“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”. -Jesus Christ, Luke 6.45
Hmm. In this (among other scripture texts) the context might be considered negative though of course the positive is also possible. For there to be good news there is also the opposite.
Maybe the deeper and more troublesome problem is the artist… or beholder… the actual artwork not so much? Well let’s think a bit more.
What’s inside the creator (or Creator) eventually comes out via words and other creative works of art.
Communication is going to happen whether we work against it or not, and some of what we communicate reflects Jesus or at very least, His nature and values -or not.
This is equally important re. those believers who happen to be legalists, hard-nosed, at times outright harsh in both how they act (character), in their relationships, in their attitude toward other Christians well as toward “un” or “pre”-believers.
On to the art itself-
Does most -all- art mirror a decadent culture? Certainly in -every- culture, some IS either morally bankrupt or in that general ballpark.
Hey, The Bible itself both reflects the nature of God, the nature of God in those who love and follow Him… AS WELL AS the nature and acts of those who do not.
Therefore it seems foolish and harsh to simply judge an art offering on the basis of whether it somehow “reflects Father, Son and Spirit” because even the very Word of God often projects and mirrors the horrors of unregenerate humans. If The Bible narratives depict both light and darkness how is it art must not?
As in Jesus’ own speaking, art is often quite symbolic, often communicates in parable form. Again, if we are going to demand all subtlety and metaphor be scrubbed out of all communication and art, we have gutted one of the very methods Jesus used to speak truth into mythology, light into darkness, love into a world often tragic in its lack.
Some art mirrors a sick, tragic society back at itself, and this often offends plenty of Christians. Truth is, no matter what you produce someone will be offended. You might think “No, some stuff is so feeble and bland nobody will even care”. But of course some of you are reading this with the thought “is he not going to talk about the lousy, grade E, “Christian” propaganda masquerading as “art”? So you are already offended by the slop some put out there be it music, painting or whatever, right?
I’m only skimming the surface because there are difficulties for any of us in dealing with artistic offerings of all sorts depending on your theological view -or even your ability to think very deeply about an artistic work.
With or without a faith, personal opinion and taste massively figure in to our judgment of artistic quality though plenty of us either aren’t aware of it or “spiritualize” why we dislike a work.
So what DO I mean by the problem of “Christian” “Music”… and yes, both sets of quotation marks (as in the title of this blog) are there for a reason.
Here is my A, B and C on the matter:
Many say the problem of Christian music is dual: much of it seems neither “Christian” in terms of core worldview, nor “music” in terms of actual artistic value.
To my Christian brothers and sisters, can we not agree that Christ by His own model of life and words is the best judge of who (or what) is truly based in and reflecting of Him? We can only do our flawed best to understand these from what we actually know of Him, His Word, His character.
Deny it if you will, but we all make judgments that lack His love, wisdom and discernment no matter how steeped in the Book or full of the Spirit we may truly be. If you wish to debate this point, you must then face your own sense of literal perfection. In such case, you are either too arrogant or too ignorant to bother listening to any other view -as yours is the very view of God in the here-and-now! Rubbish. Nonsense. When did your judgment abilities literally equal that of God Himself?
“We have the mind of Christ” does not mean we never make mistakes or indeed, sin in our thoughts and judgments my friends!
God being the Creator of all art modes, the Giver of inspiration and Truth itself- He is THE Premier “art critic” -while at the same time Chief Patron and Lover of the arts!
Neither myself nor any reading this can lay claim to deity (though some try… what a shock is coming to them in the future) and therefore must admit our own judgment is often quite flawed, both theological and artistic.
Further, every artist’s life as well as artistic output is flawed. We might project a piece or individual perfect, but none are technically, so, period.
Please do not hear this as an excuse for mediocre spiritual life nor art, it is simply in my view, a matter of fact.
If all this makes sense so far, what do we have?
In extremely simple terms, we have flawed people, certainly sometimes inspired by God, at other times numb and ignorant of Him or perhaps fully rebellious against Him. All produce both a life and art with integrity out of whatever practical talent they have. Or do not have. Or do not -yet- have but hey, we can all learn and grow, no?
Artists (in any art mode) are thoughtful and care about how others are influenced by their work. Or not. But they can each change and grow, right?
Artists as well as those experiencing their art are BOTH flawed. But if we are humble enough and willing, we can each change and grow, correct?
My personal conclusion brings me to one of those amazing -and I think needed bits of scripture that brings both deep peace and agitation depending on where we stand at any given moment. Artists and those loving or abhorring any particular art offering must wrestle with the implications:
v13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.
v14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.
If Christ-followers at times engage in “worship wars” (the term “fear” in vs. 13 has to do with reverence, respect and worship of God) re. how worship takes place “acceptably” to both God and people, how can we NOT expect disagreement over what we might not consider “worship-oriented” art works?
By the way, many have, I believe rightly, referred to worship itself as an “art”.
Regardless of what you believe, who you are or where you stand, we each and all need more love and grace along with both conviction as well as wisdom to share that love and grace with others. Even artists. Who are flawed. Just like those of us considering their work.
Maybe this is worth remembering the next time we are tempted to pick up stones.
As always, thanks for stopping by! -Glenn