August 27, 2007 Ration

Galations 1:10

“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

What are we seeking in the arts regarding this theme of “approval”? This is a motive question. Which audience motivates you in your artistic expression: hearing man approve of your work, or hearing God approve of your work - which may or may not bless all sorts of men? Are we seeking the "well done" that will truly satisfy us? One of the two parties’ approval does carry incalculably more weight than the other’s.

When we seek after the approval of man, what’s happening is that we are seeking to feed man’s desires in the hope that our desires can then be fulfilled through their approval. And, if we can artistically quench their desires, we will know man’s approval. That part of the math works. But what has their approval done for us? Is man the source of our well-being or the one who holds claim to our soul? Of course not, God is. What is the worth then of man’s approval today when it is only retracted and given to someone else tomorrow? Artists, where you are seeking to satisfy your desires for being found “approved” on the path of the approval of man, you will never find true approval. You will find plenty of men, and you may even find some who do approve, but you will find only shadows of the pleasures that are found in being approved by God.

The approval of God is so very different from the approval of man. God is not in need of an artistic fix from us, or of being astonished, or soothed by us. He surely can’t be bought or convinced that He would be improved by the artwork we have to offer, as all that we have to offer is of His own endowing anyway. God’s approval does not look for what we bring to Him, but rather, He looks at how we come to Him. Do we recognize that God is the source and end of our every pleasure, and is that what we are articulating as we artistically express our soul to others? Or, are we articulating some other gospel like art, or clean art, or man, or free speech as being the “good news” for the weary soul? There are plenty of men who will approve of that "gospel," but you will not prove to be a servant of Christ, though you use His name.

The approval of God might be summed up in this: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). God approves those who are truly humble, and gives them grace for their every need. Pride in the arts is evidenced whenever the artist looks to himself as being the source and end of the artistic enjoyment that he knows and works to give the man in the audience. Humility in the arts is evidenced when the artist looks to God as the source, means, and end of all the artistic enjoyment he knows and works to share with the man in the audience.

There is one gospel that God gives, and that is the gospel of Christ. Where our artistic theories of “good news” do not flow from, image forth, and terminate on Christ, whether plainly or in parable, we are pursuing a different “gospel” and we will not find the approval of God, though all men may praise us for our work.

Artists, do not fear men who are determined to appraise your worth by the praises they give; who may trade you money for your affections; who promise to crown you with what is not theirs to give. Rather, fear and enjoy God who approves those who fear Him. God sets up and lays low kings and artists to accomplish His own desires. One of which is this: To articulate that the gospel of Christ is sovereign over all other gospels that men, through art, try to raise.

It is the approval that we seek in the arts that will determine what we say in the arts. No wonder we say so little.

Jason Harms

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© 2007 The Gaius Project

www.thegaiusproject.org