Future of Evangelicalism
Film Is the New Literature
The reality is that Evangelicals are often far too shallow, flippant, or unduly critical when it comes to engaging film. We need to remember that most of the people with whom we will interact are not philosophers, theologians, or even film critics. For most people there is little discussion following a film beyond simple conclusions such as, "That was a good movie!" or "I didn't like it" or "That was okay." Every film contains ideas, though, and those ideas are related in turn to worldviews. Consequently, learning to exegete film in a manner that is relevant will help us engage others in discussions about faith, truth, and more.
Evangelicalism's cultural relevance in reference to engaging film, however, must not sacrifice biblical truth. In other words, while the Christian worldview should adapt to the influence of film and its penetration in our cultural milieu, prompting us to seek meaningful and engaging ways of interacting with individuals, such an adaptation should not sacrifice essential Christian ideas and ideals. In addition, while there are times for direct critical analysis that thoughtfully responds to erroneous ideas in films, we also need to learn to be far more tactful in our assessment of films. Like Paul in Athens (Acts 17:16-34), it's possible to intelligently engage cultural ideas in a manner that is both forceful when necessary, and yet cordial and, at times, even complimentary of the positive aspects of non-Christian culture.
Films tell stories, as does the Bible. Christ knew the power of story and, as a result, incorporated engaging storytelling elements in his many parables. On some level we typically respond better to stories than we do to textbooks or preachy lectures. Learning to intelligently engage the storytelling medium of film, carefully exegeting the form, is a far better response than entrenching ourselves in our subculture defiantly or else embracing films uncritically.
As Christians living in the Age of Entertainment, our cultural and kingdom relevance is at stake if we fail to adapt to the rise and influence of media such as film and television. To neglect these media or minimize their influence is to cast aside important cultural touch points where faith and culture intersect.
Robert Velarde is author of several books including The Wisdom of Pixar, Conversations with C. S. Lewis, and The Heart of Narnia. Robert studied philosophy of religion at Denver Seminary and is completing his graduate studies at Southern Evangelical Seminary. For more, see Robert's blog and the website for his recent book.