I’ve been thinking lately about the role of writing, and of course continuing the dialogue with myself on the role of Story and how to use it rightly. To that discussion, I add this post: The Intended Goal of Art.
Is the highest goal of any art form to glorify God? Not that it be pleasing to Him, as in no violence or sex or swearing, but does it point the viewer to Him? If I glorified a band, I would be praising them and talking about them constantly, and those who heard me would find their attention being pointed not toward me, but rather toward the object of my praise. It is in that sense that I say the highest goal of any art form is to glorify God. I read an article today from Relevant about Christian films being cheesy (http://www.relevantmagazine.com/culture/film/blog/21545-cheesiness-is-a-sin), and points were made that films are meant to entertain and tell good stories.
Wrong! To say that film is all about entertainment and simply good, compelling stories is to make the art form of film all about self-gratification! All art – all things created by mankind as an external expression of internal thought – is meant not to gratify personal pleasures, but to point to God and glorify Him. This is not a rule imposed upon creative works, but rather the highest level to which they reach. Art is not meant to better society, or bring awareness to issues, or give the audience a good time. These things will surely happen, but only as a secondary result. The first and foremost purpose of all Art is to point the viewer toward God. To glorify Him and honor Him. To praise Him simply because He’s worthy.
Why is it so hard for us to believe that this is film’s ultimate purpose? We readily accept that the musician writes a song, and sings it and plays it to glorify God, and the filmmaker simply does the same thing. He writes and makes a movie to glorify God. Again, it is not a rule imposed upon the expression, but instead something that is fundamentally the original purpose out of which art should spring and toward which it should aim.
How is this purpose worked out practically? The definition of the verb “to glorify” is, “to reveal or make clearer the glory of God by one’s actions.” Jesus glorified the Father through telling parables. Musicians glorify God through great songs that cause me to rise up and praise God for who He is, that adjust my focus and get it off of my problems and onto the Problem-Solver.
Why can’t film be used in the same way?
The tendecy is to see this as a rule, a checkpoint through which my films must past. But it is not so! It is the ultimate purpose of Art. When Art functions this way, it finds its perfect and intended expression. Using a vacuum to mow the grass may kind of work, but when a vacuum is used on a dirty carpet, see how it shines! Watch how it thrives in the right environment, when used for its intended purpose!
So to with Art. When used for their correct purposes, for the intended purposes, all art forms will shine with a brilliant and inextinguishable light and strike more hearts and change more lives than even a well-told story – and certainly more than an artwork merely intended for entertainment – ever would. The ability to create was given to Man by God as a way to externally express his internal thoughts (being made in the image of the Creator, we too can create – though not from nothing). It is what separates Man from animals; we can create and express our internal thoughts in such a way as to share them widely with other people. It is a priceless gift from God to Man, and intended to be used for that which God created all beings: to glorify Him. Paul said it well in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (emphasis added). This the end purpose of all things, for “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised” (Ps. 145:3).
When Art is used for its intended purpose, it will reveal and make clearer the glory of God, and in that alone will we the audience find our greatest satisfaction, because we were made to be satisfied only by Him. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well” (Mt. 6:33).
To entertain the audience is not the ultimate purpose of film. It is only secondary; though it will happen, it is not the primary purpose. The primary purpose intended for film is to give Man another way of revealing and making clearer the magnificence, the great beauty, the renown, the honor, the awe – in a word, the Glory – of God.
Seek that first, and all else will spring from it. I can only imagine what it will be like when all Art, all spheres of society, all of Mankind is repositioned toward their intended goal: to glorify God, to reveal and make clearer His glory and majesty.
“Come quickly, Lord Jesus!”