2.1.a. The Difficulty of Evaluating Art – Part 1

Copyright © Jonathan Martinovici 2019

The structure of this session will be as follows:

  • When God created everything in the beginning, everything was good.
  • When God created man, man was good.
  • After the Fall, the creation became corrupted, though there is still much that is good in it.
  • After the Fall, man became corrupted, though there is much that is still good in him.
  • Because man is now corrupted, they now have corrupt motives, and these motives influence their actions, including the action of making and evaluating art.
  • Because there is still much that is still good in man, this goodness also influences man’s actions, including the action of making and evaluating art.
  • Therefore, perhaps all art contains both what is influenced by good motives and by evil motives.
  • It is our duty to seek to learn to discern good from evil, in order to know how to make good art and to use good art, as much as is possible to us.

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In previous sessions, we observed that the Bible teaches that:

  • God’s character and nature are good;
  • Everything God does is good;
  • When God created the world, it was very good, because God made it;
  • When God created man, man was very good, because God made him;
  • When God created the world, there was nothing bad in it;
  • When God created man, there was nothing bad in him.

This means that, when God created the world, and created man in it, man saw nothing bad around him or within himself. There was no corruption in the creation, and there was no corruption in man’s own motives. Thus, in the beginning, there was no actual present need for man to learn to discern between good and evil, because there was no evil around him or within himself. Everything in existence pleased God, for He had created it. And everything in existence pleased man, because man was good and was thus always pleased by good, and there was nothing man saw that was not good.

  • If we had not fallen, there would have not been evil around us, and we would not have had sinful uses of art to distinguish from the good. But after the Fall there is evil in and around us, and we have need to discern between good and evil.

After the Fall

But when man fell, this changed. Sin brought physical and spiritual death. In Genesis 2:17, God told the man and the woman, about the tree in the middle of the garden, “in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” And Romans 5:12 says that “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”. This was physical, or bodily, death.

Man also became “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1), “enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Colossians 1:21), “sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2). Romans 1:21-22 says that, “although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Jeremiah 17:9 says that “The heart is deceitful above all things And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” This is spiritual death. Genesis 6:5 says, “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 1:21 says, “their foolish hearts were darkened.”

So the Fall brought both physical and spiritual death into the world. Because of this, the abilities which God gave us have been affected and corrupted by the Fall.

Our ability and our desire to know and communicate the truth has been affected by the Fall. Romans 1:18 says that we “suppress the truth in unrighteousness”. When we suppress truth, it is no longer as clear to us as it was. And so our ability is affected by our sinful desire. As a result, we become “undiscerning”. (Romans 1:31)

Our ability and desire to discern between good and evil, and our desire to do good, have been affected by the Fall. This is especially true when it comes to the punishment that our sin deserves: we do not want to think about it, and we do not want to consider how this means we should live. Romans 1:32 says that all people know that sin deserves death. Because people willingly forget this, they invent false religions and worldviews.

What we think, believe and love shapes what we choose to do, how we choose to live, and how we choose to shape the world around us. It shapes what we choose to look at and listen to, and what we choose to say.

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”

– The more like Christ we are in our conduct, the more it will be clear to the world that God is our Father in heaven, and the world will glorify God. Being disciples of Christ will make us different from the world.

Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

We are told to not be conformed to the world (this sinful system which reigns on the earth, led by Satan), but to be transformed, to be changed. This change is effected in us by the renewing of our minds. The more our minds are transformed and renewed to be more like Christ, the more we will prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. So, our minds change our outward behaviour and conduct.

Proverbs 15:2 says, “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly,
But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”

In Proverbs, the wise man is fundamentally the man who fears the LORD. This person will use knowledge rightly. The fool, the one who does not fear God, or who ignores God, his mouth pours forth foolishness. Our mind and heart impact what we say.

John 14:21 says, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me..”

Christ says that the one who loves Him will endeavour to keep Christ’s commandments and love them. What we love impacts our outward lives.

Because the Fall has corrupted us physically and spiritually, the art we choose to expose ourselves to and make, and the art that others choose to expose themselves to and make, can be shaped by sinful desires.

But this does not mean that there is nothing good about man. Man is still a creature of God and thus reflects God’s character. To a certain extent, we can still reason, and discern between good and evil, truth and falsehood, well enough to be “without excuse” before God. (Romans 1:20) Romans 2:14 says that “Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law”.

This means that we can still expect to find all people doing some good things, even unbelievers. This includes in the area of the arts. There is always both good and evil in most art, and we need to learn to tell the difference between them.

So we see that there is now both good and evil in the world now. So we need to learn to discern (to tell the difference) between good and evil, including in the area of the arts.

Satan’s interest in deceiving us

Not only our own hearts, but also Satan has an interest in deceiving human beings. Thus we are surrounded by deceiving influences. These exert an influence to attempt to make us not judge properly between good and bad, good and evil. This includes what we choose to make as people who make art, and what we look at as art made by other people. We will briefly look at a number of passages in God’s word which speak about the fact that we are surrounded by deceiving influences.

Acts 5:3 “But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…?”

2 Timothy 2:24-26, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.”

2 Corinthians 2:5-11, “But if anyone has caused grief, he has not grieved me, but all of you to some extent—not to be too severe. This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things. 10 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, 11 lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

Matthew 24:24, “For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.

Revelation 12:12, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.”

The possibility and desirability of developing discernment

Hebrews 5:14, But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”

Christ came to save man. All who believe in Him will be saved, reconciled to God, etc. (Jeremiah 31, Revelation 20-21, John 3:16)

Summary

  • As a result of the Fall, our own ability to discern good from evil is impaired by our own weakness and infirmity.
  • As a result of the Fall, our desire to discern good from evil is corrupted because of the corruption of our motives.
  • After the Fall, we often prefer to believe falsehood rather than truth, which corrupts our knowledge.
  • After the Fall, not everything is good, and we need to learn to see evil as evil.
  • After the Fall, not everything is evil, and we need to learn to see good as good.
  • After the Fall, even if we are not particularly trying to deceive ourselves to see some particular good thing as evil, or some particular evil thing as good, other human beings and the devil often are trying to make us see good for evil and evil for good. And so we need to learn to discern between good and evil.
  • God has given us His word to guide us to discern good from evil.
  • If we are not Christians, we will always wish to see reality in a fundamentally false way, and are captives of the devil in this. We need new hearts from God.
  • If we are Christians, God has given us His Spirit to guide us into all truth, including the area of the arts.

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