With all our talk on the need for Christians to reclaim the arts for Jesus Christ, it’s important to throw out a few essential qualifications. So here are five observations to make about the relationship of faith and our pursuit of artistic endeavors. Saying that faith without art is dead does not mean:
That art needs to be religious to be good art.
Were the trees in the Garden of Eden which were pleasing to the eye religious trees? No; these were trees, and God made them so their beauty could be enjoyed by all. Nature should rightfully be celebrated in art. A song does not need to be written about God to be written for God. Adam’s love poem for Eve honored God who made human love possible but it doesn’t specifically mention God. A novel does not have to have Christians in it to talk about Christian themes.
That art needs to be created by a Christian to be good art.
Mozart wrote heaven’s music even if he never bowed the knee to heaven. Ansel Adam’s photography is no less stunning whether he went to church or not. The poetry of Robert Frost is no less worthy of praise because he kept God at arm’s length. It makes it twice the tragedy when a person spends so much time contemplating creation and fails to see the Creator, but their art is still good art. Their craft is still God-given, and God’s people can enjoy it.
That art needs to always “put on a happy face” to be good art.
Movies like “Schindler’s List” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” are not filled with beauty but depict the ugliness of humanity at its worst. But in their truth-telling, these movies force us to examine the world we live in, and examine ourselves – and in that journey we step closer to beauty and truth. Art should never be afraid to wrestle with the great Biblical themes of Creation, Fall and Redemption. And this sets such art apart from the sadistic rap song which shows us the ugliness of life and then stays there, wallowing in it, rubbing our faces in it.
That because something is religious it is automatically good art.
Slapping God into a bad song’s lyrics doesn’t make it a good song. Just because the “Left Behind” series has sold millions of copies doesn’t mean it’s good art. Christian filmmaking is getting there, but artistically is still catching up with true standards for excellence, largely because we abandoned the field decades ago. There are reasons why films receive Oscars, reasons why some symphonies are called ‘masterpieces’, there are reasons why some books become considered ‘classics’. There are laws of stewardship which must be learned. There is a craft and depth to true art which must be mastered, which reflects the artistry which God himself has placed in creation.
This DOES mean that Christians need to get in the game and start bringing their gifts and passions to bear in every artistic field.
Because if art in the end is about deepening our understanding and appreciation of the Beauty and Truth of God, then who better to be leading the way? And God’s people have led the way in most centuries but our own. It’s time to change this.
Bear Clifton is a pastor, writer and screenwriter. His blogs and devotionals can be enjoyed at his ministry website: trainyourselfministry.com and his writing website: blclifton.com. Bear is the author of “Train Yourself To Be Godly: A 40 Day Journey Toward Sexual Wholeness”, “Ben-Hur: The Odyssey”, and “A Sparrow Could Fall”, all available through Amazon.