Here are excerpts of a paper recently written for one of my classes. Here I explore how Christians can engage in, what I believe the most influential medium in our culture: Film. We’ll explore how God wants those who worship him to engage in film and how understanding the messages behind movies will help us in our conversations with culture. Look forward to the dialogue we’ll have exploring this subject together.
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It
Every second of existence tells a story. From the moment of conception to the final fleeting hours of death our lives tell a story as members of humanity search for meaning, purpose and joy within our time here on earth. As Shakespeare reminds us, the world is a stage where our lives are played out, scene after scene. Driven by a high view of the sovereignty of God, John Calvin eloquently uses the same image to describe his gritty and providential work in his creation. In his epic work Institutues of the Christian Religion, Calvin describes this world as God’s “dazzeling theater” (theatrum gloriae). Creation is the platform for God’s glory (1.14.20) where his plans for redemption and restoration are played out on a cosmic scale. For Calvin, every aspect of life has the potential to bring glory to God, from art and occupation to food, sex, community and sports are all a gift from God, to be enjoyed and to reflect back to him his glory.
Richard Neibur, in his book Christ in the Culture described culture as everything man does and the results of everything they do in interacting with God’s creation. Language, ideas, architecture, art, music, science, technology, economics, science, coffee shops and movies. Culture covers all of life.
Humans were created to create, to organically by design be ‘culture makers’. We know this from just a casual reading of the first two chapters of Genesis. God, the Creator and the only Being in the universe who has the ability to create something ex nihilo, “out of nothing” created us to be creative with the things He has created. “Be fruitful and multiply the earth and subdue it and have dominion over…every living thing that moves on the earth…The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Gen 1:28, 2:15). These verses denote two things about the purpose God had set man to: God wants us to subue and have dominion over his creation. The word “subdue” means to bring a people or land under subjection, implying that man and woman were to make the earth’s resources beneficial for them and to bring all people to do the same. They were to create cities and cultures that subdued the world in such a way that represented the ‘image’ we were created in. Secondly, in relation to the Garden, we were commanded to “work it and keep it” and as one commentary states “The man’s role is to be not only a gardener but also a guardian.” All of this is commanded with the preface that man is created in the image of God, and humanity reflects that image in creating and cultivating the culture around us. Because culture encompasses all of life, it separates us from all other creation. As C.S. Lewis writes: “No othe creature creates works of art, only necessary things like nests” . These posts seeks to spark discussion and instruction for how believers can engage in the most influental culture making force of our time: cinema. Movies are the language of our generation, and I would argue that a disengagement from something as influential as movies disengages us to some extent from the conversation at large that is taking place within our culture.
In the next post, we’ll explore the two extremes of cultural engagement most believers live within.