Thursday, January 20, 2011

Creating Our Own Idols?

In this blog I've been an advocate for Christian artists to have the freedom to make art for beauty's sake, that our creativity can give glory to God even if it is not specifically relating Jesus or other aspects of Christianity. I made the argument of Francis Schaeffer, that if you look over a Christian artist's work over time, you would see their worldview coming out, even if a specific work did not seem to have a Biblical worldview. This post has the links to my longest run of posts concerning Christianity and art, and it goes into greater detail and nuance.

Made to worship?

Having said this, lately I have concerns. I love to see thoughtful creativity, and I think it is an act of worship to emulate our Creator. However, I think like everything else, it can become an idol.

We can't sacrifice truth or faith for creativity.

There are different types of creative people. I believe I'm creative, but I like a certain amount of structure and I do well in a circumstance where I know the expectations and can shoot for a level of achievement. Some creatives are *very much* creative. Their whole personality is geared toward experimenting, pushing, exploring, and having a sense of freedom. They can be great people to be around.

The problem can be they put too much on the freedom. They start to clash with standards, guidelines, boundaries. This can become a problem area for Christians. If too much emphasis is put on creativity and the freedom to explore it, they can lose sight of what we are called to in the Bible. They end up worshipping the creative process over the Creator of it all.

I'm not necessarily talking about their art. I can see a musician writing an angry song that doesn't seem to be Biblical, or an author writing a character or story that don't have any apparent redeeming value - as long as what they do isn't directly advocating sin. In a grander scope of their body of work, there may be a point being made by such work that continues to show a Biblical worldview, but it isn't as apparent taken out of context.

I see more of a problem with their lives getting caught in the "creative life", and the artist leaving behind the Kingdom life. Instead of following Christ and doing art in the wide beauty of His creation and Kingdom, they follow "the muse" wherever it takes them.

This may be an idol...
I think an example of this would be Katy Perry. It is well-known that she started in Christian music, but has evolved into a secular artist that likes to sing and dress provocatively. In reading articles about her, I think she also has let ambition and a desire for fame to drive her life as much as her "art", but I'm sure her creative side contributes as well. 

What is an artist to do? As Christians, we need to offer fellowship and prayer for those who explore the creative life. The beauty that can revealed about God through wonderful art is a true gift we all can and should enjoy. The temptation is letting ourselves go into the creative act so much that we lose our moorings. I've had very creative friends that have been misunderstood. Evangelicalism in America especially can have trouble with the questions raised by these type of people. The artist must choose to stay within the boundaries of Kingdom life, but we can do our best to love and encourage them so they can use their curiosity and imagination without losing themselves to the process.


  1. I believe creativity was never intended to be a means to anything more than simply being an expressive effect of what is happening in our heart. Like anything else we do, we are prone to selfish intentions. We tend to derive our identity from the things we do, which is not really who we are; thus leading to a feeling of emptiness and frustration (which I would be willing to bet is what Ms. Perry probably feels). I agree, it can be an idol.

    I think you are right about the treatment of creativity within the church, however I will take it one step further. I think part of the problem is that a majority of the church views art in the same way the world views it; a means to express, a cultural definition, a marketable product, a personal identifier, a measure of talent or skill, etc. The church also struggles with the depth of honesty that that art can posess, leading to attempts to control it by any means.

    I see the "creative life" as part of the Kingdom life. For some of us, being consumed with God and pursuing His Kingdom means that our path is to express creatively, and in some cases becoming engrossed in the process of creating because that is what we were made to do. Excuse the oversimplification, but it is like a windchime. It does not chime to become a chime, it is a chime because it is designed to express in a certain way as an effect of wind.

    Creativity is a good thing, it is a healthy thing, it is very near to our Creator's heart.

    Great post Jason. I need to catch up on reading some of your previous thoughts in regards to the arts.

  2. Hey Davin, thanks for taking the time to read! I hope some of my other posts are encouraging to you as well.

    Have you ever read "Art and the Bible" by Francis Schaeffer? I have posted on it before and really hold to what he says about art for beauty's sake - not necessarily for a practical purpose (evangelism, etc).

    Of course we all create in different ways. My mom always said she had "no imagination" and wasn't artistic, but she could build things, and that was her creative outlet.

    I think you would like my Christian Marketplace series that I linked to here. Again, I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

  3. "Coincidently" I just picked up a copy of Art and the Bible this week. I am excited to read it.

    My engineer father always said the same thing, but then he would build beautiful furniture. It's sad how creativity has been "typecast" into only a few things. All humans are creative because we are made in the image of our creator who is creative.

  4. Good post, Jason. Isn't it often the "me" thing? "Look what 'beauty' I created." True creation that encompasses some form of beauty, be it rugged or elegant per se, comes from the heart not just the skill. Those good and perfect gifts come down from God, so even those who fail to acknowledge the Master Creator and produce beauty in their creation fail to note the source of their abilities and art and fall prey to idolatry either to themselves or by others.

    Good comments, Davin.