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Many activities that were once forbidden by the church (card playing, dancing, and movie attendance) are now considered fine. But the Bible does not change. Are these changes biblical?

The Bible does not change, but our understanding and application of the Bible’s truths do change, especially when the Bible is not clear on a given issue. Case in point: There are no biblical texts that directly forbid any of the three examples you cited—card playing, dancing, and movie attendance. Because of this, Christians have to rely on their understanding and application of biblical principles to make decisions about these matters.

In 1928 synod, drawing from biblical principles, decided to warn members against engaging in these “worldly amusements.” But Synod 1966, also based on biblical principles, decided that “the difference between believers and unbelievers cannot always be detected in the products of their cultural activities, but it becomes evident in their motivation, direction, and purpose (Rom. 12:1-2).” It concluded that Christians can engage the film arts with discernment and spiritual maturity. Similarly, Synod 1982 conducted a biblical study on dancing, concluding that Christians can redeem our dancing abilities for “God-honoring use.” As for card playing, its association with gambling, and in some cases fortune telling, may be reason to forbid it. But are non-gambling card games sinful?

I think it is best to approach these disputable matters on a case-by-case basis. The rule of thumb is “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Some kinds of dancing, card playing, movies are not God-glorifying, but others might be.

Someone once told me that people are not afraid of change; they are afraid of loss. I can sympathize with that. But Christians can—and should—turn this to our spiritual growth, honestly examining ourselves to see if what we are actually afraid of losing is godly and worth keeping. Discomfort can often be spiritually more beneficial than our comfort zones. It may drive us to rely more humbly on God than on our external circumstances.

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