Pastor Kevin DeYoung of Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, is challenging Christians who try to defend their decision to watch HBO's "Game of Thrones," saying that he has not seen a single compelling argument for Christians viewing graphic sex scenes.
"Does anyone actually think the apostle Paul (or any other apostle, or Jesus for that matter) would have been cool with the sensuality prevalent in 'Game of Thrones' (and so much of our entertainment)? We are not talking about marble statues or a Holocaust documentary or a physician examining a patient. We are talking about two naked people doing in front of us what naked people do together," he wrote in a post on The Gospel Coalition on Tuesday.
DeYoung was following up on a previous blog ("I Don't Understand Christians Watching Game of Thrones") he wrote which drew a plethora of comments and criticisms. He decided to list 10 common criticisms he received and wrote rebuttals for them.
To those who said he hasn't even watched the show, DeYoung argued that while that is true "no one has tried to refute that 'Game of Thrones' is full of graphic sex scenes."
As for people telling him not to watch it if he doesn't like it, the pastor noted that this is not a matter of taste or preference. "[W]hat would you say if your son tried that line in defense of his pornography?"
Responding to the popular retort that the Bible is also full of sex and violence, he wrote: "No one is arguing that reading about sin, or even, in every case, watching sin, is necessarily sinful. But there is a world of difference between a terse description of sin (David lay with Bathsheba), a metaphor-laden poem about romantic love (Song of Songs), or a chapter about the ugliness of spiritual adultery (Ezekiel 16) and watching two naked people pretend to have sex."
He added: "There's a reason the Bible speaks of the lusts of the eyes. Hollywood skin and Hollywood sex are meant to arouse. That's the aim. That's part of the attraction. By contrast, the Bible never aims toward unholy arousal—exactly the opposite."
"Sex scenes and nudity don't phase me" was another common argument he heard. His response: "I question whether the folks who say this know themselves as well as they think they do. And if looking upon what God has forbidden has no effect on us, that's not a good sign."
For those who said their conscience isn't bothered, DeYoung pointed out: "The conscience can misfire (Heb. 10:22). We may not feel conviction for sin where we should ... Sex scenes should bother us."
There are some who close their eyes during the bad parts, which is "better than nothing, I suppose," DeYoung said. But that's not a reliable method to avoiding the bad stuff. The pastor did note that using VidAngel to cut out the bad parts is "a better option," as some are already doing.
Responding to those who said "stop judging and shaming," the pastor stated, "Judgmentalism is a spirit of censorious nitpicking. Making moral evaluations is what Christians do all the time, like arguing that a television show is not appropriate or that a blog post is judgmental."
What about the "good elements" such as the story and artistry, which outweigh the bad scenes?
"But everyone agrees (I hope) that some elements are so bad that the good stuff is not worth it. Like picking up Playboy for the articles," the pastor rebutted.
Some also argued that they are watching the show in order to engage with co-workers about the Gospel. DeYoung said, however, that he is "willing to bet that the number of unbelievers coming to Christ through 'Game of Thrones' chatter is quite low."
"Don't we have more important things to worry about?"
DeYoung: "There are always a thousand other important issues we could be addressing. But then again, there are also a thousand other important things we could be doing rather than watching graphic sex scenes on television.
Getting to the heart of the matter, DeYoung challenged Christians reading his blog who are OK with graphic nudity and sex to "take a week and pray every day, asking God if you are listening to the Spirit and reading the Word correctly on this matter."
"Better yet, take a month to pray, and during that month do a detox of anything that could possibly be construed as sexually explicit or provocative. You may see with new eyes what you are too comfortable seeing at the moment. You may even discern a nagging conviction of sin that you've been pushing aside as nothing but religious baggage," he further suggested.
Several other commentaries have also asked the question of whether Christians should be watching "Game of Thrones."
Josh Hayes of Relevant Magazine wrote in July that viewers need to ponder why they are drawn to a certain show.
"Do we watch something to see echoes and reflections of our Creator's character and beauty and His grand story of redemption, no matter how densely veiled they might be?" Hayes positioned.
"Or do we watch because we prefer a different reality, a world where the triune God of Scripture is seemingly nowhere to be found and thus the sinful attitudes or pursuits we subliminally treasure are free to be pursued?"
In 2014, John Piper, founder of desiringGod.org, listed 12 questions for Christians to ask themselves before watching the HBO fantasy drama.
"Sexual relations is a beautiful thing. God created it and pronounced it good (1 Timothy 4:3). But it is not a spectator sport. It is a holy joy that is sacred in its secure place of tender love," Piper wrote at the time.
"Men and women who want to be watched in their nudity are in the category with exhibitionists who pull down their pants at the top of escalators."