Meaning at the Movies

Meaning at the Movies

Becoming a Discerning Viewer

by Grant Horner
Publisher: Crossway Books
Trade Paperback, 224 pages
List Price: $16.99 Our Price: $13.50

Grant Horner uses an updated paraphrase of the aphorism "all the world's a stage" to begin his discussion of how Christians should watch movies—All the world's a screen. Not only do we watch movies and TV, we do business, read books, interact with friends, and much more on screens. So screens are part of our lives, and movies are part of our lives, and Horner takes this for granted.

This is unlike any book you'll read about watching movies as a Christian. Horner doesn't spend lots of time talking about how to determine what to watch and what not to watch, or dealing with specific films. Instead, he begins with a refreshingly succinct discussion of worldview, a theology of discernment, and a guide for how to watch movies, before moving on to genre studies.

Horner's prose and thought are marked by frankness. Instead of rambling on about discernment in its various forms he distills the word to its essence: discernment is thinking as God thinks. It is only through discernment, Horner affirms, that Christians are able to live in the world but not of it.

The task of Meaning at the Movies: Becoming a Discerning Viewer, then, is to form discernment in readers regarding what they watch. Horner states early on that, though movies are the topic at hand, this is really a book about being human, which for those made in the image of God means understanding how to think about things the way he does.

Readers will find surprising statements throughout. For instance, Horner eschews the current prevalent attitude that Christians should watch movies in order to "be relevant" or "engage culture." Rather, they should watch movies because they affirm truths God has revealed in his Word, because they are enjoyable, and because they help us exercise our powers of discernment.

Few movie plots are spoiled, though Horner references dozens and uses a few (Dr. Strangelove, Psycho, and others) to spin out more detailed theories. Many may balk at what he chooses to embrace—the chapter on humor focuses on dark humor, there's an extended (and excellent) discussion of the importance and value of horror films, and the chapter about film noir celebrates the way such films illuminate the darkness in man's heart—but it's all part of his program to remain unflinchingly biblical.

Meaning at the Movies isn't about helping Christians hide themselves from evil or hide evil from themselves. It's about dealing with the truths of human nature, reality, and existence as portrayed in film from a biblical perspective. He dismisses attitudes that treat movies as mere entertainment, and instead affirms their importance in our society. As such, he deals with them seriously and biblically, and this slim book is a must-have resource for every Christian who watches movies.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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Exodus Rating:
FLAWS: Discussion of movies with potentially objectionable content
Summary: A must-have guide to watching movies for Christians, this book takes both the Bible and movies seriously without ever pandering to its audience.

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