Horror is a very entertaining genre of movie to many people. But Christians always strive to live their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. Because of the often demonic and gruesome nature of horror plots, this leaves many wondering whether or not you can reconcile Christ and horror.
Can Christians watch horror movies? Christians can watch horror movies provided that they have a clear conscience and avoid being led to sin. Each person should be careful to avoid sinful and unhelpful types of horror, but we can not throw the genre out as a whole.
This is the conclusion that I came to after looking into the genre and what the Bible has to say about the topic.
What are horror movies?
Horror movies are pretty self-explanatory given the name. They are movies that seek to cause fear in the audience.
Horror movies want to scare you.
They resort to many frequent themes in order to do that. These themes are usually things that the general public would be afraid of.
I’m not talking about spiders and bankruptcy.
Horror movies depict human beings facing demons, ghosts, murder, and horrifying situations. These are all recurring themes in most horror movies.
They are also typically somewhat realistic. Compared to cartoons or comedies, horror movies are scary because they try to stick close to what the audience believes is reality.
There are always exceptions to every rule, but this is the general feel of horror movies. I’m admittedly not very much a horror fan (because I prefer happiness over fear). But I did look into this and see that almost every movie I could find focused on these themes.
What is good about horror movies?
I want to start with something that might not be obvious. There are actual benefits to the horror genre over many other common cinema genres.
Portrayal of the Spiritual
Our culture is increasingly less spiritual. While the Bible testifies to the reality of a spiritual realm, we tend to see and think about only the physical.
Horror movies are some of the most spiritual movies being created.
Comedy, action, and other genres tend to avoid allowing the spiritual realm to have an actual effect in the real world. Horror movies break that mold.
The Bible tells us that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the evil, spiritual forces in the heavens (Ephesians 6:12).
In a culture where it’s sometimes hard to see the spiritual struggle and spiritual warfare going on, horror films acknowledge and remind us that these struggles actually exist.
Portrayal of Evil
Our culture is also becoming increasingly post-modern. Many people deny that evil even exists.
The Bible is very clear that evil exists.
Not only do horror movies acknowledge that evil really exists, but they also tend to portray evil as evil.
The demons are the bad guys. Murder is wrong. Etc.
This is helpful for a secular audience to see because they might have trouble leaving and actually believing that the Bible is wrong about evil.
Thanks to general revelation, common grace, and God-given consciences, even secular people who make horror films tend to portray a biblical understanding of evil being evil.
What are some sinful themes in horror movies?
There are obvious sinful themes in horror movies. Meaning, there are sins that are prevalent in most horror movies.
Every genre of movie has its own prevalent sins. For example, comedy might have a theme of drunkenness or impropriety.
Just because a movie contains a sin does not necessarily mean that you should avoid it. Even the Bible details many stories containing sins.
The climax of the story of the gospel is the crucifixion of Jesus—the killing of the savior, which is one of the most gruesome sins ever committed.
We see drunkenness, impropriety, demonic activity, murder, and more throughout the Bible. The difference is in the metanarrative.
The Bible may include sins, but the teaching on those sins is that they are evil. The Bible doesn’t celebrate sinfulness, it warns against it. The overarching story of the Bible is the gospel.
My point is just to say that you can not say yes or no to horror movies based entirely on which sinful elements they include. You need to evaluate your conscience and the grand story as well.
Ask yourself, what does this movie portray about evil and sin? What is the conclusion? What in this movie is true? And what worldview is being conveyed in the writing of this movie?
Demons are clearly evil and are present in many horror movies.
I did a simple search and found this Wikipedia article with literally hundreds of films containing demons.
It should be noted that demons may be differentiated from ghosts. Many horror movies depict dead humans as haunting the characters.
While it is good that they portray humans as having an afterlife, the reality is that human beings do not spend their afterlife on earth. They spend it either in Heaven or Hell.
Demons are the evil spiritual beings that work against the Christian and against the Lord. We know that the Lord is stronger and demons will ultimately cast down into the lake of fire. But this doesn’t always alleviate the fear that they cause.
The problem of demons is exaggerated in movies that portray them in a positive light. As if demons were good.
It is good that horror movies portray demons as a reality, but they are often very wrong about what demons are like according to the Bible. It’s important to have good theology in order to watch any movies wisely.
Murder is also a common theme in horror movies.
Murder is the unjust killing of another human being—another image-bearer of God.
In horror movies, it is frequently both humans and non-humans that threaten to murder the characters. There are always lives in danger.
Horror movies do this because it is an easy way to make us fear. Remember, they want to scare you.
Humans are afraid of being murdered because of our God-given propensity to value life. While sin has corrupted us greatly, almost everyone values at least their own life.
No one wants to die.
In horror movies, we see murder from serial killers, clowns, demons, and many other beings.
What horror should I avoid?
I mentioned that horror often contains a lot of sin and sinful themes. I didn’t even go in-depth about the frequent sins that we see in horror movies.
Clearly, you should avoid anything that would cause you to sin.
This is why Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that “if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off” (Matthew 5:30).
Sin is serious. And we should not be doing anything that is leading us to disobey God. If horror causes you to be tempted toward murder, sensuality, demon-worship, idolatry, or any other sin… don’t watch it!
It’s easier to avoid horror altogether than to face the difficult implications of your sin and temptation.
It’s also important to obey your conscience about horror movies.
While I think it is at times okay to watch horror, you should not do it if your conscience doesn’t agree.
Our consciences are a gift from God that helps us to discern between good and evil. Ignoring them often causes great downfall and trouble because God gave us consciences for a reason.
While your conscience is not always completely reliable, in the words of the great reformer Martin Luther, “to go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
What should my attitude be with horror movies?
I’ve found this to be a very important question.
When you watch horror movies (or any movies), you need to make sure you are not consuming it passively.
What I mean by that is that you need to be keenly aware of what worldview is being pushed, what truth claims are being made, and what the movie is causing you to believe.
The world is at enmity with God. Culture hates God. Movies aren’t made to glorify God.
You have to be aware of what you’re allowing to influence you.
If you watch horror movies because they portray an accurate understanding of evil, make sure you aren’t allowing it to make you like or be okay with evil.
This is why Paul commands us, “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything praiseworthy—dwell on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
It is important to believe the Bible and to know truth.
Whether it is horror, action, comedy, or anything else… you have to actively engage in what you’re watching.
It’s difficult to develop this skill because sometimes it makes it harder to enjoy, but it comes easily given a little time.
Obeying the Bible About What We Watch
In the end, the question has to come down to what the Bible says.
Are we obeying scripture and focusing on what is good? Are we believing truth? Are we spending our time wisely?
I think it’s possible to watch many horror movies and be withing biblical parameters. We do have to be mindful of which movies we watch because some of them are not worth our time or attention.