Should A Christian Artist Stick With “Christian” Art?

mangobobatea asked a question:

Hey. Hope all is well. I wanna ask your opinion. So I’m very imaginative when it comes to story telling so I like fiction/sci-fi./adventure. I want to write a fictional book/web-series just for fun. I had someone at church that I esteem highly tell me that fiction is useless, no one can learn anything from it and a waste of time. I didnt mention me wanting to write. As a believer, is fiction useless? (IDK how to even ask the question) But what are your thoughts. BTW I ❤ you!

Hey dear friend, I’m really sorry you heard this in your church.  Please first allow me the grace to point you here:

– Does Everything Have To Glorify God? — A Mega-Post On When Idolatry Is Not Idolatry

Though I try to understand every angle of a situation, I get pretty angry when the modern church dismisses art and creativity.  For any member of the church to actively hold down our impulse to create also neglects the thousands of years when the church was the very forefront of amazing creativity.  I can’t imagine a world without Bach, Dostoyevsky, Michaelangelo, Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, or Maya Angelou.  Perhaps the greatest fiction ever written was by Tolkien and Lewis, who were both devout Christians.

In between reading books to prepare my sermons, I would regularly read Stephen King or an old classic like Watership Down.  I learned at seminary that a Christian’s reading ought to be the most diverse, well-rounded kind of intake compared to anyone else, because 1) we can discern what’s wise and unwise, and 2) we can enjoy any kind of art under the divine umbrella of God’s creation.  Imagine the deep fountain of joy we have to know that this art from another human being is a potential glimpse of the beauty and glory of God.  There are times I literally worshiped God while reading Hemingway or Michael Crichton.

Your creativity doesn’t even need to be “Christian-based.”  I don’t believe we should be making the “Christian version” of anything.  Like DC Talk once said, If it’s Christian, it oughta be better. Our books and music and dance and art shouldn’t be in some isolated category apart from regular culture.  While I’m not against primarily Christian-based art, I think we too often settle for mediocrity and then hope that Christians will show “grace” for us and settle for less.

If you’re doing fiction, I would personally write how you like, and let your beliefs naturally underline your writing instead of forcing some kind of Christianese pseudo-morality into them.  C.S. Lewis would often let his imagination run wild, and then somehow his beliefs would grow organically from his plot and characters.  But even so, just have fun.  God is not just the Creator, but a continually creating God, and He put that impulse in us to make something where there was nothing before.

If you’re concerned about this person who mocked your urge to write, then you might consider emailing a portion of your writing to them and then asking for the grace to check it out.  Maybe they’ll toss it, maybe they’ll get angry, maybe they’ll lecture you, maybe they’ll be surprised and actually read it. Their reaction could be hurtful, but please try the long-haul with this person that they might see the good in using your talent.  If they never come around, that’s okay.  But if they do: you’ve won that person ever closer to the heart of God.

— J.S.

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25 thoughts on “Should A Christian Artist Stick With “Christian” Art?

  1. If I may, as this is a subject that touches near and dear to my heart, lol…

    What I try to do, as a Christian and as a fiction writer, is to ask if what I am writing is something I’m cool with Jesus reading over my shoulder. It seems pretty basic, maybe, but I write romances and sometimes violent historical fiction, so it is (to me) pertinent. Sometimes, things enter my art that make conservative mindsets cringe and back away in reproof, I know. But often, these things are a fictional representation of an all too human byproduct of sinful history – and I believe these kinds of influences can and should be represented in fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a good test for figuring out what we should and shouldn’t write.

      I was ghostwriting a paranormal book series for a while. It took me a while to realize – my main excuse was that I needed the money – but eventually, I was convicted. I knew in my heart: “Jesus wouldn’t write something like this.”

      I think we feel it in our bones – whether or not what we’re writing is an area of compromise. What spirits the work promotes.


    2. Hey Sandi! I know you write fiction so I’m sure this is a fun balancing act for you. I seem to remember the Old Testament containing quite a bit of “reality” that might make us pause, too. And Jesus had some very hard words for his hearers (the worm that never dies, gnashing of teeth, cutting a guy to pieces). I’m not trying to absolve graphic content, but as you said, I think we do need to hear about the less pretty side of life, since that’s life. 🙂


  2. I always thought it would be cool if, for example, a Christian musician wrote both worship music and “regular” music. And the regular music would still largely be influenced by the person’s faith, having a Christian perspective of the world and all. Then they would attract unbelievers with their regular music, and they may stumble upon one of the artist’s worship songs along the way.

    God created us in His image, and He is creative. It is natural that we want to reflect that creativity and make our own little worlds inside our heads.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was told the same thing by my dad, who also happens to be my pastor. His views have changed now, and I thank God for that.

    We serve a God Who LOVES to create. Our world is a testament to that. He is the Master Artist. He wants us to create.

    I’ve had many friends who are unable to finish a single non-fiction book. They tell me that it feels like they’re being preached to when they read non-fiction. But after I lent them some of my favorite fiction titles, they devoured the books in no time. They told me that it was like seeing Christianity in action through the lives of the characters.

    I love the point made here about Lewis allowing his imagination to run wild. That’s awesome. His creatures – made in His image – are meant to be just like Him. Creative. No need to force it. Hold on to Him and just do it. Create.


    1. I still love reading fiction. It always hits upon a different muscle in my soul than non-fiction and preachiness.
      If you’ve ever read anything from The Narnian, a biography on C.S. Lewis, it talks about his writing process. He didn’t set out to make Aslan into Jesus. He had constant dreams about lions, and then began writing about a King Lion, who happened to fit Jesus. The same with the centaur who delivered mail. He had a vision once of a deer with a package in the snow by a streetlight, and he thought it was a cool image. He worked it into the start of his story.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I agree with what a previous commenter has said. We are to create, and God has gifted you with a passion and an ability. It would be wrong not to use it. That being said, your writing is not an excuse to depart from your moral values and Biblical truths. If you feel that God would be dishonored in what you write, that is not something you should be working on. Follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit.


    1. Agreed. I once heard a pastor say that art can be 1) received, 2) redeemed, or 3) rejected. Some things must be rejected outright, but mostly everything else can be received or redeemed. I think it might be different for each person too, as per Romans 14.


  5. I learned a lot about myself and was thoroughly entertained too while reading The Rosie Project -what most would consider a non-Christian book, I guess. Finished it yesterday and am eagerly waiting for the sequel to become available at the library!


  6. Great post. I believe that writers are gifted to touch the lives of people, and just because you are a Christian, it doesn’t mean that you must write only Christian based fiction. As a Christian, of course, what you write shouldn’t cause other believers to question your faith.


  7. Try reading any and all of Madeleine L’Engle’s books. She has an amazing slant towards that very thing. And as far as fiction being useless, are the stories Jesus told true? Or did they hold a greater truth that only those with eyes to see and ears to hear could know. Some people are very closed off to this, but our world needs it. Press on!


    1. I’ve read A Wrinkle In Time at least half a dozen times. She does mention Jesus is just another “higher being,” but she isn’t beholden to the Christian faith anyhow.
      And right on. J.R.R. Tolkien talks about “secondary belief,” in which fictional stories evoke in us such strong emotions that we feel they are real. They can point us to primary belief.


      1. I’ve never read A Wrinkle in Time. I have read her Walking on Water, Reflections on Faith and Art. As well as some of her Crosswick’s Journal series. I gathered her very beholden to the Christian faith by reading these.


  8. The first thing that I would respond with to someone who says that “fiction is useless, no one can learn anything from it and a waste of time” would be “Is reading Pilgrim’s Progress useless, a waste of time with nothing to learn from it?” and then watch them try to worm out of their original statement.


  9. “This post” has been sitting in my drafts pile over a year. Someday I’ll put it out – on the gratingly irritating thing they call Christian worship music. Michael Horton is wonderful on the topic in his “Christianity and the Arts”. But this much I will say. It’s sad that Christians cling to such a narrow view of art and beauty (well, we have a narrow view on a lot of things, don’t we) and also carve their own niche rivers of “Christian music, Christian fiction” because they don’t have what it takes to publish successfully and keep up in the mainstream ocean.


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