Hi, friends! Welcome to this special bonus episode of "Ideas Have Consequences." Darrow Miller's newest book, "A Call for Balladeers," is finally out and to get your copy stick around till the end of the episode where I'll show you where to get that. Darrow was recently interviewed by Randall Flinn, the founder and artistic director of Ad Deum Dance Company, about the book and his thoughts behind writing it. Randall graciously gave us permission to share this interview with you for this bonus episode. It was an excellent discussion and I think you will thoroughly enjoy it. But before I roll the interview, I thought I would give you a quick background on today's host. Mr. Flinn began his dance training in Houston over 25 years ago, with, among others, the mother of Patrick Swayze, who trained her son Patrick, who is popularly known for his role in "Dirty Dancing." He has taught and choreographed locally as a guest artist for the Houston Ballet Academy, the Houston Met Dance Company, and others. Nationally, he has served as a guest faculty and choreographer for Cirque du Soleil in Argentina, Ballet Magnificat, and others. Having lived throughout Europe and Asia for 10 years, Mr. Flynn has also been a guest artist for numerous groups, including the Hong Kong Ballet, City Contemporary (also in Hong Kong), and Youth With A Mission International Schools for Arts. And without further ado, here's the interview with Randall Flinn and Darrow Miller.
Let me just open in a word of prayer and then I'm going to ask Darrow to introduce himself and give us a little bit of a synopsis about his background. So Father, thank you for this opportunity that we can meet today, and that you would guide this conversation, a time of inspiration, even a time of challenge, but also just a really great time of affirmation, as well. Bless Darrow, Lord God. Take control, Father, of the wheel, so to speak, and guide us where you want to guide us, in Jesus' name. Darrow, I'm going to ask you to go ahead and introduce yourself. Give us a little bit of background. Who, what, where, when, and how?
Okay, well, it's good to be with you all. This is a first time doing something like this with artists and I'm just appreciating Randall and this opportunity. I'm the husband of the bride of my youth, Marilyn. We've been married 56 years--father of four, grandfather of 14. I was a pastor for a few years and then worked for 27 years with an international organization called Food for the Hungry. And for the last 20 years, I've been working with an organization that I helped found called Discipling Nations Alliance. When I was first at Food for the Hungry and started traveling to impoverished countries, I came to realize very quickly that the root of poverty was not the lack of resources or the lack of money. I came to realize that the root of poverty was the lack of a biblical worldview, for shorthand. I realized this in the Dominican Republic in a very poor community there, and I noticed that there were a lot of middle-class homes up on the side of the mountain and I asked who lived there and they said, "The Japanese." I said, "What do you mean--Japanese living here? This is the middle of the Caribbean in the middle of an island and they said, "They came here after World War II with nothing. And in two generations, they were prosperous farmers." And I said, "Well, what about the Dominicans?" They said, "They believe they were born poor, they were going to die poor." They were fatalistic. I said, "What about the Japanese?" And they said they had a word, " kanbare." And I know there's someone here from Japan, so I hope I pronounced that right--Ami. And I said, "What does that mean?" And they said, "Never give up, try harder." And I realized at that moment that the root of poverty was not lack of resources, because both the Japanese and the Dominicans were living in a place that you'd call paradise. And I realized that the root of poverty was the lack of a biblical worldview. And that was a turning point in my life. I spent 27 years working in an international relief and development organization and then helped to found the Disciple Nations Alliance. During this time, I spent a lot of time traveling internationally, a lot of time working with pastors and church leaders, with missionaries. And I spent a lot of time within the YWAM network--some of you know the YWAM network--traveling all over the world teaching in YWAM schools. And of course, I was teaching on worldview and poverty, worldview and development. And I'd have a little--few minutes where I talk about how ideas spread from the intellectuals, to the Balladeers, to the professionals, to the common man. And I'd take five minutes to unpack this. And I can always tell within these groups who the artists were because when I started talking about Balladeers and the role of the arts in discipling nations and transforming culture, these young men and women--their eyes would light up because no one had ever said this to them before, they'd never heard this before. And out of that brief five minutes-- time after time, year after year--I came to write this book, "A Call for Balladeers." And that's where Randall and I met. So, I'm not an artist, but I have a love for the arts and a love for artists and a big heart--compassionate heart--for, particularly, young artists who struggle within the church, because they often are not recognized for their gifting. And they struggle outside the church because, "What are you doing, a Christian out here?" And I've met and wept with a lot of artists as I've traveled. So I have a real heart for artists and the arts, though I am not an artist myself. But it's really good to be with you guys today.
And Darrow, it's so wonderful to have you. Darrow has written a new book. It's called "A Call for Balladeers." And the subtitle is, "Pursuing Art and Beauty for the Discipling of Nations." When I first heard about Darrow, it was in context with my work with Youth With A Mission because Darrow has written a former book that YWAM has passed around the globe called "Discipling the Nations." So, what I knew of this gentleman from my YWAM background was a Biblical scholar on Biblical worldview, but I wasn't associating his teaching, necessarily, with my endeavors as an artist. So as a missionary, yes, indeed, connection. But I had no idea of his background, as well as living for three years with L'Abri Fellowship with Francis Schaeffer in Switzerland. Darrow, can you tell us briefly about those three years with the Schaeffers and how that might have impacted you because I know you also were able to meet Hans Rookmaaker, [who] was Professor of Art at the Free University of Amsterdam? So if you can just kind of tell us how the Schaeffers may have impacted you in your time there?
Yeah, that was a life-changing time, obviously. We went for two months and ended up spending three years there. I'd been in seminary for a year and was burned out spiritually after a year of seminary. My heart was for the poor and the seminary had very little interest in issues of poverty. So there was this tension inside of me--the very thing that God had put on my heart at that point, there was no place for it within the seminary community, so I left after a year. A friend of mine said, "You ought to go to L'Abri." I went to L'Abri, and there I found a group of Christians who took the Bible seriously, who welcomed people from all over the world. They said, "Bring your honest questions, and we will give you honest answers." And I brought my social, kind of social-worker, poverty-fighter background and I heard some Christians who were thinking Christians. They weren't afraid of questions. They trusted Scripture and they went to the Scriptures to find out answers to the basic questions of life. Very powerful time. I went from very discouraged as a young Christian to very encouraged as a Christian. What I had believed about the Scriptures, in fact, there were other people who believed that the Scriptures were true and could deal with life's questions. So my wife and I spent three years there. We spent most of the time working with people who'd come to L'Abri, having no idea what it was. You could come to L'Abri in those days, stay for ten days for free, and just listen to Schaeffer's lectures and talk, and I led those discussions. So it was a life-changing time for me and for many of the young people that came to L'Abri. And that's where I learned about worldview, and that just briefly came out of a conversation with a German lawyer named Udo Middelman. One night, he said, "You know, Darrow, Christianity is true, even if you don't believe it." And I said, "What?" because I had always been taught Christianity was true because I believed it. And here's somebody telling me it's true even if you don't believe it. I didn't sleep for two nights. "What is this guy telling me?" And I finally realized that what he was saying is that Christianity is true even if no one in the world believes. It's true because God exists. It's objectively true. It's true to what's real. And that just blew me away. I had to be born again again. I'd had a born-again heart but not a born-again mind. I had that moment to have my mind born again. That was the beginning of a long journey that brings us to where we are today.
So Darrow, you've noted in your book that the Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper famously said, "There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, 'Mine.'" So I want--with that statement being made, I want to go to kind of the primal beginnings of creativity, of creation--kind of begin there as a premise for our conversation today. When we open the pages of the Bible, the beginnings, how does God introduce himself and reveal his attributes to us? And what should we take from that?
Well, the Bible very simply begins with, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Virtually all of us on this podcast today have grown up in cultures that believe, "In the beginning, nature..." They're atheistic cultures. We are taught atheism from grammar school through university. We think as atheists, and in fact, a godless universe provides no impetus for the arts. But everywhere you go in the world, there are artists, there are people with an impulse to write songs, to paint, to dance, to make fabric, to create food, to develop plays. Everywhere you go in the world, there's not a culture that does not have people who want to express themselves creatively and that's because they're made in the image of God. That's because, "In the beginning, God created." He was the first artist. He made us in His image. He made us to be artists. That's why when you travel around the world, you see arts everywhere, music everywhere, but if you study the underlying culture, you don't always find an impulse for what you find happening around the world.
So we understand the concept of Imago Dei, Biblically, that we've been created in the image of God, God who is creator, God who spoke things into existence by the power of his Word and the momentum of his Spirit. But, even though God is the main character of Genesis, he brings forth other characterization into his story, including mankind. So, can you elaborate a little bit of the origin and the premise of God's ordained cultural order or mandate to his creation of humanity? How does that--should that still affect us?
He created the universe and in that universe, he created a planet like Earth and there he put living things--plants, animals--and then the highest form of creation was the Imago Dei, the image of God. Part of what makes us the image of God is he gave us the ability to take what he has made and do something with it. In fact, that is the cultural mandate we find in Genesis chapter 1. He says to Adam and Eve two things: First, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth." That's the sociological mandate. We're to have families, we're to form families because the family is the bedrock of any society. It's the first institution, if you want to call it that, that God created, was the family. And then he said to Adam and Eve, "Here, look at what I've given you. Take it and make something of it, do something with it." We were to act creatively with the materials, the raw materials that God gave us. It's important to realize that when God was finished with creation, it was good and his work was perfect but it was not finished. When God finished his work, it was good, it was perfect, but it was not finished. Who was to finish it? Look at one another. Look at each other in the face. His intention is for us to take what he has made--and one way to say it is govern it. Another way to say it is steward it. Another way to say it is to take it and make something of it. Look at the creation, what lays hidden to discover, and when you discover something, what are you going to do with it? Not just to consume it. That's what we're taught in our societies today, we're here as consumers. No, we're not here as consumers. We are here as Imago Dei, we are here as creators to create words. God used words to create the universe. In fact, it's the code, it's the words that are more important than the physical things. He formed, he created the material--in Genesis 1.1, he created the material to make all the diversity of the universe, but Genesis 1.2 says, "The earth was formless and void; darkness was over the face of the deep." There was no distinction. It was just a blob. And then, God used words to form the blob into higher and higher forms. So the words, the speaking the words, is more important than the actual physical lump of clay. And so he made us in his image. He told us to take what he has made and do something with it. And then in Genesis 2--this is so incredible--he tells Adam to name the animals. He didn't say, "Adam, look in the tree. You see that animal up there? I made it and I named it. You call it by the name that I give it." He didn't say that. He said, "Adam, look up in the tree. Do you see that animal? I made it. You name it, and whatever you name it, that's what I will call it." Now that is powerful.
So one of the attributes of God, he's all powerful, but he's also humble, and we see his humility there in Genesis 2--"Name the animals." This is the whole part. God speaks and he makes us wordmakers, wordsmiths.
So then, Darrow, we're beginning this conversation in Genesis, in creation, worldview, the beginnings. But, realistically, for the most part, when there is a conversation of theological concepts brought to culture, even into the body of Christ, it's not the norm so much that we're starting with creation in our evangelistic approach. We're starting with the Fall. We want mankind to know about the Fall and how mankind fell and fell into sin and there was rebellion against God and so now everything has been corrupted and thank God that Jesus came and died on the cross for the redemption. And due to that, then one day when we die, we can go to heaven and be with him. And that's the whole story and take the story. But, why is it important in a holistic theological worldview to begin with Creation instead of the Fall?
Because that's where the story begins. It begins with Creation. Think of yourself reading a book. But you don't start with chapter one, you start with chapter three. Are you going to get a very different impression of the book?
Are you going to a movie late, and you've missed the first 15 minutes of the movie. Are you going to have a different impression of the movie when you come in late? And I think the church has become so focused (and rightly focused) on Christ and the Cross, that we eliminate Genesis 1 and 2 and become what I would call Genesis 3 Christians. We begin the narrative with Genesis 3, the Fall, because that sets up the Cross, and in fact, we truncate the whole Bible, in that we don't cover the Creation and the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1 and 2. And we really just stop in Revelation with the Return of Christ, period. And we've left off some of the most incredible things in Scripture--Genesis 1 and 2, establishing the fact that we're made in the image of God, we're made as God's vice-regents, we're made to be creative. This is the impetus for creativity in the world and it's the impetus for you as dancers and writers and painters. It is the foundation for why God has made you, but if you look at the end of the narrative in Revelation 21, when Christ returns, we see towards the end of Revelation 21, there's the city of God. There's no need for sun or moon any longer. Why is there no need for the sun or the moon any longer? Because Christ is the lamp. Christ is the light. And that light will draw all nations to the city of God. And then it's very interesting, because it says, "The kings of the earth will bring the glory of their nations in to the city of God." What is the glory of the nations? I would argue it is those godly things that have been made by image-bearers of God that have been refined. They've been purified. And they become the things that decorate the walls of Heaven.
So when we leave out Genesis 1 and 2, the whole sense of our being made in the image of God, the whole sense of taking what God has made and doing something with it--it's not just something with it in time. It is in time, but it is also for eternity. When you begin with a materialistic model, there is no God. There is nothing beyond this grave. You strip a large dimension of what creativity is all about. You've stripped the foundation for it and you've stripped the potential glory of it in eternity. So that's why it's really important to begin with Genesis 1 and to read through the end of Revelation because without that, the Biblical message is truncated.
So Darrow, in your book, you point us to what could be called the creational virtues or the transcendentals. And of course, you know, especially those of us coming from evangelical backgrounds, we are very familiar with the Good--we could call those the ethics of our Christian faith--and then the True--the apologetics, the Biblical framework--but it's rare that we enter into discussions about Beauty. In your book, though, you group these together in a Trinitarian concept of culture that God has ordained and that actually stem from the very being of who God is in his attributes. So let's look into this a moment. How does beauty connect with the transcendentals of what is good and true, especially within a biblical framework? Why would beauty also take its position and its role next to what is good (tov)--what God established as good in his Word--and God's truth?
The thing that sets these together, as you mentioned a minute ago--they are born out of the very character and nature of God. God is true, God is good, and God is beautiful. Another way of saying it is God is glorious. That's the beauty--the light of his beauty, his gloriousness. We know of the Trinity as one God and three distinct, unique persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so I speak of these three characteristics of God--truth, beauty, and goodness--as Trinitarian. They come from the one God--they're part of his character--but we can look at them differently, just as we see the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are different. They can't be separated, but you can look at them and discuss them distinctly and relate to all three and it's the same thing with the Cultural Trinity of truth, beauty and goodness. We can spend more time on this, but one of the things that so many evangelicals and charismatics do not have is a theology of beauty. Most often, Roman Catholics have a theology of beauty, but Protestants tend to have a theology of, "Is it pragmatic? Does it work?"
Utilitarian, yeah, we have a theology of utility. I remember when I was in Colombia a few years ago, I did a series of lectures. In fact, those series of lectures became this book. The conference was "A Call for Balladeers." We had about 120-130 young people from 12 different Latin countries--all young Christians, all artists. They were already practicing their art or were longing to be artists. On the way to the conference center, a friend of mine who's a pastor drove me and he said, "Darrow, how come you're always talking about beauty?" And I thought, "Well, that's an interesting question from a pastor, he should know." I said, "Because God is beautiful, quite simply. That's the only reason I talk about beauty. God is beautiful." So we talked about that a while, then at the conference during the lecture that I gave on beauty, one of the young artists put her hand up and she said, "Darrow, why are you talking about beauty as if it were objective? We all know that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." And I can tell you, I had that thought, too, until I was in my mid-fifties, when I read a book called "The Evidential Power of Beauty," in which I was challenged by a Catholic scholar about beauty being an objective quality because it came from God's nature. Most of us would not say--unless we've become postmodern--that morals are relative or truth is relative, but most of us--even Christians--would say beauty is relative. And I would say, no, if you really believe in God's nature, he is the source of beauty. He is the standard for beauty and there is is an objective standard for what is beautiful. The other thing that the Catholics have helped me with is that in this postmodern age where people do not like to be told that the concept of truth exists, or even less don't like being told that what they say is not true, and they live in a morally relativistic universe where morals are relative, "you do what you feel like doing." In this postmodern world, the one thing that can still speak is beauty. And there's a number of Catholics that have said very clearly that beauty is the gateway to truth and goodness. If you have a culture that wants nothing to do with a moral discussion or a discussion of truth claims, how are you ever going to reach them? If you start the discussion on the level of morality and truth claims, you're probably going to turn the average person off today, but beauty is something that--when people see something beautiful, they usually stand in awe. And so they have argued that beauty is the gateway for truth and goodness. I found that very helpful.
So, in general, how can we pinpoint a time in history where the dichotomy between these transcendentals begins to exist more prolifically? And then, how did this also affect the church within the mindset of a dualistic view of life? So, can we give a little bit of a historical insight into this great divide?
Yeah. Well, first, if we start with Scripture, Scripture is comprehensive, it's holistic. I don't know how many of you have heard the name Jordan Peterson. He's not a Christian yet. He's a Canadian psychologist, but he has been studying the Bible and doing some incredible work teaching the Bible and I think he's on a journey to Christ. To my knowledge, he's not there yet, but he's on his way to the cross. He has come to make the statement that the Bible is not merely true--the Bible is the foundation for all truth. The Bible is the foundation for the concept of truth. This is a man who, five or ten years ago, was an atheist, but he believed in truth. He was one of the old liberals who believed in truth and had a lifelong journey in the pursuit of truth. Now, he's come to discover the Scripture and he's started reading the Scriptures and this is his conclusion: the Bible isn't merely true--it is the foundation for all truth. I think this is the sense of Scripture. We could go into a long discussion right here, but I won't. It was the Reformation 500 years ago with Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and others that really spoke of the Bible foundationally for truth. Christians, following the Reformation, had a profound concept of truth being holistic and comprehensive. Then along came Charles Darwin. Darwin's theory of evolution made the concept of a universe without God seem plausible. His theory of evolution so took over the mind of European culture, European universities, that it became the integration point--Darwinism became the integration point for all knowledge in European universities. Prior to Darwin, the integration point was theology. Theology was known as the "queen of sciences" and the Bible was the integration point for all knowledge, whether it's about the arts or education. It was the foundation, or as Peterson said, the Bible and the Biblical concept of truth was the foundation for all truth and the discovery of truth. With Darwin, all that changed. Atheism became the integration point of all courses in the universities. What did the church do at that point? Instead of defending the Biblical worldview, instead of defending a comprehensive universe in which God exists as Creator and who created a spiritual and a physical realm that were integrated, instead of defending that holistic worldview, the church didn't think they could keep up with the atheistic assault. And so they stuck their heads in the sand like the ostrich and they pretended that there was no attack coming. If you think of an ostrich in Africa, it sees a lion and it sticks its head in the sand and it thinks the lion has gone away and that's what the church leadership did. One hundred twenty or so years ago, they stuck their heads in the sand and said, "Don't ask questions. Just believe. If you ask questions, hard questions, it may be a sign that you really are not a believer." So the church at that time separated the spiritual from the physical and they put the spiritual in a higher plane and the physical in a lower plane. We know this today as the sacred-secular divide. This comes into the church. It's the way the church thinks today. This is why the church is not particularly interested in Genesis 1 and 2. It's interested in spiritual things, and to get to Christ, you have to have the Fall so they begin as Genesis 3 Christians, not Genesis 1 Christians, and that leaves them in this sacred-secular divide. They look at the world through a spiritual lens, just as the atheists lose half the universe when they look at the universe through a naturalistic lens. Anything that is not naturalistic doesn't exist for the atheist. The church has taken the opposite track. Basically, what's important to the church is spiritual things. It's Bible study, it's prayer, it's evangelism, it's going to heaven. This narrative is a spiritual narrative and it's one of the reasons they don't know what to do with artists. If you're an artist and you want to lead worship, that's a good thing. If you want to be part of an evangelistic team, that's a good thing. But if you're not going to do evangelism, if you're not part of a church planting team, if you're not going to lead worship, we don't quite know what to do with you. So we have the sacred-secular divide. It's how the church largely thinks. It's one of the reasons that the church largely does not know what to do with the arts and doesn't know what to do with half of life.
So then, Darrow, how does the sacred-secular divide, which is really a gnostic philosophical concept, how does it affect our--I'm going to use the word that you just used--holistic witness within the gates of culture?
We don't necessarily see a need for holistic witness. We see a need for sharing Christ and getting people saved and getting them coming to church. That's what our sacred-secular narrative tells us is the important thing and that's why Christians who have a call to be engineers or to be artists or filmmakers--what does that mean? You probably all know Christians who are artists who have struggled with this within the church. Quite frankly, once again, that's one of the reasons I wrote this book. I've wept with too many artists over the years who have been stuck. They know that they've got a gift for the arts. They love what they're doing with the arts, but they don't find support within the church or outside the church, generally. So we need to shift the paradigm. We need to return to a Biblical paradigm, and that's what this book is about--to create a biblical framework for understanding the arts and to call men and women who are artists to live within the biblical framework and not struggle within either the dualistic framework or the Darwinian secular framework.
So then, if the arts--I'll connect this with beauty, aesthetics, in a sense--if, through the lens and connected to our faith in Christ, approaching it from an objective understanding that it begins in the beginning and the beginning begins with God. So then that gives us a different approach to--I'll use the term "combat" or "engage"--falsehood, falsehood stemming from humanistic relativism? Why is it important to engage falsehood from an artistic standpoint and not just a moral, ethical standpoint?
The Disciple Nations Alliance has a podcast every week and it's called "Ideas Have Consequences." This last week, we interviewed Jenny Park, who is a concert pianist and was one of the people that endorsed the book, "A Call for Balladeers." She read the book in one evening, sent her endorsement, and said, "This book changed my life." She read it the next night for the second time and contacted me and said, "I want to do a concert to celebrate the launch of this book." We've never done a concert before. We've never had a book launch before. We just write the books, get them published, and then we go on. So anyway, we did an interview with Jenny this last week--I think it'll probably be out at "Ideas Have Consequences" this coming week--but she talked about her own coming to love music. She said she was five years old. She was listening to Chopin as a five-year old and her mother walked into the room and this five-year-old girl was lying on the floor, feet in the air, crying as she listened to Chopin. That was the beginning of her love for beauty and her love for music. She remembers the day and the moment, and she said, "Darrow I've learned to walk in music." And she described--I can't do this because I don't walk in music--but she began to describe what it was like to walk in music, and just from what she described, my world got bigger and bigger, just listening to her. She's going to be playing at the concert this Friday and I can't wait to hear her play the piano because she enters this space where she walks in music. And I think this is what an artist can do. They can create a space that people can experience. I remember I was with a group of young Brazilian leaders a few years ago. One of the people in the group was a concert guitarist, a classical guitarist and he would play the guitar when we worshiped, but there was this one time where we had been talking about the dignity of women. It was a very powerful time in this group and he said, "Can I play something?" and he played Bach on his guitar and the room was transformed. Same people, sitting in the same chairs, same room, and he started playing Bach and it created a space and everybody moved from that room into that space when he started playing. This is what artists can do. They can create spaces for people to experience something that they've never experienced before. They can step for a moment into a fuller understanding of what's real.
So then, Darrow, why is there still such an evangelical fear, caution, resistance to the transcendental virtue of beauty? What are the suspicions? What are the things that negate a greater emphasis on or affirmation of those that have been endowed by God with creative intuition and imagination? How do we repair the gap?
Well, again, I think it begins on the cosmic level of understanding that there's a beautiful Creator. Without that, with the scorched-earth concept of reality of being only material--we as Christians are limited by that and our culture is limited by that. So on the profound end, we need to start with God's nature and character first, his existence and that he is beautiful and that he created. He is the Creator. He is the first artist. Pastors need to understand that. Church leaders need to understand that. God is the first artist. I'm going to take a sidetrack for a minute and hopefully I can get back to the point. I was in Bolivia one time, up in the high Andes, in a very impoverished village. I had been asked to teach, on a Sunday morning, a group of non-literate Andean farmers--dirt-poor, wearing rags. I thought, "What can I possibly say to them?" I opened the Scriptures and began reading from Genesis 2 and I came to the passage where it says, "And God planted a garden." And then I said it again: "And God planted a garden." And I said it very slowly and deliberately. About the fifth time I said, "God planted a garden," all of a sudden, their eyes got huge. Who is God? He's the first farmer. He's the Creator. He choreographed the flight of the eagle. He choreographed the dance of the porpoise and dolphin. He was the first painter. We need to begin there and call the church to a biblical vision of holism. That's where we begin. Churches need to contribute money to the arts. You need to create a space in the church where artists can thrive. And then artists need to begin to do what Tolkien describes, if you remember, in his little book, "Leaf by Niggle." He describes what good fairy stories are--a good fairy story reveals the primary creator and the primary creation. That's probably the first quality of good art--it's not religious art, it doesn't talk about God, it doesn't talk about Jesus. It's not that it doesn't, but it doesn't have to. But through whatever the art form is, it conveys the existence of the first creator and the reality of the first creation. So that sort of frames the answer I would give.
So then, Darrow, what I hear you saying in all of this is that not just the arts, but artists--especially those that by the grace of God have been redeemed through the blood of Jesus and brought into a communion with the Father and the reception of the Holy Spirit--you're saying that this is a necessity--not an option, but a necessity--to an awakening of our faith, of the faith that's embedded in Christ, as an awakening to culture, and that if we negate that assignment, then we're negating a mandate, a commissioning, from Christ himself. That's packed full of a big punch my friend. So yeah, let's talk about that a second.
Well, let me touch here. We know the Great Commission in the Gospels. By the way, the Great Commission is not the Gospel of salvation. That's the Greek Commission--"save souls for heaven." That's the Greek Commission. Now the Great Commission is what?
Nations. That's the Great Commission. That's the Great Commission in the Gospels, the Good News. Paul talked about the Great Commission. He talked about Christ's life, death, burial and resurrection as "the Gospel"--and it is, but what did Jesus talk about? The coming of the Kingdom of God. When Jesus uses the phrase "the Gospel," it's the coming of the Kingdom of God. What you find there, though, is the Second Commission. What's the First Commission? Because there was a First Commission and that's what we find in Genesis 1. We've called it the Cultural Commission. We've called it the Developmental Commission, but it is the First Commission--given by God to the first couple--to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and govern, have dominion over, steward what I have made. Take what I have made and do something with it. Use your creativity. Create music, create symphonies, create musical instruments, write poetry, create theater, develop cuisines for wonderful meals, develop fabrics, develop dance, create, create, create. Why? Because I'm the First Artist. That needs to become the mindset of Christendom and it can begin with Christian artists.
So then, the role of the artist is as significant and crucial to the proclamation of the kingdom and to the flourishing of culture as the preacher, the theologian, the traditional missionary? In a sense, you're saying that the artist in Christ is also embracing a missional call, a theological call, a kingdom endeavor that is as significant as the hierarchy of spiritual roles in life.
Yes, in fact, I'm not just advocating that. I'm saying the old vision of hierarchical roles that only pastors have calls is not Biblical. It's not Biblical. That's the two-tiered, sacred-secular dichotomy. Everyone has a calling. Artists have a calling, and it's not a secondary calling. There's no primary and secondary calling.
So, in a culture which is saturated with humanistic relativism, postmodernism, everything being subjective, illuminate us to our position--because we're all creatives on this call--to our position in engaging and impacting the culture. What is the significance of our contribution in a culture in which you can almost smell the falsehood?
Well, this is why the book is called "A Call for Balladeers." It's not "A Call for Artists." There are a lot of artists, and I mean "artists" broadly--poets, wordsmiths, dancers, actors, playwrights, filmmakers, that's the big category of "artists"--but what is a balladeer? A balladeer is someone who speaks prophetically to the culture. Now I don't mean "prophesies" the way a lot of churches think of prophesying--"speaking the future." I'm speaking of speaking prophetically, speaking truth to the culture through the arts, through your film, through your poetry. Every time you go to a movie, somebody's idea has been put to film. If the film is done well, you're just going to absorb that idea. Somebody writes a piece of music. If it's done well, you'll be able to hum that music after you've heard it on the radio or if you've been to the concert, you'll be able to hum that music. They're bringing a message and that message is creating culture. A few years ago--and I know this is an old illustration, but I'm old, so--a few years ago, Britney Spears and Madonna were doing a global concert. I think it was about 10 years ago, 12 years ago. They did a concert, a global concert together. Tens of millions of young people around the world listened to and watched that concert. At the end of one of their songs, they did a French kiss. Was that intentional? Yes, they had a message, and that message went to the heart and the head of millions of young people. It was a lie, but the lie was believed because it was cast through music. In a sense, it bypassed reason. It was just accepted. We are to speak prophetically to the culture. Sometimes, we can do it crudely and negatively, and that's not what we should do. We should do it creatively and positively, so that through our poetry, through our film, through our dance, we are creating a space for an idea--for good, for beauty, for truth--to be manifested through whatever our art form is. Some of you know Jeremiah and Mona Enna, or know of them. They have the Storling Dance Theatre in Kansas City. Mona is a very gifted dancer and choreographer. My wife and I flew back to see their ballet "Underground." They portrayed the freeing of the slaves through the Underground Railroad through ballet. It was incredible. What they were doing in that ballet was talking about, "Black slaves are not black slaves. They're the image of the living God" and that Christians have a responsibility to help set them free and to stand against the evil of slavery. All that without a word. As Mona said, when asked by a child, "How come you don't speak?" she said, "Oh, we do speak, we speak with our legs." A profound ballet that spoke prophetically to the culture. So that's what I mean by balladeer. It's not "A Call for Artists." It's "A Call for Balladeers." People can be gifted in the arts, and are gifted in the arts, whether they know Christ or not. The thing is, if you know Christ and God has given you a gift, what are you doing with it? Are you using it to speak, through whatever the the art is, to speak prophetically to the culture, to speak beauty, truth and goodness to the culture?
You know, Darrow, as you were sharing, a thought just hit me. Maybe for some of us, even some of us that are joining in today, but just considering believer-artists--maybe we have so desired for the institutional church to grant us position and have awaited their christening of our gifts and our call, and maybe in the meantime of patiently waiting for some type of affirmation or patronage, we have, in a sense, avoided our prophetic assignment to the culture and not just the subculture that we've been awaiting permission. What are your thoughts on that?
Yeah, I would simply say you don't need permission from the church to pursue the gifts that God has given you and that waiting for that permission can stifle what God intends. Now the church needs to wake up. She needs to break out of her sacred-secular slumber, but don't wait for that. If God has put something on your heart, then go for it and see what he does. See what he does with that.
Now, for those of us who want to, in a sense, imaginatively "smoke a peace pipe" with the church, and even the church that is still locked into a dualistic divide--so in other words, we don't have the hearts of rebels in a negative concept, although I do believe that there is a form of being a rebel that does not have to be negative--it just means that you're very passionate about going against the flow and entering into that which you know that you were born to do. But, if we do have a desire to create a place of communication and understanding within the institutional structure of the church or church leadership, outside of handing our pastors a copy of your book and saying, "Please, read this...please!", what would be some practical ways that we can endeavor to bring a greater understanding of everything that we've just talked about today?
I would encourage you to do something simple, like some Wednesday night, have a gathering of people at the church who come and bring some poetry they've written or their piece of art that they've drawn. Have something at the church building where you can encourage people that they don't have to be professional artists because in one sense, as Edith Schaeffer points out in her book "Hidden Art," we all are image bearers of God. We all are artists on that level. Sponsor a creative night or a Friday night of creativity or something like that. You could get some people together in the church who are artists, and do a Vacation Bible Study during the summer with kids, but it's not a Vacation Bible Study. It's an art program for kids that are poor as an activity of the church. What are some of those things where you as a Christian can do something within the framework of the church that is art-oriented and begin to create some space for people to be thinking, "Oh, well, what else could we do?" Maybe you have a concert at the church that's not simply a worship service. That's what I would do, is connect. Let me tell you a story. This story is found in the book. A friend of mine from India had a real heart for the poor. For years, ten years, he worked in very poor communities in India doing health education. I was visiting him in India and we were flying together and he confided in me. He said, "Darrow, I'm very frustrated. I love working with the poor. It's my calling. I love doing what I'm doing, but in order to do it, I gave up art." He said, "I love to paint and I love to write music and I gave that up so I could work among the poor." And I said, "Stephen, who told you, you could only do one of those things? Where did that idea come from? Don't listen to that idea. God has made you a unique individual and he's given you a love for the poor and he's given you talents and a love for the arts. What does the intersection of those two things look like?" His whole life was transformed by that question. One of the many things that came out of that was a group called the Create Commission. The Great Commission? No, the Create Commission. Another thing that came out of it, he started working with street people in New Delhi, people who lived on the street. There's millions of people that are street people that live on the streets in India. He began working with people on the streets, both adults and kids, teaching them to paint. Did that change their lives? It most certainly did. Nobody ever stopped to help them see that they were made in the image of God and they could paint. So what are some ministry things, missional things that you could do from your church, with other people in the church, to combine art--to make the church more aware of the arts? Those would be some ideas.
Well, Darrow, I so appreciate--because I look at you, because you are established as a teacher, a leader, an educator and a theologian so well grounded in the Word of God, yet you are a champion as well, an affirmer of those among us who believe in the Lord, who want to serve the Lord, who want to walk in the fullness of our calling, but sometimes feel stifled or unsupported. I hear you singing our song, in a sense, and affirming and challenging because both dynamics need to happen. I don't just need to be stroked. I need to be challenged as well to get on with the program--first of all, my relationship with God and then also God's commissioning over my life--and to examine as a vice-regent, as a steward, to take into account the necessity of treating that gift well, treating my relationship with him well and treating the gift well, and making sure as much as depends on me, that there is multiplication that is taking place. And again, this whole understanding of the balladeer as a prophetic bard of the kingdom of God working redemptively as a joint heir with Christ in partnership with Christ, of making things new, of truly being salt and truly being light. But we all need backbones. We all need iron sharpening iron. That's what this community has been about that's been meeting for the past almost two years and this is what your book is so beautifully connecting us with. So I would encourage you guys, I'm going to ask Darrow, in a moment, how we go about acquiring this book. But I would say when you do, don't just keep it for yourself. Pass it on to other artists to help encourage them and give it to people in church leadership, especially the pastors as much as possible, and say, "Hey, this might offer a little bit more insight into the necessity for the virtue of beauty to become a part of our true witness or holistic witness into the culture in which we live." Something that Darrow's book really brought out to me--which I have firmly believed for years, but sometimes when you read things in a different way, it'll illuminate you in a fresh, new way--is the whole concept that the transcendental of beauty is imperative to the kingdom of God, especially within the timeframe that we live in, where even in the American fabric of life, the Judeo-Christian undergirdings or ethics have been ripped out from that framework. Now, we're trying to kind of re-seed the ground, in a sense, to sow into that ground by nurturing it again with the fruitfulness of the kingdom of God and our participation is so necessary to doing that. Then I realized, "Well, Lord, I'm not in the background." Because so often as artists, we just feel like we're out there in the background and maybe once in a while we can make a contribution that is seemingly significant, or at least we hope that in some way it is. But we look at it as temporal as well. Well, "That was the event," or "I got to do this." Darrow, what you're saying to us is that, "No, in Christ, there is no temporal offering of our self and our gifting. It is connected to the remaking and also into the fullness of eternity where this will be a part of our crowns that we lay at his feet."
Exactly. So do it well, and with joy.
Indeed. Well, guys, I'm going to open it up because I've asked enough questions and you might have questions or comments for Darrow or just sharing with him what this conversation may have meant for you personally today. And then from there, we'll conclude. So feel free one at a time to unmute yourself and ask your question or comment.
I have two questions, if I may. So my first--in Genesis 1.2, when you look in the Hebrew, you see that it's very incarnational. Yes, the Lord is speaking and yet he is hovering over the earth--the concept of, like an eagle who is ready to catch the eaglet learning how to fly--and so, how can we be involved of recreating incarnational in the midst of arts?
Let me start with the first part of what you're saying and then come back to the second part. You're right, that phrase there in Genesis 1.2, the word "hovering" is the picture of a bird that's hovering. The Spirit of God is hovering, as it were, over the raw material of the universe. Of course, what we find in the next verses (v. 3 through the end of the chapter), there is forming of that material. It's taking the raw material and each time God does something with it, or the Spirit of God does something with it, it is formed to a higher level with more diversity. We could spend an hour on that subject, but the picture is also of gestation. You think of the mother bird settling on her eggs, hovering over the eggs and settling on them. This is the period of gestation. What takes place between Genesis [1.2] and what comes [next] is the gestation process. There is the concept process--God conceives of the universe he wants to make and now he's going to speak it into existence and part of that is the gestation, just as a woman was built to carry a baby but there is the period of impregnating and then there's the period of gestating the growth of the baby in the womb. I think many of us--God isn't finished with us yet. He's still working with you as artists. What is he gestating in you? What is it that he wants to bring forth out of the creativity he has given you to birth something that's new? I mean, you can write a poem that no one has ever read before. Some of you can write a piece of music that no ear has ever heard before. I mean, this is--what God has gifted you with is absolutely stunning. What is it that he has gestated in you that He wants to birth into the world so that the world will be richer because of that painting, that poem, that dance?
What was the second part to your question?
Go ahead, Kevin.
Well, I was curious in terms of the second part of Genesis 1.2, the incarnational aspect, so as artists, or however you want to describe it. How can we best be incarnational with the culture, incarnational with others, as we are proclaiming prophetically through our art, through our writing, through our dance? If you can dance--that's not my calling, by the way. But I do know that in terms of dance--we had, since we were working with kids with disabilities, we had dance movement therapy and we had to learn how do we use kids in wheelchairs? I was really struggling, but we had a volunteer, who just immediately said, "That's easy. Put them in the middle, and the circular dances can go all around them, so that they become the most important part of the dance." I was taken aback and thought, "You are absolutely correct." Those dances became way more beautiful than they were initially. So anyway, I was just wanting to ask about what's your concept of incarnational for those who are promoting the arts?
Well, when I think of incarnation, it's simply "the fleshing out of." What are you going to flesh out through your life? If it's at an easel, what are you going to flesh out at that easel? If you're working with kids that are handicapped, what are you going to flesh out with art in their midst? I think you described something of--whoever suggested that, putting the child in the center in the wheelchair, it brought new life to that whole situation. That is the word become flesh.
Guys, we just have a few more minutes. So anyone else have a quick question? Or just a comment? Patty.
Thank you. My heart breaks, Randall, when I hear, you know, the continued reality of artists who don't feel connected to the body of Christ. And yet there is this call, right? And I was--I'm paraphrasing a quote I heard yesterday--"No longer will resistance be my enemy, but it will be my place of calling." I just felt that that fits in with this. There was a phrase about Caleb, that his name means "to burn outside of the crowd." I thought, "You know what, this is our place and to actually be bold." I don't know about all of you, but I am really--I'm hearing you today, you know, both of you--and my heart is just saying yes. You know, continue to apprehend what we've been apprehended for, and to do it. It matters. So, I just am really encouraged and thank you.
What was that phrase that you started with, Patty?
It is the--let me just go back to it. "No longer will resistance be my enemy, but it will be my place of calling."
That is wonderful.
You know, we've always looked for open doors, but we actually--we have the tools for mass inspiration.
That's right. I have a friend in Australia and she said to me one time, "The church knows how to make nice Christians. We need to make dangerous Christians."
That parallels what you've just said, and I think in another generation--we are to be nice, in one sense, but in another sense, we are to be dangerous.
Yes, because if in fact, what I was supposed to conquer in my lifetime is not conquered, I leave it to the next generation and I leave a filthy system for them that they can't drink from. They can't find purity because my life hasn't been pure. Even as artists with these holy hands that we lift in worship and we play our instruments and we paint and we dance and we move, I just really believe the stirring of God is for us to be on fire and to walk pure. And I believe that--I believe what you're saying is that the world will respond. You cannot help but respond when you see the glory of God reflected through an artist.
Yeah. Very good.
Thank you, Patty. I've written that down and I'm going to share it with people.
So Darrow, can you tell us how do we go about acquiring the book?
It will be out in a paperback version. It's going to be in a Flip version, which is a blend between a Kindle version and a book. It'll be in a Flip version and it will be in a Kindle version and we're right on the cusp of having actual physical copies in our hands in the next few days. You can go to disciplenations.org website. It's the organization I work with disciplenations.org/balladeers - That's a portion of our website where we are wanting to promote the concept of balladeers and begin to link people together who are balladeers. The information about the launch and concert in Southern California is at that place and we will also be notifying you when the book is available and how to get it. You will be able to get it through Amazon--we found it's going to be very expensive because of the quality of book that it is--and it'll be on Kindle, and it'll be much cheaper in the Flip version. We're going to do work with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) to get it published through them, but you'll be able to get it instantly from Amazon.
Great, and I would encourage you as well--I've already done this, actually, so with my dance company and our mentorship program, we meet three days a week. We have 30 minutes before we go into our classes and rehearsals where we do theology-and-the-arts conversation and Darrow's book is going to be our primary textbook. I also teach a course for Palm Beach Atlantic University called "The Missional Call for the Arts" and Darrow's book will also be our textbook. But I would encourage you, maybe once you get the book, and you go through it yourself, you know, make notations. I told Darrow, I have a computer copy and it looks like a coloring book, I've made so many notes. But I would encourage you to start like a study group, get together with some other artistic friends or people that are even just interested in this whole connection between art, beauty theology, and bring people together and open up. Also, the book, outside of its incredible information, has a study guide within the book. So there's questions already there to spark conversation within a group setting as well. So yeah, so I would encourage you, yeah, get a hold of the book, and start some type of a study group, and even maybe encourage your church, "Hey, would you like to have"--you know, how churches have like study groups in the mornings before service? Maybe there could be a particular study group utilizing Darrow's book.
One other thing, we do a podcast every week called "Ideas Have Consequences" and we have been doing podcasts lately about the arts. So those of you that are interested in what we've been talking about today, we have been interviewing people who are balladeers.
And guys, I will let you know that today, we have only covered a very small percentage of what's in Darrow's book. He also gives us such a framework on the various worldviews, where those worldviews come from--like really in-depth look into those worldviews. So yes, even though our major percentage of our time is engaging in our art, as believers, we also really need some very strong theological foundations and also to understand the various worldviews that are in existence in various cultures today. And even in one particular culture like America, we have so many diversities of worldviews, even in our own country, so to be able to understand these things gives us more insight into the prophetic endeavor of our creativity. Darrow, thank you so much.
Thank you, Randall.
Thank you for just, yeah, for carrying us as artists as well and helping us to know that our lives in Christ are meaningful, that our gifts are meaningful--and not just meaningful, but they're vital to the kingdom of God. Thank you.
Thank you for listening to this bonus episode of "Ideas Have Consequences." Like Darrow just said, to get your copy of "A Call for Balladeers," go to acallforballadeers.org. From there, you can get your copy as either an e-book or now in paperback as well. On that page, you can read the introduction to the book and the endorsements, watch the promo video, and listen to the book's theme song that an inspired artist wrote and sang in response to reading the book. Again, that is acallforballadeers.org. Thanks again for listening to this episode of "Ideas Have Consequences."