have to know the world if we’re in it. Not love it. Not cater to it. Not compromise with it. But we have to be aware.

so that we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs. (1 Corinthians 2:11).

Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. (John 17:14-15).

Because being IN the world means you take in a movie once in a while, or read a book, or attend a poetry slam, or visit an art museum…Entertainment is a fact of life, sometimes a quite nice fact!

Here are three resources to keep in mind for when you take in the messages of the world. Movies, for example, are not non-theological. They do have a message. These resources help you discern that message and how to combat it as you make your entertainment choices.

#1- Start with this short article from Ligonier:

TableTalk: Discerning Entertainment
by Burk Parsons

Entertainment of all sorts can be a wonderful way to rest and recuperate from the busyness, noise, and struggles of life. … But we must always guard our eyes and our hearts. For we cannot even begin to understand all the ways that Hollywood has affected us. Entertainment affects our minds, our homes, our culture, and our churches. Consequently, we must be vigilant as we use discernment in how we enjoy entertainment—looking to the light of God’s Word to guide us and inform our consciences.

#2- Professor Grant Horner is professor at The Master’s University and has written a book on discerning entertainment called Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer. This first one is a link to an article discussing his 2011 book.

It’s All About the Fall

Author Grant Horner believes every film is ultimately about the human condition—and that watching movies is serious business that requires solid discernment. The article asks Horner the following questions and more.

Your book doesn’t list movies we should or shouldn’t watch as Christians. Why not?
But is there a standard or a cutoff point you go by?
Many people limit “discernment” to avoiding the negatives: If a film doesn’t have sex, violence, or bad language, it passes the test. Anything wrong with that approach?

Here is a link to Dr Horner’s book:

Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer
This is a purchaser’s summary of the book:

This is the best book I’ve read on the intersection of faith and film. The first chapter, which gives a biblical and theological explanation of art and culture, is worth more than the price of the book on its own. Horner uses Romans 1 to explain that all human production is characterized by both a knowledge of God and his truth and also the suppression of that knowledge. For this reason, Horner argues, we must be discerning when we watch movies. We can enjoy them and learn much from them, even when the film has been crafted by a non-Christian. But we also need to be discerning (even when the film has been crafted by a Christian). Horner’s book is well written and his arguments are persuasive. The last half of the book features an insightful look at a handful of important film genres, and in each case Horner gives a wonderful discussion of the genre itself, along with a theological look at why we find that particular genre appealing. This book should be required reading for anyone interested in faith and film, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to understand the arts in general.

Here is part 1 of a ten-minute Youtube interview from the Full Circle Ladies with Grant Horner regarding his book on movies and discernment. And here is part 2.

#3- The Gospel Coalition has some things to say about discernment and teenagers, this nations’ largest consumer of entertainment.

Teach Teens Discernment
by Jaquelle Crowe
We cannot grow without discernment. Yet discernment isn’t a sort of hyper-criticism that turns you into an embittered watchdog sniffing out others’ mistakes. Instead it’s a holy call to discern what is pleasing to God and what is not (Rom. 12:1–2). It frees you to relish what’s beautiful and true, and to reject what’s ugly and false. Discernment equals growth.

The article deals with the following issues:

  • How to Explain Discernment to Teens
  • How to Help Teens Pursue Discernment
  • No In-Between

It’s high summer…may your entertainment be light and your days be long. 🙂


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.