Certainty has been an important part of Christian theology throughout the centuries, and understandably so. The post-Enlightenment practice of theology has even embraced a systematic method, and again, understandably so. From Paul to Augustine to Thomas Aquinas to Norman Geisler, theologians have been about the work of determining and delineating the absolute truths of Christianity. It’s their job to say, This is the way it is.
Artists, if I may continue to generalize, view their job (and the world) a bit differently. Often the theologian’s goal is definition, whereas the artist’s goal is expression. The theologian may prefer elimination where the artist may prefer exploration. So when the theologian crafts and delivers his proposition, the artist may respond in the way that comes most naturally to her: Or maybe …
“This is the way it is,” the theologian declared. “Or maybe …” the artist countered.
Do you feel the tension? I know I do.
I feel the tension every time a pastor crusades against a piece of pop culture he perceives to be a vehicle for a false gospel. I feel the tension every time an artist walks away from a local church in favor of a more welcoming community. Heck, I feel the tension in the comments sections below posts here on Echo Hub and videos over at IgniterMedia.com.
I’m not sure I have an antidote for this tension, and perhaps it never should go away altogether. Perhaps this tension is at its healthiest when it’s present in us as individuals as well as communities. When the tension is only present in communities, we find our right-brained members at odds with our left-brained members. When the tension is only present in individuals, we eschew the wisdom of others in favor of reliance on our own perspective. In either scenario, we’re not modeling the oneness Jesus prayed for on our behalf.
If we could collectively commit to both ways of seeing, meaning that our artists are deeply grounded in orthodoxy and our theologians are captivated by mystery, maybe we’d all be served by the result. Maybe we could practice the tension in a way that propels us to new depths of understanding and new heights of evangelism, the way the tension of a taut bowstring can propel an arrow toward its mark. Maybe we’d begin to see the Bible as both a structurally magnificent blueprint AND an emotionally stirring masterpiece. Or maybe …
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.