As Christians we interact with the secular world everyday, specifically with art. We watch movies, listen to music, we read, we view paintings, we even dance. But after pausing to think about mundane acts of life, Christians are called to incorporate our faith into all things. So knowingly, how do we interact with art, being part of the world but not of the world?
The most applicable and easy way to demonstrate examples is movies. We all watch them, pay for them and enjoy them. But movies are meant to communicate an idea, a truth, a story. Sometimes they benefit us and sometimes they disturb us. That is why it is important to monitor what we are putting into our heads and hearts. As Christians, as a religious community, as the body of Christ, we need to be careful with what we see and hear, the elements all the world we are interacting with.
Filmmaker Lawrence Kasdan said, “The thing about writing and directing a film is that you are presenting a view of the universe. Each time, every scene, every line. Every time you put the camera down, you are saying ‘here’s a version of the universe as I perceive it.’ And that is being tested by everyone who sees that movie.”
From there, it is crucial that the story is told well. Francis Schaeffer, a prominent evangelical theologian, claims in his book Art and the Biblethat all of us are engaged daily with art. He claims there are four standards by which Christians should judge art. The first is technical excellence, the second is validity, the third is intellectual content and the fourth is the integration of content and vehicle. All of these will help the Christian better interact with the secular and religious realms of art.
Students on campus have varying views when reflecting on the importance of art, and our roles with it.
“I think you can appreciate the beauty of something without agreeing with the morality of it. Maybe we (Christians) could produce some quality art and be true ambassadors of Christ and witnesses of the world…because we could reveal the beauty of Christ (by this I do not mean paintings of Jesus, or The Passion of The Christ) and we could start being taken seriously,” junior Lauren Doell said.
She hits the nail on the head, as Christians we should be able to produce art that can have a place and compete with the secular world. Art pieces that are not overtly religious, but they have elements of or faith and worldview that accurately represent our beliefs. For example if a movie does not follow an element of Christian doctrine: creation, fall and redemption-what is being conveyed and does it have a valid truth to it? We should have guidelines for judging secular and Christian art that follows a certain working model, I recommend Schaeffer’s.
Technical excellence is judged from color, form, balance, texture and overall unity of the piece. In a film this would be the quality of the film, the editing, the colors, the shots, the whole range of stylistic elements. Validity is simply if an artist is truly depicting his worldview and being honest to himself. Intellectual content will reflect the worldview; for a Christian, this will mean the reflection on scripture and the world. And lastly, the integration of content and vehicle assumes how well an artist has suited their message to the art piece.
As Christians, we are meant to interact and be a part of the world around us, yet keep our beliefs intact. We must be able to support our debate for good or bad art Biblically. We must be able to support our stance as Christians in the world, by the examples in scripture given to us. Hopefully these tools will help you in evaluating art in your life.