By Parnell McCarter


Noted Presbyterian minister Samuel Miller rightly testified two centuries ago: “In the primitive Church, both the players, and those who attend the theatre, were debarred from the Christian sacraments. All the Fathers, who speak on the subject, with one voice attest that this was the case. A number of the early Synods or Councils, passed formal canons, condemning the theatre, and excluding actors, and those who intermarried with them, or openly encouraged them, from the privileges of the Church... Almost all the reformed Churches have, at different times, spoken the same language, and enacted regulations of a similar kind. The Churches of France, Holland, and Scotland, have declared it to be ‘unlawful to go to comedies, tragedies, interludes, farces, or other stage plays, acted in public or private; because, in all ages, these have been forbidden among Christians, as bringing in a corruption of good manners.’"  Based upon all my interaction with the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (FPCS) up to the last several days, my impression was that her policy was the same.   Accordingly, it was my impression that stage-play and movie entertainment was not tolerated in her communicant membership, and repentance would be required of those who indulged in stage-play and movie entertainment if it came to the attention of a session.  And I believe this policy is correct, based upon the information supplied at http://www.puritans.net/movie%20reviews/moviereviews.html .


However, in the last several days, statements have been made by an adherent in the FPCS on an international public internet list (specifically called Reformed Faith and Worship [r-f-w]) which bring my impression of the policy of the FPCS with respect to movie and stage-play entertainment into question.  Here was one of his posts:


--- In r-f-w@yahoogroups.com, Peter Reynolds <peter@...> wrote:


> Some FP communicants watch films and make no secret of it, so presumably

> they are not aware of a blanket ban on movies as such.  Maybe they don't

> go to the cinema to do so, I wouldn't know.  Nor do I know whether there

> are any official rules about it in the FP church.


> I guess someone could make a distinction there in their conscience,

> because one can't walk out of a cinema as easily as one can turn a

> TV/computer screen off, but you are not making that distinction on your

> site, because you believe play acting /per se /is wrong because in most

> films an actor must act out sin.  So, it may be that the FP church holds

> your position officially by some past synod pronouncement which got

> published in a magazine in one decade or another, but if they did, then

> it looks as though not all communicants are aware of it.  If they were

> in the Protestant Reformed Churches, on the other hand, they would be

> aware that this was the established viewpoint, though from what I've

> heard there are probably other things that would make a typical FP feel

> that people in the PRC denomination were "worldly".


> Best wishes


> Peter Reynolds

> attend FPCS, Dingwall

> ===========



Just so there was no misunderstanding of what Mr. Reynolds was stating, I asked of him the following:  I would appreciate if you could supply me (off-list or on-list) which FPCS congregations you are referring to above and examples of movies watched for entertainment. I want to make sure we are communicating properly, because I am not here speaking of documentaries, but dramas.”  He indicated to me that he was talking about drama, not documentary.  He also indicated that he was talking about more than one person/place, and not about children's material.  But he was unwilling to supply me with any more specific information.


The purpose of the journalism of this on-line journal is to provide true information as much as possible, and not merely to present what I would like to believe is the case.  Consequently, I set out to investigate this matter and to convey the results of my investigation on this on-line journal as accurately as possible.



The results of my investigation as of 5/24/07:


Rev. Donald Ross of the FPCS, who people at the FPCS website are directed to contact regarding questions about the denomination, responded to my query.  He stated, in no uncertain terms, that movie and stage-play entertainment was not to be tolerated among the communicant membership of the FPCS.  He encouraged proper procedures be followed consistent with scriptural principle to address those who may have fallen into this sin.   Furthermore, it was brought to my attention by Jeshurun Hembd that just recently an article on this topic appeared in the FP Young People's Magazine on the FP website .  This article may also be read at http://www.puritans.net/movie%20reviews/moviereviews.html .  It says, in no uncertain terms, that movie and stage-play entertainment is sin.  This and other evidence indicates that the official policy of the FPCS is not to tolerate movie and stage-play entertainment among the communicant membership.  More information on this should be forthcoming upon my further investigation.


Furthermore, based upon my investigations to date, it does seem there are certain young FPCS communicant members who have been engaging in movie and stage-play entertainment.  Whether because this has not come to the attention of a congregation’s session, or because a session has **perhaps** been unduly lax, the sin has not been addressed as ideally as it should.  I am quite persuaded that if there are some communicant members doing this, Matthew 18 procedures need to be followed, and this leaven not be allowed to spread.  That means the offending party should first be approached privately, and hopefully then will repent.  But if not, then to the session the matter can be taken.  And if some session cannot properly address it, then on to presbytery, and then on to synod, if necessary, until the matter is properly resolved.  Scandal left un-addressed is like a cancer. If cancer spreads too far, it becomes almost impossible to cure; but if caught soon enough, it is readily treatable.  It is each member’s duty to help his brethren in this way, and especially the offending party.  Biblical church discipline is a measure to help keep the Christian sheep from going wayward and to keep the Church in the path of her duty.  


In summary, the FPCS officially does not tolerate movie and stage-play entertainment, but she is not perfect in her enforcement of the same.  As noted in the article at http://www.puritans.net/news/biblicalrealism021207.htm , the church will inevitably fall short in her implementation of the standards she holds dear.  Nevertheless, this should not serve as an excuse for inaction, lest the Lord come say to us, “I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place” (Revelation 2:5).



The results of my investigation as of 5/25/07:


Matthew Vogan supplied me with the following list of FPCS articles that have appeared in recent years pointing out the dangers of varied movie and stage-play entertainment:


them going to a cinema. More recently, with films available as videos or. DVDs, people can watch them just whenever they want to. While some ...
www.fpchurch.org.uk/magazines/ypm/2006/April.pdf -

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
Can your soul benefit from the cinema, the theatre,. discos or worldly company? Worldly pleasures look attractive and desirable ...
www.fpchurch.org.uk/magazines/ypm/2006/January.pdf -

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
I remember being told when I was young that above every cinema,. theatre and dance hall it should be written in large letters: “WHOSOEVER ...



Television viewing replaced cinema viewing to a great extent, and the greater temptation to view wicked or worldly material on television in one's own home ...
www.fpchurch.org.uk/magazines/fpm/1998/May/article5.php - 14k -


It is in this city, in Hollywood in particular, that many films originate which portray violence. If criminal behaviour is glamourised in this manner in ...

 It is high time that our legislators became seriously concerned about violence in films inciting some viewers to violence. ...

Any such films and videos, the writer cautions, "need to be watched carefully" - but ... More than one critic of such literature and films appositely quotes ...

 We believe that another factor should have been mentioned and even highlighted, and that is the viewing of violence in films, videos and television. ...



The more I investigate the more I conclude that the FPCS has been abundantly clear that movie and stage-play entertainment is sinful.  It also seems to me that enforcement has been significant, albeit less than ideal.