Sean McDowell | January 16, 2020

TV-MA: For Inhuman Audiences Only

Along with my regular posts at, I am now featuring some of my former students in the Biola Apologetics Program. This post is by my friend Timothy Fox, who helped me with both the Awana Advocates curriculum and the updated and revised Evidence that Demands a Verdict. He also blogs at Free Thinking Ministries and you can follow him on Twitter at @TimothyDFox. Enjoy!

TV-MA: For Inhuman Audiences Only

by Timothy Fox

Nowadays, television shows and movies tend to be labeled “mature” or “adult” because of two things: gratuitous sex and violence. The raunchier and bloodier, the more “adult” it is. Case in point, the massively successful Game of Thrones.

But an overload of sex and violence is not without its consequences, having negative effects and demands on the actors involved. And still, all of this graphic content is considered “mature.” Except, it isn’t. Gratuitous sex and violence isn’t even human. It’s what the animal kingdom is like: carnal and savage. Claiming otherwise demeans not just the on-screen victims of brutal rape scenes and gory deaths, but all of humanity.

So what distinguishes humans from animals? What elevates us from immature children to mature adults? Here are three quick things:

1. Rationality - Mankind has been defined as a “rational animal.” But this definition is an oxymoron. We aren’t animals; rationality is what sets us apart from the animals. Humans think and reason. We introspect. While your pet dog may exhibit intelligent behavior - and maybe some degree of rationality - it is nowhere near the level of humans. Animals do not contain the same level of consciousness and self-awareness as humans. Rationality is one thing that sets us apart from animals.

2. Art - G. K. Chesterton declared “Art is the signature of man.” He pointed to the earliest form of human communication - cave wall art - to show that humans do not differ from animals in degree, but in kind.[1]Animals do not create art. Whether it is the natural beauty of a sunset or the created beauty of a painting or a song, humans value beautyjust for beauty’s sake. Art sets humans apart from animals.

3. Imago Dei - While anyone - Christian or not - can recognize the above two differences between humanity and the animal kingdom, Christianity explains what truly sets us apart from the rest of creation: we are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). We are rational because we were designed that way by an Intelligent Designer. We are artistic because we were crafted in the likeness of the Divine Artist. Adam and Eve were not created to merely live amongst the animals, but to rule over them and the rest of creation (v. 28). And we are the only members of God’s creation with which he desires a relationship. God even entered into creation as a human to live among us and to save us.


To be clear, God created sex, and it is a good thing, so long as it is enjoyed within the healthy boundaries that God established: the lifelong marital union of one male and one female. And while even the Bible records many instances of war and violence, it does not describe them in gory detail. Contrary to what Hollywood says, gratuitous sex and violence does not make us more mature or adult; it makes us less so. It makes us less human.

To be truly human is to understand that you are made in God’s image. To think and reason, to build and create. It is to pursue the good, the true, and the beautiful. Let the entertainment we view and content we create reflect this.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.” - Philippians 4:8

For how to use storytelling, art, and modern film to share your faith, check out A New Kind of Apologist:

[1] G. K. Chesterton, "The Everlasting Man," in The Collected Works of G. K. Chesterton, Volume II, eds. George J. Marlin, Richard P. Rabatin, and John L. Swan, (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1986), 166.

Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author, popular speaker, and part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell, TikTok, Instagram, and his blog: