“Downton Abbey” and the Modern Age—What Are We Really Watching?


“There are countless lessons for American Christians to observe as we watch Downton Abbey” writes Albert Mohler.  In this piece Dr. Mohler enlightens us on some of those lessons.

Downton AbbeyAmericans by the millions tuned in to watch the premier of Downton Abbey’s fourth season, eager to enjoy the continuation of the saga of the Earl and Countess of Grantham and their household. According to press reports, 10.2 million Americans watched the first episode, catching up on developments since the end of the third season, which ended with yet another tragedy, this time the death of heir Matthew Crawley. But the heir did not leave without leaving an heir, and so the story continues.

But, do Americans have any idea what they are really watching?

The millions of Americans who are now devoted Downton fans are drawn, no doubt, to the story and all of its twists and turns. They are captivated by the historical drama and the grandeur of Highclere, the real-life estate of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and the setting for Downton Abbey. They are intrigued by the hierarchies of the noble house and its inhabitants, with the nobility upstairs and the servants downstairs. They are amazed by the lavishness of the estate, the period dress, and the class structure of the society. They enjoy the quality of the acting and the quaintness of the habits portrayed. They must appreciate the attention to historical detail, right down to the soaps used and the dishes served. Many are likely to be unrepentant Anglophiles ( I include myself amongst them) who enjoy the look into the history and drama of our English cousins.

The stories, captivatingly written by Julian Fellowes (also rightly known as Baron Fellowes of West Stafford), are quite enough to hold the attention of a vast American audience. Critics rightly suggest that some viewers watch for the storylines, and others, rather less interested in the soap opera character that also marks the series, watch for an escape into history. Whatever the reason, they keep watching.

And yet, most viewers are likely unaware of what they are actually seeing. They are not merely watching an historical drama, they are witnessing the passing of a world. And that larger story, inadequately portrayed within Downton Abbey, is a story that should not be missed. That story is part of our own story as well. It is the story of the modern age arriving with revolutionary force, and with effects that continue to shape our own world.

Downton Abbey is set in the early decades of the twentieth century. Though by season four King George V is on the throne, the era is still classically Edwardian. And the era associated with King Edward VII is the era of the great turn in British society. The early decades of the twentieth century witnessed a great transformation in England and within the British Empire. The stable hierarchies of Downton Abbey grew increasingly unstable. Britain, which had been overwhelmingly a rural nation until the last decade of the nineteenth century, became increasingly urban. A transformation in morals changed the very character of the nation, and underlying it all was a great surge of secularization that set the stage for the emergence of the radically secular nation that Britain has become.

Viewers should note the almost complete absence of Christianity from the storyline. The village vicar is an occasional presence, and church ceremonies have briefly been portrayed. But Christianity as a belief system and a living faith is absent—as is the institutional presence of the Church of England.  Continue reading 

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6 Responses to “Downton Abbey” and the Modern Age—What Are We Really Watching?

  1. William Rothschild March 11, 2016 at 1:03 pm #

    I can’t even believe that Albert Mohler is even commenting on an earthly, filthy, show that’s on the weapon of mass distraction. We ditched our hellivision years ago and it always gets me when so called conservatives have to “comment” on hollywood filth!

    • Chris Nelson March 11, 2016 at 2:40 pm #

      You are correct William, Satan has devised the perfect tool to rot our souls and destroy our minds, TV/movies! Entertainment/amusements are the opiate of the masses.

  2. Liz March 11, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    “There are countless lessons for American Christians to observe as we watch Downton Abbey.”…we? Um, I’ve been advising women since the first season that it’s an ungodly show, not something Christian women should be indulging in, and we have this article, promoting the lessons we can learn from it? By that standard, we can watch anything, as long as there’s a little Christian lesson in it for us. Deadpool? Sure! Big Bang Theory- yeah, and get the popcorn too.

  3. Darrel March 11, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

    Al Mohler abandoned the Gospel and the Christ that the Gospel speaks of long ago. He has exchanged the truth of God for a lie, he has a form of godliness but denies the power thereof. He does not exalt Christ Jesus, but himself. He promotes himself as some sort of go-to-guy/answer man that has risen above the challenge of the pew sitter. He is ecumenical to the core. He will be seen with anyone that will promote and praise Al Mohler. He has exchanged the simplicity that is in Christ for the convoluted, ever changing social gospel that brings instant condemnation instead of the “salvation” that it promises to it’s disciples. Al Mohler signed the Manhattan Declaration along with other apostates that have chosen to ignore the Scriptures and the Christ portrayed therein. He has aligned himself with known heretics, pagans, free-masons and other such godless lost individuals and still many people think that Al Mohler “hung the moon.” Read for yourself the “reasons” AM gives as he excuses himself from any culpability for signing a document that mocks the Savior, His death and resurrection, and the Gospel. ALL of his reasons are of the “social gospel” nonsense, while NONE of his reasons even attempts to exalt Christ Jesus the Lord.


    He has no credibility, no more “Christian capital” to spend to try and make up for this egregious alliance he has made with the enemy of the Cross, he has yet to repent and turn from this compromise with the enemy. His current position as head of an SBC seminary is meaningless except that it means that he should know better and DO better, but he does neither. And still, “Christians” the world over will not even investigate the wickedness of Al Mohler because he is Al Mohler. This they will have to answer for before God.

    Paul spoke of men like AM in Gal. 1:6-9. Mohler brings us “another gospel” (the social gospel) which is no Gospel at all. Please note that it is the one who preaches this “other gospel” that is condemned and not the “other gospel” itself. The condemnation is on the man, not the message. Do you want to ally yourself with a condemned man?

    • Edwitness March 13, 2016 at 12:06 am #

      You make a pretty solid case Darrel.
      Thanks for the info. I have no idea what show is being written about here. But, knowing the facts about those who would assume the role of teacher is always helpful.

  4. Lyn March 12, 2016 at 5:58 pm #

    Excellent comments by all. Why would anyone listen to Mohler, who doesn’t even address the errors of the SBC? Mohler is not a ‘go to’ guy for anything, he is in need of repentance and mercy.
    Why suggest anything from fakeville Hollyweird may be beneficial to born again believers? It is disturbing that anyone would even give Mohler credibility.
    I would distance myself from this man and his writings, I would certainly NOT give him any more exposure than he already has.