Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Southeast Protestant Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. * This is a continuation of the text of a lecture given in First Church, Grand Rapids, MI on April 22, 1999.
It is time to ask the question, Does the antithesis enter in here? What does the truth of the antithesis say to you and to me about entertainment and its proper place in our lives?
The antithesis is a truth that is dear to the Reformed believer. It is especially precious to the Protestant Reformed believer. It is dear to the Reformed believer because the antithesis spells his spiritual safety; and it is dear to the Protestant Reformed believer because a battle for this truth was fought and won in 1924. That God’s grace is particular, always saving, for the elect alone and never for the reprobate, is of extreme importance for the living out of this vital doctrine.
The antithesis is the absolute spiritual separation that God has established between the church and the world, between those who are in Christ and those who are outside of Christ, between the believer and the unbeliever. God has called us out of the darkness of unbelief, misery, and death, into His marvelous light. God has made between the church and the world a cleavage of such a nature that it can be bridged by nothing! Having made righteous discrimination between men in eternal predestination, God establishes this cleavage by the power of His grace down through the history of the human race. What a power that is, that God sets vast elements of the children of Adam at enmity with one another! This is not a physical separation, but a spiritual one — though, to be sure, it implies a certain measure of physical separation as well, in that the child of God is not found in all the places where the child of darkness is found.
The life of the antithesis does not call us to world flight. We are called to be in this world, but not of this world. As children of light we are called to be God’s party in the midst of a dark, perishing world. The only fleeing we engage in is the fleeing from sin and the very appearance of sin.
In Psalm 16:5-6 we read, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” The child of God has a wonderful inheritance, and that inheritance is God Himself. God gives Himself to us in Jesus Christ, in all His majesty, power, riches, and splendor. And God has drawn lines for us in our lives. Those lines in the Old Testament were the property lines that defined the exact piece of ground that each Israelite inherited in Canaan. God forbade that those lines be changed or that property be sold. For us, those lines which have fallen to us in pleasant places are our children, our doctrines, our practices drawn out of those doctrines, our place in the church of Christ and in the congregations, and ultimately our place in the heavenly Canaan. God has drawn lines for us. They have been measured out unto us with gracious care! And this means that we must always be busy drawing lines in our lives and in the lives of our children, lines of very definite demarcation.
The question is, Where do we draw the lines? The question is not, Where does my church draw the lines? We know the answer to that question. The preaching we hear every Sabbath Day draws the lines of doctrine and life biblically and sharply. Besides, you can read all about these things in our magazines and pamphlets. But where do you, and where do I, draw the lines personally and daily in our lives and the lives of our families?
It goes almost without saying that we must draw the lines of demarcation sharply, indelibly, and without compromise exactly where God draws the lines in His revelation to us. And then we must stick to those lines, and make them stick, without removing the ancient landmarks. James writes (4:4) that the friendship of the world is enmity with God, and whosoever is the friend of the world is the enemy of God. Paul writes in II Corinthians 6:14-18 (the classic text for the antithesis) that we are not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers, that we are to come out from among them and be separate, that we are not to touch the unclean thing. There you have it. God, Christ, the elect angels, and elect believers — all these stand on one side of the line of the antithesis as covenant friends! On the other side is the devil, fallen angels, unbelievers, all that love and make the lie.
Now, whom are you going to invite to cross over and stand with you? Who will be your friend? With whom will you have fellowship, communion, concord, part — to use the words of the apostle. That is the great issue in dating, courtship, and marriage, is it not? But that is also the issue in this whole area of entertainment. Whom do you invite into your home to entertain you and your children electronically? “I will walk within my house with a perfect heart. I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes,” says David. Whom are you always going to be talking about and admiring? “Him that hath an high look and a proud heart will not I suffer. Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land,” says the man after God’s own heart.
Our conclusion is that the enmity that God has placed between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent at the very beginning, the antithesis that God maintains between the church and the world down through the ages, must be applied by the Christian in every area of life, and in these last days increasingly to the area of entertainment. The place of entertainment in the Christian life is really very small, in that we are placed on earth to work. The problems that entertainment present us are really not so difficult if we remember that we are not citizens of this world, with worldly expectations, goals, and values; we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth as our fathers were. Our citizenship is in the kingdom of heaven. We declare plainly that we seek a better country, that is, a heavenly, and do not even expect to find any satisfaction in these desert wastes. And because God is not ashamed to be called our God (Heb. 11:16), we confess, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides Thee!”
As for biblical direction in the matter of entertainment, we offer for your consideration three broad guidelines. First of all, everyone recognizes that in regard to some of the things that have been mentioned (but not all of them) there is room for the exercise of Christian liberty. Members of the body of Christ differ as to wealth, abilities, and callings in life. With these differences come varying opportunities, and no one may make rules to force everyone into the same mold. The people of God are alike in two respects: everyone must confess the same truth and everyone must walk according to God’s commandments. For the rest, there is abundant room for variation and liberty.
Two passages come to mind in this regard. Paul writes to the Galatians (5:1), “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” He is combating the legalism of some in the churches whereby they were trying to establish part of their righteousness before God by the works of the law, especially circumcision. But Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; He has fulfilled all righteousness, and therefore we are called to walk in the glorious liberty of the children of God. On the other hand, there is the warning of Galatians 5:13, “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another,” and the warning of I Peter 2:16, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.”In other words, Holy Scripture warns us against two great errors, legalism and antinomism. Legalism is the scrupulous keeping of law and precept with the idea of establishing one’s own righteousness before God. And antinomism is total disregard for the law of God. The law of God must not be read in church or preached on according to the Catechism because Christ has fulfilled the law, and I am completely free from the law! Both positions are wrong, and both are wrong as guidelines in the areas of entertainment. But the great danger for the church and for the believer in this present time is not legalism. Do not ever think it. The great danger is antinomism. No law for the Christian! Lawlessness is the spirit of these last times, and that spirit must not infect the churches. We are not free from the law, but we are free under the law! That truth is so beautifully expressed in Psalm 119:45, “And I will walk at liberty, for I seek thy precepts.” That is the first guideline. Walking at liberty with the law of God in our hearts as our faithful guide.
Secondly, because of the emphasis that Psalm 101 places upon the home and the sanctified character of the Christian home, somehow we must reclaim our homes and bring them more in line with the biblical example. Many of our homes have entertainment centers, a big cabinet or set of shelves, on which are placed a television set, a VCR, a tape deck, a CD player, and perhaps a computer with a pile of electronic games. Two things stand out here: first, the very presence of these centers suggests way too much emphasis on entertainment; and secondly, they encourage the wrong kind of entertainment. Also, the use of these things draws us away from each other and from having fellowship with each other. Television viewing and endless computer games are very individualistic. Interaction of parents with children, and children with the other children can be very severely damaged.
The table with the family gathered around it talking — that used to be the center of the home. The bookcase with good books and religious magazines — that used to be the place to which we turned when we had a few extra minutes. But more and more our children and young people are not reading and are not studying. They tend to view the home merely as the place to be if you do not have any place else to go. Home is the place of last resort. Being home is bad; being on the go, that is really living. Oh, no! God puts you in a home with your family. There God will nurture, teach, and bless you. There He will give you joy and pleasure. So the second guideline in the matter of entertainment is having a strong Christian home and family where God is known, feared, and served.
Thirdly, something ought to be said about role models, since that is a word that keeps coming up in the media. Who will be the models after which we and our children pattern ourselves? To whom do we look up, and to whom do we point our children? God does not allow a professional athlete to be a role model for the Christian of any age. God does not allow an actor, actress, or worldly musician to fill this function for us either. We do need worthy examples to follow. We are to be followers (imitators) of God as dear children (Eph. 5:1). Christ has left us an example that we should follow His steps (I Pet. 2:21). We are to follow the apostle Paul and those who are like him (Phil. 3:17). Clearly, the role models we must follow are found in the church, not in the world. The elders, the deacons, the pastors, the saints! Closer to home, godly fathers by word and example show the boys and young men what the Christian life is all about. Mothers of meek and quiet spirit reveal to the girls and young women how they are to conduct themselves. “Mine eyes shall be upon the faithful of the land,” says David. “They shall dwell with me.”
Can the Christian have fun? Yes. Really, he is the only one who can enjoy life and see good days. God has put him on the right side of the antithesis, and God keeps him there. He has a good conscience as he experiences the liberty that is in Christ Jesus. He is a member of the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.
… to be continued.