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"Everything Is Permitted": On Game of Thrones, John Piper, and Freedom In Christ


So, there's a lot of hoopla (backed by a lot of bad theology) going on in the Christian community surrounding the nudity in the show, "Game of Thrones", and whether Christians should watch the show because of that nudity. The general consensus amongst the people in the anti-Game of Thrones camp is that nudity is "bad". That artistic nudity will turn us all into godless deviants. On one hand, I can understand. Some Christians have struggled with pornography addiction in the past. If this is you, then perhaps you shouldn't be watching anything containing nudity. Go with your convictions on that one. However, the rest of us just enjoy great cinema and the wonderful stories that come from some of the more adult television shows. Just as you see nudity in real life, naked people are indeed present on some of these shows. Just like there were naked people back in Biblical times, we have naked people today - and since art represents certain truths, like the fact that sometimes people get naked, you will find nudity on these programs.

This is both a good and a bad argument to have. Good, because it helps certain people determine where they stand on the matter, according to their own convictions. Bad, because some of those well-meaning people try to force a religious dogma down our throats which says that nudity is of the devil. Which just isn't true.

There is a healthier way to have this discussion in the Christian community, and it starts with 1 Corinthians 10:23.

Everything is permitted, but not everything is beneficial.

We are free in Christ. We are free to watch "Game of Thrones" if we so choose. Totally free. Some of us will watch "Game of Thrones", or any other work of art, and find something that will benefit us, whether it is watching a character go through some sort of profound change, a battle between good vs. evil, etc. Others will watch the same show and find that they can't get past the adult content. It doesn't benefit them. Both of these scenarios are okay, but they must remain personal decisions for each individual. Just because John Piper feels one way about the issue doesn't mean that you are obligated to feel the same way. "But he's a pastor," you say. So what? He's also human. He doesn't have all of the answers. This is one fallible man with one questionable opinion. "But he's a man of God, though. He's trustworthy! He's been to seminary!" Be careful with that. Be very, very careful. A man of God is still just a man. Don't let the opinion of one man rob you of your freedom. Also, you must remember that all of this is coming from a man who thinks that God sends tornados to punish and destroy people. The man who tweets "farewell" to fellow believers that he doesn't agree with. His attitudes are anything but progressive, and they don't seem to take grace into account at all. Food for thought, ladies and gents.

Another way to look at the situation: I am a film critic. Every day, I get review copies in the mail. Just this week, I got a DVD copy of a Zalman King film entitled, Pleasure or Pain. Now, knowing all that I know about Zalman King and his filmography, I can guess based on the synopsis and the title alone that this film is going to contain lots of gratuitous sex and nudity. Just like Wild Orchid before it, it is going to be all sex with little substance. In other words, it's not going to be spiritually or emotionally beneficial for me in any way.

Take another, altogether different film. Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley Kubrick's last film and one of my favorites. It is full of nudity, but unlike the work of Zalman King, the nudity in this film serves a specific purpose. There is nothing blatantly or even gratuitously erotic about the nudity in Eyes Wide Shut. For me, the experience of watching Eyes Wide Shut is entirely beneficial. There is a very pro-fidelity message that runs throughout the entire film., about what it means to really love your wife or your husband, learning not to take he or she for granted in the bonds of marriage. It is an incredibly Biblical message, if you ask me. A film that I have learned from, that I have pondered over for years - and not once did I ever "dwell" on the nudity. I didn't become a deviant. I took what Kubrick had given the world, I listened to what he had to say through the images and sounds that he put in front of me, and it was all very beneficial.

As I said earlier, if we're going to have this discussion, we need to have it this way. Is what you are watching going to benefit you? Is it going to stay with you for all of the right reasons? Will it change you? If the answer is yes, then by all means, go forth and enjoy that work of art, whatever it is! Let God use it in your life. If the answer is no, then I'm not going to tell you what to do, but I can tell you that if you go with the beneficial option, you'll have a lot more to think about at the end of the day.

Thank God for the arts. Let's not make them something to be avoided. The arts are a gift. They should be approached accordingly.

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