The Nehemiah Foundation is regularly asked how we decide which Christian artists we support. Our criteria are actually quite inclusive:
- You profess Christ as your Savior and your life does not obviously contradict that profession.
- You believe you are called by God to be an artist or artisan.
- We believe your art is not likely to be served by the current art market.
- We believe we are able to provide something to you that you can’t provide yourself (e.g., production assistance, studio space, materials, etc.).
If you meet those four criteria and you want our assistance, we will do everything we can to support you in the way we think will best serve your art, benefit the church at large, and steward our limited resources.
This is the fourth installment in the “Whatever” series on a biblical view of the arts, drawn from Philippians 4:8. If you missed the last three articles, you can read them here: Whatever is True, Whatever is Honorable, and Whatever is Just.
Whatever is Pure: Set Apart Art
Something pure (ἁγνός hagnos) is set apart or holy; such a thing is “free from ceremonial defilement.” This word indicates two main things about Christ-honoring art: it should not glory in sin, and it should not be tainted by unbiblical worldviews.
Is it possible for art to be unjust? In this installment of our “Whatever” series on aesthetics (drawing from Philippians 4:8), I discuss how to make just art. Because we can’t just make art. We need to make just art. (Groan.) But what does it mean for art to be just or—as most translators put it—right?
The word “right” (δίκαιος dikaios) used in Philippians 4:8 is mostly translated “righteous” or “just” in the rest of the Scriptures, and it indicates guiltlessness or innocence. For our purposes, the phrase refers to art that defends and promotes God’s legal perspective. The first and most obvious denotation of law-keeping would be that just art does not break, or encourage breaking, any of God’s Law(s). But the criterion drives deeper than that.
In just a moment, I’m going to reveal my one simple trick for choking good art and starving good artists, but first, I just wanted to say… Congratulations. We’re already doing it!
How? By declaring with our dollars that entertainment is the main purpose of art. In the course of this article, I will unfold why this is not a biblical idea, how it suppresses good art and harms good artists, and what we can do to undo the damage we’ve done with our “entertainment” budgets. Unless you were really here to learn how to destroy good art. In which case, good news—all you need to do is carry on as usual.
The next few articles in this series compose the fourth chapter of my forthcoming book, According to His Excellent Greatness: The Practice of Aesthetics for Christians Today.
Biblical Principles of Aesthetics
In Philippians 4:8, Paul tells Christians directly what to pursue in art and otherwise. One will notice that, unlike non-Christian schemata of aesthetics and discernment, the Bible does not erect an impenetrable dividing wall between morality and material excellence:
A lot of people ask me what I think is causing the general mediocrity and cultural irrelevance of Christian art today. I usually answer, “It’s complicated.” With a problem this systemic, a single error usually doesn’t deserve all the blame. That being said, I can pinpoint at least one particular error that deserves a very healthy helping of blame: Christian Platonism.
What is Christian Platonism? Put simply, it is the belief that reality is separated into two realms—the physical and the spiritual. This belief is usually accompanied by a denigration of the physical realm, but the separation itself is the definitive marker of Christian Platonism—and its main error. This separation is not a biblical concept. In biblical terms, the physical and the spiritual overlap, and in paradise, they will be fitted perfectly together again. God makes a distinction between them (in the same way he makes a distinction between a man and a wife), but he never intended for them to be separate. Hebrews 11:3 makes it clear: