The next several Tuesdays I’ll be sharing some thoughts on the Christian’s engaging with the arts (visual arts & music) along with entertainment and media. Join the discussion and comment below!
“no one does not worship”
Harold Best in his book “Unceasing Worship” makes a clear and biblical case that as long as the human heart is beating, so the soul is worshipping something or someone: “We begin with one fundamental fact about worship: at this very moment, and for as long as the world endures, everybody inhabiting it is bowing down and serving something or someone–an artifact, a person, an institution, an idea, a spirit, or God through Christ. Everyone is being shaped thereby and is growing up toward some measure of fullness, whether of righteousness or of evil” (Best, 17). Bob Dylan couldn’t agree more:
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody
The reason for this unceasing worship is that within our spiritual DNA we are fashioned Imago Dei (Latin for “Image of God”): “As God eternally outpours within his triune self, and we are created in his image, it follows that we too are continuous outpourers, incurably so. The trouble with our outpouring is that it is fallen. It needs redeeming, else we spend our outpouring on false gods appearing to us in any number of guises. Salvation is the only way our continuous outpouring-our continuous worship-is set aright and urged into the fullness of Christ” (pg. 10).
blowing up sacred & secular
The fact that we are always worshipping has life-encompassing ramifications that includes our understanding of and our approach to the arts. For the unbeliever, this reality is dramatic and sobering, for it reveals that idolatry is a way of life and will be judged by God. On the other hand for the Christian, it means there is a wholeness to life in the gospel that simplifies and streamlines our purpose for every given moment.
Jesus explains this new dynamic to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23-24: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Since Christ has come, bringing and fulfilling the gospel through his life, death and resurrection, since Christ has ascended to the Father’s side, and since the Spirit has come to indwell all who belong to Christ, the Father forbids any distinction between sacred and secular. For the Christian there is no such distinction as we walk in the new and whole life that the indwelling Spirit brings. Francis Shaeffer puts it this way: “True spirituality means the lordship of Christ over the total man” (“Art and the Bible”, pg. 16).
Christ has imploded these terms and the walls that often build up in our manner of thinking and acting. Jesus declared to the Samaritan woman that it did not matter one rip where someone worshipped, whether in the most sacred of places to the Jew in Jerusalem or in “secularized” Samaria. The Father requires Spirit-empowered faith in the living Christ – which translates into unceasing worship that honors God in all places at all times.
There is no shortage of profundity in this truth of the gospel. When at the moment of Jesus’ death the temple curtain rent in two, all of a sudden the way to God was made complete. As narrow as this single way to God is through Christ – this one Way has opened wide the doors to salvation to people like you and me: sinners far from national Israel, far from the temple cultus and from the locations and objects once associated with God honoring worship (read Leviticus!) This is great news for the sinner and has profound applications in our lives, of which our understanding and practice of the arts is but one.