Paul Wilson (25 Feb 2018)
"Art as Doxology, Not Tract with My Comments"

Below is an article about art and how Christians are using it.

He makes a good point in that I have seen cases where Christians try to put out something in fiction or comic books or something and what could be very good ends up falling flat because while it has a great message (the gospel) the plot, the development and characters and so on are woefully lacking because we are convinced that everything we do must incorporate the gospel. We can create art (photos, paintings, drawings, statues, films, books of various genres, legitimate theater and more) that can please God but not be full of the gospel. Some things may have no gospel in them yet be acceptable to God. Secular things are NOT bad just because they are secular. Remember truly secular is religiously neutral and as such does not promote religion but also does not attack or detract from it. For about the last century the word secular has come to mean against God because atheist and those who deny or hate God have coopted that word for themselves. But they aren’t secular they are profane. A true secularist would not want a state religion but would NOT interfere with another person’s expression of their religion. They would embody the first amendment principle with regard to religion. 

Too often we give the impression, with all our Christian words and phrases weaved into our literature etc., that the Christian life is to be a long church service that only ends when you die. We also give the impression that heaven is an eternal church service. Since a lot of non-Christians believe church is boring that is a turn-off to them. Even to some Christians this is not something that makes them long for heaven. The impression seems to be either we must worship God for all eternity or it we did ANYTHING outside of constant praise he would annihilate our souls OR that God is so fragile that we must constantly stoke his ego through praise lest he feel bad or insecure.

God is pleased with a lot of things we do that don’t involve telling the gospel. So not every page or every book we write has to have the gospel in it. Not every conversation has to be about Jesus or have Jesus injected in it. (a discussion about the weather doesn’t have to have God put into it) I think we all know people who have some favorite subject or hobby who tries to inject that subject or hobby into every conversation and how annoying that is. Wondering ‘can’t you talk about something else besides that’. Well to the non-Christians that is how we seem when we put Christ in every conversation. We can go a conversation or two with forcing God into the subject. We don’t have to spout off Christian words and phrases every time we speak. (I am not saying we must speak like the world but that we should not load our conversations with Christian words and phrases just so we use them. We can have a more natural speech that make us more pleasant and more approachable). I am not saying we shouldn’t write books that involve the gospel but that everything we write doesn’t have to be about the gospel or have the bible in it. Ones that do don’t have to always be overt about the Christian beliefs. They can share the values without using the text of the bible. Those might even be able to reach someone who wouldn’t touch the bible and would give an opening for the gospel.

Not all our paintings, photos, drawings etc. have to be on Christian themes. Showing beauty of the human body or creation is pleasing to God. Using the talents he gave us to the best of our ability pleases him even if we use that talent for a secular, NOT profane, purpose.

I am very interested in the MK and as such I am looking into secular things needed in the MK. As I said secular is religiously neutral. Cars for instance are secular they neither promote or detract from religion. Toasters are secular. Coffee makers are secular, Chocolate is secular. In the included chart I have shown that the anti-religious (profane) and the religious make up a small part of things over all and in between is the secular. I have shown also that some things are evil (bad) and some are good. They secular is split with some being good some bad. So we can do good secular without offending God. Some things it depends on how they are used as to whether they are Good secular, bad secular, or profane. Nudity for instance could be good if it is showing the beauty of the human body without sexual posing or overtones in it. It could be bad is used for pornographic depictions (both showing sex and just the sexually or provocatively posed). It could be profane if used for pagan activity or depictions of pagan activity. I don’t think anyone here would consider Michelangelo’s David to be pornographic. Donatello did a David too that likewise is not pornographic. Both would fall into the good side of things. While both have religious affiliation similar statue of nude men or boys could be also considered good even though they would be secular. Same for similar ones of women and girls. Content tells us these things.

Let us not be Pharisee-like and say that the only way to walk the Christian walk is to constantly talk the Christian talk and make EVERYTHING about Christ. Sometimes a Christians worst enemies are fellow Christians. Sometimes Christianity defeats itself. Satan couldn’t stopped the church with persecution from without but he is doing a bang-up job of stopping us from within by loading us with rules, traditions and overly strict interpretations of things. We are much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day we know what the bible says but not what it means. We allow the traditions of man to have equal or greater footing than the words of God. (Some even put dreams and visions on the same footing or greater footing even though they don’t say this outright it shows in how they treat these dreams and visions when they talk with people about certain subjects). Let us get back to the true faith Christ left us and stop speaking in so many words that sound good and start using our talents to God’s glory.

Paul Wilson
Protestant (only to show I don’t follow the pope)
Independence MO USA

"If man will not be governed from within, he must be governed from without."

Fair Use For Discussion.

Art as Doxology, Not Tract

By Joel Ohman 

Gather a cross-section of evangelical Christians—pastors and lay leaders, young and old—and give them the assignment of critiquing and ranking the creative output available out in the marketplace today, whether movies, books, art, or music, and you might find some common criterion bubble to the surface. Profanity, nudity, vulgarity, and all the other “ity”s are listed out in short order on one side of the page, obvious negatives. On the other side, a short tally of praiseworthy items, chief of which: evangelism, or, simply put, is the gospel message explicitly stated? Those are worthy items to consider, but is that it? Is God concerned merely with a tally of curse words and uncovered body parts weighed against the gospel message shared in propositional form? Or could there be something more? 

In Francis Schaeffer’s classic work, Art and the Bible, the quote from which this article is titled is as follows: “A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.” 

Unfortunately, the reverse is often the case: a few Christians assessing the worth of any given cultural good are more prone to judge its “goodness” solely in terms of its didactic efficacy, and if there is any inherent beauty, creativity, or innovation displayed in its crafting then that is merely icing on the gospel cake. Am I advocating for a retreat from proclaiming the gospel with our art? No! What I am saying is that, as God’s representatives here on earth, image-bearers and little creators, each charged with transforming the world around us in the name of our King, we are called to so much more in humble love for Him. 

Stamping Crosses

Even Martin Luther weighed in on this narrow “tract-like” approach to our work in his classic response to a cobbler who wanted to create shoes for the glory of God by stamping little crosses on each shoe. “The Christian shoemaker does his duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” All too often the evangelical approach to our work and our art, including the movies, books, and TV shows we create, is simply like that of the well-intentioned cobbler: our first concern is whether we have “stamped” enough little crosses on our work, rather than asking ourselves if the final product exhibits the craftsmanship and beauty that brings glory to God and demonstrates a true love for our neighbor and the world we inhabit. 

The Two-Chapter Gospel?

This reducing of our creative output, and even our work, to become mere conduits of proclamation in propositional form, has been referred to by author and professor Hugh Whelchel in his book How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work as the “Two-Chapter Gospel”. Though not a bad thing on its face—we should all be proclaiming the Good News!—it’s not the whole story. If the grand narrative of Scripture is encapsulated in four distinct “Chapters”: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration, then a truncated “Two-Chapter Gospel” sees everything only through the lens of Fall and Redemption, making evangelism the one and only call on the Christian’s life, and as such, divorces our work and our art from God’s great plan to restore everything in Creation unto it’s final state of “goodness”, all under the Lordship of Christ our King. 

In short, God’s plan is bigger, broader, and more comprehensive than the call for personal salvation—it is nothing short of the absolute restoration of everything. Is this a polemic against evangelical Christians proclaiming the gospel message, in their art and work and in their daily lives? No! But we should see God’s call on us, and on our art, as something more, something all-encompassing. Something that demands we create good and beautiful and true things for the glory of God, not merely as vehicles—the ungenerous might even say Trojan Horses—to deliver a sermon, but as a doxology, a thing of praise unto God, remembering that doxology reflects the Greek word “doxa” as in right opinions (orthodox) which are glorious. 

As a Christian author, or should I say, a Christian who is an author, someone who writes books that are not categorized as “Christian fiction”, in other words—Young Adult Dystopian Fiction, to be exact—I am quite familiar with this tension, even in “secular” books like my own, to include a conversion experience in at least one of the character’s storylines, or an overt gospel message in some way, and I have given in to that pull before. But, after including that conversion experience, if I discover that the plot falls flat, the characters are one-dimensional, the wordcraft is pedestrian and bland, and the book is pure drudgery to actually read, then have I truly created a doxology, something of praise to God? Is that it? Can I rest content after a job well done? Well, if that’s the best I can do, then maybe. But I would venture to say that each of us would find something inside of us that resists this notion that producing an inferior product and then “stamping a little cross on it” somehow covers all ills. 

May this serve as a reminder that everything we do matters to God. What we create, what we consume, what we choose to praise, it’s all an important part of our image-bearing responsibility as God’s representatives here on earth. May we have a renewed focus on proclaiming the gospel, yes, even in our art, but may we also praise what God praises: beauty, truth, excellence, and all that is good and wonderful as it points to and reflects something great about our Creator. 

Our Art in His Story

Whelchel, quoting Tim Keller, describe the fullness of the gospel like this: “The gospel, when understood in its fullness, is not solely about individual happiness and fulfillment; it is not all about me. “It is not just a wonderful plan for ‘my life’ but a wonderful plan for the world; it is about the coming of God’s kingdom to renew all things.” Only with this bigger picture in view can we understand how our story fits into His story.” And, one might add: it’s only in understanding this bigger picture that we can understand how our art fits into His story.

If our Risen Lord, Christ the King, is in the process of redeeming and restoring all of creation unto Himself, and he has tasked his people, the Body of Christ, to act as his hands and feet—and producers and directors, actors and writers, creators and designers—how then should we create? May we never neglect the importance of proclaiming the gospel in word and in deed, but may we never settle for stamping little crosses on our shoes and our shows when the demands on our work and our art are so much more.