Art and fundamentalist legacies (III)  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , , ,

(…continued from part II)

Believing that art, culture and human creativity is part of a physical realm that is less valuable in God’s eyes than spiritual pursuits is not a minor issue. How we see life and reality will have an impact, for blessing or for curse, on all we do, think, and feel. It’s basic to everything else.

The Bible teaches us that there is indeed a great divide, but it isn’t between the physical and the spiritual, but between good and evil. Sin—falling short as human beings of what we were created to be as made in God’s image—tears apart the fabric of all of life. My worship and my art, my relationships and my witness, my work and rest, my desires and convictions are all distorted by my sin. And worldliness is not engaging or making human culture—it’s impossible to live apart from culture—but participating in the systems of pride, power and rebellion that fallen human beings establish in the world to try to escape the word and will of their Creator. The tragedy is not that I choose the physical over the spiritual, but that all my choices are shot through with brokenness. The biblical view sees the great divide to be a moral one, between good and evil, between sinfulness and righteousness. The ancient Greeks not the Scriptures divided reality into spiritual and physical. It’s a common perspective among Christians but one we must recognize for what it is, as shocking as this must seem: it’s a pagan perspective rooted in a pagan view of life and reality.

Some of my fundamentalist friends will probably dispute this characterization of their teaching, insisting they see art as an issue of Christian freedom. In other words, each individual believer is free to do art or to enjoy art as their conscience allows, as long as their freedom does not become a stumbling block to others. I’ve not seen much evidence of this myself, but I’ll take them at their word. I’m very glad they have this freedom. The real problem, though, remains. The Bible teaches that every legitimate vocation and calling—including both missions and art—is not only spiritual but is equally spiritual. This is what we must believe and teach and seek to live out faithfully before a watching world.

Art is not simply a neutral thing that I am free to enjoy before it all gets burned up in God’s judgment. Rather, art is a gift of God’s common grace to be received with gratitude and pursued with faithfulness under Christ’s Lordship. The fruit of human creativity—art and human culture—will be celebrated in the new earth to God’s glory.

But this is not the place to work all these ideas out in detail. If you would like to reflect on the truthfulness of what I have been saying here I would suggest four resources that might prove to be of some help. (At least they were a big help to my wife and I as we tried to make sense of these issues.) On art and creativity, Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer and Imagine: A vision for Christians in the arts by Steve Turner (both published by IVPress). On the spiritual/physical dichotomy, Being Human: The nature of spiritual experience by Ranald Macaulay & Jerram Barrs (IVPress). And for a study of culture in light of what the Scriptures teach about the end of time, Millenium Fever & The Future of this Earth by Wim Rietkirk (an iBook available free on Ransom’s web site).

…to be continued

This entry was posted at Wednesday, July 08, 2009 and is filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


Thank you, Denis, for this insightful and encouraging series. I need to keep hearing these things.

July 14, 2009 at 8:11 AM

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