Question: I was appalled to see an article in the Christian Research Journal (CRJ) saying that (by implication) horror movies are an acceptable medium to teach Scriptural truth. The author even says, "God himself enjoys the horror genre." How could we benefit from these frightening, bloody movies?
Response: Screenwriter Brian Godawa authored "An Apologetic of Horror" (CRJ, Vol 32/No. 04, 2009). He must of necessity set aside the very plain words of Philippians:4:8: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." Godawa notes that Ephesians:5:11 tells us to "expose them" (the evil deeds), believing this is license for depicting horror. Yet, Ephesians:5:12 tells us that "it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret." There is no room in this passage for dwelling upon evil, as recent movies explicitly do. Godawa does say that his premise doesn't justify "all horror and thriller movies, in practice" (p. 51), but he doesn't seem to understand that his position opens the door for almost anything. We know this because he lists several movies as examples of "a strongly biblical medium for God's social commentary" (p. 50). These include Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Underworld, 28 Days Later, et al. All depict horror in the explicit, colorful, and bloody detail that computer graphics allow.
He goes on to say that "it is also true, honorable, and right to show the suicidal rotting flesh of Judas" (p. 48). He is simply wrong. Refer back to Philippians:4:8 and what we should think upon. No one honestly imagines the Lord saying there is benefit in viewing explicit details of the suicide of Judas or what rot, or decay, does to a human body left hanging in a tree. Godawa admits that evil thoughts and images can be an obsession for some, so why furnish explicit details?
There is a vast difference in Scripture's clinical report of the death of Judas. By "clinical," we mean that in Scripture, details are sparse: Judas "went and hanged himself." In Acts:1:18 we learn that "falling headlong, he burst asunder...and all his bowels gushed out." The Bible does not need to describe rotting flesh, the smell of decay, or the spillage from his burst body to make a point. On the contrary, the Lord does not major on graphic depictions (see Showtime for the Sheep?). Instead, the writers of Scripture use short and simple narration. For example, a man's concubine was turned over to depraved individuals who sexually abused her to the point of death. There are no details or closeups of her wounds nor description of the dismemberment and sending of body parts to all Israel (Jdgs 19:1-30). In no case does Scripture dwell on dripping blood, wounds, or the common elements of a horror movie. It is a marked contrast.
Some skeptics have called the Bible "pornography" because it unflinchingly lists the sins of those whose lives are recorded. Yet the account of the sexual relations between Lot and his two daughters is short of detail (Gn 19:31-38). Contrary to cinema and fiction, Scripture furnishes no prurient details beyond that Lot was drunk, his daughters had sex with their father, and sons were born. Unfortunately, Godawa must use hyperbole to make a point.
He calls Revelation an "epic horror fantasy sequel to Daniel, complete with science fiction special effects," labeling the same as "darker than anything in a David Cronenberg Grand Guignol theater of blood." Film director Cronenberg, acknowledged to be always "testing [some would say 'trampling'] limits," is said by a secular reviewer to be "desperate to explore the unnatural ideas rolling around in his head." This is what Godawa compares to the Bible.
He then goes on to list the horrific events in Revelation. Again, he simply misses the fact that the Lord chose to present this without dwelling on specific details. Not only does Godawa miss this, he exaggerates. For example, "In this apocalyptic prophecy we read of a huge demonic spectacle of genetically mutated monsters chasing and tormenting screaming people" (Rv 9:1-11)...the dragging of rotting corpses through the streets while people party over them" (Rv 11:7-13-CRJ, Ibid., p. 46). On the contrary, Revelation:11:8 says nothing of people dragging around rotting corpses. Instead the "dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city" (Rv 11:8). Godawa adds his own details, as he adds to Revelation 9. The "locusts" of chapter 9 are certainly horrific creatures, but Godawa would imagine them as modern screen "genetically mutated monsters." This involves great imagination and goes far beyond Scripture.
An old hymn goes, "'Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, Just to take Him at His word; Just to rest upon His promise, Just to know 'Thus saith the Lord!'" Along these lines, can we not simply believe the plain meaning of the Holy Spirit inspired words of Philippians:4:8? Let us think on these things.