Question: We read your book Showtime for the Sheep? and agree with your position that the Bible cannot be translated into film or video without critically distorting it. According to your analysis of the medium, you leave little doubt that such an endeavor cannot be accomplished without succumbing to the forbidden practice of adding to or subtracting from the Word of God. However, is it your position that movies, videos, the writing of fictional stories, and acting in dramatic stories are also unbiblical? This is a concern for us because we know some very creative young people who are considering fictional writing, acting, and the entertainment business in general as a career.
Response: As you gathered from Showtime, I have a number of years of experience in "showbiz." This certainly has given me some valuable insights that I can pass on to you and that I hope you may find helpful. But then there is the bottom line: does the Word of God address the subjects? Absolutely, but we're not going to find a specific verse that says yea or nay to a career in the entertainment industry or writing novels or becoming an actor. It does, however, cover them in general, as it does all of life's issues.
One verse I'm thinking about is 2 Peter:1:3: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue...." So we simply evaluate a potential career or endeavor based upon what Scripture tells us would be consistent with a life pleasing to God.
Let's start with writing fictional stories. I'm not aware of any verse that indicates that storytelling is contrary to the Word. The question is, does the story, with all of its elements, reflect consistency with biblical truth? A writer who is a follower of Jesus must make sure he or she is not communicating anything that undermines or contradicts God's Word.
What about acting? I don't know of a verse that condemns portraying a character in a dramatic story. Again, similar questions must be asked. Do the role, the story, and all of its elements reflect that which is consistent with biblical truth? If that's not the case, then a Christian would be dishonoring, even disobeying, the Lord by participating.
I believe those form a basic criteria, yet the issue can get far more complicated. For example, in the process of writing a story and getting it published, there may be pressures by publishing editors to add elements to make it more attractive to potential readers, providing worldly appeal yet detracting from the story's original Christian witness. Although that may be uncommon in book publishing, it's the norm when a novel is made into a movie.
Similarly, screenplays may start out fulfilling the basic criteria above, but once it is sold to a film company, the writer usually loses control of his story. The end product is the result of input from studio executives, producers, a director, actors, and a host of others. In this collaborative secular medium, which is primarily profit driven and often morally bankrupt, it would be rare for the resulting movie to maintain the integrity of the original script.
The challenge for an actor who wants to honor the Lord in such a career is terribly difficult. Consider how few movies there are today that reflect a biblical worldview. That certainly doesn't allow for many opportunities to develop one's acting abilities; the chances drop even more, considering the competition for parts in the few films that may be acceptable. Furthermore, even when a story presents the consequences of evil that support what the Bible teaches, that presentation of evil through its characters may be so graphic (involving sex, nudity, violence, filthy language, etc.) that it would be a compromise of one's faith to portray such a character.
The entertainment industry is incredibly seductive, and I know numerous Christian friends and acquaintances whose faith and walk with the Lord were wrecked because of their involvement in "Hollywood," which is both a system and a place that the world has acknowledged as "sin city." I also know a few who have traveled that spiritual minefield with some success, yet not without experiencing many "battle wounds" in the process. There are a small number of Christian film companies that have had control of their final product and were able to keep their films' integrity intact, but fewer still that were able to be successful in a secular industry that controls the marketplace. Numbers-wise, that doesn't bode well for a potential career in producing, directing, acting, screenwriting, and many of the other creative film arts.
Nonetheless, any biblical Christian who is considering a career in the entertainment industry-in my view and from my experience-must be grounded in "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude:1:3), must be totally submitted to the Lord (Galatians:2:20; James:4:7-8), and must be thoroughly convinced by faith (Romans:1:17) that God has called him or her into such an endeavor.