Hi, I wanted to jump in and invite the @Interested_in_Arts group to join this discussion. It really is interesting and I’d like to hear more voices!
I grew up on 70’s classic rock music and now that I listen to Christian music, I really like John Elefante’s music. I remember reading that some of the lyrics from Kansas were inspired by Christian views.
I am jumping in here late and I reviewed many of the comments. Sorry not all of them in detail, but as a landscape painter and historian, I would like to offer a different approach by generalizing to creativity which will include music, painting, sculpture, writing, etc etc etc.
The creative art, in whatever form it takes, can only be a direct result of the gifts God has given us. We can try to take credit for it and most secular artists do but without God, it never would have happened. Yes, we are required to practice and develop the skills to become great at what we do but really, in the end, it all glorifies God because He created us. He set this whole thing in motion.
When we create a song, painting, story or whatever we are imitating the original creator, and imitation is the highest form of flattery. Imagine a world where everyone created worthless junk. We would sit back and say why did God create all these stupid people who can carry a note in a bucket or draw stick figures. But what did we do, humans went from the invention of flying to landing on the moon in 60 years. We created amazing paintings, buildings, and cured diseases. Because God gifted us with the ability to do so. In some way all that we do, glorifies God.
Now, if we use those gifts for ignoble purposes that is different. If we promote immorality, hatred of parents, cruelty etc. It may offend God and grieve the Holy Spirit, but that is not specific to the type of music, painting, or writing. Our gifts can be used in any way we want. That is God’s gift.
We struggle when someone else’s expression does not match our own preferences. However, think about when we get to heaven and all those who are raised in Christ begin to worship in different languages, styles of music and dances. There will be a lot we are not used to but it will come together beautifully because He will make it so.
God is not offended by style. He is offended by disobedience.
@interested_in_arts @CarsonWeitnauer Timothy, I think this is sound reasoning. I found myself thinking of this when I was listening to a powerful & effective song “Lean On Me” that praises JESUS, has helped many young people in their perspectives of JESUS, &has multiple artists involved, some of the artists I know are CHRISTians; Kirk Franklin, Crystal Lewis & Bono & someone who is clearly not a CHRISTian R. Kelly (he is even now being accused of many acts of sexual immorality) https://youtu.be/PXBKaOkmQhw
Then I was thinking of back in the 80s when Amy Grant stopped singing gospel and began doing secular music.
I also know of a song right now in Reggae music by the artist Wayne Marshall “Glory To God”, https://youtu.be/PKRmv0u9IX8
through the end of of 2018 it was the number one song in Jamaica , not just number one gospel, number one over all! It led revivals throughout the island, the song was so popular it was being played even in clubs and outdoor dances & it became scenes of pointing young people to CHRIST. Here is the interesting thing, the artist does not believe in JESUS CHRIST. So when I looked at all of that it hit me that at the end of the day all our talents come from GOD, and they are to be used for JESUS’ Glory, however even when we do not intend for that: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
So no matter what GOD will use our talents. For ourselves though we need to be obedient. GOD will still use them, even when we are not obedient.
@JasonWalker I’m not sure that is what I meant. God will use our talents if we allow Him to work through us. That is His earnest desire and should be our goal as Christians. However; we can use our talents any way we want to. We can glorify God, we can glorify ourselves, or we can glorify the enemy. Either way, God is glorified as the creator of a unique individual who can be creative too.
God wants to use our talent to glorify His name, but we have to be willing to allow Him to do so. That requires an intimate relationship where we can hear His voice and respond to His leading where ever it takes us. He may inspire us to create something with a Godly theme or something very secular. He can, and will be glorified by either.
So no matter what God will be glorified by our talent. If we are disobedient it will not hinder Gods plans, it will not discredit God for who He is, but I don’t think I would say He uses our talent when we are disobedient.
Do you see the distinction?
But since all things end up fulfilling GOD’s purpose that ends up happening anyway, whether we are obedient or not, GOD’s purpose will be fulfilled
@JasonWalker When Adam disobeyed God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was he fulfilling God’s purpose?
We are speaking about what happens when we use these GOD given talents. Anything that is of GOD ends up fulfilling GODS purpose, because GOD is sovereign.
or are we talking about obedience vs disobedience?
Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted this painting titled “Procession to Calvary”. It combines a strong religious theme of Christ crucifixion as well as significant political commentary. Instead of Christ being crucified by the Romans, Bruegel replaced them with the Spaniards in red uniforms. During the artist’s life, his country was occupied by the Spanish who oppressed the people perhaps worse than the Romans did in Jesus’ time.
There are so many layers to this painting. Every time I look at I see more revelations. The artist was in his 30’s when he painted it which boggles the mind.
@Jennifer_Wilkinson - What a great question and discussion! I found this thread yesterday and wish I’d been here from the beginning and been able to digest all of the wonderful comments over time vs trying to catch up via firehose.
This said, and asking from my perspective as an amateur photographer, is it fair to couch your question this way:
If music, or any piece of art for this matter, is not God-inspired (or created to glorify God), can it be God-INSPIRING?
This question has been rattling around my brain since first stumbling upon your topic, so I’ll leave it here for now, because I don’t know the answer. What do you think?
@tfloraditch, thanks for broadening this to include all arts. Stepping back and looking at the big picture can clarify the details.
Some of my struggle comes from a professional question. I’m a classical musician, and it’s tough making a living in this field. It’s not very “popular.” I work hard to help my students understand and love Bach and Mozart. If all genres of music are equal, why do I bother? But I don’t believe all genres are equal, just like many English teachers believe their students will learn more from Shakespeare than they will from pop fiction.
Are some genres better suited to communicating deep thoughts or capturing fine details of the emotions behind those thoughts? If this is true in a secular field, is it also true in the church?
When I spend so much of my professional time helping people appreciate something that they don’t at first enjoy, it’s hard for me to go to church and accept that music is all a matter of preference.
@Jennifer_Wilkinson I have to admit I got a little emotional reading your response. Honestly, I was beginning to think that nobody else asked these hard questions about what we are doing as artists, and I know A LOT of artists. You seem very much a kindred spirit.
Teaching appreciation of the arts involves making a connection between the artists and the audience. Perhaps you like Bach and Mozart because you have a connection with the emotions it expresses more personally. Sometimes it takes longer for others to make that same connection, or they may need to learn more about the artists and their life so they can see what they are trying to say. Sometimes the cultural gap is hard to cross when your friends are all listening to the Spice Girls.
I agree that not all genres are equal, but more at issue is not all artists are equal either. Ernest Hemmingway was a great writer, but not as great as Shakespeare. Jackson Pollock was a great painter but not as great as Da Vinci, and Jimmy Hendrix was a great musician but not as great as Mozart. These are all subjective statements, still Shakespeare was a foundational development in the use of the English language and we can give similar credit to Da Vinci and Mozart. Perhaps we need to acknowledge a distinction between greatness and cultural preferences.
I don’t think that some genres are better suited to communicate deep thoughts. Some artists are better gifted at using their genre to communicate and have more valuable thoughts. However, we need to remember communication is a partnership between the sender and the receiver. Some audiences will just not get what Mozart was saying but they will really connect with Willy Neilson. If you take away the musical composition and just consider the message of Mozart and Willy Neilson how do they compare? Now do the same for Fanny Crosby and Matt Redman.
Is it all a matter of preference? I have struggled with this for years now. Ever since I heard an artist say that the quality of our work is all subjective. Many people in the arts told me this is true, but I just don’t agree. If that were true I would not need to go to art school and practice and struggle in my studio for hours after hours. I can tell you that when I saw that artist’s work I didn’t connect with it. Because of his statement, I was not willing to make an effort to appreciate what he was trying to communicate because I didn’t trust that he was sincere in his efforts.
I think after searching these things out and asking God to show me what is going on here I feel that the main issue is a connection. Is there a shared feeling, experience, emotion, cultural similarities, or perhaps we just spent a long time studying the artist in school and our teacher just forced us to appreciate it long enough that something stuck. We appreciate art because we connect to it and that is a partnership between artists and audience.
Well as you see prior I have seen when the GOD given art is executed it inspires people to be GOD affected in various circumstances
Thank you for your well-thought out post. I agree with you, those who love Willy Nelson hear his lyrics, the simple stories of love, loss, humor. But Mozart was a composer whose music fills the human spirit with a glory only God can grant. I get excited over many different genres, Broadway, rock, country, alternative, BUT, there is no music like that of Tchaikovsky, Verdi, Puccini that can make my heart soar. That’s why it’s called Grand Opera.Music like that inspired me to sing and dance. Music like that is ‘eternal’.
Many thanks to all of you who have posted. Your perceptive comments and questions are helping me think more deeply about this topic. I prayed this morning that God would give me time on Sunday to jump back into this discussion, and then I found out that we’re supposed to get another big snowstorm this weekend. If God answers my prayer by stranding me at home in a snowstorm, my friends won’t forgive me. The snow this month has been crazy!
@carmen I appreciate and value your passion for great music. I am the same way with painting. As much as I wanted to believe that there were objective values to art, like eternalness, they are hard to prove biblically. Some people love the Grand Opera, others prefer the Grand Ole Opry. God loves both audiences the same and died for all of them. To elevate one style above the other is more a matter of changing cultural values, not an eternal truth. When God wanted to speak to Balaam He used an ass, and it still filled Balaam’s spirit with the glory of God as much as any music. Any preference in the arts is really subjective. Eternity is another matter altogether.
@MontyD, it’s funny you mentioned John Cage’s 4’33". I also remember discussing that in our college music theory class. Our professor asked us to define music. Someone said it was organized sound, but our professor countered with an example of aleatoric music (music involving chance). So we tried taking organized out and just calling music sound, but Cage’s composition 4’33" struck down that definition. I can’t remember whether we ever landed on an appropriate definition, which is pretty sad because we were a bunch of music majors and we couldn’t even say what music was.
Postmodernism hadn’t just stolen truth from our generation. Postmodernism stole our music.
But that excited me. I realized music was a powerful entry point to help people understand worldview topics. The instrumental music of the Enlightenment differed from the music of the Romantic period. You can feel the philosophy in the melody, rhythm, and harmonies.
My original question might have been poorly worded. God will be glorified no matter what. Maybe it would be better to ask if popular music also illustrates the worldview from which it comes, and I’m curious about the music itself, not the lyrics.
@Lou_Hablas, I love your question about whether art that is not God-inspired can be God-inspiring. I’m positive some is. Since you’re a photographer, my mind went there first. If an atheist photographer takes a picture of a stunning sunset, he isn’t intending to glorify God in the photograph, but he’s capturing God’s creation, and we know that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).
However, that won’t always be true. When the Israelites made the golden calf, they were creating a replica of one of God’s creatures, but the fact that it was created to be worshiped made it so profane it had to be destroyed.
We could still say that God was glorified because 1 Corinthians 10:6 says, “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.” If we learn from their example, God is glorified, but the “artwork” of the golden calf was unredeemable.
I was listening to Let My People Think this morning, and Ravi Zacharias quoted James Stewart: “[God] did not conquer in spite of the dark mystery of evil. He conquered through it.”
The beauty of Christianity is that it gives us the right to call evil evil. Even though God is always glorified, some things in the world are wrong.
I don’t mean to say that pop music is evil, but I’m realizing I need to dig deeper than a simple question about whether God is glorified. He will forever be glorified. I want to find the right questions to ask to make sure I’m glorifying Him in the best way possible in my life and my music.