One of the verses I'll be preaching on this week is Proverbs 15:14 - The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
That last phrase could also be translated, "feed on chaff" that is, both the wise and the fools feed their souls on something, the difference being what they feed upon. The understanding (note: the understanding know they don't know everything) feed on knowledge. Fools feed on folly, chaff, fluff, whatever tickles the senses but refuses to stick to the spiritual ribs.
Along those lines, I've been pondering the subject of entertainment, as a somewhat distinct entity from the arts. I've had several good conversations lately about the Church's role in the arts, but not any good conversations about the Christian's responsibility toward entertainment.
First off, here's a great lecture by William Edgar (prof. at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia) on a Biblical theology of entertainment. It is lengthy, but a whole lot of fun and worth the time. He's quite the renaissance man, being fluent in both French and English, being a great apologetics professor and an accomplished jazz pianist, etc. All which goes to show he's got some real credibility in this area.
Getting back to Proverbs 15:14, God's Word is clear, that we are not to feed on chaff, we are not to seek after and delight in meaningless things. Certainly most would admit that much of what passes for entertainment today is chaff; it is here today, in video stores tomorrow, and forgotten next week. Today's Billboard top 20 is next week's "Where are they now? One Hit Wonders!" Most of pop culture is designed to go down easy, to keep us from thinking deeply by appealing to the senses and shared experiences.
So, does this mean we are never to be entertained, never to seek a moment's reprieve from the pressures of life with something somewhat less important than, say, hurricane relief, something even slightly frivolous? I dont' think so, and neither does Dr. Edgar (ha! I got the big gun on my side); Scripture gives an account of humanity as a group that works & celebrates, that labors & rests, that goes to war & makes music and other pretty, fun things. Here's a quote from the Veritas Forum website: Dr. Edgar argues that entertainment itself can be differentiated from the entertainment industry, which is a manifestation of an over-paced society that no longer asks the question Why. Borrowing a phrase from sociologist Peter Berger, Dr. Edgar says that entertainment can be a “signal of transcendence.” It can be a respite from the often-insignificant busyness of life, it can be a “shock of recognition” that causes us to ponder important and meaningful questions, and it can point us toward our Creator.
Rather than laying down extra-Biblical rules in this area (thou shalt watch only 3 hours of t.v. per week), we do much better to think deeply on how we can glorify Christ in our choices for entertainment. First, we glorify Christ by getting our priorities straight. If we seek to be entertained when there's work to be done, important ministry to accomplish, when we're supposed to be doing something else (like, um, worshipping when the church gathers for worship - I'll call you on Super Bowl Sunday), then no matter how wholesome or non-corrupting our entertainment choice, we are not glorifying Jesus. I must confess that this is something I fight pretty much constantly, a deadly combination of laziness and selfishness.
Edgar defines enterainment not just as a break from this life, but as a tangible reminder of heaven, a call to look forward to days of complete joy and freedom from the constant pounding of this world. Not that there won't be good and productive work in heaven, but that eternity combined with freedom from the pressures of a sinful world equates to marvelous pursuit of God's glory in every direction we can imagine. If entertainment can serve this purpose, praise God! Let me add this, though: entertainment ought to be a momentary pull from this hard life, a pause and a breath of heavenly air...and not the other way around. If we ever get to feeling like life is interrupting our entertainment, boy have we missed the boat.
There's lots more talk to be talked, especially in regards to how exactly we go about choosing what will entertain us. So, let's talk - what do you think? How do you decide between options? How do you keep entertainment in balance with real life?