On Christianity and Creativity: Part 2
A few weeks ago I shared with you my own personal aesthetic, one that is grounded in my faith as a follower of Christ.
My aesthetic is threefold. First, the Christian artist has a responsibility to bring the gospel to bear on his or her work, creating things that are quality and that connect to the intended audience in a way that begins a conversation that fosters transformation. Secondly, the Christian consumer of art is to both enjoy art for the sake of its creativity and to interpret it “in light of the gospel.” Thirdly, the Christian is to use whatever creativity he or she has been given by “our creator God” to bring beauty into this dark and broken world.
A few weeks ago we dealt with the Christian artist’s responsibility in the realm of aesthetics, but today let’s wrestle with our responsibility as consumers of art.
Let me be clear from the start. When I say that Christians have a responsibility as consumers of art I don’t mean that Christians should reject all things that or non-Christian; this isn’t about not watching R-rated movies! As followers of Christ we do have some responsibilities in the realm of art and creativity, but it goes much deeper than the rating of the material.
The first thing we are called to do is to enjoy art for the sake of its creativity. God makes beautiful things right (sunsets anyone)? Since God makes beautiful things we should appreciate the beautiful things people create, Christian or not. We are called to enjoy art as a work of creativity in and of itself, seeing it as a reflection of the Creator God. Yet, we must also bring the gospel to bear upon the art we engage with. We should come to art thoughtfully and interpret it “in light of the gospel,” asking how the content either contradicts or points to the truth of the grace of God in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:4), or possibly does both at the same time. Just because a movie, book, or painting has a message that you don’t agree with does not mean that we can’t enjoy the innate creativity of the work. In fact, as Christians, we should appreciate all work we engage with and find redemptive ways to join in on the conversation between artist and audience.
We’re missing out if we just turn our noses up and refuse to engage, and the rest of the world is missing out too.
I feel I should make one final point here. While I believe the gospel can be found in almost any piece of art work I also believe as Christians engaging with the arts thoughtfully there may be times, or certain pieces of art, that one does not feel comfortable viewing or listening to. Paul writes in Phil. 4:8,
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things.”
Paul was aware of the importance of keeping ones mind clear and focused on the things of God. It is true that the things that we watch, listen to, or view can have an effect on us, sometimes an effect that is far greater than we are aware of. Mike Cosper brings out this reality when he talks about the forming effects of TV and movies. He writes, “What we do is driven by who we are, by the kind of person we have become. And that shaping of our character is, to a great extent, the effect of the stories that have captivated us.” Paul writes to the Philippians and tells them that they should be captivated by the pure and lovely gospel of Christ, and so should we. Therefore, I think Christians would do well to draw up boundaries when it comes to engaging with art, though one person’s boundaries very well may differ from another’s. However, at the same time I believe that there should be no fear involved in our engagement with the arts. I agree with Cosper that, “While our stories are indeed shaping our hearts and imaginations, they cannot do any permanent damage to those who are in Christ.”
In and through Christ by the Spirit we are grafted into “the bigger story that God is telling” and nothing can overcome “the love of God that is in Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 8:39).
These are just some of my thoughts about what it means to be consumers of art from a Christian perspective, but feel free to give your own thoughts on the matter. Let’s keep this conversation going! Feel free to comment below or message me and also check out my free e-book, Echoes of Beauty: A Study In Christian Aesthetics, which dives deeper into all these matters.
Be sure to come back in a few weeks when we’ll finish our discussion on my personal aesthetic as we talk about how everyone, artist or not, can take part in bringing beauty into this world.
 Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 42.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 23.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 84  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 75.  Ibid., 51.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 214.  Bret, Lott. Letters & Life: On Being a Writer, on Being a Christian. 42.  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 51.  Ibid., 94.  Ibid., 51.  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 51.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 53.  Ibid., 214.  Francis A., Schaeffer. Art & the Bible: Two Essays. Revised ed. 64.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 53.  Mike, Cosper. The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth. 18. Ibid., 52.  Ibid., 23.