Saturday, January 31, 2009

Do We Really Need TV?

"If all other variables are equal, your capacity to know God deeply will probably diminish in direct proportion to how much television you watch. There are several reasons for this. One is that television reflects American culture at its most trivial. And a steady diet of triviality shrinks the soul. You get used to it. It starts to seem normal. Silly becomes funny. And funny becomes pleasing. And pleasing becomes soul-satisfaction. And in the end the soul that is made for God has shrunk to fit snugly around triteness.....TV is mostly trivial. It seldom inspires great thoughts or great feelings with glimpses of great Truth. God is the great, absolute, all-shaping Reality. If He gets any air time, He is treated as an opinion. There is no reverence. No trembling. God and all that He thinks about the world is missing. Cut loose from God, everything goes down.....So there are good reasons to try a TV fast. Or to simply wean yourself off of it entirely. We have not owned a TV for thirty-four years of marriage except for three years in Germany when we used it for language learning. There is no inherent virtue in this. I only mention it to prove that you can raise five culturally sensitive and Biblically informed children without it." (emphases mine)

- John Piper, Pierced by the Word, 18


  1. This is so very good . . . I was thinking along the same lines this morning when I wrote a new post. We do have a TV in our house, and it certainly gets used. We're careful and discerning, though, and I often warn my boys of programs that "actually make you dumber, and not smarter."

  2. It does require discipline, a discipline wrought by having one's treasure in heaven and not on earth, whereby the need for entertainment is utterly eclipsed by the passion and desire for conformity to Christlikeness.

    Thank you, sir.

  3. I love John Piper and have read a good many of his books, but he strikes me as being too 'all or nothing' here. It also strikes me as difficult for him to know what he's saying without having had significant interface with TV. How can one know that it is trivial and all the other things he mentions unless one has seen a fair amount of it? I don't watch a lot of TV myself, but I will say that I think it can be watched responsibly, so I'm more attracted to D.A. Carson's analysis: "Homes that severely restrict viewing hours, insist on family reading, encourage debate on good books, talk about the quality and morality of television programs they do see, rarely or never allow children to watch television without an adult being present...and generally develop a host of other interests, are not likely to be greatly contaminated by the medium, while still enjoying its numerous benefits...The harsh reality is that most Americans, including most of those in our churches, have been so shaped by the popular culture that no thoughtful preacher can afford to ignore the impact." (Gagging of God, 46-47)

  4. I see concordance between Piper's and Carson's points.

    Piper's aversion to TV and Carson's advocacy of a controlled exposure to it both have the same effect, and that is a guarding of the mind that is on the road to renewal.

    Both have at their root a pleasure derived not from the servings of a culture hostile to sanctification but the things of God.

  5. I see concordance also, and I love John Piper. He has been a mentor to me in many ways. I know that he is making a strong point and being a bit polemical in doing so. Tough issues often call for tough medicine. But I think Carson does better to strike the right stance, rather than coming across as throwing out the baby with the bathwater. I'm in no way arguing for folks to watch more TV. I don't have cable and don't watch it much myself. But, for example, tonight I'm going to watch the president make his speech, and I'm glad I have a TV to do it with. Otherwise I just have to watch youtube later, which amounts to the same thing.


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