Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thinking About PG-13

I haven't seen many movies lately because they cost so much and are generally worthless. My lack of going to the cinema has had less to do with conviction than just simple preference.

Lately, however, I have been pondering what I put into my head. Specifically related to movies, what is acceptable? I have heard many Christians employ some type of "Christian liberty" argument to defend watching just about anything. Other followers of Christ simply draw the line at the "R" rating.

But what about PG-13? The above ratings chart says that PG-13 films "may be inappropriate for children under 13." Let's keep in mind that the folks who give movies their ratings are not exactly people who are living according to a biblical worldview - and even they say some of the material should not be watched by anyone under 13.

This got me thinking. If a secularist says a movie warrants a PG-13 rating, then what should my reaction be to it?

This is where I (and many other Christians) make a mistake. We try to figure things out by using our own reasoning ability rather than simply looking into the bible. We ought to always be asking what the scriptures say about things.

Watching any sort of film causes the viewer to think about certain things - whether good or bad. What does the bible say we should be thinking about? Paul addresses this quite clearly in Philippians 4:8. The apostle writes:

"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy -- meditate on these things." (NKJV)

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (ESV)

"Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things." (NASB)

Paul commands the Philippian church (and us) to mediate, think, dwell on godly, holy things. This is a present tense command, which means that we should be continually thinking upon these things.

If we are to be continually pondering things that are true, honorable, just, etc., then there is no room for thinking about those things that we might, in our flesh, even consider to be "neutral." If we are to take scripture literally, then movies with a PG-13 rating should be considered to be unacceptable. How can content that is not appropriate for a 12-year-old fulfill what is said in Philippians 4:8?

I realize that there could be exceptions to what I have said. As an example, Schindler's List, which I think had a "R" rating, might be appropriate because its rating stems from the graphic nature of the treatment of the Jews during WWII.

The reality, however, is that the vast majority of movies receive a PG-13 rating (or worse) due to content that is inappropriate for Christians to be viewing (if we are willing to accept Philippians 4:8 at face value.)

Now, what about PG movies? Quite frankly, are ANY movies worthy of spending our time on?

I'm going to have to think about this some more. But, suffice it to say, PG-13 films do not need to be something we are watching.


Keith said...

How can we appreciate light without darkness? I'm not saying we need evil. Everything was good in the beginning, but our desire for the good may be heightened by an understanding of the bad.

I tend to judge a movie based on its (proverbial) heart. If it contains evil without glorifying it and uses it as a way to elevate good virtue or character, I may be able to watch it with a clear conscience, and it may even do my heart good. I think your example of Schindler's List may fit here although I have not seen it. I liked Vantage Point, a violent PG-13 movie with a surprise symbolic ending that cut me to the quick and almost brought me to tears.

Many movies glorify the flesh and have large marketing budgets to get them in our faces more often, but I think there are a lot of movies out there worthy of our support if we plug into the right channels to learn about them. This, of course, is coming from someone who watches maybe five movies a year.

Eric said...


I think I understand what you mean when you write, "How can we appreciate light without darkness?" However, I'll have to respectfully disagree. Frankly, I think we already know what darkness is. I can see it every day in both my own heart and in the things that surround me in the culture.

Based on Phil. 4:8, I think we are better off not watching anything at all that goes against God's standards.

I imagine that you and I actually would agree on most things related to this issue (based on your saying that you only see about 5 movies per year).

The McCurdy's said...

The problem is not the rating but the content. I have watched G rated films that I do not feel comfortable with. Some of the movies I have watched that is in that PG-13 rating that is appropriate is Narnia. A great Christian based movie. Compared to Evan Almighty which is PG and a completely wrong as any R rated movie on biblical basis.

I agree with you that we do not need to commit ourselves to watching evil in our homes or paying for it at the movies when we live in it everyday. Everything we put in front of ourselves needs to be pleasing to God wiether it is G rating or R rating.

Eric said...


You are correct. The key really is the content. The important thing is following scripture such as Phil. 4:8. I've found that few PG-13 movies meet this standard (although Narnia is fine).

Keith said...

You say that you see darkness every day in your own heart and in what surrounds you. Me too. This helps prove the point I was trying to make.

The stories we tell, movies included, are going to reflect our broken nature. There is no way around this. Some will reflect more than others depending on the subject matter. If the darkness is portrayed in the right light (nyuk, nyuk) without glorifying it, it can help me think about what is right, pure, lovely, and good. Take the Bible for example. How do you think the MPAA would rate a movie about the life and times of King David and his children? Lots of stories in the Bible don't fit into the Phil. 4:8 mold as you have used it here.

A movie's rating should only be a tool we use to help us understand the heart of a story and the storyteller. Darkness in a movie, presented the right way, can lead me to think about what is good and pure and may even lead me to joyfully praise God.

Eric said...


I actually think we are in agreement, but are stressing two different ways of looking at the same thing.

As i think on my life, I want to allow as little as I can of darkness into my mind. Trust me - I know what is out there because of what I have previously allowed to enter.

Anonymous said...

I can think of a few movies that are worthy of spending our time on but they are very few. Now I admit I had to sit here and really think for a few minutes before I came up with some examples but here are a few: "The Passion of the Christ", "End of the Spear", and "Fireproof". Note that all 3 of these movies have something in common, if you are familiar with them. I myself wrestled with the issue of movies for a long time, whether or not I should watch them, what type of content was acceptable or not, etc. Until recently I had a Netflix account. Netflix has a feature on its site that allows you to read about the content of the film in detail such as language, sexual content, violence, etc. So I used to try to use this feature to weed out the "bad movies". But I found that as I did this, an interesting thing happened. I felt increasingly convicted by my conscious as I examined these films to the point where eventually, it was near impossible to find a film that I could watch where I wouldn't feel like I had to compromise my conscious or values to watch it. It got to the point where the only films in my movie queue ended up being documentaries and the like. I would spend a lot of time examining each film, only to find content that I felt convicted that I knew would not be pleasing to God. Additionally, I began to become convicted of all the time I was wasting scrutinizing these films. I was not being a good steward of my time. When I began to think about that, I came to the conclusion that the Netflix account itself as well as most movies were not a justified use of my time. I knew that I could not honestly say that I could make a practice of having Netflix or watching most films "to the glory of God", if the mandate is to "do all things to the glory of God" (1 Cor 10:31). There was simply no way around it, no way to justify it. So what did I do? I cancelled the account. How did this happen? God gives us all a conscious. His law is written on our hearts (Psalm 40:8). If we ignore our God-given conscious and the conviction that comes by the Holy Spirit, then we are hardening our hearts. We can debate the finer points all we like but if we have the courage to be honest and follow the prompting of the Holy Spirit, then we will know that we cannot watch that movie.

Eric said...


Thanks for your comment.

So often in life we fall into the trap of wondering how close to sin we can get and still be O.K. This often occurs with films.

If we strive to live out I Cor. 10:31, then we will be asking the right question.

In the end, we won't be watching too many movies.