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Biblical Discernment: The Pure Free-for-all


Tuesday
Jun 10, 2014
The Angel of Purity (Maria Mitchell Memorial)

BLESSED ARE THE PURE IN HEART FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD

In the following verse, it would seem Paul is giving believers a pass on avoiding generally accepted no-nos.

Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled. (Titus 1:15)

Some who advocate “grittier” fiction (allowance of cussing and sex) would point to this verse to justify their position. But does it? Let’s take a closer look.

Context

Paul, after some introductory remarks and talking about the requirements in selecting overseers for the new churches in Crete, transitions in verse 9, which talks about overseers need to accurately transmit the faith given to them to the faithful, shifts gears to focus on a specific set of false teachings in verse 10:

For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision:

The rest of Chapter 1 Paul focuses on the false teaching of the circumcision, that is, Jewish Christians who taught that new Gentile converts needed to follow the whole Law of Moses, including all the rules dealing with unclean food, to be in good standing with God. The verse right before 15 is a repeat of last week’s verse, and highlights the fact that verse 15 needs to be understood in this context:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth. (Titus 1:14)

The phrase, “Unto the pure all things are pure,” is specifically a reference to the Jewish teachings on avoiding unclean food. The “all” in that section refers to all food. Not everything under the sun. Paul is instructing Titus to counter that teaching by instructing the faithful that purity and corruption are conditions of the inner man based on faith in Christ, and cannot be changed by what you eat. Downing some pork isn’t going to make the believer filled with the Holy Spirit impure and unclean, nor is eating the right foods going to make the unbeliever clean and pure.

This thought originates with Christ:

Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. (Matt. 15:11)

Additionally, the concept is confirmed by Peter’s vision in Acts 10:9-16 and the council of Jerusalem in Acts 15:29 refusal to pass on the unclean laws to the Gentiles.

This verse can only apply to other things where the same principle can be applied, but cannot be blindly applied to anything and everything, including sins one might want to justify.

Application

Is entertainment the same as eating food? Can we apply this verse to our entertainment consumption as Paul did to food?

I believe there are valid parallels, but not across the board. There are some key differences between the two.

1. What food one eats, in and of itself, isn’t a sin or directly cause one to sin. There are forms of entertainment that either are sinful in and of themselves, or directly influence people to sin. The wrong entertainment can lead to impurity and corruption.

2. Food operates on the body. Entertainment influences the mind, will, emotions, and heart. As Jesus said, it is from the heart that a man is defiled (Matt. 15:17-20). Food goes into the belly and then is dumped. The wrong food can’t influence your heart like the wrong entertainment can.

3. Food is a necessity. Entertainment, while being important for relaxing, isn’t going to kill you if you don’t get it.

So we can’t make the same blanket statement on entertainment as we can for food, but it is clear that discernment is needed. Paul makes this clearer to the Corinthians:

All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. (1 Cor. 6:12)

To paraphrase, the law of what is unclean no longer applies, but that doesn’t leave discernment behind. There are “lawful” activities that can spiritually harm us, even as what is okay for one might not be for another.

I confess, I like Star Trek. I find it fun and entertaining, plot holes and all. I also recognize its philosophy and worldview are anti-Christian. But I still like it and watch it. I feel I can watch it without discovering one morning that I’ve cashed in the Faith to become secular. I can critique its flaws even as I enjoy it, apply what is beneficial and ignore the rest.

I also confess to liking the Monkees. I have the two seasons of the TV series on DVD, and all their albums. But I’ve yet to adopt their lifestyle or attitude about girls and love.

I’ll confess as well to watching a lot of the Roadrunner and Coyote on the TV growing up. One of the most violent cartoons ever made. Yet, I didn’t grow up to become a serial killer, wife/child beater, or very violent at all. Because I knew as a kid that was not real. I had enough discernment even then to know lighting a bomb tied to the back of my brother would do a lot more than merely turn him black.

In essence, discernment not only involves what we do and don’t consume, but also with what we do take in, discernment acts as a filter. Much like the digestive track does for food, we can learn to separate the needed heart nutrients and dump the rest. As Paul points out in Titus 1:16, it is the fruit produced that determines uncleanness, not what you take in.

But that also means we can’t say to ourselves, “Oh, all is pure. I can feast indiscriminately to my heart’s content,” without fearing being corrupted and led down the wrong path. That should be clear from the context in Titus, who Paul is instructing to not let the circumcision teach their false doctrines. If all things are pure, Paul wouldn’t be concerned that they might be led astray.

Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

Next time, I’ll look deeper into this verse, a key to developing discernment. Any other verses I should tackle? Mention them in the comments.

 

R. L. Copple

As a young teen, R. L. Copple played in his own make-believe world, writing the stories and drawing the art for his own comics while experiencing the worlds of other authors like Tolkien, Lewis, Asimov, and Lester Del Ray. As an adult, after years of writing devotionally, he returned to the passion of his youth in order to combine his fantasy worlds and faith into the reality of the printed page. Since then, his imagination has given birth to The Reality Chronicles trilogy from Splashdown Books, and The Virtual Chronicles series, Ethereal Worlds Anthology, and How to Make an Ebook: Using Free Software from Ethereal Press, along with numerous short stories in various magazines. Learn more about R. L and his work at any of the following: Author Website, Author Blog, or Author Store.

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4 comments on "Biblical Discernment: The Pure Free-for-all"

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In essence, discernment not only involves what we do and don’t consume, but also with what we do take in, discernment acts as a filter. I’m glad you came to this conclusion. I was concerned for a moment that you were opening the door to the “see no evil, hear no evil” interpretation of Philippians 4:8. I think discernment is finding how grace and truth relate to whatever we encounter in life. I think there’s something wrong with the idea of entertainment as relaxation. Maybe this is part of your point in the last paragraph. However, I also don’t think… Read more »
notleia
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I wonder about the “entertainment not being necessary” bit, because pretty much all cultures have stories and myths and stuff. It may not be physically necessary, but I wonder if it’s emotionally or psychologically necessary. Or at least riding the line between “beneficial” and “necessary.”

R. L. Copple
Guest

There are studies showing the beneficial qualities of entertainment like reading. The home page of my website links to some of those. A balanced dose is good for one’s mental health.

 

However, one can survive without entertainment for long periods of time, perhaps years, and not die. Not so with food. Go without food for a year and we’ll be giving your eulogy.

R. L. Copple
Guest
Thanks for your thoughts, bainespal.   I think “relax” wasn’t the best word I could have chosen. My thought is what one does to get away from the daily grind/responsibilities. Not relax as in physical rest, but mental release of pressure by participating in something one enjoys. For some that might be a crossword puzzle. For me, that wouldn’t be enjoyable.   Entertainment can certainly have different goals, but in general it moves one from have-to-dos to get by, to want-to-dos because it is fun and enjoyable. If it stops being fun and enjoyable, it is no longer entertaining.  … Read more »
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