The comment below came across my Twitter and it struck me… but, not in a good way.
“The Holy Spirit does not use movies. He uses whatever Scripture is in those movies. The film, itself, is chaff.”
Is that true? As an artist and art scholar, it struck me as “off” but I had to think about it for a while.
Within evangelicalism, there is a high regard for scripture, that I share. But, I also fear that sometimes we hold scripture as an idol. As odd as it may sound, I think there is truth to it. We love the Word of God. But, I would argue that Scripture communicates God’s word rather than is God’s Word…or rather I should say Logos. The Greek word Logos is the word most often translated as “word” in the New Testament. But, Logos has a deeper meaning. It is not just the “word” but the thought and intent.
Scripture tells us that God’s Word (Logos) is eternal. On that basis, I have heard Christians of a more fundamentalist perspective argue that the Bible will actually be in heaven. That seems absurd. While God’s Logos has no beginning the Bible certainly does. And, while His Logos has no end and His intent and purpose will last forever, I think the Bible likely will not.
While I would certainly argue that Scripture is God’s most reliable way of relating his Logos to us, it is not the only way. Scripture tells us that the heavens declare his glory. However, they do so not because Scripture says so but because God’s Logos is declared through the heavens. Paul argues in Romans that because of natural revelation we are without excuse. That applies to all people whether or not they have seen the scriptures. God’s Logos is declared in creation. I fully agree that God’s Logos is most clearly, directly, and completely delivered to us in scripture. But if we take scripture seriously, we have to concede that scripture itself argues that his Logos is not delivered only through scripture.
God’s Logos is revealed to people in many ways. Certainly through scripture and through nature. But, also through the love we show, through math and science, through music, through art, through movies, through more ways than I can put in this short essay. If that is true, the film is not just chaff. In fact, I believe this thinking is part of why Christian arts and films are often powerless. We on some level, often unconsciously, do not believe that the Holy Spirit uses movies to speak to the audience. A movie is just a tool for the message, for the “Scripture in those movies.”
But, scripture itself is not a simple message. It is not all propositional statements about God. It is a mixture of letters, songs, poetry, and more. It is great literature. The axiom “The medium is the message” seems meaningful here. There is a symbiotic relationship between the message and the medium in which it was delivered to us. God’s word is delivered to us as art. I believe our inarticulate artless expression of faith is a deviation from God’s intent. Look at the wonders of creation, the glory of the tabernacle and the temple, and the profound literary beauty of Scripture with God-breathed Words! The creator God is the artist God. To understand God without his artistry, to reduce him to systematic theology, to separate the message from the medium is not to understand God at all. Ultimately, aesthetics and art are about human flourishing. They are about Shalom.
God uses scripture powerfully, profoundly, and uniquely. But, He is not bound by scripture. The Holy Spirit works through scripture and so many other ways as well. The Artist God speaks to us through His art and we reflect His image by making our art. That seems a natural way for the Holy Spirit to choose to work.
I don’t know what movie the pastor that tweeted that comment was referencing. Maybe the Spirit is not working through that particular movie. Certainly, there are movies that are so contrary to God that I doubt that the Spirit works through them. But, God’s unbounded love is not constrained. His Logos is not confined to words. In short, art is not chaff it is a reflection of the image of God who is the Great Artist.
This essay is from our Anastasis Series where we resurrect articles from the past that are either still relevant today or can be easily updated. This piece was first published on September 14, 2015, and has been lightly edited and updated.
Well put, Rondall, I think you nailed it.
Thank you Judith. I have been thinking of God more and more in terms of an Artist God over the last few years so I am certain that concept will come up again.