Art for God’s sake

I read this fascinating blog post lately:

http://www.zachicks.com/blog/2015/3/30/sufjan-stevens-insight-not-to-be-missed.html

It’s really helpful to see how the Gospel connects with art in a more-than-instrumental way. And how the free Gospel can cause free Art! So I share the same concerns as and totally agree with the main thrust of this article, and its insight is one that will stay with me for a long time.

My concern is that this could just swing the idea of “Christian art” from one pole to the other.

So you have a very understandable concern among some Christians that art that isn’t “used for the Kingdom” isn’t truly Christian art.  As a writer I’ve certainly struggled with that.  But phrases like, “When art is so wholeheartedly used for religious purposes…it forces us to look through it and past it,” make it sound as if only art that isn’t “used” in that way is truly Christian. Which, if anything, makes less sense than the first position.  I’m sure that isn’t what the writer of this post means, but it is a potential end-point to that kind of argument.

Also: “the Gospel, though, tells us that all our instrumentalizing efforts can cease because God has been gratified.” True, in the sense that we don’t have to prove ourselves to God. But is that what Christian artists are doing? I’ll admit it sometimes seems so. But isn’t it awfully presumptuous to judge the internal spiritual state of your brothers and sisters because you judge their art to be kitschy? (Of course, I might be doing the same thing.)

And that statement is false in the sense that being freed from salvation by works frees us from the need for good works, i.e. the need to “instrumentalize” everything in our life toward giving God glory- and a major way of glorifying God in this life is evangelism.

From that point of view, “art for art’s sake” is a rather unchristian concept. *All* art should be instrumental, i.e. a means by which to glorify and enjoy God, not something to be enjoyed in itself.  “That makes art worthless in itself- exactly the problem we started with!”  But understood correctly, that’s the proper way to enjoy anything.  E.g., I ought to love my mother not for her own sake, but for God’s, which sounds pretty cruel until you realize that my mom is a creature, and to be a creature means to be ordered toward God.  So “to love x for God’s sake” really just means “to love x for what he/she/it really is.”  Something like that has got to apply to art.  I don’t know exactly how.

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