The Creative Spectrum

This is an excerpt from Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts by Harold M. Best, pp. 180-181.

Artistic culture is a vast expanse.  Deep within its workings, it is also seamless, even in the face of vivid differences between, say, grunge rock and Renaissance motets or street rap and Milton’s poetry.  It is especially important for Christians to see it this way, because this is surely the way God sees it.  Just as he is no respecter of persons, so he is no respecter of styles.  He does not love the Baroque artifactual signature any more than that of the South Pacific Rim.  Nor would he prefer, if he were a dancer, the polka over the hora.  He is Lord of diversity, Creator of the human imagination and Master of every one of its artistic ways.  His lines of demarcation are based on faith or its absence, authentic worship or inauthentic worship.  His call to excellence is based on how we are becoming better than we were yesterday more than how we place in a static aesthetic hierarchy.  A Bach cantata is no more a musical password into his favor than a Zulu harvest song or an Indian raga.  When the Scriptures call out to the nations to rejoice, they do not call for an artistic Esperanto, a colorless and hypothetical language, a test-tube Pentecost.  Nor do they call out to a panel of artistic experts to determine what might please the King of kings.  They call out to the many cultures to use their instruments, their tongues, their shapes, textures and gestures, their vivid twists and turns.  God is happy with the plethora.  He loves its faith-driven clamor and hilarious tintinnabulation.  It comes to him from everywhere and from all times, translated into eternal speech by the blessed Paraclete, in whom groans, mutterings, silence, singing, dancing, shaping, masterpieces and pastiches make up a transfigured jubilee.

It is only a secular or paganized culture that chooses to divide people on the basis of their artistic preferences and choices.  It is a spiritually connected culture that takes cultural differences, works through the tensions that they may create and comes to the blessed condition of mixing and reconciling them and of stewarding their increase and growth.  It is therefore not amusing to hear about how we are to embrace the poor, eat and drink with sinners and cross racial and ethnic lines, only to find out that leadership, back home in the safety of the local fortress, is afraid to do the analogous kind of embracing when it comes to the arts and to the commingling of their styles.  “Not in my style” may really and truly mean “Not my kind of people,” except when it comes time for the yearly youth group trip to Mexico or the occasional spade turnings for another habitat.  Why do we go outside the church to diversify when we fail to do so within it?

If this resonates in your spirit as it does mine, buy the book.  There is much, much more to glean.


2 responses to this post.

  1. I guess this is where some individuals begin the ethnic diversification vs. cultural diversification argument. In other words, ethnic styles and amalgamation of them into the church is biblical; however, ethnicity and culture are not the same because a culture can contain sinful elements. Therefore, one must determine if the practice he is about to bring into the church is just part of the ethnic group he is dealing with (e.g. African church music vs. American Fundamental Baptist Church Music) or if the the element is a part of their culture that they, themselves avoid or are cautious about because they believe it to be sinful (i.e. Most conservative pastors in the African continent will tell you that they know a line not to cross in their worship services because there are certain elements of their cultural music that they do not want in their churches).

    I have heard this argument proposed lately and I was wondering if you had heard it before and what you thought about it or even if it applies to the topic at hand. Thanks!


  2. Wow, good stuff. That book has just made my must read list. Thanks for the post.


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