The Christian and His Art, Part 2: Defining "Christian"
Trying to nail down the essential meaning of a religion that has been around for centuries (some might even say since the beginning of time),that has accumulated, I don’t know, a few billion followers over the years, and sub-divided itself into a few thousand denominations and groups (conservative guess), is no big deal, right?
I mean, it’s not like anyone has gone to war over this kind of thing.
Not recently, anyway.
Not since school let out.
But if we want to have an intelligent and worthwhile conversation about this (or, in this case, a half-baked monologue posing as an intelligent and worthwhile conversation), then it is essential to know what we mean by “Christian.”
The word itself means “little Christ” and was quite possibly used as a derogatory expression to refer to the Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26), as in, “Look at all those weirdos, going around like they’re a bunch of…of…little Christs or something.”
The modern connotation of it is something more like “follower of Christ” or “imitator of Christ.”
But which Christ?
The one on the Bible?
The Dan Brown version?
If I believe that Jesus was a great teacher and leader and seek to follow his example in those areas, is that enough to make me a Christian?
I like how this one guy put it:
The central contention of Christianity is that Jesus is who the Bible says He is.
That’s about as concise as you make it.
A true Christian accepts no substitute for the biblical Christ and embraces Him as not merely a mentor for life, but as life itself.
This being the case, Christians view and interact with the world differently than do non-Christians. Our perception of reality is altered by our acceptance of the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God “for whom are all things, and through whom are all things” (Heb. 2:10).
Because if Jesus is who the Bible makes Him out to be, then it changes everything.
It changes the way we live, the way we perceive the world and other people in the world.
And, yes, it changes the way we produce and consume art.
For example, if both an atheist and a Christian were commissioned to make a short film about the nature of suffering, wouldn’t they both approach the subject from radically different ways? And although those differences may not be startling obvious in the way they produce their films, in their shot selections, and music scores, and directing styles, it should have a massive impact on the way their film handles the topic.
So while a song, movie, or painting is obviously incapable of making the decision to accept or reject Christ, they are products of artists who approach the world and their work from a certain worldview. This worldview will be represented in their creative outputs and therefore, to an extent, will take on and embody the philosophical ideals cherished and held by their creators.
In this way, I think it’s safe to say that there is such a thing as Christian art because there do exists pieces of creative work that proclaim or promote a view of the world that is in accordance with Christian doctrine. And, conversely, there are works of art whose central theme disagree with that same doctrine.
So is Christian art a thing? Yeah, but it’s not the end of the thing or the final answer to this question. The question of how Christians relate to the arts and art-associated media is more nuanced than that. It’s not just a matter of what the artist believes, but also what the art proclaims (they don’t always agree). Not to mention the question of what responsibilities Christians carry with them in their artistic choice of production and consumption.
Yes, this is far from the end of the topic. It is, however, a nice place to take a break.
Questions? Comments? Angry rants? That's what the comment section is for.