I’ve always appreciated a biblical guy named Daniel. He can be found in an Old Testament book with his name. Daniel was an Israelite but found himself living in another nation under a foreign power. I find this to be incredibly insightful as America completes the transition out of Christendom (where Christians are the majority and have the power). Daniel also had a few friends who together modeled faithfulness to God in the midst of some challenging circumstances. One verse in particular stands out to me. In describing Daniel and his friends it says, “To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (Daniel 1:17).
I love that God gives them something we don’t normally attribute to God: literature, learning, and the understanding of visions and dreams. This knowledge goes far beyond an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. A modern-day parallel might read like this: “To these four young men God gave understanding of Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and Shakespeare. He also gave knowledge of string theory, quantum physics, and relativity. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams better than Sigmund Freud.”
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
We normally exclude God from these types of conversations rather than look to Him for insight into them. Many conservative forms of Christianity even forbid them. If we exclude God from any conversation, we do so to our own detriment. Christians are comfortable thinking of Jesus as an expert in spiritual things, but we might not look to Him to help us with our car repairs. Yet this dichotomy shows a limitation of our sense of compartmentalization, not of God.
A biblical understanding of truth comes from realizing all truth belongs to God. Which means truth can be found in just about anything. This means even “secular” areas! I hope this is painfully obvious, but I fear it needs to be stated.
As we look at all sorts of entertainment, we must ask ourselves, “What is true?” The apostle Paul said it like this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable— if anything is excellent or praiseworthy— think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).
Contrast this to the normal questions we ask about entertainment.
- What is popular?
- What is funny?
- What is available?
- What do my friends like?
Instead, we should ask what is true. And finding truth in entertainment doesn’t just mean we find things we can trace back to a Bible verse. Truth can be a depiction of pain, or loss, or sadness, or any number of aspects of what it means to be human (and these are all in the pages of Scripture as well). In fact, secular entertainment captures much of what is true about the human experience in ways the church rarely feels comfortable doing.
—Adapted from Redeeming Pleasure, pages 162-164.