Watching Movies Through a Biblical Worldview

Movies are an influential medium. A myriad of worldviews are on display and like it or not, those worldviews seep into the consciousness of the public. Screenwriters, even if they aren’t aware of it, input their own worldview into the piece that they are writing. Sometimes characters have different worldviews than the writer, but if written well, a worldview for each character is established. How does the audience decipher between what is truth and what isn’t? There are Biblical truths that seep through in every single movie. Even if the worldview of the movie is contrarian, there is something that can be grasped and applied.

Worldview, according to Richard Wright, is “a comprehensive framework of beliefs that help us to interpret what we see and experience and also gives us direction in the choices that we make as we live out our days.” So, how do we determine what a character’s worldview is? What do they believe? Sometimes their worldview is more overt and they will actually state what it is that they believe, but other times it is more covert and their actions and choices will uncover their worldview. Here is a good way to determine worldview:

A lot of people’s worldview can be determined by what they say and do. Here is how it usually looks:

Culture

Values

Behavior

Worldview

It works this way for a lot of people. Culture, values, and behavior influence one’s worldview. Culture really can be anything from the general (American culture, Korean culture, etc.) to the specific (family culture, classroom culture, etc.). A lot can be determined about one’s worldview by the culture that they associate with. The same can be said about values (love, order, excellence, wisdom, etc.) and behavior (what people do). To get to the core beliefs of a character in a movie, one can generally look at their culture, values and behavior and determine their worldview.

If someone is a follower of Jesus and their basis for behavior and values are the Bible, then a Biblical worldview should actually influence the others:

Culture

Values

Behavior

Worldview

A Jesus follower’s worldview is determined by what the Bible has to say and their worldview should influence their behavior and values, which in turn should transform and impact culture.

Every single worldview that exists has something to say about five things: God, Creation, Humanity, Moral Order, and Purpose. These are the five worldview components.

God deals with questions such as: Is there a God? Is there one God or multiple gods? Is He a personal God or an impersonal force?

Creation deals with questions such as: Did the universe create itself, or did a Creator cause it? What is really real? Does the material world have any purpose?

Humanity deals with questions such as: Are we descendents of fish? Is human nature basically good or basically corrupt? Are people responsible for their actions? What happens to people after they die?

Moral Order deals with questions such as: Are morality and ethics human inventions or does a Creator predetermine them? Is there an ultimate standard of right and wrong? How is right and wrong determined?

Purpose deals with questions such as: Is there a purpose to our existence? Does history have any direction to it?

All worldviews deal with these five components and a fully developed character will have beliefs in these five areas that determine how they act.

Even if a character doesn’t have a Biblical worldview, Biblical truth can be found within movies. Truth will reveal itself. So, how can we find Biblical truth within movies? Here is a question to ask: What Biblical truth can be discovered that can be applied to my life in the area of: God, Creation, Humanity, Moral Order, or Purpose?

Let’s take Avatar as an example because it’s fairly simple and many people have seen it. The Na’vi love nature. That’s great. God created nature and loves nature Himself, but what do the Na’vi believe about nature? Their god, Eywa is a tree and everything in nature is connected through it. The Na’vi even have tendrils that can literally connect to all of nature. The Na’vi basically are pantheists. Pantheism is, at its core, the worship of Nature; the belief that God is the creation. The Na’vi are worshipping the creation. What are Biblical truths that can be derived from this? The Bible states that humans should be good stewards of the environment, but not take it as far as the Na’vi do. Humans should worship the Creator and not the Creation. The simple Biblical truth of stewardship can be derived from Avatar even though the screenwriter, James Cameron, and his characters do not share a Biblical worldview.

It is essential, in viewing movies through a Biblical worldview, that the viewer knows Biblical truth and to know Biblical truth, one must study and read the Bible. There are many things that sound very good, but aren’t Biblical, so to differentiate between the good and the truth, one must know the truth.

Every Thursday, The Joshua Centre will discuss a different movie through a Biblical worldview. There will be a list of upcoming movies being discussed so that you can view the movie before the discussion will be posted. It is my hope that you will join in the discussion and take your movie watching to a deeper level.

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5 Responses to Watching Movies Through a Biblical Worldview

  1. Meredith says:

    This is great! Excited to join this conversation.
    One thing you said, though, I have a slightly different perspective on. I would say that Worldview is a foundational part of Culture, and that these 2 things give rise to Values, and Values generate specific Behaviors. So the order would be:
    Culture/Worldview -> Values -> Behavior

    An example of this would be…

    American Culture is steeped in individualism, and the Worldview lying at the heart of that is one that sees God as existing, but not particularly active in our everyday lives (Deist). On a practical level, each one of us is our own god, carving out our own destiny. Thus, phrases like “Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps,” and “God helps those who help themselves.” This cultural worldview influences our values: We value personal success, we value personal rights, we value personal privacy. These values determine our behavior: If a family member or friend has a need, and it infringes on any of my personal success, rights, or privacy, then I preserve what I value. So, my brother comes into town last-minute, and has no place to stay, but I value personal privacy, so I will expect him to get a hotel rather than inviting him to stay, if it inconveniences me in any way. My values have dictated my behavior.

    Other cultures that are more communal would never dream of behaving this way. They value family and community SO much, that if said brother insisted on going to a hotel (even for a legitimate reason, like being allergic to my pets or something) – this would be seen as an affront and very offensive, because it is a behavior that goes against a deeply-held value.

    The ironic thing is that we see such a reaction as silly and petty, because we are judging that reaction through our American cultural worldview. But which worldview is closer to a Biblical one? Certainly, the culture of the Ancient Middle East was radically communal. The challenge for us is when we see that our instincts – the values that arise from our cultural worldview and give rise to our behaviors – are at odds with what is in the Bible. This can be hard for us, something we are tempted to resist to justify our own position. Or we can see this challenge as an invitation to learn new ways to repent – in the literal sense of the Greek root, metanoia – change direction.

    • I agree with you that culture and worldview are linked. It’s what happens all over the world. Different cultures value different things, such as community vs. individualism, but what we’re trying to figure out is how our worldview can be Biblical. What is more Biblical – community or individualism?
      Culture determines worldview as seen in the first part. Can a culture be transformed? That’s the question posed in the second part.
      I really think we are saying the same thing. The question really here is: what is the Biblical truth, not what is the dominant belief through the cultural worldview.

  2. Whis Hays says:

    I think that culture, values, behavior and worldview all influence one another, and not necessarily in a linear cause-and-effect sequence.

    Jesus says “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19) In this instance, behavior determines values.

    But he also says in Mt 15:18-19 “the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders.” Here Jesus reverses the order: interior motives (in this case bad ones) generate evil behavior.

    All this to say I’d maintain the entire constellation of culture, values, behavior and worldview are dynamically interrelated, but not in a predictably sequential fashion.

    • Whis – You are correct in saying that culture values and behavior all influence one another. As I am trying to get to the core worldview of a character in a movie, the culture, values and behavior are what I am able to base it off of. It is definitely not a linear cause and effect sequence. To be honest, I wanted to put them all in concentric circles to make it a whole and not a cause-effect. My language was probably too strong in stating one determines the other. It should probably have read one influences the other.

      I am coming at the assumption that the worldview is the whole and what influences worldview are culture, behavior and values. I may need to change how it is articulated in the article.

      Thanks for the thoughts! They’re great.

      A couple questions for you:

      How can one have a true Biblical worldview if culture, values, behavior and worldview are interrelated? Is it possible?

      How are we able to transform culture best? Is that possible?

      • Whis Hays says:

        A true Biblical worldview — hmm. One issue is that the Bible was written in multiple cultures itself: nomadic, Mesopotamian, agrarian Semites, Hellenistic, even some influence from the XIX Dynasty of Egypt…. Yet it seems as if there is a worldview that can be discerned impacting all these cultural contexts. Maybe instead of a “worldview” its a “Heavenview” that pervades the pages.

        We can identify elements that run like themes through a Biblical worldview. But I’m not sure we can ever lift ourselves out of our own culture enough to know we’ve got it right.

        I’d say the transformation of culture is something best attempted by communities, not individuals. Even then it’s hard to know who is transforming who. Can Jesus-followers transform the culture? History (and current observations) make me think it’s much more likely that the culture will “transform” us!

        What do you (and others) think about this?

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