Whatever Is Pure: Cedarville Requires Professors to Apply Philippians 4:8

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Wayne Wilson's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Wayne, you want to talk about evasion, you can shave.

One more comment and I'm done with you.  If "what would a testosterone-addled teenager do in this situation?" is our criteria for what is, and is not, acceptable in life, then exactly what is acceptable anywhere?  Testosterone addled teen boys can, of course, lust after women wearing burqas.   Or, as the song hints, men wearing burqas.  

Sorry, I'm going to go with a better principle; that when the Bible clearly describes certain things, we ought not decide that those things are impure in their very essence, and that goes for movies, too.

Thank you, Bert. I will add my own final comments.

1) Jesus would beg to differ with you:   "... whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!"

So you say male teens are not part of the anyone who needs professional help if images of naked women in sexual situations causes them to lust. Are we then to place "testosterone-addled teenagers" as beyond the scope of Jesus' warning? They are helpless creatures anyway, and doomed even by modesty, in your view, so we should not bother with them? Perhaps the teens of the world should thank you for the carve out. But then again, maybe you wrong them. I think your stated view of male teens isn't what you really believe, you just had to defend your indefensible statement about needing professional help. (It's okay to say you went way too far with that.)

You may have been different, but personally I don't remember that reaction to the world of women as a teen. I found modest women of beauty and character the sort of person I might have a crush on, but didn't lust after them. Women with little or no clothes...that was an altogether different matter.  There was to me a huge difference in my inner regard for Greer Garson and, oh, let's say Raquel Welch. In fact, I had a very different reaction to the same woman depending on how modestly she was attired (here's looking at you, or looking away, Sophia Loren). So I'm not sure you are being fair to testosterone addled teens. In fact, what if an adult had a similar experience with those images in Schindler's List? Is it out of the question? It could never happen?  Do they really need professional help? Or is it the very thing Scripture warns about?  What David saw was perfectly natural. It destroyed him.

 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them;  for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.

Most Christians have been able to make the connection that if something shouldn't be spoken about, it most certainly should not be re-enacted and filmed.  You would call that an argument from popularity, but I think it is better described as the received wisdom of the ages.

2) You say, " If "what would a testosterone-addled teenager do in this situation?" is our criteria for what is, and is not, acceptable in life, then exactly what is acceptable anywhere?" I would answer that is a very fine standard to go by, and many, many wonderful things, and delightful stories, and serious histories, and great art, film and music would all be acceptable by that standard.  Just what would you miss if you accepted that standard? ? 

3) Scripture nowhere, in any way, ever, encourages men to look at naked women they are not married to.  You are making that up.

4)  Now what can this comment possibly mean?  "when the Bible clearly describes certain things, we ought not decide that those things are impure in their very essence." Adultery is not impure in its essence, is it?    I thought that David and Bathsheba story was to warn us from the power of lust, not to ease us into its essence with popcorn in hand. So I assume you would say "No" even though that is something described in the Bible. You couldn't be referencing the Song of Solomon, could you? That is anything but clear. It is so beautifully veiled by poetry, scholars really don't know exactly what Solomon is referring to.  It is certainly veiled to the uninitiated. I do remember reading Song of Solomon as a youngster, and I really had no idea what he was talking about. Of course, a movie would leave no doubt. The medium really matters a very great deal, as any reasonable person knows. 

 There, I'm all done for now. Thanks for the last word. It has been worth reading for many, and I appreciate the private comments. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I am not sure how that context helps. You seem to think (as you say again here) that in the context of a university literature department, Phil 4:8 doesn't apply. I am not sure how else to read that. You say specifically that you can't imagine a lit student not studying something "rather bawdy" even though "rather bawdy" doesn't seem in line with Phil 4:8 (unless I don't know what "rather bawdy" means, but I don't think that's the problem). Do you mean something other than that a lit department should dispense with Phil 4:8 because it is necessary to study "rather bawdy" literature? 

I haven't read Canterbury Tales or Paradise Lost, but again, the issue is prurience and propriety--How things are presented and why. 

I think students and all others should define and apply the term pure by knowing God. The more we know God who is pure, truthful, etc., the more we will know what matches that. We could take the easy way out and create lists, or we could teach people to know God. I don't have a big problem with lists. The fact is that there are some immature people who need them for a time until they grow up. But the goal is to know God, and by knowing God, to know how to live in the world around us and before us. 

 

Bert Perry's picture

Take a really close look at Philippians 4:8.  First of all, we've fallen for the notion that it is primarily proscriptive, but it is rather prescriptive; "meditate on these things" (NKJV).  Moreover,  the Greek word for "think" or "meditate on", logizomai (Strong's 3049), doesn't mean just to think about something once or see something in passing, but really means more to "meditate on" (NKJV) or "dwell on".

We might infer that we ought to be spending the majority of our thinking effort "dwelling on" these things of virtue, and that something is wrong if we're "dwelling on" something else, but the verse does not prohibit incidental contact with "impure" elements at all.  That use is a total twisting of the verse--one might make the argument from other passages, but not from Philippians 4:8!   Besides, how does one look at Scripture's references to Asherah, Molech, Artemis, Zeus, Bel, Greek sexual practices, and the like if one is not allowed to come into contact with these elements?  You cannot understand Scripture well if you do not understand at least some classical literature.

(one might argue that one can use a "Cliffs Notes" version, but don't we want our pastors to be able to double check that anyways?)

Again, Cedarville may be making a huge mistake here in a lot of areas.

 

 

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

the verse does not prohibit incidental contact with "impure" elements at all.

I don't think anyone has said this have they?

You cannot understand Scripture well if you do not understand at least some classical literature.

No wonder the OT people and the NT church had such a hard time with Scripture. They didn't have classical literature. Poor sad folks those early Christians. If only God had blessed them with classical literature. 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Larry wrote:
 I am not sure how that context helps. You seem to think (as you say again here) that in the context of a university literature department, Phil 4:8 doesn't apply. I am not sure how else to read that. You say specifically that you can't imagine a lit student not studying something "rather bawdy" even though "rather bawdy" doesn't seem in line with Phil 4:8 (unless I don't know what "rather bawdy" means, but I don't think that's the problem). Do you mean something other than that a lit department should dispense with Phil 4:8 because it is necessary to study "rather bawdy" literature? 

I haven't read Canterbury Tales or Paradise Lost, but again, the issue is prurience and propriety--How things are presented and why. 

I think students and all others should define and apply the term pure by knowing God. The more we know God who is pure, truthful, etc., the more we will know what matches that. We could take the easy way out and create lists, or we could teach people to know God. I don't have a big problem with lists. The fact is that there are some immature people who need them for a time until they grow up. But the goal is to know God, and by knowing God, to know how to live in the world around us and before us. 

I agree that the issue is how things are presented. I have never suggested that we dispense with any Scripture, including Phil 4:8--but IMO it doesn't mean what some people think it means. If it does mean that we never, ever study or learn about things that are unbiblical, unpleasant or even wicked, then we've eliminated careers in crime prevention, psychology, geology, biology, and literature. 

Are we saying that Paul never learned about the religions/mythology of his day because they were based on or promoted wicked ideas? I don't get that impression at all.

As you said, our first priority is to teach what is pure and truthful, and to create a foundation against which all other ideas are measured.

So I ask--how do we apply Phil 4:8 practically in a literature class--when characters commit evil acts, or cultural norms are explored, or wicked people are being quoted?

IMO, literature studies aren't the same as pleasure reading, just as studying crime to be a criminologist is not the same as reading true crime for entertainment. A male OB/GYN studies female anatomy and sees female nakedness--is he perverse? IMO no--because of the purpose of his studies.

On Canterbury Tales--it's easy to miss the naughty bits because they are written in Old English. Just as Americans don't usually blink at British obscenities, we don't understand ancient/classic lit unless we study it in order to understand it. 

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

the verse does not prohibit incidental contact with "impure" elements at all.

I don't think anyone has said this have they?

You cannot understand Scripture well if you do not understand at least some classical literature.

No wonder the OT people and the NT church had such a hard time with Scripture. They didn't have classical literature. Poor sad folks those early Christians. If only God had blessed them with classical literature. 

Actually, keep in mind that the very premiss for this whole thread was that Cedarville was using Philippians 4:8 in a proscriptive way, to eliminate objectionable elements from classes and such.  So the very premiss--and most of what we've been arguing about--is simply not what the verse says.

Regarding classical literature, look at my point again; if the original writers could assume that their audiences would "get" the references to Asherah, Artemis, and the like, they are simultaneously presuming some familiarity on their part with what we now know as classical literature.  It would have often (generally perhaps) been handed down orally instead of in books, but the knowledge was there, and we ought to attempt to get some of that knowledge, too.  See what I'm getting at here?

Depending on how expansively Cedarville applies this policy, they could be taking a giant step backwards, and not just in measures of "academic respectability". 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

if the original writers could assume that their audiences would "get" the references to Asherah, Artemis, and the like, they are simultaneously presuming some familiarity on their part with what we now know as classical literature. 

No, they aren't. Those are the gods that they worshipped prior to coming to God or Christ in the NT. They are the gods that were being worshipped all around them. They are gods that, in some cases, they themselves worshipped. They weren't reaching back through centuries but appealing to the lives they now knew. 

Understanding the Bible depends on the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It doesn't depend on other things. That's not to say that historical context doesn't help some. But the Bible is clear enough.

To use this line of argumentation that a Christian should expose themselves to "rather bawdy" literature in the name of higher education is weak.

Larry Nelson's picture

Some pertinent stuff here, relevant to the conversation in this thread.  Note some aspects of BJU's approach to objectionable elements below, which I will highlight by underlining and bolding:

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"Appendix C—Biblical Approach to Evaluating Objectionable Elements in Entertainment

A Christian’s entertainment choices should reflect Christ and encourage him or her to be more like Christ.

While it can be beneficial to be culturally literate, every Christian should self-censor his or her entertainment choices. Below are common categories of elements that are biblically objectionable and should be censored:

• Profanity

• Scatological realism—pertaining to excretory functions

• Sexual perversion—adultery, fornication, homosexuality

• Erotic realism—explicit descriptions of sexual acts

• Lurid violence

• Occultism

• False philosophical or religious assumptions—the most dangerous, yet the most overlooked, of all objectionable elements

Evil in the Bible appears dangerous and repulsive. Reflections of evil appear in the Bible in the form of negative examples so as to create a defense against what they represent or to give hope to the fallen for forgiveness and recovery from sin. Entertainment choices should treat evil in the same way that it is treated in the Scriptures. Such entertainment can be edifying reading, listening or viewing for someone of sufficient maturity.

Scripture itself includes notable examples of each type of objectionable element, but the intent of the presentation is to instruct, the details are presented with restraint rather than gratuitousness and the tone makes clear what is evil and what is good.

Certainly no Christian should take pleasure in reading, listening to or viewing content that draws him or her away from personal holiness; but neither will a mature Christian unreflectively seclude him or herself from worthy literature or other entertainment choices simply because they contain offensive material, if that material is presented in the same manner in which Scripture presents it.

Edifying entertainment choices expose the believer to works which enhance his or her understanding of the world and strengthen the credibility of his or her testimony by enabling him or her to become "all things to all men" (1 Cor. 9:22) and develop moral perception in order to "by reason of use have [his] senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14).

When evaluating an entertainment choice, Christians should ask themselves the following questions:

• Are the characters noble?

• Do the actions of the story cause the characters to desire virtue and reject vice?

• Does the story’s resolution reward good and punish evil or honor wisdom and scorn foolishness?

• Does the theme of the story conflict with God’s truth? If it does, how? Where is the flaw?

Instead of making entertainment choices indiscriminately or insulating oneself from all entertainment, Christians should follow God’s example: create a resistance to the allurement of evil by wisely applying small doses of antigen in the form of critical reading, watching and listening.

It is godly to present ungodliness in a biblical manner, for a biblical purpose and to a biblical effect. It is ungodly to use what might seem the freedom of Scripture as a cloak of licentiousness (cf. 1 Pet. 2:16)."

(Condensed from Dr. Ron Horton’s Christian Education: Its Mandate and Mission.)

http://www.bju.edu/life-faith/student-handbook.pdf  (See pages 60 - 61)

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It seems to me that BJU's position is that Christians can benefit from selectively studying various media containing objectionable elements.

Bert Perry's picture

Larry wrote:

if the original writers could assume that their audiences would "get" the references to Asherah, Artemis, and the like, they are simultaneously presuming some familiarity on their part with what we now know as classical literature. 

No, they aren't. Those are the gods that they worshipped prior to coming to God or Christ in the NT. They are the gods that were being worshipped all around them. They are gods that, in some cases, they themselves worshipped. They weren't reaching back through centuries but appealing to the lives they now knew. 

Understanding the Bible depends on the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It doesn't depend on other things. That's not to say that historical context doesn't help some. But the Bible is clear enough.

To use this line of argumentation that a Christian should expose themselves to "rather bawdy" literature in the name of higher education is weak.

Larry, what we see as classical literature today--the written records of the ancients, from laundry lists to Homer--is simply the written record of exactly the kind of thing you refer to.  Some of it is very useful, some of it is not, but just as certainly, the Author of Scripture assumes that the readers had some of this knowledge.  We therefore ought not assume that it is inherently unclean, but rather use it to understand Him better.

Glad to see that BJU has a more mature version of this.  The Bible is simply not a "Victorian" document, as much as many would like to make it so, and neither should we use "Victorian" standards to evaluate the resources we use to educate ourselves.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

Bert, I will end with this. I think you are stretching and missing the point. No one disputes that those things are classical literature of one sort or another. No one disputes that some of it is "rather bawdy."

The claim you made was that such literature is necessary to understand the Bible, and that seems clearly false. The original readers did not know these things by reading classical literature. Such a thing would have been unknown to them. Most likely did not read and did not have these texts available to them; they knew them from their lives and the stories of their families and ancestors. And there is no reason that prurient literature would have been widely available and used in biblical contexts. They knew what they knew from their own worship practices and those around them. It did not come from the familiarity with such texts. The Bible stands on its own. Historical context is important and helpful, but the Bible stands on its own.

Furthermore, none of that justifies the intentional exposure to prurient material. BJU's statement is good. A school like Cedarville is a bit late to the table on some of these issues and so their statement (at least that I have seen) as it not as detailed or thought out. 

Bert Perry's picture

....about the matter, Larry.  Unfortunately, what I see here is (a) there are no clear provocations--nasty incidents--to provoke the policy, (b) it's being justified with Scripture that clearly does not say what they're trying to say, (c) they don't have even the protections in place that BJU is using, and (d) they're responding to criticism not with argument, but rather by pointing out that the "inmates aren't running the asylum."  

I would really like to believe that it's a long-overdue correction on the part of Cedarville, but the evidence points more to a conservative faction on the board of trustees or elsewhere pushing the needle back to enforced intellectual mediocrity.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

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