Today's Broadcast

Glory to the Holy One: Part 2

An Interview with R.C. Sproul and Jeff Lippencott

Listen as Dr. R.C. Sproul and emmy-nominated composer Jeff Lippencott give us a glimpse into the making of the new sacred music project, Glory to the Holy One. Featuring lyrics drawn from Scripture and a lifetime of theological reflection, this collection of beautiful new hymns was written by Dr. Sproul to encourage and equip the church.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Goodness and Faith

  2. article

    Should We Care About Art?

  3. article

    The Good Life

Goodness and Faith

Goodness concerns the quality of generosity which perhaps is the principle focus of the fruit of the Spirit—at least regarding interpersonal relations. In the Bible, however, good also means “fitting, ordered, beautiful.” We see that used throughout Genesis 1, where each time God made something, He evaluated it as good, and at the end He evaluated the entire ordered cosmos as very good.

Protestant Christians do not seem very concerned with beauty. That is a problem because God is very concerned with it. God is Himself beautiful, and when He appears, He appears in glory. The tabernacle and the temple, built to His specifications, were masterpieces of color, form, balance, and order. God wrote 150 psalms, and other hymns as well, to be sung to musical instruments, and this obviously calls for great artistry, artistry worthy of the texts God has written.

As the Spirit is poured into our hearts, we will more and more appreciate good music, great art, fine literature, good architecture, and proper worship. It is a black mark against evangelicals that our music is so often simplistic and maudlin, our art propagandistic, our literature superficial, our church buildings either shabby or glitzy, and our worship centered on entertainment. The Spirit who hovered over the world and helped build it, who inspired Bezalel and Oholiab to build the tabernacle and David to write the Psalms, should be working in us to appreciate and create great art.

The fruit of faith is basically the fruit of trust. It implies faithfulness. The more we grow in grace, the more faithful to God we shall become. If we really believe God, we will not sin. First of all, we will believe Him when He says He will punish sin. Second of all, we will believe that He has given His law for our own good, and we will trust Him. Thus, the more trusting we become, the more faithful and loyal we become.

As we grow in trust we also grow in trustworthiness. God will entrust more to us, and people will also trust us more. We will also find it easier to trust others, because our confidence in God overwhelms our distrust of other people. Such trust works to build up the church, the community of the Spirit.

Should We Care About Art?

Geoff Stevens

During my time at art school, I took part in many group critiques of student artwork. Twenty or so of us would tack our best efforts on the wall, and then everyone would take turns criticizing them. At one such critique, a classmate presented her project, which she had titled Smile Awhile. The image was a random grouping of several large yellow smiley faces inside a rectangle. That was it. While stroking our chins and thoughtfully furrowing our brows, we probed for the deeper meaning. After a bit of incoherent stammering, she finally explained, "I just like smiley faces." I remember thinking two things. First, "This is why parents cringe when their children say, 'I want to go to art school.'" Second, "Who cares what you like?"

As Christians, we see so many things in the art world that repel us that we're left wondering if perhaps the problem is inherent in the emotional and subjective nature of art itself. Some may even ask: Should we care about artists and their work at all?

The answer is yes—we should care. Just because we have been in some shoddy buildings does not mean we forsake architecture. Just because we have read some books with which we disagree does not mean we should quit reading. In the same way, when we encounter poorly executed art, or art that has a message with which we disagree, we should not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

THE PURPOSE OF ART

What, then, is the use of art? What purposes does it serve? There are many, of course, but one that often goes overlooked in Christian circles is truth-telling. For example, in the Scriptures we find art used frequently in the form of poetry. Poetry is the creative use of language that attempts to express a reality or truth about the world and the way things are. It employs pictures, metaphors, and symbols. Consider Psalm 11:1–3:

In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, "Flee like a bird to your mountain, for behold, the wicked bend the bow; they have fitted their arrow to the string to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart; if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

We need communication that employs propositions and arguments while relying on reason and logic, such as we find in the epistles of the Apostle Paul. But the realities about God and His truth are so grand, majestic, and transcendent that we also need communication that relies on metaphors, images, and symbols. In other words, we need art.

Artists are trying to communicate truths about reality as they see it. They are saying, "This is true, or this is beautiful, or this is good." The great conversation of human history is a debate over the definition of these terms. Some Christians today disagree with people who are trying to answer these questions with art, but instead of joining the discussion, they decide to throw art itself out the window, or they define art so narrowly as to truncate its value. But if we limit our minds, hearts, and voices to propositional argumentation only, we risk creating a deafening silence where there ought to be loud praise to God.

ARTIST AS SUB-CREATOR

J. R. R. Tolkien referred to artists as "sub-creators" who bring new worlds to life, worlds quite unlike our own. He created a fantasy world called Middle-earth. But he did not create new truth. Neither did he create new wisdom or beauty. He used art to display truth through a "strange and arresting lens." There is no magical ring of power forged by a dark lord in our world, but there is such a thing as the compulsive desire of our hearts for wicked things. There was no crowning of King Aragorn in our history, but there is an unquenchable longing for a true king at the center of every human heart. Tolkien's art is masterful because it transports his readers to a platform from which they can see eternal truths in new ways.

ART APPRECIATION

What about artists who are not believers? If we engage, we will see them groping with questions and proclaiming ideas about reality through their art. Sometimes we will not like what they are saying or how they are saying it. But can we learn from people who do not know God and, though they may get pieces of truth right, are getting ultimate reality wrong? Can we learn from them in the same way we learn from Ben Franklin, Immanuel Kant, or Mark Twain? We do not have to hang their art in our living rooms, but can we appreciate it?

A wise man once said that if you want to understand philosophers and the bizarre things they say sometimes, you need to understand the questions they are trying to answer. In the same way, we may encounter art that prompts us to ask, "What was the artist thinking?" That is exactly the right question to ask if we are to thoughtfully interact with our culture as it gropes in the dark for answers.

The Good Life

Trip Lee

I am a lover of hip hop. I fell in love with the music form when I was 10, and I've never been the same since. As a child and a teenager, when I wasn't in class or asleep, I was listening to my favorite rappers. I hung on their every word, and they had a lot to say. Most rappers don't intend to be teachers, but that doesn't mean I wasn't learning. I listened closely to their ideas about the good life—and I liked what I heard.

With albums in my CD player such as Get Rich or Die Trying, are you surprised my idea of the good life was having a wallet so stuffed it wouldn't even close? It wasn't all about money, though. I can't forget the lessons I learned about status (chase it), women (chase them), and happiness (chase it by chasing the first two).

Don't get me wrong, though. Hip hop music was not the problem; sinful lies were. The rest of the culture told me those exact same lies in a more subtle fashion. And my self-centered, glory-hungry heart ate them up. All of us live by faith, and sadly, I believed the lies of the enemy over the truth of God. But when I was still a teenager I met Jesus, and what I heard from Him challenged every idea I had about the good life.

I remember being puzzled by something I read in Philippians for the first time. Paul spoke about death in a peculiar way. At the time, I'd heard many quotes about death. I'd heard it said that death is certain, and even that death should be accepted, but the Apostle Paul took it a step further. He said, "to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).

Death is when your brain, your heart, and your lungs stop doing their job. Death means you're separated from family and that your life work is over. Unlike our other trials, death is, for the deceased, literally "the end of the world"—the end of this one anyway. So how could death possibly be gain? It just didn't fit with my old views of the good life.

In order for us to understand what Paul meant by these four words, to die is gain, we have to understand the four that came right before them. In Philippians 1, Paul explains why he seems to be okay with either staying alive or dying at the hands of his persecutors. He writes in verse 21, "to live is Christ" (emphasis mine). With those words, the apostle told me what life is really all about—Jesus. How could my self-centered, status-obsessed worldview survive next to that truth?

To live is not wealth. To live is not worldly success. To live is not sex. To live is not family. To live is Christ. We were created by Jesus and for Jesus, the merciful Savior who stood in our place and offers us new life. Jesus is our mediator before the Father, the motivation for all our decisions, and the driving force behind our every move. It's all about Jesus. There is no good life apart from Jesus, because without Jesus life has no meaning.

This is why Paul could say, "to die is gain." Whether he died or lived, Jesus would be honored. Life meant he got to serve Jesus and death meant he would get to be with Jesus—and there's nowhere he would have rather been (v. 23). We can learn from Paul here. The truth is, it's better to be dirt poor in the presence of Jesus than to be filthy rich in the presence of men.

Even though Paul was imprisoned and suffering when he wrote this, he was living an abundant life. He was living a satisfying life. He was living the good life. After reading those words as a teenager, I could no longer see the good life as just living it up. I began to see the good life as a life renewed by Jesus, driven by Jesus, and lived to the glory of Jesus.

There are many differences between the picture of the good life I learned from Paul and the picture I learned from the culture. But one of the biggest differences is how we get there. The world sells us a "good life" we have to earn. Yet this life remains out of reach even for some of those who work the hardest to achieve it. The biblical picture of "the good life" is different. It's a free gift that's available to all who believe. In John 11:25, Jesus says: "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die." That is good news.

As long as I believed the lies the culture told me, I wasn't living the good life. But when I began to live by faith in the good God, my good life began. The man who lives for himself gains nothing lasting in this life, and he will only experience devastating loss in the next. But the man who lives for Christ gets a taste of the good life now, and his death only brings him what he desires most.

Since the beginning,

our aim has been to help Christians know what they believe, why they believe it, how to share it, and how to live it…

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