3D: Summer Semester 5: What To Learn from How We Watch

3D: Summer Semester 5: What To Learn from How We Watch

David Lichty is back for another class about film, how we watch it, and how God can be seen through it. Join us!

The Promised Handout:

Gospel and Film Class: What To Learn from How We Watch


You are not a sponge. You are a spokesman.

We have talked about why movies are a valid art form, as worthy of our time and discussion as any other art form. We’ve also talked about when it is worthwhile to put up your guard or even avoid certain elements of movies – sexuality, violence and language being the most obvious examples.

This is an anti “garbage in, garbage out” perspective. Your mind is not a sponge. You do not turn into what you see and hear. You have the Holy Spirit, and discernment. What someone might applaud, you might find repulsive. Just seeing it doesn’t make you agree with it, participate in it, nor does it make you complicit. People will say otherwise, but make sure they back it up with more than that challenging tone we’re supposed to accept as good shepherding. Often seeing disagreeable things, or even things intended to tempt, actually bolsters your disagreement and resistance. You have a mind.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

Matthew 6:22-23, ESV

One metaphor here is that the eye is the understanding. Our ability to discern truths in the midst of falsehoods, and to see things more fully, is determined by whether our understanding is illuminated by the Holy Spirit or not. For the Christian, a healthy eye is one of renewed understanding. It judges well. It discerns. It lets truth the through come through even in its nuances. The bad eye allows falseness through. It lacks understanding. Darkness always gets in.

Paul wrote that

“To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”

Titus 1:15, ESV

Jesus didn’t behave as if the world changed him. He proceeded as if it was he who changed the world.

He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened.” It’s the kingdom of heaven that is the leaven, not the kingdom of Satan.

Matthew 13:33, ESV

As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…

John 17:18, ESV

Seeing Clearly

In week three, David went over ways to look for the truth in all kinds of movies, where we might not think to look for them.

Let’s consider Harry Potter. It’s not going to turn you into a witch.If it is, then Harry Potter really is not your problem. Watching it is neither an act of consorting with, nor approving of, witches and witchcraft. Hit the planks before you condemn this speck.

If all you do is keep yourself from it, then all you can bring into any Harry Potter conversation is that – you refuse it. You can advertise your own holiness.

Last week I talked about things that can slip in under the door, so to speak, in moments, or in assumptions some of our stories are based on. But remember that the spirit who was with Jesus is in us. He guards us. This does not mean we get to be cavalier, but it does mean we are not to be fearful. If we shield ourselves from the views of the world, we also shield ourselves from people, stories, events, ideas, all of it. It is a faithless approach, fearful, acting as if the Lord’s arm is too short.

And we take Jesus out of that conversation. If you see the Harry Potter movies, or read the books, then when people talk about the stories, the characters, the events and the right or wrong of them, then you can participate. You can bring Jesus, or more broadly God, or even more broadly just truth, into those conversations, because they already travel with you.

If we act with trust in our Lord, and trust in his equipping of us, then we can be able to bring him to the people, stories, events, ideas… all of it. Who else will do this?

…if you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.
Jeremiah 15:19, NASB

In week 4 I s1id that God permits a lot of evil to protect a little good. Why? Is it just a temporary imbalanced math on his part? No, we know that he does things for reasons, always good ones, so he must have a very good reason to allow so much evil in order to protect a little good. It would seem that the evil may even be necessary for some to get saved. We can’t know his exact plans, but we can do what we he lets us see as our part.

Be in the conversation. Bring Christ into the conversation. You are not a sponge. You are a spokesman.

There is a wrong way to think about this, and a right way:

  • THE WRONG WAY: Amusement. “Amuse” comes to us from Latin via French, and its root word – “muse” – means “to think, meditate, ruminate.” And the prefix “a-” negates it; so, literally, “amuse” means to turn off your brain. It is difficult to glorify God with your brain turned off!
    You know this form of consumption: slack-jawed Netflix bingeing, the kind of watching where you let it enter with the popcorn and exit with the drool, all at once without hitting you.
  • THE RIGHT WAY: Entertainment! “Entertain” has four different meanings, all involving letting something in: a thought, an idea, a guest. When we are entertained, we think about things intentionally and investigate their outworkings and inworkings. We consider and critique ideas. We even consider and critique the art of film itself! We engage with it.

[pullquote]Keep your brain on while you watch films.[/pullquote] Keep your brain on while you watch films. This doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it; in fact, I find that I enjoy it MORE.

Things I’ve learned from how we watch movies: Rewatch

If God plans everything in advance, or even just knows everything in advance, and in detail, then how can he possibly really care when it happens? He already knew about it.

Repeat viewings. Many of us have seen, or deliberately watched, some movies more than one time, some many times. From the second time on, they are no longer mysteries to us. We know what’s going to happen.

Think about a deep moment in a movie you’ve seen a thousand times.

Did that scene work on you at all?
But you knew what would happen.
You’ve seen it before.
You’ve seen it exactly before.
Why did it work?

The way we re-watch movies can show us how God can care about what happens even if he knows about it, let alone planned it. He’s deeper than we are, even emotionally. His caring is deeper. He experiences it with us closer and better than we do with movies.

Kids see this better than we do, with their movies, over and over and over…

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.
Ecclesiastes 3:11, ESV

Things I’ve learned from how we watch movies: Right and Wrong

Movies help us see that objective moral values exist.
Storytellers count on our reactions to brutality, justice, kindness, weakness of character, betrayal at all times in all cultures, and they are right to do so. While we must translate a language to understand a Japanese film, and possibly a culture, we do not have to translate morality, and say, “Well, in their culture, when a person gives food or sustenance to a beggar on the street, it is considered a harmful act, which is why the beggar swatted away that man’s offer of bread, and then slapped him silly. In Japan, he deserved it.”

“…for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy…”
– Roger Ebert

Empathy is our standard design too. Take The Maltese Falcon – seen alone, it can seem like an okay, somewhat dated, straightforward detective movie. But see this with a big crowd? We realize how many subtle things are humorous, and we start laughing, and others pick up and laugh, and suddenly it’s a great detective movie with a lot of humor. Someone in the audience starts this. No one tells us to laugh. It’s the very same movie, but in a big room with a lot of people, we just get this vibe. We’re not talking, not even seeing each others faces, but we get this vibe, and silently help each other interpret the things we see and hear.

Passivity is hard. It’s unnatural. We WANT to talk about movies. Why? Why don’t we respond the way we do after doing something like riding a rollercoaster? “Hey, you like it?” “Yeah, sure, now let’s go get that churro.” But we like discussing films. People write (and others read) movie reviews because we like talking about them. We use “What’s your favorite movie” as an ice-breaker because everyone has one, and likes to say why they chose it. You have to work really hard to actually watch movies passively. It is natural to think, to process. Passivity is not our standard design. Films themselves, and our discussions (even our internal ones with ourselves), train us in discernment.

Movies can give us examples to help us understand God, The Enemy

Gods and Christs in film –

  • noble sacrifice
  • sudden reappearance to save others

Devils in film –

  • they offer excuses for immorality
  • they just threaten, and treat it like our choice
  • they tear us down from the inside with accusations

Discussion Question

Where have you seen any of the following in a movie?

  • God or a God-figure
  • Satan or a demon figure
  • Real Christians
  • Unusual Truths

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The 3D Podcast is ©2017 Redeeming Culture. This class was recorded at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, IN during the summer of 2016.
The theme song is adapted from “Hero” by Doctor Vox, and is released under a CC-BY Creative Commons license. See here for more information: youtu.be/qNuC01Z3lrs

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