Guarding the Mind of an Artist: Excerpted from God and Your Talent

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The mind of an artist can be an interesting place. Artists throughout history have gained a reputation as tortured, volatile, and just plain crazy. These stereotypes however, don’t have to reflect the mind of a Christian artist. God has given us the mind of Christ. He has given us the gift of a sound mind.

The culture, our sin nature, and even demonic forces must be reckoned with in order for us to live creatively and holy.  A lot of the creative process is instinctive. It comes from within us. That is why we should place a high priority in the quality of our inward life. Artist and poet Steve Turner writes:

Artists have no special protection. In fact, because of their tendency to be curious about all forms of experience and their need to avoid rigid forms of thinking, they are probably more vulnerable to temptation. The standard    protection of (the armor of God) is available to all of us . . . If we are living righteously and God’s laws are  constantly before us, then the imaginations of our heart will reflect that. If we are constantly learning from Scripture, even our unconscious will be being purified, and our dreams will be different from the dreams of the unregenerate heart.[1]

Artists face specific challenges that threaten their peace of mind. This chapter will address some of them.

Purity

Historically, artists have looked to the human form for inspiration. While God has given the human body tremendous beauty, he warns us to guard our minds from images that will incite lust in our hearts. Jesus tells us to guard what goes into our eyes. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23)

King David recognized the importance of placing a guard before his eyes. (When he didn’t, it cost him.) He wrote in Psalm 101:3:

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes. I hate the work of those who fall away.  It shall not cling to me.

Various artistic expressions may provoke wrong desires in some and not others; therefore, the artist must always be aware of the subtle effects that images, songs, and experiences have upon the heart. Never be afraid to take a stand for your purity. Nothing can replace an innocent, creative imagination. Writer and director Bill Meyer accurately says:

As a writer and director my primary objective is to manipulate you.  I’m only successful if I can get you to cry, to laugh, to ache, and to be thrilled exactly when I want you to.  All the years I’ve trained, all the dialogue I write,    every camera angle I choose, and all the music I use is designed for one reason only: to manipulate your emotions. Now don’t get me wrong; manipulation is not necessarily bad.  I like getting caught up in a good story as much as  the next guy.  All I’m saying is when you step into the theatre or turn on the tube, be aware that somebody is trying to manipulate you; then decide if that is the picture or show you want to be manipulated by.  If it is, fine.  If not,  pass. Because you will not go away unaffected. Let me repeat: You will not go away unaffected.  We’ve gotten too good at what we do.[2]

Some art is just pornography wrapped in artistic license.  The word “pornography” comes from two old Greek words: porne, which originally meant a prostitute; and graphe, meaning a picture, painting, or writing. Pornography feeds our sin nature and the lust inside of us. Jesus taught us to keep our minds pure, not just our bodies.

Keep your guard up even when viewing art. The word “amusement” literally means “non-thinking,” a (non) muse (to think). Take care not to let your guard down when taking in works of art as entertainment (especially music and film). Keep discerning! Take care what you place before the windows of your soul.

[1] Steve Turner, Imagine; a Vision for Christians in the Arts, (Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il, 2001), 119 and 124.

[2] Bill Meyers, Hot Topics, Tough Questions, (Victor Books, Wheaton, Il, 1987) 66.

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