Each person has an individual creativity and should seek to use that creativity to glorify God, Steve Taylor told the John Brown University student body in chapel today.
Taylor, a recording artist and filmmaker, focused on the role of Christianity in art. Utilizing humor, he pointed out to students that the church often sets up a ranking system of careers. Ministry roles such as pastor are on the top of list while artists of all sorts tend to be at the other end, Taylor said.
“If I had to be an artist, I could redeem myself by following the proper church hierarchy of art,” he said. “Anything that explicitly mentions Jesus goes on top, and at the bottom is anything that deals with imagination or nuanced meaning.”
To demonstrate his point, he showed two paintings: one by Thomas Kinkade and one by Pablo Picasso. While many Christians would see only the first as Christian art, Taylor questioned that view.
“Does this bring glory to God?” he asked. “I would argue no, because this [Kinkade] painting is a lie.”
Taylor cited Kinkade’s statement that he sought to portray a world without the fall. Such a world is a false creation because it has no need of redeeming, Taylor said. Picasso’s painting “Guernica,” on the other hand, reveals truth about the horrors of war. By speaking truth, Taylor suggested, it brings more glory to God than trying to picture an idealistic view of the world.
Christians are to be truth tellers for God, Taylor said. While it is easier to focus on telling “good” or “family friendly” stories, it is not as beneficial.
Taylor described the type of communication he encouraged students to pursue as “subversive,” such as Christ’s parables or answers to the questioning of the religious leaders. Rather than watering down the message, Christians should seek ways to exercise courage and creativity with the goal of getting the attention of people who would otherwise not listen.
“In the arts, entertainment, media, education, and other culture-shaping venues of our country, the church has abdicated its role as salt and light,” Taylor said, quoting from Bob Briner’s book “Roaring Lambs.”
Taylor urged students to move away from the false, church-conditioned idea that the quality of their cultural contributions does not matter so long as they are doing it for Jesus. Instead, he said the church needs to encourage artistry so that Christians will allow their faith to influence their art in a deeper way.
He concluded by encouraging students to take advantage of the community available at the University. Here, they have a built in group of people who can hold one another accountable and press one another further in that goal.
“We need the mind of Christ for any vocation we pursue,” Taylor said. “We should use our God-given creativity to courageously tell his truth.”