Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Using Natural Gifts of Music (and Art):


Disclaimer: This post is not about the trashy crap we hear on the radio. It is about the genuine desire to make beautiful music (and therefore art) for the glory of God. It’s about time, beauty, love, desire, and truth, which all go into making good art, good art. Based on the length of the post, I can’t go into all the angles of everything mentioned here, and I’m not sure what I believe practically about every aspect of what’s presented. So please take that into account! My basic points are these: Christians should do music (art) for the glory of God, God cares about his glory in every aspect of our lives, and the Spirit of God has given us the natural gifts we possess to glorify him in making something beautiful and true.

Martin Luther said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” This comes from the mouth of a man who wrote perhaps the most well know hymn of protestant Christianity, A Mighty Fortress is Our God. Songs make words memorable; they stick in our brain much better than the spoken word. Songs represent emotional outpourings of things which we choose to sing about. Nietzsche said, “An artist chooses his subjects: that is the way he praises.” Music is an art, and songwriters are the artists, who craft and create something beautiful and meticulous through notes, chords and scales. Christian artists praise their creator through their chosen subjects.

Ultimately the beauty of music reflects on the creator, the one we worship, the one we praise. Music is another aspect to this created “theater”, as John Calvin says. “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” And music does give us such reason to rejoice! Humans were created to glorify God, and so the utmost reason we do music (and art) is to glorify God.

Revelation 4:11:“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”

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1 Cor. 10:31: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (emphasis added).

When we become Christians, everything we do becomes our spiritual worship as we present our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). If we can glorify God in the minutest of details of life, such as eating, drinking, going to the bathroom, and sleeping, then how much should using intelligence, creativity, and knowledge, things which we share communicably with God, bring glory to him?

This doesn’t mean that we do music in a different way than those who aren’t Christians. The chords don’t change, the notes don’t change, and I believe much of the content should continue to be the same (as humans have much the same condition and experiences). The difference is in believing that every good and perfect gift is from above (James 1:17). We realize that we have the Spirit of the living God in our hearts, the spirit who rose Jesus Christ from the dead (Romans 8:11). This Spirit who awakened our hearts, showed us Christ, and transformed our wills, also gives to us the natural gifts we use in our daily lives:

Exodus 31:1-6:
The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence (this word means wisdom), with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you"

These able men were specifically given the Spirit of God to make the Tabernacle. I don’t desire to stretch the applications of the verse out, except to say that every natural gift we’ve been given has at its heart the Spirit of God.

So what does this all mean for us now? It means that we can pray to God to give us wisdom and ability in cultivating the natural gifts we have, and since we have the same Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead, there is no reason we shouldn’t believe that God will answer our request in accordance with his will if we are seeking to rejoice in him and glorify him by using our talents in this world.

It means that there is a place for good art, for higher culture, and for well thought out and artistic representations of the truth. Christians must not look down on art as something unneeded and impractical. God has given it to us for his glory, and that is about as practical as it gets!

It means that Christian artists and musicians should do art knowing that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). It is in Christ that this world holds together, and what a joy and honor to bring glory to him through the cultivation and use of natural gifts which he has already given us!

Finally, it means that God is not simply interested in one or two areas of our lives, but in all areas of our life. As Abraham Kuyper is so often quoted, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

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