Friday, November 18, 2005

Some more thoughts on freedom and art

This whole “edgy” discussion has got me thinking again. Because every time it comes up people seem to gravitate toward the extremes. Some fear that freedom will inevitably degenerate into licentiousness. Others fear that caution leads to legalism and bad art. And from those opposite poles no consensus is formed.

I lean toward the freedom end of the spectrum. It’s clear to me that freedom in Christ includes the concept of responsibility and being responsive to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. This keeps us accountable. It’s not cheap grace that we live under.

What keeps coming to mind, though, as I follow the discussion, is the idea that maybe we’re all missing the point. So what is that point? I’ll admit I’m still trying to articulate it. As I said yesterday, we’re all on the same road going nowhere. So, what if we quit looking for the box that defines Christian fiction? What if we quit looking for lines and saying “I’ll go this far and no farther”?

I think we need to recognize that we have redeemed imaginations. We have the possibility of seeing the world as it really is, and yet also as it should be. Others have said this better — Mark Bertrand’s Masters Artists posts are a good place to start. (I wrote this last night before I saw what Mark wrote today, which is even better than what I'm saying here.) But here’s where that idea is leading me. I’ve been in a Sunday school class studying the letters of Paul. Our associate pastor, who is teaching, describes Paul’s eschatology as “already but not yet.” I like that way of expressing the concept that the kingdom of God is come, and yet it is still to come. We live in expectation, but we also live with that expectation’s fulfillment in Christ Jesus. It’s hard to wrap one’s brain around this idea. Something in human nature wants rules, boundaries. And God gives us those, but he also gives us freedom and the Holy Spirit. He gives us mystery and wonder. He gives us imaginations and creativity in expressing them.

We should be telling stories such as the world has never heard, stories full of truth and wonder because that’s the God we serve.

Phil Keaggy sings a great song by Van Morrison, “When Will I Ever Learn to Live in God?” The song talks about how creation testifies to God, but it also talks about great art:
“You brought it to my attention
That everything was made in God.
Down through centuries of great writings and paintings,
Everything was in God.
Seen through architecture of great cathedrals,
Down through the history of time,
Is and was in the beginning, and ever more shall ever be.”

And the song's chorus is the lament that too much of the time we forget that. But it points to where we ought to be so that what we do is transformed, is our act of worship.
“When will I ever learn to live in God?
Will I ever learn
He gives me everything
I need and more
When will I ever learn?”

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