I have recently done an in- depth study on drama and theatrics, as it seems to be a question coming from many in our church, and I hope you will prayerfully consider it, as I believe it is very important!
First of all, with almost anything, I like to dissect any given word(s) I may be dealing with. First of all, let’s look at a definition for drama. I will be using ‘Webster’s seventh new collegiate dictionary.’ “Drama 1: A composition in verse or prose intended to portray life or character or to tell a story through action and dialogue and designed for theatrical performance.” (emphasis supplied). So, now we will look at a definition for theatrical.
“Theatrical: 1: of or relating to the theater or the presentation of plays. 2: marked by pretense or artificiality of emotion. 3: b: marked by extravagant display or exhibition.”
So now that we know what these words imply, let us look at a few facts. Did God use drama in the Bible? Well, the word drama was not used in the Bible, for which I am glad, considering the above definition. The word that was used in the Bible is Parable. Here is the definition for parable, from the same dictionary I mentioned before. “Parable: short, fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.” We find just one of many examples of a parable in Matthew 24:32, although there are many others throughout the old and new testament. The difference between drama and parables (or allegories, see Galatians 4:24), is apparent, through the obvious differences in the definitions above. So, God did not use drama, but parables instead. Drama (or theatrics, as in definitions they are classed as very close to the same, as they are used to define each other, see other dictionary definitions not used here), is indeed a powerful weapon, but, as we shall soon see, it is not the one to be used by those who are looking for our Lord’s soon appearing. What kind of drama and theatrics is condemned in the Spirit of prophecy? All who have studied the Spirit of prophecy probably realize that common drama and theater going were largely condemned, as would be plain to all, through their lack of spirituality, and sometimes outright blasphemy. But how about using it as a means for good? Couldn’t God use drama and theatrics as a means to further His Kingdom?
We will soon have to make a conclusion. Our first subject that we will address is, Is there any good way to use theatrics?
Let us look at a quote from “Counsels on health,” pg 481; “The subjects should be presented in such a way as to impress the people favorably. There should be in the meetings nothing of a theatrical nature.” That does not seem to include a claus for ‘good’ theatrics. Look at this quote from “ Evangelism,” pg 137; “ I have a message for those in charge of our work. Do not encourage men who are to engage in this work to think that they must proclaim the solemn, sacred message in a theatrical style. Not one jot or tittle of anything theatrical is to be brought into our work. God’s cause is to have a sacred, heavenly mold. Let everything connected with the giving of the message for this time bear the Divine impress. Let nothing of a theatrical nature be permitted, for this would spoil the sacredness of the work. I am instructed that we shall meet with all kinds of experiences and that men will try to bring strange performances into the work of God. We have met such things in many places. In my very first labors the message was given that all theatrical performances in connection with the preaching of present truth were to be discouraged and forbidden.” That seems to be a pretty all- inclusive statement, don’t you think?
On pg 139 of the same book, it says, “Our success will depend on carrying forward the work in the simplicity in which Christ carried it forward, without any theatrical display.” Here is another quote from “Evangelism,” pg 207; “Ministers are not to preach mens opinions, not to relate anecdotes, get up theatrical performances, not to exhibit self; but as though they were in the presence of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, they are to preach the word.”
Another quote from “Evangelism,” pg 396; “We are to keep as far from the theatrical and the extraordinary as Christ kept in His work. Sensation is not religion, although religion will exert its own pure, sacred, uplifting, sanctifying influence, bringing spiritual life and salvation.” Here is another quote from “Evangelism,” pg 501; “The presentation before me was that if Elder___ would heed the counsel of His brethren, and not rush on in the way he does in making a great effort to secure large congregations, he would have more influence for good, and his work would have a more telling effect. He should cut off from his meetings everything that has a semblence of theatrical display; for such outward appearances give no strength to the message that he bears.” “Evangelism,” pg 508 says; “In their efforts to reach the people, the Lord’s messengers are not to follow the ways of the world. In the meetings that are held, they are not to depend on worldly singers and theatrical display to awaken an interest.” Here is a last quote from “Evangelism,” it is on page 640; “I see that great reformation must take place in the ministry before it shall be what God would have it. Ministers in the desk have no licence to behave like theatrical performers, assuming attitudes and expressions calculated for effect. They do not occupy the sacred desk as actors, but as teachers of solemn truths.” Here is a quote from “Christian education,” pg 134; “We might see a different order of things should a number consecrate themselves wholly to God, and then devote their talents to the Sabbath- school work, ever advancing in knowledge, and educating themselves so that they would be able to instruct others as to the best methods to employ in the work; but it is not for the workers to seek for methods by which they can make a show, consuming time in theatrical performances and musical display, for this benefits no one.”
Here is a quote from “The great controversy,” pg 463; “Picnics, church theatricals, church fairs, fine houses, personal display, have banished thoughts of God.” Our next quote will be from “Testimonies to ministers,” pg 143; “What is the object of the ministry? Is it to mix the comical with the religious? The theater is the place for such exhibitions. If Christ is formed within, if the truth with its sanctifying power is brought into the inner sanctuary of the soul, you will not have jolly men, neither will you have sour, cross, crabbed men to teach the lessons of Christ to perishing souls.” Here is a quote from “Signs of the times,” October 13, 1890; “Those who have a careless, clownish manner, either in the family or in society, dishonor their Divine Lord. Even ministers have thus misrepresented Christ, when in the pulpit they have made a display of theatrical actions and eccentric manners.”
Our next quote will be from “1NL,” pg 105; “Our success will depend on carrying forward the work in the simplicity in which Christ carried it forward, without any theatrical display…”
Here is another quote, regarding Fannie Bolton, Mrs. Whites Secretary. It is in “mr926,” pg 96; “Something is being sent to you in regard to Fannie Bolton. You need to say to all our people that she is not the Lord’s messenger, and she should in no way be encouraged. She would mingle the theatrical with her spiritual actions, that would not elevate, but degrade the cause of God.”
Our next question will be, Can drama or theatrics be used to glorify God? Look at this quote from “Evangelism,” pg 136; “Some ministers make the mistake of supposing that success depends on drawing a large congregation by outward display, and then delivering the message of truth in a theatrical style. But this is using common fire instead of the sacred fire of God’s kindling. The Lord is not glorified by this manner of working. Not by startling notices and expensive display is His work to be carried to completion, but by following Chrislike methods. ’Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.’ It is the naked truth which, like a sharp, two-edged sword, cuts both ways, arousing to spritual life those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Men will recognize the gospel when it is brought to them in a way that is in harmony with God’s purposes.” (emphasis supplied). Also see this quote from “Evangelism,” pg 206; “The work in the large cities is to be done after Christ’s order, not after the order of a theatrical performance. It is not a theatrical performance that glorifies God, but the presentation of the truth in the love of Christ.”
Is it safe to use drama and theatrics in any way? Here is a quote from “Fundamentals of Christian education,” pg 229; “I have not been able to find one instance where He educated His disciples to engage in the amusement of football or pugilistic games, to obtain physical exercise, or in theatrical performances; and yet Christ was our pattern in all things.” If Christ didn’t do it, is it safe for us? Read this quote from “Counsels on stewardship,” pg 202; “Death, clad in the livery of heaven, lurks in the pathway of the young. Sin is gilded over by church sanctity. These various forms of amusement in the churches of our day have ruined thousands who, but for them, might have remained upright and become the followers of Christ. Wrecks of character have been made by these fashionable church festivals and theatrical performances, and thousands more will be destroyed; yet people will not be aware of the danger, nor of the fearful influences exerted. Many young men and women have lost their souls through these corrupting influences.” Safe? I think not. Notice that this is not talking about the theater, but the “Church theater.” We must choose the ‘Death’ Mrs. White is talking about here, or “The way, the truth, and the life.” Here is yet another quote. It is from “11 manuscript releases,” pg 338; “ There is an abundance of theatrical performances in our world, but in its highest order it is without God. We need now to point souls to the uplifted Savior.”
Would the Spirit of prophecy encourage the use of drama and theatrics as a means of advertising? Look at this quote from “Evangelism,” pg 66; “In this age of extravegance and outward show, when men think it necessary to make a display in order to gain success, God’s chosen messengers are to show the fallacy of spending means needlessly for effect. As they labor with simplicity, avoiding everything of a theatrical nature, their work will make a lasting impression for good. There is a necessity, it is true, for expending money judiciously in advertising the meetings, and in carrying forward the work solidly. Yet the strength of every worker will be found to lie, not in these outward agencies, but in trustful dependance on God, in earnest prayer to Him for help, in obedience to His word. Much more prayer, much more Chritlikeness, much more conformity to God’s will, is to be brought into the Lord’s work. Outward show and extravagant outlay of means will not accomplish the work to be done.”
I also like the following quote. It is from “Evangelism,” pg 127; “This display makes the truth taste too strongly of the dish. Man is exalted. The truth is not advanced, but hindered. Sensible men and women can see that the theatrical performances are not in harmony with the solemn message that you bear.” I don’t want people to taste my ‘plate.’ It might not taste good!
I want to address the subject of Independent Christian films. ‘Fireproof’ is a well known movie, that many of my friends are watching and talking about, in different states. I haven’t watched it, and never will, but have heard of a few things that occur on the movie, one of them being the fact that the main two actors (So called Husband and wife), are really not Husband and wife. It matters not that they brought in His actual wife for the “Kissing, hugging, etc.,” But the fact of the matter is, that He pretended that another woman was his wife, which is not only going against Philippians 4:8, (Whatever is true, etc…), But this man and woman may have actually been stoned in Bible times for adultery!
Besides all that, The Story, if not totally fictitious, must have some fictitious elements. I have also been told that it has content not suitable for younger minds. Our first quote will be from “Gospel workers,” pg 125; “ The subject of purity and propriety of deportment is one to which we must give heed. We must guard against the sins of this degenerate age. Let not Christ’s ambassadors descend to trifling conversation, to familiarity with women, married or single. Let them keep their proper place with becoming dignity; yet at the same time they may be sociable, kind, and courteous to all. They must stand aloof from everything that savors of commonness and familiarity. This is forbidden ground, upon which it is unsafe to set the feet.” Here is a quote from “The Adventist home,” pg 335; “Men who are doing God’s work, and who have Christ abiding in their hearts, will not lower the standard of morality, but will ever seek to elevate it. They will not find pleasure in the flattery of women or in being petted by them. Let men, both single and married, say: “Hands off! I will never give the least occasion that my good should be evil spoken of.” Listen to this quote from “Testimonies to ministers,” Pg 434-435; “For any woman who will allow the addresses of another man than her husband, who will listen to his advances, and whose ears will be pleased with the outpouring of lavish words of affection, of adoration, of endearment, is an adulteress and a harlot.”
Also, it has been said about Independent Christian films, that they are exciting! Please read this quote from “The Adventist home,” pg 411, 412; “No effort should be spared to establish right habits of study. If the mind wanders, bring it back. If the intellectual and moral tastes have been perverted by over- wrought and exciting tales of fiction so that there is a disinclination to apply the mind, there is a battle to be fought to overcome this habit.” Here is another quote, it is from “The Adventist home,” pg 413; “Works of romance, frivolous, exciting tales, are, in hardly less degree, a curse to the reader. The author may profess to teach a moral lesson; throughout his work he may interweave religious sentiments, but often these serve only to veil the folly and worthlessness beneath.” Here is a quote about Jesus. It is from “The Adventist home,” pg 506-507; “The life of Jesus was filled with industry, and He took exercise in performing varied tasks in harmony with His developing physical strength. In doing the work that was marked out for Him, He had no time for indulgence in exciting, useless amusements.” Here is another one. It is from “Christian education,” pg 210; “The special effort of ministers, and of workers all through our ranks, for this time, should be to turn away the attention of the youth from all exciting stories, to the sure word of prophecy. The attention of every soul striving for eternal life should center upon the Bible…”
Did you know that Mrs. White was an actress? By the way we are actors/actresses as well! Listen to this quote from “God’s amazing grace,” pg 36; The fallen world is the battlefield for the greatest conflict the heavenly universe and earthly powers have ever witnessed. It was appointed as a theater on which would be fought out the grand struggle between good and evil, between heaven and hell. Every Human being acts a part in this conflict.”
Won’t you join me in acting out the “true” drama, in the theater of this world? The script has been written by God himself, and we have far more to gain than a simple drama, which will not help us heavenward. As you can see, I have used extensive quotations to back my beliefs, and am not going off my own ideas or opinions, and I barely touched the surface, as there were 307 hits for the theatrics group of words, and I only used just over 30, but I am very open to any ideas, comments, objections, etc., as I definitely don’t claim to know it all! : )
Please let me know what you think, and tell me if there are any improvements I can make. Remember, I am not here to condemn anyone, we are all in this together, and should strive to help each other up the “Narrow way!”
Your climbing partner,