Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."

Proverbs 7:6: ff "At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face, she said: 'I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.' With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once, he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life."

Understanding the Depiction of Sin in Scripture

On occasion, students worry about reading works of literature that depict sinful activity. Some try to avoid works with any hint of corruption, violence, sex, or the supernatural. Of course, if this practice were taken to its extreme, the Bible itself would fail to meet this criteria -- from Lot's incest with his daughters to Tamar's rape by her half-brother, to scenes of dismemberment in the Book of Judges, to the rather forceful imagery of the prophet Ezekiel (23:11-27) or the Psalmist (Ps 137)--the Bible doesn't shirk from openly discussing and displaying sin, but neither does it condone such actions. Indeed, scripture talks about these things in order to reinforce our understanding of their consequences. So do less inspired texts.

Gallagher's View on Sin Depiction

Susan Gallagher has wise council at this point:

[T]he fact that a work of literature shows us something sinful does not automatically mean that we should condemn it as obscene. Wise Christian readers need to consider the texts' purpose and point-of-view in their evaluation. In other words, we must decide what kind of action the text is encouraging us to take. . . . Rather than simply ask if a work depicts sin, we should determine its point of view on that sin. Does it offer and encourage the exploitation of the poor, or is it showing such exploitation to point to the moral failure of companies that fail to treat their Third World workers justly? Does it include obscene and profane language gratuitously (without purpose) or does that language function to reveal something about the characters or setting? (Literature Through the Eyes of Faith 139)

What Gallagher suggests is that to discuss sin even in an imaginative form does not imply that one will be tempted to emulate it; rather, it may reinforce one's hatred of sin. Rather than making us comfortable with wrongdoing, a text can teach us the dangers of such actions and increase our desire to be free of their destructiveness in our own lives.

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Central Insight: The portrayal of sin in literature does not necessarily condone it, nor does the reading of it necessarily lead to temptation towards it.

Suggestions for Application: Pick out specific examples of sin in the text. Use these to show why the author does not condone such behavior, why such a portrayal does not tempt one to sin, and/or why such a portrayal reinforces one's hatred of sin.