The church needs to establish a working theology of creativity.
Rummaging through an old bookshelf a few summers ago, I chanced upon an intriguing Salem Kirban title: The Devil’s Music. This is a book written decades ago that made the case that rock ‘n’ roll was unsuitable for Christian worship music because it was devoid of anything worshipful. It had some meritous claims, but I was not convinced by its overall wrongheaded, straw man argument. Kirban’s major mistake was made in claiming that some genres are not worshipful. I would understand more if that was said about some artists, but genres are neutral vehicles. Good or bad depends on who is driving.
This same generic claim used to be made about some classical music. Beethoven, for example, was a real punk. He upset some of his contemporaries by ignoring existing composition guidelines. The conservative Christian community has historically disdained ruckuses.
The assumption was that worship is not meant to be noisy. Well, tell that to King David, or to any of the characters who surround God’s throne in the book of Revelation.
In the meantime, the church has heartily adopted rock as the modus operandi for modern worship music (thanks, U2), but I think religion’s mistake of “surrendering genres to Satan” still cripples the church.
I will certainly agree that evil has a hand of influence in many of the messages and culture of rock and many other genres, and brokenness is visible in fashion, sports, commerce, politics, religion, science, and . . . you know, everything else . . . but that does not disqualify any of it from redemption. Darkness has never been reason for Christians staying away. That would be fear. It’s really an invitation to put things right. Jesus already paid the price for all things. He is waiting for the church to claim the return on his investment. Christians can take back any territory lost to the devil in the Fall of Man.
I’m not talking about some weird sort of religious coup here. I mean influencing these areas of society through practicing love, imagination, and the commands of Jesus. Heal the sick*. Cleanse lepers*. Raise the dead*. (*Make sure you take these terms literally AND figuratively.)
Is music broken? Certainly. Listen and watch anger, jealousy, disrespect, violence and addiction glorified in music media. Music television may be the biggest testament of a world in need of a saviour. But contrary to what some believe, God never says to sit back and watch the world go to hell. He gave the church a spirit of power. He set before us a mission which is daunting, but “not greater than we can bear” with Christ. That mission is to “bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom to the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
Without a working theology of creativity (stemming from a imagination that’s been offered to God), the church has only the world to imitate. It will produce bland facsimiles of worldly art, relationships, economics, education, and leadership. Jesus desires for the church to live inspired lives that pull others into the wholeness and adventure that God offers. Jesus’ victory has immediate impact on our daily lives and our ability to be leaders in creativity and innovation. When Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church, the underlying meaning was that we would be on the advance, not surrendering territory to “the devil’s music”.