Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Film as Worship: Heaven’s Gate?, Part I of III.


Films occupy an elite seat. They represent our culture’s ultimate, or at least, most encompassing art-form. They weave together music, creative-writing, the spoken-word, art, photography, choreography, costumes, direction, and acting, among other things, for a complete sensory experience. As such, they can move people unlike anything else. Thus, it is no surprise that films occupy a central, elevated place in North American culture. The amount of time, money and attention given to them is essentially unparalleled. Given this pervasive influence, Christians have largely seized upon Christian-themed movies as evangelistic opportunities, including the recent Hollywood films, The Passion of the Christ and The Da Vinci Code.

However, this piece questions whether this focus is too narrow. Can films, whether or not overtly Christian, be incorporated into worship or more broadly constitute worship on their own in light of the Biblical record?

I conclude that films can and should serve as a useful vehicle for Christian worship.


The definition of worship is broad. Dr. Mark Roberts in his article, “The Soul of Worship”, defines worship at its core, as follows: “[W]orship…is about seeing God and responding to his glory and grace.”[1] Likewise, Dr. David Peterson writes: “[T]he worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible.”[2]

Recognizing the centrality of Scripture to the worship analysis, Dr. Roberts explores this definition of worship by emphasizing the importance of examining what the Scripture says about God and how to respond to Him in worship. Dr. Roberts points out that worship must be “nourished by the rich soil of biblical truth, and only if [its] fruits are weighed in balance of Scripture.”[3] Later, Dr. Roberts writes: “Our creative expressions [in worship] will honor God fully only when they are tethered to the Word of God, both the Incarnate Word (Jesus Christ) and the written Word (the Bible).”[4] In so doing, Dr. Roberts observes Scripture’s central role in worship. Given this emphasis, numerous Scriptural passages will be explored in this piece below to divine themes of appropriate Biblical worship, and ascertain how films may fit with that rubric.

[1] Roberts, 2.
[2] Peterson, 55.
[3] Roberts, 2.
[4] Roberts, 3.