Simon Peter writing in his second epistle instructs the saints to “…make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,” I take virtue here to stand for some form of moral excellence and right living. Verses like this (and Ephesians 4.29, 5.9-12) seem to me to militate against certain Reformed understandings of ‘liberty of conscience.’ I grew up in an environment where cursing, smoking, drinking, listening to ‘secular’ music, etc. were all viewed as great sins to be avoided. This tended to legalism and did not necessarily have Scriptural mandate. However, it did foster a sense of the holiness or “called-out-ed-ness” of Christians. A Christian in other words did not look like the world, listen to the same things, watch the same things, etc.
Some time later I became Reformed and suddenly it seemed like ‘anything goes’ was the attitude if something was not forbidden by a direct command in Scripture: listen to whatever, watch whatever, drink and smoke, as long as you didn’t violate Scripture, you were ok. I have a hard time believing that Calvin, Bucer, Zwingli, Luther, or anyone else would condone watching the trash on TV and the big screen that we watch these days or listening to what we listen to, but I guess that’s not the issue.
It seems to me that the clear directives of the NT forbid the kind of intake of trash that many in the church (not just the Reformed world) now accept as ok. Many non-denominational churches with their quest to be relevant open themselves up on the same fronts of music and movies that Reformed folks do. While I’m sure that legalism can thrive in places where R rated movies are forbidden, it does seem to me that the individual Christian should actively seek to set before their eyes and ears what is encouraging Christ-likeness and not worldliness. It can be hard and tedious I know, but isn’t that part of our transformation?
I guess I just see a lack of thirst for holiness in many quarters of the church and in my own life. And this lack of drive can be easily papered over by “liberty” and “freedom.” I am not advocating Wesleyan legalism but I do think Christians need to examine their consciences, and see if perhaps the voice of the Spirit has been blunted and His influence quenched in the areas of media in our lives.
“For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.”