Ok, so there were no movie theaters in Charles Spurgeon’s day, but there were regular theaters with actors and plays. I’m currently reading through Tom Nettles new work on Charles Spurgeon called Living By Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles Spurgeon. It is a mammoth of a book, but I’ve enjoyed learning and studying the life of Spurgeon. I came across this section where Nettles is describing Spurgeon’s view of London and the sinful habits of the people. Nettles writes:
If Spurgeon could have added another curse, he probably would have selected the theatre. The moral tone of the theatre was too bad for mending and the character of drama is such that the tendency always is toward quick corruption. While some advocated Christian attendance in order to raise the moral level, Spurgeon thought that was like advocating pouring a bottle of lavender water into the great sewer to improve its aroma…Spurgeon claimed that he had never entered a theatre during the performance of a play, but when coming home from a distant engagement he had passed by and seen enough to ‘pray that our sons and daughters never go within the doors.’ Should that practice even become a habit among church members, Spurgeon believed it would prove the death of piety. ‘Who can suppose,’ he asked, ‘amusement surrounded with the seductions of vice to be fit recreation for a pure mind? Who can draw near to God after sitting to admire the performances of a wanton woman, and I am told that some who have dazzled London society are such.”
If Charles Spurgeon was concerned about the theatre of his day, I’m sure he would be astonished at the sort of TV shows and films that constantly play on our screens. I’m not sure I agree with Spurgeon on the inability to redeem the artistic medium of theatre or film. I do not think Christians should abandon the arts but seek to transform them with the Gospel. Yet, his point about the rubbish we intake as believers on our screens could very well ‘prove the death of piety.’ Maybe the reason we have such a hard time living for the Lord is that we have been filling our mind with these seductive vices? I’m not advocating we necessarily throw our TVs out the windows or never walk into a movie theatre again, but there is a greater need for discernment as we seek to grow in godliness.