Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Are we treating the Bible like Netflix Pt1?

Image result for television remote bibleWhen I was studying at University, one of the most interesting courses I took was called ‘Television and Popular Culture.’ The course was centred around the question of: ‘what is television?’ Before you say, ‘it’s that rectangle thing that has the pictures on it,’ the question is much more philosophical than that. When you consider the content of those pictures, you begin to understand that television is a public service, a commodity, a window to the world, a market place, and an experience. One of the things we covered was the evolving shape of television as technology has changed, in particular, the development of on-demand-viewing services like Netflix. Because of this service, the television experience is more individual as the population sits down less frequently at the same time to watch the same show. Almost gone are the days when people say, ‘did you watch that episode of X last night?’ Now it is, ‘what episode are you up to?’ People are also watching a wider range of different shows. In the past, not everyone watched the same shows. But now, because there is a wider choice of programs, with the freedom to watch what you want when you want, when you ask people what they are watching, the answers back are much more diverse.
In a way, television has become much more ‘customisable.’ If there is a show you don’t want to watch, then you can just ignore it and watch something else. Of course, in the past people still avoided shows, but we were still at the mercy of the broadcasters. And if there was nothing you liked on any channel, you either watched it because you were bored, or you went without. Television has now become the buffet table.

What is interesting is that people who profess Jesus as saviour approach their Bible in the same way as they are treating the Bible like Netflix. But this is nothing new. They pick and choose what they want to read, and ignore a number of Biblical truths. They like the salvation thing, but are not interested in changing. They might like to be a ‘good person’, but not concerned about holiness. Or they might stand for righteousness, but not all of it. As the people of God forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we need to take His words seriously. As Paul said to Timothy in that often-quoted passage: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” (2Tim 3:16). Not some, ALL is from God, and ALL is profitable for correction and righteousness.

It’s concerning when I see people who call Jesus, Lord, supporting the ‘marriage equality movement.’ Now, some might argue that because we live in a secular society, perhaps we shouldn’t fight so hard against it. I get that, and that’s a position I can respect. But when Christians are also saying ‘love is love’, then I think they have crossed the line. They are ignoring Jesus’ definition of marriage in Matthew 19:5 and Paul’s words in Romans 1, because they value tolerance more than God’s standards. Jesus critiqued such people in Thyatira because they tolerated ‘Jezebel’ who was unrepentantly living in sexual immorality, and seducing others into it too (Rev 2:20-21). Yes, we should love and respect all people, but we can’t be campaigning for something that goes against God’s word. They are reading ‘love your neighbour’, without reading ‘be a slave to righteousness.’

It was interesting to see on Facebook over the last few days a big discussion about whether Christians should be watching Game of Thrones. An article from The Gospel Coalition by Kevin DeYoung called “I don’t understand Christians watching Game of Thrones” argued that because of all the gratuitous nudity and sex scenes, they shouldn’t. This was based on applying Jesus’ words of not looking lustfully at a woman (Matt 5:27), and Paul’s words to avoid sexual immorality (Eph 4:3-12) to the medium of television, which includes Game of Thrones. One of the things he wrote towards the end stood out to me:
“…for conservative Christians who care about marriage and immorality and decency in so many other areas, it is baffling that Game of Thrones gets a free pass.”

What is interesting is that for many Christians who agree with Kevin with regards to watching Game of Thrones, it’s ‘baffling that the Sabbath gets a free pass.’ Many Christians today are indifferent to the Sabbath, let alone whether it should be on a Saturday or a Sunday. According to Rick Warren, “The day isn’t important. It doesn’t have to be a certain day, just every seventh day.”  Many spiritualise it to the point where a 5 minute prayer time is a Sabbath. But the Sabbath is one of God’s Ten Commandments. If we want to say that we take God’s word seriously, then we need to take this commandment, the one that is the longest and most repeated in the Old Testament seriously.

In a sermon on the Sabbath, Kevin DeYoung said that “the Mosaic Sabbath is no longer incumbent upon Christians”, and that Jesus moved it to Sunday, ‘the Lord’s day.’ And this is a position that can be said is held by a vast majority of Christians. So, this is not a response to, or attack on Mr DeYoung, but rather a testing and challenge against the idea that he, like many others, are expressing. Can we base this position on scripture, or is obedience to the fourth commandment being given a free pass?

So how many verses say that the Sabbath has been changed, or done away with? 
There is no passage in scripture that says ‘the Sabbath is done away with’, and there is nothing about changing it to Sunday. And if it had been changed, but the Bible is so silent about it, then I find that incredibly surprising. The observance of the Sabbath in the first century was significantly important for the Jews. They considered it, albeit wrongly, as one of the key things that set them apart from the rest of the world and therefore one of the things that guaranteed their place in the world to come. It was given even greater status as church attendance in the 50’s, or speaking in tongues for the hyper-charismatic: ‘you’re not a real believer unless you do it.’ So, for the New Testament, written primarily by Jews for people of what was considered a Jewish sect, to be that silent on a change of the Sabbath is quite odd.  
In light of this silence, how do people conclude that the Sabbath is no longer binding or changed? Well, typically it is based on a few key verses that one could say implicitly suggest that the Sabbath has been done away, if not changed.

In part 2, we will have a look at these key verses.


Rick Warran, "A Prayer for the Sabbath",, Oct 2016.

Kevin DeYoung, "A Festive Day of Rest", University Reformed Church, Oct 2016.

Kevin DeYoung, "I don’t understand Christians watching Game of Thrones",, Aug 2017.


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