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I have been asked by my youth worker of my church to come up with brief overview of why and how the church can engage better with culture( film, TV, music, art…)  I also am also planning on make some practical suggestions on how we as a fellowship can engage with culture in terms of Facebook,  watching films in church and taking part in  local creative/community events.

So we have the three big C’s, Church, Culture and of course, Christ all in one go. Looking all this closer seems to have two effects on me. Firstly, I want to cry out and morn becuase as far as I am aware, I am the only young-ish Christian who is working in the arts scene here on the Isle of Wight but secondly I am excited about having this opportunity to discuss this topic and share with others what is on my heart.

So now I now have the challenge of actually putting a mini-document together which is the ‘all in one guide’ to engaging the three C’s together.

Below is what I have so far on the biblical reasons for engaging with culture and how culture reflects who we are as humans.  I would be grateful for any comments and feedback on what you may have. What would you say to your church leader about this?

Note- I need to summarize as much as possible on this task, otherwise it will end up being really long.

The ‘Genesis of Culture’

  • We see in the opening chapters of Genesis that God made everything- visible and invisible and claims ownership over everything! Futher all things were made with a purpose, to serve God in creation and so all things are God’s servants. (Genesis’ 1-2)
  • Man was created in God’s image to be his ‘image bearer’s’ (Gen 1;26). To be human means doing God’s work for his glory. To be human is to be a cultural agent, carrying on God’s creative work by doing culture. This is known as the ‘Cultural Mandate’. Adam expresses himself in the first ever poem when God gave him a wife! (Gen 2;23)
  • Culture (in this context) is our common historical endeavour to define and live in God’s world, but after the human fall in Sin (Gen 3), everything becomes distorted. Culture then becomes a complex affair because the effects of sin are not limited to the human heart (the main problem) but sin has also manifested itself into society, creation and culture.
  • So basically, ‘On the one hand, culture (films, media ect) is fabulous because it was invented by God and the product of human beings who bear God’s likeness. On the other hand, culture is terrible because it is also the expression of human rebellion against God.’ – (Tony Watkins, Focus on Film, p13)

Art reflecting culture

  • ‘The theologian gives us an abstract idea of the sinner, I  (as a novelist), give him flesh and blood.’ – Francois Mauriac.
  • So ALL of culture (media, art, music, film, narrative) can either reflect something of the glory of God, or something of what it means to be human, to be in Adam, or a mixture of both.
  • Artists are inspired by there humanity and their personal experiences and can explain this (to the mass society) in a way that preachers and theologians are limited (since they are only in churches).
  • This means that artists and culture (media, films and tv etc) acts like a mirror or a connecting point since art and culture generally reflects;
  • a. what is means to be human or b. something of the glory of God.

Example a. to be human;
‘O, I won’t let you close enough to hurt me
, No, I won’t rescue you to just desert me, 
I can’t give you the heart you think you gave me, 
It’s time to say goodbye to turning tables
, To turning tables’ – (Adele, Turning Tables, 21)

Adele is speaking about a relationship breakdown and saying goodbye. This song reflects the heart-ache of leaving a loved one behind.

Example b. To reflect the glory of God

The Wanderer by Caspar David Friedrich
This picture is titled’ The Wanderer’ by Caspar David Friedrich.
It displays the glory of God because of the landscape and the proportions to which man is placed in the picture.
You also get a sense of exploring and discovering God’s creation
Over to you… What else do you see in the picture that reflects the glory of God?

Resources;

Tony Watkins – Focus, Art and Soul of the Cinema, Damaris Books

Steve Turner – Imagine, IVP

Ally Gordon (UCCF) – Serving Christ in the creative arts, What is the role of the artist today? ( New Word Alive, 16th April 2010)

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