I’ve not been able to write for some time. Life, it seems, can be a jealous distraction. Music, work, and going to class all keep me pretty handcuffed during the week. But now, here we all are, staring at a computer screen. What an exciting time to be alive.
While I’m on the subject of creativity (see post below), I thought I’d offer my thoughts on how praise for a creative act should be handled. When an artist of any kind (or a person of any working imagination) creates something, the artist is frequently applauded and complimented. He or she is also sometimes lacerated and howled at by the critics, but that is another post. Nevertheless, admiration and praise always spring up where art and beauty are planted.
Now, writing a short theology of praise may look needlessly didactic but I am convinced it is a paramount knowledge for those involved with the arts. If creativity is a free gift of God, then all creative acts find their ultimate origins in the grace of God. So, since all creative acts find their ultimate origins in God’s grace, it seems only right to give credit where credit is due.
Psalm 65:1 clearly and emphatically states that “praise is due to you, O God“. Scripture speaks of the supreme right of God to all praise (Rom.11:36; 1 Cor.8:6; Col.1:16). Hebrews 1:2 speaks of Jesus as “the heir of all things”. All praise, compliments, adoration, appreciation, glorification, and exaltation belong to their proper owner: God. I’d love to talk more about Psalm 65 next week, but the point is that because all things are God’s, all praise for the things He has created are to be addressed to Him.
Now, we get to the arts. I go to a university that boasts the largest school of music in the country. That school is first in jazz studies, music education, and top ten in performance. It has the third largest music library in the U.S. Its percussion program is in the top five in the nation. God has obviously been kind to them.
Since such a great music school is mere blocks from where I write this, it goes without saying that there are a plethora of remarkable musicians in this town. Many of my friends are extraordinary players and songwriters. As clichéd as it may sound, I truly am blessed to know so many of them. But aside from all of the musicians, there are artists, photographers, dancers, thespians, and RTF majors (radio, television, & film), all milling about, perfecting and loving their craft.
So, when I go to a friend’s concert or go see an art show, I am rightly going to praise the artist and marvel at their great talent and skill. If the artist professes to be a Christian, usually I’ll get this type of response to my admiration: “Wonderful, thanks for coming. Praise God.” The formula varies but overall, they end up saying something similar. This used to annoy me. It seemed to me like they were slipping out from under my compliment like a duck’s feather in the water. There I was, thanking them for touching my soul, and they dismiss it by shifting the credit? Why couldn’t they just take a compliment? This no doubt fueled my frustration with Christian music (a wound I’m still licking).
No doubt, some of those artists were simply giving lip service to God. It may have been their knee-jerk response. But a few, I’m sure, actually thought about what they were going to say after the show. A few of them took time to ponder to whom credit was due.
Let me be clear. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with people, Christian or otherwise, accepting praise. Proverbs 27:2 talks about accepting praise for yourself and never condemns it. I’m not saying that we have to say “praise God” after every compliment just so we can keep our consciences clear, to safeguard against arrogance. But I think praise does affect the heart. Praise has all the purifying or destructive power of fire. As Proverbs 27:21 says: “The crucible is for silver, the furnace is for gold, and a man is tested by his praise“.
Because God gives creativity, every time we witness a display of finite creation, we should thank God. We should be imbued with a sense of thankfulness for all things, to be sure. But especially when we see an act of creation, a display of beauty and brilliance, no matter how small, we should bear in mind the generosity of an ever-giving God. It is only then, that we will be able to truly appreciate the creativity we so admire in one another.
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