Consequences of the Deliberate Omission of a Prohibition on Theater Attendance in the Twenty-eight Fundamentals
By Colin and Russell Standish
God has spoken directly to us concerning the defiling effects upon our characters from theater attendance.
Among the most dangerous resorts for pleasure is the theater. Instead of being a school for morality and virtue, as is so often claimed, it is the very hotbed of immorality. Vicious habits and sinful propensities are strengthened and confirmed by these entertainments. Low songs, lewd gestures, expressions, and attitudes, deprave the imagination and debase the morals. Every youth who habitually attends such exhibitions will be corrupted in principle. There is no influence in our land more powerful to poison the imagination, to destroy religious impressions, and to blunt the relish for the tranquil pleasures and sober realities of life than theatrical amusements. The love for these scenes increases with every indulgence, as the desire for intoxicating drink strengthens with its use. The only safe course is to shun the theater, the circus, and every other questionable place of amusement. (Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, pp. 334, 335).
The deliberate omission of a prohibition upon theater attendance in the Twenty-eight Fundamentals has achieved its purpose. Theater attendance is now widespread and condoned in God’s Church.
The Columbia Union Conference is the Union in which the General Conference Headquarters is located. The Communications Director of the Union in the Columbia Union Visitor promoted the world to our young people. The writer did not appear to possess the insight that although Christ will never forsake us, nevertheless when we deliberately take ourselves to worldly venues WE DEPART FROM HIM:
Did you know that if you go into a movie theater, your guardian angel will have to abandon you at the door? Fortunately, it’s a myth! Jesus Himself says: ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ I guess that even counts for the projectionist down at the mall. Not to worry, angels do go to movies! They are even there working with Demi Moore [pornographic actress].
But that doesn’t answer the question I hear at weeks of prayer, youth leader training seminars and congregational retreats: ‘What about the movies?’ The question seems omnipresent, although it’s asked much more often by adults than by youth. The youth are already going to the theaters and find the question almost absurd. They groan and wonder why anyone is wasting time talking about the subject. (Columbia Union Conference Visitor, July 15, 1996, p. 4).
Here the author is placing words into the minds of our young people, words which undoubtedly he devised. Appallingly, the Union Communications Director suggests that our young people trust their souls and their consciences to worldly, unconverted film reviewers instead of the word of inspiration:
Read the movie reviews in Time, Premiere, Entertainment Weekly, 2020 and your local newspaper. Listen to the descriptions of acting quality, production quality and content quality. All are described thoroughly by the reviewers. (Ibid).
In the final assessment, the youth are left to their own judgments. Not a single word of counsel in this article directs them to inspiration:
Listen to the reviewers. These folk are paid to tell you what to expect. Decide whether or not you want this producer, and this movie, to have access to your mind. Compare what you’ll be seeing with your personal convictions and values. (Ibid).
The final paragraph of the article aptly summarizes the spirit of the message given to our youth:
Oh yes, if you choose to go, stay alert and leave an empty seat beside you. You and your angel may want to compare notes during the movie. (Ibid).
The editor of the Visitor was Dr. Dick Duerksen, then the Vice-President for Creative Ministries of the Columbia Union Conference, the territory of which encompasses the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and also Washington D.C.
A footnote to the article stated:
While he is constantly asked tough questions, as vice president for Creative Ministries, Dirk Duerksen is always asking questions. As he is free, having accepted the message of grace and trading control for freedom. Now instead of restricting behavior, he helps guide choices. (Ibid).
Providing our young people and members with the infallible principles of the Lord in no way restricts the freedom of the will. Rather it provides the rationale to understand God’s loving guidance which leads to life eternal.
God’s people will, with anxiety of hearts, recognize the peril of this stance, a stance which brings joy to the heart of Satan, and imperils the souls of our youth and senior church members alike.
Dr.Duerksen is now a frequent presenter on the General Conference Hope T.V. Channel, underlying the careless selection of speakers on that channel. This is a warning to listeners of that channel of the danger of listening to its presentations.
Two years earlier The Columbia Journal, April 15, 1994, the student newspaper of Columbia Union College devoted four pages to articles on theater attendance under the general headline “Seventh-day Adventists and the Movies.” These pages brought anguish to Colin’s heart as he recalled the high and holy standards upheld on this issue during his Presidency of this College (1974-1978). No Hollywood-type movies were permitted to be screened on the College premises.
What had intervened between Colin’s resignation from the Presidency of the College to assume the role of Foundation Dean of Weimar College in California, was the voting of the Twenty-seven Fundamentals at the Dallas General Conference in 1980. This brought with it a series of College Presidents who did not uphold God’s entertainment standards.
The Columbia Journal cited contained a full page recommending attendance at specific forbidden movies, thus inciting the students to attend. (see page 5 of cited Columbia Journal). It also included an article by Camille R. Lofters entitled “The Issue is Principle – Practice Educated Choice.”
To my mind, movie attendance is a personal thing. Yes, a great deal of today’s movies are trashy, but if I decide not to see a movie it will be because I know that, not because I think God will desert me at the door (which is a horrible, evil concept – God never left Samson, Solomon, David or even King Manasseh – why should he leave me if I want Him near?) If a movie is uplifting, if it teaches something about what it means to be a human being, if it does not degrade humanity by promoting triviality, over-cynicism, or disrespect for human life, or if a movie provides another viewpoint – a different culture or time than the one I am used to – if a movies does something for my mind, then I see no reason not to see it. (The Columbia Journal, April 15, 1994).
Today our young people are taught to use their own unsanctified judgments rather than to depend upon God’s mandates. God has spoken in love and His word is final.
A Church Elders’ Summit for the Victorian Conference (Australia) was held July 19, 2004. Drs. Ray Roennfeldt, Chairman of the Theology Department at Avondale College and Graeme Bradford, Senior Lecturer in the Department, led out. Also present were the Victorian Conference President, Dr. Denis Hankinson and the Conference Ministerial Secretary.
One elder set forth a specious view that theater-going (see Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, pp. 406, 407) was banned in Sister White’s counsels because the theater-houses were associated with brothels. No documentation of this association on a large scale was understandably cited. Nor did the theologians counter this misguided suggestion by pointing out that fiction, either written or viewed, was condemned by God through His servant. Even more importantly, they did not warn the elders that theater-goers will be destroyed with Satan. (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 6, p. 407).
Many of the amusements popular in the world today, even with those who claim to be Christians, tend to the same end as did those of the heathen. There are indeed few among them that Satan does not turn to account in destroying souls. Through the drama he has worked for ages to excite passion and glorify vice. The opera, with its fascinating display and bewildering music, the masquerade, the dance, the card table, Satan employs to break down the barriers of principle and open the door to sensual indulgence. In every gathering for pleasure where pride is fostered or appetite indulged, where one is led to forget God and lose sight of eternal interests, there Satan is binding his chains about the soul. (Adventist Home, p. 515).
Could a large share of the books published be consumed, a plague would be stayed that is doing a fearful work upon mind and heart. Love stories, frivolous and exciting tales, and even that class of books called religious novels, – books in which the author attaches to his story a moral lesson, – are a curse to the readers. Religious sentiments may be woven all through a story-book, but, in most cases, Satan is but clothed in angel-robes, the more effectively to deceive and allure. (Messages to Young People, p. 272).
No word of admonition and warning was issued by either the Conference President or the Ministerial Secretary.
The vast numbers of Seventh-day Adventist pastors and laity who attended the blasphemous Mel Gibson film, The Passion of Christ, demonstrates that the designed omission of the prohibition on theater attendance in the Twenty-eight Fundamentals has reaped a fearful consequence.
This series of articles is taken from The Twenty-eight Fundamentals: Apostasy Proclaimed in Silence by Colin and Russell Standish. Order your own copy of the entire book through Hartland Publications: PO Box 1, Rapidan, VA, 22733. Phone: 1-800-774-3566. Or order online at www.hartland.edu
In our next e-magazine we will continue our series with a study called “The Preamble”.
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