John Piper: “Turn off the Television”

I have to admit that I have to keep myself in check and have repentented of this in the past when it comes to the time I put in watching television (this including Fox News) as if I couldn’t live without it.  Although watching television in and of itself is not sinful if we are honest with ourselves most of what is coming out of the tube these days I would question may have no lasting benefit to the kingdom of God.  Is what is on TV spuring you on to love Christ more?  Is it helpful in your engagement with culture and other worldviews from an evangelistic standpoint?  Is it replacing your time in Scripture, prayer, and meditation?  All this under the umbrella of glorifying God.  These are just a few questions we might need to ask ourselves.

Below John Piper gives his take on television seeing that he hasn’t ever had one in his house.  The quote below was taken from “Preaching as Worship: Meditations on Expository Exultation” (Trinity Journal 16 [1995]: 29–-45).

John Piper:

It is not necessary for relevance. And it is a deadly place to rest the mind. Its pervasive banality, sexual innuendo, and God-ignoring values have no ennobling effects on the preacher’s soul. It kills the spirit. It drives God away. It quenches prayer. It blanks out the Bible. It cheapens the soul. It destroys spiritual power. It defiles almost everything. I have taught and preached for twenty years now and never owned a television. It is unnecessary for most of you, and it is spiritually deadly for all of you.

(HT: Andy Naselli)

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10 thoughts on “John Piper: “Turn off the Television”

  1. I agree completely

    I propose that husbands take the thirty minutes they would be watching television every night with their spouse and replace it with prayer and meditation upon the scriptures. You could also replace that 30 minute window with a family prayer walk around your neighborhood pleading with God to open up doors for you to build relationships and proclaim the gospel to your “Jerusalem”. Sadly, TV has been a vehicle that Satan is using to increase the number of nominal Christians in America who don’t “live by the spirit” or even know how to. May we all give the Holy Spirit the chance to revolutionize our thinking and transform us in to biblical Christians.

  2. Matt,
    Thank you for your wisdom and input. An insightful and sad possibility that television has produced nominal believers. Amen to all you have said brother. Only if our hearts weren’t so tainted with sin would we be able to discern with clarity the effect television has on us. Hope you are doing great!
    -Jonathan

  3. Thanks for your thoughts and for posting Piper’s insight on this subject, Jonathan.

    Sadly, many American Christians including myself have allowed TV to become an idol in their life at one time or another. I propose that instead of watching TV for 30 minutes every night with your wife or family, you utilize that time to study the scriptures TOGETHER. You could also use that 30 minute window to prayer walk your community with your family, pleading with God to provide opportunities for you to build relationships and proclaim the gospel with those in your “Jerusalem”. Unfortunately, nominal Christianity is an epidemic in America due in large to the exorbitant amount of TV that that proclaiming Christians watch. We must be Spirit taught, not TV taught. In order for this to occur, we must give the Spirit a chance to teach us what it means to be a Biblical Christian. If Josiah lived today in America, I wouldn’t be surprised if God commanded him to enter the homes of many Americans to smash their TV’s.

  4. I didn’t mean to post twice- I thought my first one didn’t go through…As you can tell, I haven’t replied to many posts before. I don’t want to ruin your blog so feel free to delete one..haha

  5. Gotta Question for you…Do you know what the exact date is that the ESV Study Bible will be sent to those who ordered in advance? I’m pumped to get it. I have to say, I check your blog almost every day and love it. Thanks for providing so many quality resources.

  6. Hey Matt! No problem…that’s actually a very good question about the ESV Study Bible. I’m not sure if it is even going to come out earlier for those who ordered first? I think the only benefit for ordering early is the discounted price? I’m pretty pumped about it too although I can’t quite afford one right now. 🙂

  7. I agree with Piper about the deadliness of television, and I rarely ever watch TV. I think we have to be careful, though, not to become legalistic or self-righteous. Maybe I don’t watch too much TV, but do I spend too much time on the internet, or out on the golf course, or _______ (fill in the blank)?

    Sin in all its forms is deceitful. We usually see everyone else’s sins better than our own.

    As far as the ESV Study Bible goes, I’ve had mine on order since July, but I’ve never seen anything that would indicate they might ship before October 15, the official publication date. We can always hope, though!

  8. Overall I agree strongly with Piper’s sentiment, and I especially appreciate your questions, Jonathan. I find Piper’s words somewhat strong… I’m not sure on what basis television is inherently spiritually deadly for Christians; take my Grandparents, for instance. They attend church services and related events throughout the week, and on top of that they watch Charles Stanley’s televised sermon every Sunday evening. Obviously, this is not in the least threatening to their spiritual lives. Then take my Dad as another example: He has always loved spiritual music, he sings at the top of his lungs in church, listens to plenty of music during the week, and he really enjoys singing along with the weekly Gaither show.

    As I said earlier, I do agree with the sentiments Piper expresses… But while there is plenty of useless material on television, there are likewise plenty of wholesome, educational, challenging and uplifting programs. The problem of the glorification of immorality and other sins on television, and the resulting apathy and even endorsement of these sins by Christians seems to be an obvious problem. Perhaps the not-so-obvious issue Piper might be getting at here is that we Christians can easily indulge in what can be too much of a good thing. If it deafens us to hearing God’s voice, if it cuts our ties with neighbours and fellow Christians, if it takes priority over our spiritual lives, our relationships, and our responsibilities, then yes we absolutely need to make immediate life changes.

    But it’s easier to tell someone to entirely eliminate something from his/her life that is inherently neutral (like television, or the internet), than it is to disciple people to exercize self-control and discernment, which is a more difficult task, because who can really say what percentage of entertainment (be it from television, movies, the internet, sports, books and magazines, board games, traveling, theme parks…) is okay for the Christian life, and when one has crossed the line? Absolutes are called for in many circumstances (Jesus preached many absolutes, such as ‘love your neighbour as yourself’, ‘love your enemies’, etc.), but there are other instances in Scripture where issues are left to conscience instead.

    I applaud Piper and anyone else who does what is necessary to dedicate their lives to Christ, and it is my goal as well. I, personally, can’t watch television unless I’m multitasking and being productive in some way, because I personally can’t justify doing nothing but staring at a box, lol. At the same time, I don’t want to alienate all those Christians out there who get into media and production as a career, who seek to glorify God and live out their faith in that setting, especially when it comes to reaching the world through that medium. And as someone who values education, I also can’t speak ill of a medium that indeed does a lot to educate people (the History channel and Discovery channel come to mind, as examples). So I really feel that it is possibly misled to villify an entire medium… and moreso, to villify only one medium out of so many that cause Christians to misuse their time, and stagnate in their spiritual lives. The answer, I believe, is discipleship and self-discipline based firmly on Scriptural priorities…

    Wow, I’ve said more than I intended to say, so I’ll leave it there. 🙂

  9. Barry,
    Great point we do have to be careful not to fall in legalism about such activities (if you can call watching tv an activity).

    childofprussia,
    Thank you for your thoughts on this issue. You said “…I also can’t speak ill of a medium that indeed does a lot to educate people (the History channel and Discovery channel come to mind, as examples). So I really feel that it is possibly misled to villify an entire medium… and moreso, to villify only one medium out of so many that cause Christians to misuse their time, and stagnate in their spiritual lives. The answer, I believe, is discipleship and self-discipline based firmly on Scriptural priorities…”

    Well said…. self-discipline based on scriptural priorities!

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