Looking at Christianity and art, the theology of biblical discernment, and a brief history of film, and through analysis of several films, this book equips Christians to think carefully about the art of film.
This illuminating book helps Christians think biblically and critically about the art and culture of film, moving beyond simple moral judgments to an understanding of deeper worldviews and philosophical meaning.
Hollywood produces, packages, and sells hundreds of movies every year. Many of these movies propagate a distorted sense of morality and ethics. Under the surface of immoral behavior and unlawfulness, however, there can be deeper problems in Hollywood's messages. What are these stories telling the viewer about life, relationships, and God? What worldviews and ideas do they espouse? If Christians are to tread carefully at the theater complex, they need resources to help them.
This book is just such a resource. By exploring the relationship between Christianity and art, the theology of biblical discernment, and a brief history of filmmaking, as well as through analysis of popular films, Meaning at the Movies equips readers for careful discernment in the cinema. The book does not simply list criteria for judging film art; instead it encourages Christians to develop biblical and critical discernment in regard to not only film, but all aspects of culture.
GRANT HORNER (PhD/ABD, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) is associate professor of English at the Master's College and has taught film at the college level for fourteen years. He was a contributor to John MacArthur's Think Biblically! and speaks regularly on current theological trends, philosophy, and popular culture.
“This book will help Christians learn how to apply their faith to watching movies, to think more deeply and discerningly about those movies, and to avoid the pitfalls of both cultural anorexia and cultural gluttony when it comes to the cinema. Grant Horner writes from the most helpful perspective: that of a biblically informed teacher and a plain and simple movie lover.”
—Brian Godawa, screenwriter, To End All Wars; author, Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom and Discernment
“Grant Horner has tackled a very appropriate subject for today’s media saturated world. Meaning at the Movies develops a needed, insightful biblical perspective on how we, as believers, should process what is heard and seen in today’s entertainment culture. It will encourage any reader, as it did me, to not just be a passive audience member, but to develop a desire to find what’s at the heart of the films we watch. Mr. Horner explains how films mirror societal beliefs. By breaking down these varying secular worldviews, through a discerning Christian lens, we will be better equipped to respond to a culture in dire need of a Savior.”
—Rick Dempsey, Sr. Vice President, Creative, The Walt Disney Studios
“If you’re looking for just another ‘everyone-says-that-about-Hollywood’ kind of book—or interview—look elsewhere. Grant Horner is anything but predictable! He’s a world-class mountain climber, a Classics professor who has students on waiting lists to get into his classes, and an all-around fascinating guy who weaves insights from Plato, Aquinas, Shakespeare, and C. S. Lewis into just about every discussion—whether we’re talking about the big news story, the latest hit television show, or the blockbuster that just opened up over the weekend. You’re sure to become a more discerning viewer after reading his Meaning at the Movies—I am.”
—Frank Pastore, host, The Frank Pastore Show
“If the medium is the message, then Grant Horner shows us in his powerfully insightful book that film is the single most important message of our time. I absolutely love watching movies, but now that I’ve read Meaning at the Movies, I’ll see them in a whole new light.”
—Dave Berg, writer; former coproducer, Jay Leno Show
“This book is a thinking person’s guide to movie watching. Its most obvious virtue is its scope. The early chapters establish a biblical and theological foundation on which the rest of the book rests. Building on this foundation, the author covers a tempting menu of movie genres from comedy to romance to dark film. Illustrations are drawn from a seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of movies from over half a century of film history.”
—Leland Ryken, professor of English, Wheaton College; author, The ESV and the English Bible Legacy
“This is definitely one of the best times I have ever had while learning discernment! Dr. Horner is a brilliant storyteller. He captures human emotion in an economy of language—I found myself laughing as well as becoming choked up as I read his highlights from movie plots. The author’s premise, that it is a sin for a Christian to not exercise discernment, is developed in a highly positive manner. By dividing the book into various movie genres, the author uses ‘film culture’ as a powerful tool to teach us how to discern the human condition from film. Dr. Horner’s section on comedy and irony is sheer genius; by showing us why reality is filled with the comedic, we learn why the truths of Romans 1 are inescapable. In an age in which Christian discernment of popular culture is waning, this book renders a much-needed service; readers will come away with a new lens with which to view movies from the perspective of a biblical worldview.”
—Jay Wegter, Executive Director, Gospel for Life; Adjunct Professor of Theology, The Master's College; coauthor, This Little Church Had None
“Grant Horner provides a straightforward, biblically sound answer to a complex contemporary question: Can a Christian love God while also loving movies? Rooted in a carefully constructed, creative application of the Scriptures and an encyclopedic fascination with the cinema, Horner affirms thoughtful, joyful engagement with popular culture. Meaning at the Movies will certainly empower, perhaps even transform, Christian education in the arts.”
—Charles T. Evans, Executive Consultant, Paideia, Inc.; co-author, Wisdom and Eloquence: A Christian Paradigm for Classical Learning
“This singular voice from the suburbs of Los Angeles reveals the unexpected theological vision of uprooted and fallen man in some of the great cinematic artifacts of the 20th century.”
—Christof Koch, Lois and Victor Troendle Professor of Cognitive and Behavioral Biology, California Institute of Technology; author, Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
“What is so refreshing about this book is that it does not fall into the usual ‘Christian’ trap of simple answers, shallow analysis, and judgmental portraits of the culture around us. On the contrary, Horner eloquently points out that the great Christian communicators of the New Testament were immersed within their cultures, and this ‘worldly’ interaction garnered them the tools to communicate the gospel. With a steady barrage of thoughtful analysis, vivid examples, and witty humor, Horner articulates how each genre of film, from horror to romance to comedy, has something truthful to say about human nature. He is pointed when necessary and whimsical wherever possible, resulting in a vibrant and imaginative expedition. This type of reading experience seems to be missing from the modern Christian cannon and helps illuminate an equally overlooked part of the Creator’s nature. After all, to create was his first recorded act.”
—Jesse Negron, story consultant, Hollywood; Creator and Director, AFP: American Fighter Pilot
“The impact of movies is profound and impossible to ignore. For the faithful Christian, whether as a filmgoer or filmmaker, discernment of the underlying worldviews behind movies is critical. Yet many of us approach film viewing more or less thoughtlessly—as either a simplistic, black-and-white judgmental exercise, or without any critical evaluation at all, as if meanings did not matter. Grant Horner issues a thoughtful, powerful challenge to us as believers and lays out a clear road map, that we might bring an acute scriptural mind (the mind of Christ) along with the clear analytical skills to recognize truth from error with us into the theater.”
—Robin Armstrong, filmmaker; Entrepreneurial Media and Real Estate Executive; Open Road Communications/ The Gentry Group
“Horner is unusually—perhaps uniquely—positioned to pen a volume such as this, given his expertise, passion, and experience as a theologian, a world-view scholar, a remarkable wordsmith, and a film aficionado. Engaging, balanced, nuanced, and thoroughly biblical—indeed, a book deserving of your time and your confidence. All of that and a great read as well. If you watch movies just for fun, you’re the one he’s after. I was, and he got me!”
—Douglas Bookman, Professor of New Testament Exposition, Shepherd's Seminary
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