Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rock & Roll, etc... Probing POV

We launched an interesting and thought-provoking series on Christianity and entertainment last week with theologians Dr. Glenn Kreider and John Adair from Dallas Theological Seminary. If you're just landing here, you may want to scroll down to the photo of the CD and start at the beginning.


George Harrison wrote a song called "My Sweet Lord." At the end, we find out his "lord" is Hare Krishna. Todd Rundgren wrote a song called "Light of the World." On the cover of the album, he's sitting in a lotus position looking seriously Eastern meditative. Shake the mold off and flash forward to 2007 and there are any number of mainstream rock bands singing songs that could appear to the listener to be pointing to Christ (e.g., Nickelback). If I discern they're talking about someone/thing other than Jesus... in the context even of "salvation"... does it matter? Do I cut them off my play list because they're not dispensing the truth... or do I make the message what I want it to be and keep on rocking?

Dr. Kreider:

I believe that we ought to be redemptive. That Harrison was singing to Krishna doesn’t mean that I can’t sing the same song to Jesus. I think Paul in Acts 17 gives us a biblical example of taking words written to one deity and applying them to God. Humans often mean things for evil that God uses for good. That doesn’t minimize the evil, it doesn’t call the evil good, it is rather that God’s grace redeems evil. And I think God’s people ought to be active agents of God’s redemptive grace in this way.

Rom 1-2 seems to indicate that the Creator’s existence (his eternal power and divine nature) is clear, plain, and evident in the creation. There seems to be a sense of transcendence and divine reality implanted in all creation. That people seek for something beyond them is evidence of this. Love for another points to longing for something beyond the person. People are looking for “salvation,” and artists often express that longing quite well. Are they expressing Christian doctrine? They do seem to be expressing truth. Are they doing so intentionally? Almost certainly not. Can Christians hear/read the longing on a different level, with a different “meaning” than the artist intended? I think so.


John, you’re the movie reviewer, so I’m going to direct this next question to you. Should I care about where screenwriters and movie studios/producers/directors are coming from? Does their point of view make a difference? Or is it only my perception or my filter that matters?


I think their point of view definitely makes a difference, but it isn’t the only factor involved here. This gets into matters of interpretation, but very simply, you’ve got a director, the film, and you. Each of those elements will influence how you see a particular film, but the biggest determining factor is you. So you examine yourself: How do you respond to the images in front of you? Where do they cause your mind to go? How does the film make you feel? What are the roots of that feeling in the film?

But as the film and the director are also worthy of examination, then I think it’s necessary to ask these questions as well: What is the film trying to communicate through the story, the characterization, the angles, the editing, the color, the music, and so on? What do you know about the director and her personal vision that might be insightful for your interpretation of the film? Sometimes, we will have a strong personal reaction to a film, and these latter questions will help us to either pinpoint why that was or, sometimes, begin to cause us to change our mind.

To come back to that secular/Christian divide, if we take seriously the belief that all people are made in the image of God, and therefore all people reveal God to lesser or greater extents, then it seems to me it is never appropriate to simply write someone off because they are not a believer. This certainly doesn’t mean we have to see every film or listen to every band, but refusing to listen due to an author’s lack of faith certainly isn’t the kind of approach I would take to a non-Christian I just met. If that’s the case, then why would I take that approach to the art they produce?


Dr. Kreider… thoughts on this one?


I think the point of view does make a difference. I do not think, however, that one needs to know the artist’s worldview in order to appreciate the work.

I want to know the filmmakers’ point of view. By the way, the film itself is the best way to understand the POV. But don’t forget that the Christian, the one with eyes to see and ears to hear, sees and hears things differently than the non-Christian. The one indwelt by the Spirit has a spiritual POV. But sometimes those without the Spirit do see truth and even might present it well.


I heard someone say "you better guard what you view with your eyes and put into your minds... because you'll never get those bad images out." Isn't it safer to just immerse ourselves in Christian media?

The answer to this question coming soon...

(Photo by work the angles; see for restrictions on use.)

On My I-Pod Today: Share the Land, The Guess Who


James Somers said...

Redemption and God turning evil to good...This is being turned around from what scripture is actually teaching.

1.) God redeems fallen man, NOT fallen teachings which lead men away from Christ...Paul says they are accursed. And Pauls says to "mark them which teach contrary to this doctrine and separate from them." paraphrasing Romans 16:17,18

2.) Because God may turn an evil deed by men around to perform his purposes does not mean that the evil deed is okay...clearly their are still penalties to those who committed the evil deed...for example, those nations that God brought against Israel as a rod of punishment for their idolatry and disobedience...they were not excused because God was turning their hatred for the Jews into a rod of punishment for a time...The prophets go on to pronounce judgments against those nations because of their deeds against Israel, even though God was using it for his purposes.
The most extreme example would be Satan himself, he tempted man to sin initially and by reasoning things out by human reasoning (the same we see happening in these responses) they fell into sin and died God used this to bring about man's redemption through one savior, for we all fell in one man, Adam, and because of that we are all capable of being redeemed by one man, Christ...but does that mean the fall of man or Satan's wickedness are excused?! Of course not...therefore we cannot excuse wickedness by saying we intend to redeem false doctrine for good. God does not excuse it...he overrides all evil to ultimately accomplish his purposes, but he will punish it nonetheless.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

i did course work on postmodernity a while back and thought it would be interesting to compare lyrics from the 1950's to lyrics in 2006. i chose the "academy award" songs from two years. by the time i had cleaned up the lyrics from 2006 in a form that could actually be presented, it was considerably shorter. i was shocked!

i wouldn't spend a dime on that song... it struck me as utterly hopeless. a very sad song with lots of offensive words.

am i sorry i encountered it? no. because it reflects the reality of a large segment of our culture today.

my sense is that the contributors here aren't advocating that we gather together and chant to Hare Krishna. nor are they saying their opinions about music should be imposed upon anyone else. it's a reflection of what they can listen to in faith. and this will be different from what, perhaps, i listen to in faith... or you listen to in faith. i might abhor what "My Sweet Lord" stands for when I hit the Hare Krishna part and vow to flip the dial if I ever hear it again. or i might say, gee, what he's saying is exactly the way I feel about my Lord Jesus Christ! that these are opinions, not dogma. and that's ok.

i'm not sure if this is a fit here, but i've been thinking about this incident as i wrestle with all of this. there was a time many years ago, as an adult, that i was "bullied." a particular low point came just as my husband was leaving town for a three-day trip... so i faced several days of just "stewing" about something without the at-home support of my husband. i had a toddler and was 7 months pregnant... and very, very upset. i remember standing in my kitchen crying my eyes out... john was hanging onto me... he was wailing. we were a MESS. someone has said "God is not a vending machine" and I love that! i can probably count on one hand the number of times I've actually felt a kind of "immediate" answer to prayer... usually it is more of a process if at all... but on this day, i believe, it was imminent. I prayed with all my heart for CLARITY and PEACE. inside of ten minutes, my doorbell rang. it was two mormon youth with their propoganda literature. john was still wailing... my face was streaked with tears and i was about to explode i was so angry and upset. this was NOT what these poor kids bargained for that day, no doubt. so, the big kid hands me (with shaking hands) his propoganda... back cover facing me... and he says with this kind of shaky voice, "I think you need to read this..." and the headline screams: "Don't Repay Evil with Evil!"

James, I thought someone had spalshed my face with ice water! It was EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I went straight to my Bible to track down the true context of this verse... and tied back to that verse as I continued to struggle/navigate my way through this particular relationship.

Now... shortly after that incident... I began to second guess what happened. Surely that wasn't from God! What a weird coincidence! What are the odds of that?

Then a few years ago, I was relating this to a friend who is a strong and mature Christian. She closed her eyes and gently nodded her head and said "Just goes to show that God will work through anyone."

I was reminded of all of this when I thought about that U2 DVD and its elements of humanness... and other rock groups that maybe aren't even of the faith... and how messages of hope and redemption can still spring forth.

Just some ramblings on/off topic here...

John said...

Hi James, I've read your response a couple of times, and am struggling to see how your intro comment about turning evil to good is reflective of what was said above. In fact, Kreider specifically notes that being redemptive "does not call evil good." I would be interested to hear what particular evil idea you believe one of us has said is good.

No one here is suggesting that untrue teachings are good. Rather, since our focus is on a response to the arts, the focus here is on appreciating truth wherever it is found.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Onderdonk said...

interesting sermon this Sunday on Romans 14-15... some tie-in to this dialogue...

On essentials, we must agree...

On non-essentials... we can agree to disagree...

As it relates to non-essentials, remember there are those who are "strong" and those who are "weak"...

(To be "weak" is not a disparaging term... but, rather, identifies those who do not yet recognize the freedoms they have in Christ.)

Recognize that people's consicences develop at a different "pace"...

The "weak" have one option:
1. Limit freedom.

The "strong" have two options:
1. Exercise freedom
2. Limit freedom

It's incumbant upon the "strong" to limit personal freedom in the presence of the "weak" (but not privately if done in faith) if it poses a threat to the "weak."

Bottom line regarding how we exercise personal freedom around non-essentials:

What is the MOTIVATION and what is the state of our CONSCIENCE... are we OK with God in terms of what it is we do with our freedom in non-essential areas?

(pastor was a LOT more eloquent than this... but i think i hit the hightlights!)