Darrow Miller and Friends

Why Do Movies Influence Christian Youth More Than the Bible?

Recently, Bob Moffitt, the co-Founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance, sent us an article by Phil Burgess and Mike Metzger titled Sharing God’s Big Story – How the Arts Give Meaning. Burgess is an educator, writer, and businessman, and a frequent speaker and media commentator on political, business, and cultural issues. Metzger is president of the Clapham Institute and writes the wonderful weekly blog Doggy Head Tilt.

As we have argued in this space before, the arts shape culture and culture shapes the political, social, and economic institutions of society. The arts have the power to convey the meta-narrative (worldview) that lies behind a nation. Burgess and Metzger help us understand the need for Christian artists to consciously engage in creating art reflective of a Biblical world and life view. The arts create the place in our imagination that allow us to judge the plausibility of a message. They argue that often the church is not taken seriously because the presentation of the gospel is shallow. Our use of the arts could change that, could lend a serious tone to the hearing of the gospel.

Burgess and Metzger point out another application of the use/misuse of the arts. One of the reasons so much of the Muslim world hates us is because we export our decadence through the arts – our movies, music, and TV.  Because so much of today’s art is shaped by atheism, the church is losing this battle. Muslims (and others) see the arts, driven as they are by atheistic paradigms, and reject the West. Imagine if they saw art as God intended it to be expressed! 

The discussion is not only relevant to Muslim vs. the West. For any example, why do so many young Christians affirm that pre-marital sex is wrong, and yet have intercourse before marriage? Because the cultural narrative, not the Bible, shapes their lifestyles. They live in a tension between the biblical truths they (claim to) affirm and the decisions they actually make, the latter influenced by the cultural images in which they are immersed. Here is a taste for what Burgess and Metzger write:

Put another way, there is now dissonance or a discrepancy between imagination (formed by the arts via TV and movies) and the truth from Scripture (proclaimed from the pulpit). Psychologists tell us that when dissonance occurs, we try to eliminate it – by rejecting (or accommodating) one of messages that is causing the tension between what we “know” and what we see or are being told.[1]

The ancient Judeo-Christian tradition held that God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) imagined the creation before they began their work. They spoke of it while conceiving it: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule…’” (Genesis 1:26-28). Because human beings are made in his image, they have the capacity for imagination. As Louise Cowan has said, “If we’re made in the image of God, it’s not so much in our analytical reason, as it is in our imagination.”[2] The core of our being is our imagination…..

Because the arts are upstream, they both reflect and advance a society’s hopes and dreams, its attitudes and patterns of thought, and its understanding of what human life is and ought to be. This view is reflected by some groups of politically-placed people in Washington, D.C., who are also thoughtful, serious, and culturally-engaged Christians, people who understand the need to get upstream of politics. Unfortunately, many groups of Christian elected leaders come together on a regular basis simply to share their own privatized faith, focusing on their own personal salvation while declaring both politics and reform of the culture to be out of bounds. [3]

Burgess and Metzger conclude their paper:

If the goal of Christian missions is merely conversion and church growth, then the arts are ancillary. But if the goal is discipleship and conformity to the will of God and “Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on the earth,” then the arts are essential to redemption and restoration.”

If this whets your appetite, read Sharing God’s Big Story – How the Arts Give Meaning. –

– Darrow Miller

[1] This psychological phenomenon is called “cognitive dissonance” and refers to the discomfort felt at a discrepancy between what you already know or believe to be true and new information or interpretation – and typically gets resolved by rejecting or accommodating the “new ideas” or information The classic text is Leon Festinger, A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance Evanston, Ill.; Row Peterson, 1957.
[2] Caroline J. Simon, “On love, destiny, and imagination, “Mars Hill Audio, Volume 30 Jan./Feb. 1998.
[3] A good example of the privatized approach is a group variously known as “The Fellowship” or “the Family,” a secretive group that includes members of Congress that discourages its members from discussing controversial public policy issues. On this point see Jeffrey Sharlet, “Jesus Plus Nothing,” Harpers, March 2003. Sharlet says, “The Family is, in its own words, an ‘invisible’ association [that operates] under many guises…The Family’s only publicized gathering is the National Prayer Breakfast … a tool … to recruit the powerful into smaller, more frequent prayer meetings, where they can ‘meet Jesus man to man.’”

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).