John Piper and Television

piper.jpgJohn Piper seems to be beating himself up about an answer he gave at Advance ’09. While I don’t see the problem, I’m glad he decided to explain his position more clearly.

His post, Why I Don’t Have a Television and Rarely Go to Movies, is a thoughtful explanation of why he is very cautious of trivial entertainment for entertainment’s sake. He tackles the issue I touched on in my recent post, Get Naked for Success. He talks about preachers trying to remain relevant by immersing themselves in popular culture through the latest movies.

There are, perhaps, a few extraordinary men who can watch action-packed, suspenseful, sexually explicit films and come away more godly. But there are not many. And I am certainly not one of them.

I’d have to say that I’m not one of them either.

I love Piper’s explanation of why nudity in films is not acceptable.

I have a high tolerance for violence, high tolerance for bad language, and zero tolerance for nudity. There is a reason for these differences. The violence is make-believe. They don’t really mean those bad words. But that lady is really naked, and I am really watching. And somewhere she has a brokenhearted father.

I’ll put it bluntly. The only nude female body a guy should ever lay his eyes on is his wife’s. The few exceptions include doctors, morticians, and fathers changing diapers. “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” (Job 31:1). What the eyes see really matters. “Everyone who looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). Better to gouge your eye than go to hell (verse 29).

Whether we like to admit it or not, John Piper is right.

It’s not just sex and nudity in flims and on TV that bother Piper.

But leave sex aside (as if that were possible for fifteen minutes on TV). It’s the unremitting triviality that makes television so deadly. What we desperately need is help to enlarge our capacities to be moved by the immeasurable glories of Christ. Television takes us almost constantly in the opposite direction, lowering, shrinking, and deadening our capacities for worshiping Christ.

Even if you’re not a Christian, you’d have to admit that a lot of television tends to glorify the trivial and that can’t be good for any of us who want to enlarge our vision of the world and what we’re capable of achieving with the precious life we’ve been given.

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About the author

Rodney Olsen

Rodney is a husband, father, cyclist, blogger and podcaster from Perth Western Australia.

He previously worked in radio for about 25 years but these days he spends his time at Compassion Australia, working towards releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

The views he expresses here are his own.

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  • Good stuff Rodney. The older I get the more I realise the importance of what we look at and take in. I am with John Piper.

  • I think he says it well without being overly puritanical. It’s another one of the ways we invent to self destruct. A ‘good’ that turns to evil. We have watched prob 2 hours of tv in ten weeks and hardly miss it

  • A good post. Just lately our family went to see a highly popular PG rated film, with a well known sci-fi theme. But what troubled me is that I just came away stressed in my spirit. Partly because the movie had me on the edge of my seat the entire time. While this would probably rate as a “success” in the film industry, it still bothers me that all it was doing was simply raising my stress levels. It appears there is little at the movies, or on TV, that is really worth watching these days.

    Another “high stress” movie, [but actually worth watching] is “Butterfly on a Wheel” with Pierce Brosnan – now on DVD. It has a very pointed message for married couples at the end. That aside, I’m still with John Piper.

  • that is a very accurate pulse of our times, isn’t it … there is always something that competes with God for our attention … always …

    hope your winter is going well … our summer is just lovely – finally! i’ve been bike riding as much as possible! yay!

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