Why should Christians care about the arts? The two reasons I have already given are that art cannot be avoided, so we should think critically about it, and that the arts serve as a cultural barometer. In this post I will add a third reason: The arts allow us to test God’s truth in the real world.
God’s truth applies to every area of our existence. What God says about Himself, about humanity, and about the world He created holds true when tested against the experiences of our daily lives.
Unfortunately, few Christians intentionally take God’s truth with them into their daily lives. We have been taught to think that “religious truth” (if we can even justify calling it truth) can make us feel happy, fulfilled, and hopeful, but it shouldn’t be literally applied in the real world.
But if the Bible conveys God’s truth, and if we live in a world that was designed and created by the same God who wrote the Bible, why should we think that His truth doesn’t apply to the world He made? It absolutely does. So when Jeremiah tells us that men have wicked hearts, we should expect to be able to walk outside and find that truth confirmed. And we do. When Ecclesiastes tells us that the search for meaning apart from God is futile, we should expect to find real people coming to this same conclusion. And we do.
Interaction with the arts gives us an excellent opportunity to test God’s truth in these ways. Nowhere does mankind bear his soul and express his struggles, desires, hopes, and fears as openly as in the arts. Mankind grapples with his existence in the arts. By engaging with the arts, we take the truth that God has revealed and learn how it applies to the things that human beings think about, create, and admire.
Grant Horner says:
“We must evaluate, critique, and discern our way through all the elements of this fallen world. To do anything less than this is to dishonor God by ignoring the blessings of his wisdom, to waste the opportunities for learning and discernment he has given us, and finally to lose part of the opportunity we have to be salty in this bland and dying age.” (Meaning at the Movies, 79)
Rather than taking the Bible and hiding out in our spiritual bunkers, we should actively engage the artistic creations of the people around us:
“I contend that Scripture does not call us to evacuate ourselves entirely from the pagan culture that surrounds us, but to use our wise and prudent interaction with that culture to help us grow in our appreciation of God’s grace toward us, to see that what God says about fallen mankind is in fact absolutely accurate (even as found in pagan works), and to better equip us for interaction with the many human beings who do not yet know him.” (Horner, 26)
As Christians, we have every reason to walk fearlessly amidst the cultural productions of our age, knowing that God’s word gives us a foundation and a framework for understanding why people wrestle with their existence in the arts and how the gospel provides the true answers that these artists are searching for (this will be the subject of my next post).