Monday, October 29, 2007

from the journey of a blind woman: a discussion on Hallelujah (part 2)

Recently I was reading a post from The Diary of An Arts Pastor and realized that part of the reason I haven't been blogging lately is the overall lack of discipline in my life.

The other reason I haven't been blogging lately is an overall lack of discipline in my writing.

I realize that if I don't see myself as a writer -- or even a 'blogger' -- I can't be undisciplined. Either way, I know that, at the very least, I need to finish this discussion I started about Hallelujah and I've been procrastinating. Like crazy.

Hmmmm, let me think about this a moment....
Lack of discipline causes procrastination.
Fear of failure causes procrastination.
Laziness causes procrastination.
I'm three-for-three.

So, read the rest if you like, but know that the person I'm most writing this for is me. I need to do it as a part of my quest to not just consume information and not just talk about information, but to analyze, discern and apply information with wisdom.
Before going any further, I should state my bias. I do not believe that, in general, most of us in the church have a well-formed education when it comes to the intersections of faith and art and culture. I believe that almost all of us have been taught from one side of the fence or the other a sort of separation of church and art and culture. That is why I believe this conversation is so important. We need a healthy self-assessment about our understanding -- or lack thereof. It is crucial.

Here we go...
Question 1a re-stated, can we worship Father, Son and Spirit through works of art that were not created by artists who intend their work to bring reverence or awe to Him?

First of all, God is Lord of all whether or not we recognize Him as such. In other words, it is not the spiritual intentions of the artist that initiate recognition of God. As humans , we do not create ex nihilo -- from nothing -- we create as reflections of our Divine Creator. This is true whether your name is Jon Bon Jovi or Johann Sebastian Bach.
James 1:17 (CEV) Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father who created all the lights in the heavens. He is always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.

Colossians 1:16 (CEV)
Everything was created by him, everything in heaven and on earth, everything seen and unseen, including all forces and powers, and all rulers and authorities. All things were created by God's Son, and everything was made for him.

"Beauty stirs our hidden nostalgia for God." -- Pope John Paul II
"All truth is God's truth" -- Aristotle
I would extrapolate these statements to say All goodness is God's goodness and All beauty is God's beauty. (I realize the issue of beauty opens doors to personal preference...that's another topic for another post.)

God creates Goodness and Beauty and Truth. Scratch that. God
is Goodness, Beauty and Truth.
He initiates; we respond. Worship happens when we choose to look outside our own tiny self-absorbed existence and recognize the goodness and beauty and truth of God and His gifts and respond in love and obedience toward Him.

Consider this statement by Madeleine L'Engle, a well-formed artist and God-responder,
"...we call the work of such artists un-Christian or non-Christian at our own peril. Christ has always worked in ways which have seemed peculiar to many men, even his closest followers. Frequently, the disciples have failed to understand him. So we need not feel that we have to understand how he works through artists who do not consciously recognize him. Neither should our lack of understanding cause us to assume that he cannot be present in their work." (Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, p.33)

And this essay from David Taylor, arts pastor at Hope Chapel in Austin, (I apologize that I lost the title of the actual post I took this from. You should read all his stuff's pretty great!)

"Can unregenerate sinners make good fruit? Yes. Yes, because God enables them to do so. Yes, because they have not completely forgotten what goodness tastes like; they've not completely forgotten the garden. The image of God in them is not dead, it is simply sick unto death. If it were completely dead, we would only have pure evil, and there is only one kind of creature that is purely evil and that is the demonic creature. Humans, on the other hand, however dimly, still recognize goodness when they see it; they even desire it. Theologians call this common grace, i.e., a grace common to all humankind. The non-Christian cannot accomplish in his own power the regeneration of his heart, only God can do that. But he can do good things - disburse potable water, heart surgery equipment, Fiddler on the Roof musicals - many good things indeed that remind him that it is good to be alive: that life is better than death. Granted, he often makes a miserable mess of his life because his heart is terminally ill, but oddly enough his works of art often betray his love for the Good ("Man of La Mancha"), the True ("In the Heat of the Night"), and the Beautiful ("The Nutcracker"). He can't quite seem to shake that mysterious lust for eternity in his heart."
This leads us to part b of question 1. Essentially, it asks, can someone respond to God's Truth, Goodness and Beauty through a work of art (say a song like Hallelujah) without the intention to recognize Him as the Creator?
I think this question is asking more than I bargained for, and it was in response to my initial claim that I felt like Bon Jovi was recognizing his Creator on that now infamous
Unplugged episode. Truly the larger question is Are my eyes and ears open to recognizing God everywhere I go? If so, I can worship anywhere and anytime.

I can not truly know this man's heart. He could just be a great performer. He could just be worshipping the idea of God or spirituality and not God Himself. At the same time, I think it is entirely possible that Bon Jovi was transported through the truth and beauty of the music he was performing and the truth of the lyric "Hallelujah" (
praise ye the Lord) to admit for even a moment that there is Someone larger than himself.

Consider many of the pagan kings in the Old Testament who were forced to recognize God as the true God after witnessing his mighty acts. Consider that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord. That those who did not make that vital choice in this life will show reverence to the true God in eternity.

At the risk of taxing those of you kind enough to read this far, I will post the rest of this conversation in the next two days. At least I'm hoping I'll choose the disipline to do that.
In the meantime, what is your response to what I've posted so far? What do you think I've missed? Anyone disagree? Anyone agree? Why?
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