(Our most recent Sunday morning Adult Education class focused on the arts. Enjoy this summary from the final class.)
by Joel Bascom
We live in a fallen world. Unfortunately, part of that reality is the fact that everything we do and say is somehow affected by the fall. It is important for us to understand that as we seek to understand how we should best carry on in this world as we work, associate with others, and engage with the arts. Last Sunday Denis Haack and I wrapped up our series on Christianity and the Arts by looking at the issue of discernment. As believers, our first loyalty is to Christ, so it makes sense that we would seek to please Him in every aspect of our lives. With this comes the question of whether or not some art is out-of-bounds, and how we begin to think about art from a Christian perspective.
On a simple level, some works of art simply just aren’t for everyone. Not only do we all have different tastes, but we also are all sensitive to different things. A work of art that proves to be engaging for one person may bring up issues with which another person grows too uncomfortable. We began on Sunday with a brief overview of some helpful passages from the Scripture on holiness and purity of mind. We saw that God has called us to be a holy people, and that the renewing of the mind is an essential part of that (Romans 12:1-2, Philippians 4:8). We also saw that Paul himself never expected the people in Corinth to separate themselves from all sin (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), since they would have to leave the world in order to do so. Having looked into the Scriptures, Denis brought up some valuable questions for discernment that we can bring to any work of art, be it a film, a painting or a piece of music:
- What is being communicated?
- What is made attractive? How?
Where do we agree? Why?
What do we question/challenge? Why?
How can we talk about and live out the truth winsomely in a pluralistic world so that non-Christians might understand?
These questions are helpful in that they give us a framework for how to begin to think about art. Denis also shared about how he has used these questions with his own children to help them think Biblically about art. This begins a process that can be applied to all art, whether is comes from a Christian or Non-Christian perspective. The important point is that these questions and grappling with art can help us to be part of a cultural conversation with believers and unbelievers alike concerning the nature of reality. We as Christians can hold to the truths we affirm in a humble way, in part by engaging the culture and by interacting with many of the ideas and themes that are brought up in popular art.
The conversations that flowed naturally from this material on Sunday were engaging and sharpening. We had such a great time with this series. Thank you to all who attended, and Denis and I hope that this was just the start of an ongoing conversation!