It’s Wednesday evening and fifteen Bible college students are huddled together in a single dorm room. In a couple of years these students will be sent out into the wild world of church ministry. Some will be pastors. Some will be youth pastors. Others music ministers. And some will end up selling insurance. But on this night they are shoulder-to-shoulder in this tiny room, fixated on the television screen.
South Park is on, and these guys are following their weekly tradition of catching a new episode and laughing along.
How can guys training for the ministry watch South Park together for entertainment?
Titus 1:15. “To the pure, all things are pure”. That “all things” doesn’t give. It means all things. A Christian, with a pure heart, is able to watch something like South Park and pull out of it the pure things and dismiss the stuff that isn’t pure.
This use of Titus 1:15 pales in comparison to that used by The Family International. This cult uses Titus 1:15 to encourage members to enjoy sex with one another and also to use intercourse as an evangelistic tool.
It isn’t difficult to see that such an interpretation of Titus 1:15 flies in the face of biblical holiness. But what does this verse mean? What does it mean that to the pure all things are pure.
It’s All About the Context
All it takes is a little look at the context. Paul’s major point is found in the second part of Titus 1:15, “but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both heir minds and their consciences are defiled.” Paul is setting up a contrast between those that have been truly made pure by Jesus and those that are claiming to have ritual purity but live unholy lives.
In verse 14 Paul warns about those “devoting themselves to Jewish myths”. It’s no stretch to see that ritual purity was a massive part of this false teaching. So, you have a group of people (what Paul calls the circumcision party) upsetting whole families because they are claiming that things other than the gospel are required to make one pure.
Paul’s response is to say that to the pure (those made pure by Jesus) all things are pure. The “all things” is in relationship to the things that these false teachers are claiming are not pure. Paul is saying the same thing that Jesus said when he made all foods clean (Mark 7:19).
Paul is not saying if you are pure then you can do sinful things and not be defiled. He’s saying that if you’ve been cleansed by Jesus you can eat bacon. And if you haven’t been cleansed by Jesus you can wash your hands, strain out gnats, and follow ritual purity laws to the letter but still be defiled. Because even though these false teachers are professing to know God they are denying him by their works.
Titus 1:15 is not a license to sin or to put yourself in the path of impurity. It’s not a promise that a believer is now somehow immune from the lures of sin and can walk by a prostitutes house unscathed. Likewise this is not a call for Christians to engage in impure activities and somehow try to redeem them for the Lord.
Titus 1:15 in its context is a call to reject false teaching and to rest on Jesus as the sole basis of our purity. Any other application is stretching it far beyond its intention.
If you, Christian, want to watch South Park (or any of the other shows of similar ilk) with your buddies you need to find some place other than Titus 1:15 to clear your conscience.