Why Evangelicals Make Bad Art
(Part the Twentieth)
By Kemper Crabb
We’ve been examining in this series possible answers to the question of why millions of American Evangelicals have produced so little quality art of any kind, and have seen that this is to a large extent due to a limited (or distorted) view of Biblical teaching (and/or a failure to act on or consider the implications of its teaching), even though Scripture instructs Christians in “every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), which includes making art.
We’ve explored the destructive effects of distorted or shallow views of the Doctrines of Creation and Eschatology, which lead to devaluations of the material world and of time as the arenas of God’s Purposes, resulting in pessimism concerning history and matter as being Satan’s domain which needs to be escaped from, rather than fulfilled and redeemed.
We saw that sub-Scriptural views of the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity as rejections or misunderstandings of the Three Persons of the One God destroy the possibilities of Scriptural justifications of seeing symbols as being revelatory of multiple meanings and unified meaning simultaneously.
Such a denigrated perspective on the Trinity leads as well to confused ideas about the reflected Mystery of God in men, seeing men as simplistic machines subject to quick-fix techniques, and who exist primarily for one mode of being, rather than complex, nuanced creatures capable of reflecting God in multi-faceted ways, resulting in an over-simplistic representation in our art forms.
Having looked cursorily at the results of the distortion of these Doctrines, we turn now to begin a consideration of the implications of the Doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ, which teaches, in the words of the Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) (which summed up Biblical teaching), that Jesus Christ was “at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man…recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of Him, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.”
Christ Jesus was both fully God and fully Man at the same time, with no confusion between His Natures, both of Which co-inhered in a great Mystery to form His One Person. Such an idea was radical at the time of His Birth in the ancient Classical world, since the dominant worldview of the era (neo-Platonism) held that it was impossible for the spiritual God to have any contact with physical matter.
This was because God was not seen as the Creator of matter, and the physical was believed to have been made by an evil being (or to be an illusion). This fueled a perspective on the physical which saw it as a highly inappropriate medium for spiritual expression.
The Incarnation of Christ, in which God (in His Second Person) joined Himself to a human body, soul, and spirit, means that God is not opposed to matter, since He assumed a physical Body forever (John 1:14; 20:24-29; 1 Cor. 15:12-23; Eph. 1:19-23).
This is good news for Christian artists (and thus for all artists), since the Incarnation means that not only is matter fit for spiritual expression, but that such an expression is the highest potential for matter (indeed, that matter inescapably involves spiritual expression). The fact that the Spiritual God is forever joined to the Matter of Christ’s Physical Body is an eternal refutation of all dualistic views which set at variance spirit and matter (Lord willing, we’ll look at more on this later).
The Incarnation guarantees the suitability of matter for spiritual expression, demonstrating Biblical claims that physical things are the proper arena for spirituality (Rom. 12:1-2; etc.), including, of course, the arts. A defective view of Christ’s Incarnation leads to a devaluation of matter as a suitable material for spiritual expression, and of matter’s value altogether.
The way I see it
Here’s a stupid question: Are you on Facebook? I am guessing you are, there are more than 300 million users! 50 percent of those 300 million sign onto their Facebook account every day. There are 45 million status updates every day. The world is addicted to Facebook! Maybe I shouldn’t speak for the world, so I’ll just admit my own addiction: I am addicted to Facebook, as I have spent too much time updating my status and reading everyone else’s I know.
I enjoy catching up with people who live near and far from me. I find it entertaining to see pictures of friends and family who have deemed odd events such as “my bad hair day” and “little jimmy’s potty training!” as something worth sharing. Now there are a few things I loathe. I cannot stand the updates for some computerized farm/mafia/fantasy world someone is running. I do not want to become a fan of “Zach Efron’s new movie” or “the unlike button.” The thing I find the most annoying might be the “friends” I have who constantly say negative things like: “I hate bologna” or “Another boring meeting” or “How stupid is [fill in the blank with some name]?” There are some people who spread their negativity far and wide. They bring me and their 173 “friends” down with daily posts on why life is so miserable.
One of my favorite verses is found in Isaiah 52:7
How beautiful on the mountains
are the feet of those who bring good news,
who proclaim peace,
who bring good tidings,
who proclaim salvation,
who say to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”
Isaiah is proclaiming the beauty of feet, which usually at their best are described as smelly! These feet are beautiful just because they belong to the person who is bringing good news! When we are in Christ we have THE Good News. Our lives should be a constant reminder to everyone around us of everything that is good. If our lives were a Facebook account we would spread good news, peace, good tidings and salvation; these are the things that should be the forefront of our conversations. We can’t just ignore all the hard things in life, but to dwell solely in the negative does nothing but bring everyone down around us. Our God is so good and we are to proclaim His glory to the world around us.
with Greg Tucker
“If you offer a gift at the altar but remember your brother has something against you, set your gift down and first take care of that; then come and offer your gift.”
I can’t tell you how often people have sat in my office bemoaning the state of their personal finances. Single, married, young and old, it appears no one is exempt from the risk of dropping the ball when it comes to handling money, and the culprit can usually be described in three simple words: credit card debt.
Who among us hasn’t spent a small fortune paying on some interest-laden account before we knew better? As a young adult I personally experienced the sickening dread of avoiding telephone calls, knowing it was probably someone I owed.
That was before I discovered the secret.
The key to financial sanity is keeping your accounts short. After working like crazy to establish a zero-balance on your Visa or MasterCard, focus a keen eye on how you use plastic each day, and return it to zero immediately. Don’t bury your head in the sand like a businessman I know. He charged a $5 Starbucks purchase every morning and at the end of each month faithfully paid $30 on his credit card — the minimum amount accepted. But after a year or so of blissful naivety, one morning he awoke to find his small purchases, plus interest, had grown to a debt of thousands of dollars. By that time, digging out seemed impossible.
The key to many of life’s challenges is staying on top of things. This week I received a text message from a friend who has asked me to keep him on track spiritually. He knew I was busy traveling, so he got right to the point: “Let’s talk ASAP. I need to keep an account short.”
I called from a crowded hotel lobby and listened as he explained his interest in a female he had just met. “Nothing has happened,” he admitted. “Not even flirting, but this woman definitely appears on my radar for some reason, and I want you to know so it doesn’t turn into something.”
Because of his honesty at square one, my friend had cleared the debt; he’d brought the power of temptation back to zero. And as he does this each and every time, he’s destined for spiritual greatness and minimal heartache.
You’ll never regret keeping your accounts short. Whether it’s your Discover Card or discovering an area of personal struggle, address it, and confess it, today.[ In addition to pastoring, Greg Tucker is president of Tucker Signature Films, Media & Event Services in Beverly Hills. He loves Cracker Barrel, and you can write him at TuckerG@mac.com ] [ Greg Tucker Greg Tucker is president of Tucker Signature Films in Beverly Hills. You can meet him at the TuckerG@mac.com ] [Greg Tucker Greg Tucker is president of Tucker Signature Films. ]
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