I’m aware that there is a lot more to be said about the following. When considering a subject the writer might desire to cover all the angles – but of course can’t do so in one discourse.
I would like to offer the opinion that there is a false idea that Christians are meant to live separated from music, art, dance, drama, literature, film and any other cultural expression, based on the idea that these things belong to this world. And we are meant to be separated from the world.
I beg to differ. I believe what we are, or what we are meant to be, as Christians, is best described this way: “We are insulated from the world”. (Ephesians 6/6) (I John 2/20) (Matthew 10/16).
We are separated in the sense that we are ‘sanctified’. But that is separated/set apart from the ‘spirit of this world’ not separated from everything and everyone under the sun. (Ephesians 2/2) (I John 4/1), (I Corinthians 5/9-11).
To start with an example: debate arises over the original authorship of the statement: ‘Why should the devil have all the good music?’. I would add ‘or any other art form’?
Opinions differ with regard to what this statement actually means, or is saying. It has been interpreted different ways. And like art itself it means different things to different folks.
For me it is saying: ‘Why should the devil’s ‘world view’ be the only message expressed with good sound, (as in music) or any other art expression?’
I taught my kids that music is amoral – it’s not moral or immoral it is simply sound.
Lyrics of course can be moral or immoral – depending on the message expressed.
Life without Christ has a message. That message can be expressed in the Arts.
Life with Christ has a message – and that message too, can be expressed in the arts. Not just the message of the Bible directly as in the Gospel story of Christ, but also indirectly with regard to the expression of a more desirable lifestyle of wholesomeness, goodness, righteousness, peace and joy etc. Affirming the good aspects of life.
In the course of making a statement, often the antithesis needs to be stated in order to establish what is righteous, or more desirable.
In songs, poems or literature words can express negative statements, with or without it’s antithesis. But the antithesis should be incorporated in the negative lyrics, in order that we help establish good from evil.
When evil is presented as good and desirable, and goodness is presented as undesirable, that’s when we, as Christians, must sort out the wheat from the chaff, and guard ourselves from over-exposure to the lie that is presented, even when presented well by the vehicle used.
The important thing for the Christian is that we do not allow that which is a violation of our conscience to intrude into our lives to the degree where it grieves the one we serve, by the resultant attitude we adopt or action we take, or resultant way we live.
…(keeping oneself) ‘unspotted from the world.’ refers of course to the spirit known as ‘the god of this world’, and him getting an advantage over us. (James 1/27), (II Corinthians 4/4, 2/11).
There is no doubt that if you want to partake of the corruption that is in the world through lust (evil desire) – that the arts can lend themselves to, or help stimulate such indulgence. (II Peter 1/4)
We are told that all that is in the world – the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life are not of the Father. (I John 2/16)
But the fundamental truth that is hidden to many, is the fact that real Christians have a personal relationship with the Godhead that is a relationship in spirit. It is not a relationship that is a straitjacket of rules and regulations, given to keep them bound strongly enough, to stop them partaking of ‘worldly’ pursuits. (II Corinthians 3/6)
Such legalism doesn’t work. It doesn’t keep you unspotted from the world. Because a by-product of legalism (rules without Christ’s Life and person present with you), can be pride and a superiority attitude (Pharisaism) and if we carry this attitude we have become spotted by the spirit of this world. Even with total abstention from the arts.
Jesus tells us that where The Spirit of the Lord is – there is liberty, freedom, peace, joy and so on…(II Corinthians 3/17)
To the pure all things are pure. When there is faith and a pure conscience in the believer.
Now of course this needs some qualification. Because liberty is not licence.
When an attempt to live the Christian life without Christ is tried, it will fail miserably.
Now just think of the statement I have just made – to live the Christian life without Christ! How ridiculous.
And yet it is possible to get off on a tangent and to get caught up with trying and striving to keep rules, instead of loving and living in constant fellowship with the risen Lord, through the person and power of the Holy Spirit.
If we lose our intimacy with The Lord Jesus, we are in trouble.
If we lose contact with the author of the ‘rule’ book then we will fail to keep His principles, ‘for without me you can do nothing…’ said the author and finisher of our faith. (John 15/5) (Hebrews 12/2)
Christians are at different levels of maturity. God purges your life with His, and the more He does it, equates to how mature we are – in Him.
So it is less dangerous for some Christians to partake of certain things than other Christians. Some things in the area of the arts, can stumble young or weak Christians, because they cannot internally sort out the wheat from the chaff. The music and lyrics and performance can have a drawing power that seduces.
But if we walk in the victory Christ has purchased – then ‘sin shall no longer have dominion over us’, (Romans 6/14), and we can remain free, unspoilt by the intentions of the ‘spirit of this world’. And when we sin He (Jesus) is just and able to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness, which is the wonderful message of the Christian gospel. (I John 5/17)
So I am free to pick and choose from the milieu of cultural expressions in film, drama, dance, song, art, literature and so on.
And I will discriminate about what I linger over. I will choose carefully, and am free to appreciate a genuine talent when I come across it – Christian or not.
But by the Grace of God I will not allow over-exposure to culture to draw me into the bypath meadows of sinful indulgence.
The inspiration behind things does come into play – sometimes more than others. But not everything outside of the kingdom of God, is automatically – literally – inspired by the devil.
As an artist, I can see (as an example paintings) as marks, shapes, colours, compositions, first, – before I see anything else. So even an art work obnoxious to my faith (in message or subject matter) – I can detach myself and insulate myself from. I am then able, hopefully, to salvage something from it.
That may not please the artist who produced it, but it is a fact that an art work, has ‘escaped’ and can speak to everyone differently. Herein is my freedom to take onboard or reject, as others do with my own work.
So for the healthy Christian in love-relationship with The Lord, perusal of the Arts in the form of a balanced diet is permissible, provided it is not a substitute for intimacy and worship.
Everything of this natural world can draw us away from our first love. Yes, everything.
We could itemise a list. But everything and anything can rob us of our walk with God. This proves the point of this piece of writing.
Why single out the arts as prohibitive when money, possessions, sport, body building, career, hobbies, alcohol, indeed anything addictive, jealousy, malice, pride, self-righteousness et al – can rob us of intimacy, and stop us from attending unto the Lord without distraction, if it becomes a means of neglecting our spiritual life.
Christian, stay insulated through prayer, and worship, meditation on God’s word and serving The Lord with gladness. Stay insulated, but enjoy discriminately the creativity that the Great Creator allows us to enjoy as we follow the one who reveals, that He too had images in mind when He created. He reveals His intentions when He says: “in the image of God created He them…” (Genesis 1/27).
Simply appreciating an image is not worshipping it. And though ‘sounds’ were used in worshipping golden calves, I find it hard not to assume that sounds also came into play at the return of, and to celebrate the homecoming of the Prodigal Son, in merry making.
The creator creates.
The created – re-create.
Where someone with talent, creates something worthwhile (a thing of beauty is a joy forever) then credit should be given, whether they profess to follow Jesus or not. And we who follow Christ should affirm them in their contribution towards relevancy, skill, beauty and goodness.
When viewing art or listening to music, watching a drama, or reading prose or poetry, the conscience of the Christian is behind the shield. We must strike a balance between leaving and receiving, while we walk in faith and not in fear.