In chapter 7 of his new book Developing a Biblical Worldview, C. Fred Smith discusses a biblical worldview in the context of popular culture. In the excerpt below he looks at television, and the popular crime drama NCIS.
Many Christians think they are protected from false worldviews because they consume popular entertainment on the basis of a narrow moral perspective regarding what is and is not “Christian.” If a book or movie or television show has few or no sex scenes and no “cuss words” or other crudeness, then it is “good clean entertainment” that may be enjoyed with no further thought. This is a mistake because often a book or television show that contains little that is overtly morally objectionable will still operate from an unbiblical worldview. Some Christians, for example, only watch reruns from the 1950s and 60s, when family-television shows generally had little objectionable content and kept violence to a minimum. They assume such television viewing supports a biblical worldview. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes a “clean” television program can offer a surprisingly unbiblical view of the world. The four worldview questions [Who am I? Where am I? What is wrong? What is the answer?] help reveal these underlying worldviews so that we can compare them to God’s Word.
. . . [NCIS has] an ensemble cast placed in high-stress crime investigation situations. The show combines compelling drama, doses of humor, and complex plot scenarios, making it highly popular. The team is led by Leroy Jethro Gibbs, a no-nonsense former Marine, who demonstrates wisdom, integrity, and sound leadership skills. How might he answer the worldview questions?
Who are we? Gibbs would say that we are moral beings who are singularly responsible for our choices and singularly accountable for our actions. It is a mixed atomic and relational worldview [see Introduction]. Our choices are our own, and accountability for them is ours individually as well, but the larger community enforces that accountability.
Where are we? Gibbs might say that we live in a world where moral accountability matters. Justice is done when evildoers are apprehended and made to pay for their deeds. It is also a world where evidence ultimately points to truth.
What is wrong? People wrongly believe that they are not ultimately responsible for their choices. Perpetrators of evil and wickedness wish to lay the blame elsewhere. Human nature compels them to seldom consider the consequences of their choices. Gibbs’s own worldview is more connected and interrelational. He recognizes that peoples’ decisions affect the lives of other people. Gibbs also believes that the obvious answer is not always the right one. We make decisions too quickly. His instincts lead him often to continue an investigation when others believe they have solved the crime. He turns out to be right.
What is the answer? It is our moral responsibility to make good choices, which affect others positively, to minimize the effects of poor choices, and to be accountable for our choices. Gibbs—and his entire team—have a profound awareness of how the consequences of choices affect the lives of other people. Gibbs has something of a mentoring relationship with his team. He values excellence and demands much from them, but he is always “there” for them.
Both in his regard for justice and his awareness of the influence of peoples’ actions on others, Gibbs exhibits a biblical worldview. However, like the others we’ve examined, he does not refer decisions to God nor consult the Bible. Christians can, and should, admire Gibbs’s integrity and commitment to finding the truth and his obvious concern for his team; but we should always be aware that shows like NCIS, even at their best, picture a lifestyle far below God’s ideal. We may be subtly influenced by these kinds of shows to live highly moral lives on a day-to-day basis—while being unaware of the difference between mere moral living and Christian living.
About the Author
C. Fred Smith (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Liberty University Baptist Theological Seminary.