A 1954 Debate Over Religious Films: One of the Participants Might Surprise You

By the time this post goes up I’ll be enjoying breakfast with some of our area youth pastors. Our guest speaker for the breakfast is Thomas Bergler, author of The Juvenilization of American Christianity. This is a fascinating read for a number of reasons but I love much of the history that is covered. Consider these paragraphs which recount a debate on the issue of religious films. I was quite surprised to see A.W. Tozer as a participant in the debate.

“In January 1954, Youth for Christ Magazine printed a debate about religious films between YFC regional director Evon Hedley and Rev. A.W. Tozer. Hedley praised Christian films for prompting many conversions and inspiring missionary vocations. He noted that the film Mr. Texas, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and shown at many YFC high school clubs, had recently been credited with 135,000 ‘first time decisions’ for Christ. He also insisted that Christians must press their advantage now that they had broken in on the ‘monopoly’ of non-Christians in the entertainment world. Hedley’s defense of Christian films did not include a single scripture reference, and it proceeded from the assumption that film was a neutral cultural medium.”

“In contrast, evangelical elder statesman A.W. Tozer predicted that as a result of films, ‘the rising generation will come to look on religion as another, and inferior, form or amusement.’ Acting demanded insincerity, which would harm the souls of the actors: ‘To pretend to ray, to simulate Godly sorrow, to play at worship before the camera for effect–how utterly shocking to the reverent heart!’ Tozer argued that ‘the movie is not the modernization or improve improvement of any scriptural method’ since the Bible clearly endorsed only four methods for communicating the truth: prayer, song, preaching, and good works.’ Although not all of his arguments have stood the test of time, Tozer rightly recognized the danger of turning the faith more and more into a ‘form of amusement.'” (159-60)




About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
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One Response to A 1954 Debate Over Religious Films: One of the Participants Might Surprise You

  1. Wow…can’t wait for church this Sunday where the lights will dim, the video clips will play, and the funny remarks will fly. Let the games begin!


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