How Do Adventists Make Movie and Music Choices?
We have entertainment at our fingertips. With just a tap on our smartphones, we can access all the latest movies, music, YouTube videos, and more.
So what criteria does a Seventh-day Adventist use in choosing what to consume?
We believe the Bible gives us guidelines for every area of life. Though it doesn’t speak specifically to everything we encounter today, it provides principles to help us determine what is safe and good for followers of Jesus and what is not. We then apply these principles to music and movies.
So let’s answer some questions you may have about making entertainment choices:
- Is music bad?
- Are movies bad?
- What does the Bible say about how we should choose entertainment?
- What does entertainment look like for the follower of Jesus?
Let’s unpack this topic.
Is music bad?
No! Music is not bad in and of itself. In the Bible, music and song are repeatedly mentioned. They were used to express joy and worship God. They also play an important role in heaven (Job 38:7).
Here are a few of the many occurrences in the Bible:
- The Israelites sang praises to God after they crossed the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1–21).
- The temple had an organized group of musicians whose job was to praise God by playing instruments and singing (1 Chronicles 15:16–29).
- David played the harp to comfort king Saul’s troubled mind (1 Samuel 16:23).
- David composed many songs, which were later used for worship in the temple. Today, those songs fill one of the longest books in the Bible—Psalms.
- Paul and Silas sang to God while in prison (Acts 16:25).
And Paul encouraged us to use music:
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord”1 (Ephesians 5:19, NKJV).
And you may be wondering: what about secular songs—those that don’t directly worship God?
They have their place, and we shouldn’t label them as “bad” just because they aren’t overtly religious.
Notice what the Seventh-day Adventist philosophy of music says about secular music:
“‘Secular music’ is music composed for settings other than the worship service or private devotion. It speaks to the common issues of life and basic human emotions. It comes out of our very being, expressing the human spirit’s reaction to life, love, and the world in which the Lord has placed us. It can be morally uplifting or degrading. Although it does not directly praise and adore God, nevertheless it could have a legitimate place in the life of the Christian.”
For example, we wouldn’t think twice about singing “Happy Birthday” or listening to brain-boosting pieces by Bach.
At the same time, not everything labeled as “Christian music” honors God. What matters is that a song meets the criteria of biblical principles and of quality, as we’ll see below.
The key is that we need principles to filter both secular and sacred music. More on that soon.
First, let’s talk about movies.
Are movies bad?
Movies are not bad in and of themselves. But we should use caution and careful consideration in choosing what we watch. Biblical principles can help us in this process.
Many secular movies glamorize murder, violence, sex, and other inappropriate actions. They can also paint an unrealistic picture of life that detracts from the meaningful life God wants for us. It’s crucial that we evaluate whether a movie will increase or decrease our desire to know God and live for Him.
But with that said, movies can also be used for great good.
Case in point: Adventists have used quality productions to share the truths of the Bible in recent years.
The feature film Tell the World depicts the early history of the Adventist Church and the hope of Jesus’ second coming.
Adventist ministries, such as Hope Channel, Amazing Facts, Voice of Prophecy, and the Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN), have studios that broadcast quality Christian programs across the world. Cosmic Conflict, produced by Amazing Facts, has helped thousands understand the war between good and evil, Jesus Christ, and Satan. Even non-religious films can be used for educational purposes, like documentaries.
Thus, movies have their place, and we shouldn’t write them all off—whether secular or Christian. And as we mentioned earlier, labeling something as “Christian” doesn’t mean it aligns with the Bible’s guidelines.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 calls followers of God to “test all things; hold fast what is good” (NKJV).
We can use biblical principles to test both music and movies.
What does the Bible say about choosing what we watch and listen to?
The Bible doesn’t specify what we should and shouldn’t watch (after all, movies didn’t even exist back then). But it does give us principles that can help us evaluate music and movies. These principles—found both in the Old Testament and New Testament—are:
- Glorifying God
- Guarding our hearts
- Focusing on things that are noble and uplift the truth
- Avoiding unbeneficial content
- Not putting ourselves in temptation’s way
You may see Adventist church members making different decisions when it comes to entertainment. Even church leaders won’t always agree with one another.
So, in the end, we can’t look at people; we must recognize our responsibility to apply the principles as the Holy Spirit guides us.
Keep reading for a little Bible study on these principles.
In everything we do, we should keep the glory of God uppermost (1 Corinthians 10:31). Though not every activity or piece of content will directly praise God, it can still glorify Him through what it promotes and encourages.
Guarding our hearts
In the Bible, the heart is the center of a person, including the thoughts, affections, and deepest parts of that individual.2 What we place our hearts on is what will take priority in our lives (Matthew 6:21).
And that’s why we have to guard our hearts so carefully (Proverbs 4:23). It’s easy to drift from what’s most important in life.
Guarding the heart means guarding the pathways to the heart—the senses. We have to watch what we allow in through these avenues—sight, hearing, touch, etc.—because of the impact they can have on us.
The things we see, hear, and listen to shape the very deepest part of who we are—our characters. Are they shaping us to become more like Christ or less like Him?
Focusing on things that are noble and uplift truth
Philippians 4:8 invites us to think about things that uplift truth and are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, morally excellent, and praiseworthy. We should avoid anything that paints impurity and violence in a positive light.
Does this mean we should never watch anything that contains violence, war scenes, or the realities of life? It’ll depend on the individual.
But we should consider that even the Bible contains stories of war, violence, and murder. The key is that none of these behaviors are uplifted; they’re used as examples to guide us in the right direction. Thus, when we choose content, we must evaluate how negative behaviors are framed—are they glorified or discouraged?
Avoiding unbeneficial content
In Psalm 101:3, David said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes” (NKJV). The Hebrew word for wicked means “worthless” or “unprofitable.” The principle here is avoiding things that won’t benefit us physically, mentally, or spiritually.
A certain movie could be harmless in that it doesn’t contain inappropriate behavior or violence. But it may still be purposeless, lacking depth and beneficial meaning for our lives and our relationship with God.
Just because something is permissible for us to do doesn’t mean it’s always the best option (1 Corinthians 10:23).
Not putting ourselves in temptation’s way
We all face temptations and various struggles. But the Bible discourages us from putting ourselves in situations where we’ll be tempted to have wrong thoughts (Romans 13:11–14).
The above principles apply to both movies and music. But let’s look now at some guidelines specific to music.
Additional music principles
The Seventh-day Adventist Church outlines nine simple music guidelines. They are based on passages in the Bible and principles of quality music. We’ll summarize them here.
The music should:
- Glorify God, regardless of whether it’s sacred or secular
- Be noble, fulfilling the characteristics of Philippians 4:8 for what we should focus on
- Have “quality, balance, appropriateness, and authenticity”
- Have a positive effect on the mind and the body
- Have a melody, harmony, and rhythm that reflect God’s orderliness (1 Corinthians 14:40). They should complement, not overpower, each other.
- Contain quality lyrics that are “creative, rich in content, and of good composition.” They will be encouraging and consistent with the Bible and good morals.
- Have music and lyrics that match one another in the message they’re conveying
- Balance “spiritual, intellectual, and emotional elements”
- Allow for differences in culture
The ultimate purpose of these principles is to help us reflect Jesus.
What does entertainment look like for the follower of Jesus?
Following Jesus means looking to Him for guidance in every aspect of our lives. Our greatest desire becomes following His example in the Bible and representing Him to those around us. And that’s the case when it comes to entertainment. This matter isn’t about dos and don’ts but about what can most foster our relationship with Jesus.
Matthew 6:33 encourages us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (ESV). Only a few verses before, we’re reminded that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21, ESV).
In other words, what we value and spend time on says a lot about our priorities. As Christians, we want to make Jesus our priority. That will shine out in all the decisions we make.
So what kind of example did Jesus set when it comes to entertainment?
Jesus didn’t live to please Himself. His focus was on pouring Himself out for the good of others. But that doesn’t mean His life was joyless, depressing, and burdensome. He found joy in connecting with His Father and serving others. He also engaged in enjoyable activities that allowed Him to bless others.
Jesus was serious about His mission and carried heavy burdens.
But this didn’t make Him a killjoy.
Quite the contrary!
People flocked to Jesus. And children loved to be with Him (Matthew 21:15; Mark 10:13–16).
He attended social gatherings and happy events, like a wedding—even performing His first miracle to add to the enjoyment of the event (John 2:1–11).
Jesus no doubt had a joy about Him, and He wanted others to experience it too: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11, ESV).
The Bible is our guide to godly entertainment choices
God is the creator of all that is good, pure, and praiseworthy. He gave us the gift of music to use for His honor, and He works through movies that uplift noble principles.
Both music and movies can be tools to draw us closer to Jesus and allow us to glorify Him. Or they can draw us away from Him and dishonor Him.
And remember—God isn’t about spoiling our fun. Instead, He wants us to live the most meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful lives possible! Which is why the Word of God gives us principles to guide our entertainment decisions.
The way people apply these principles may not always look the same. But what matters most is that each individual is seeking God’s will in the Bible.
And as we seek God, we can be confident that He will help us make wise choices in this area of our lives.
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