1. Great post, and thanks for quoting me. 🙂 I haven’t been to your blog before the post that Kaci shared, but I will return… You are a thoughtful writer, and I’m intrigued by many of the things you’ve shared. The artist as priest idea is really interesting. I hadn’t thought about it before. I’m going to ruminate on that one for a while…

    One thing I think about books that are more ambiguous about the Christian side of things, especially with regard to fantasy: Sometimes being less blatant with the truth will lure readers of non-religious persuasion who would never pick up a “Christian” book. And I think we don’t always have to share the Gospel itself to promote a truthful worldview. I have a lot of pagan, atheist, and agnostic friends who would not read something I had written if it had Christianity plastered all over the label, but even Jesus spoke in parables.

    Great blog.


  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Megan. Megan said: RT @AmyJRoseDavis: Your Mileage May Vary, from @zoewinters: http://bit.ly/gE6VeR Great post to close out 2010. […]

  3. Peter Boysen says:

    Yes, artists and other intellectuals can be prickly and egotistical. Part of this could stem from the evangelical insistence on boiling the complex down to the sound bite, and throwing the more intransigent parts of Scripture into the same warehouse for inconvenient powers as the Ark of the Covenant at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I applaud those ministers who embrace the complex and difficult in their teaching, and I believe that their response to the divine call deserves the highest respect. For those ministers who have turned their career into a tax-deductible form of sales and marketing, though, they are wasting the time of the attentive and misleading the pliable, who will not find any solace from their inch-deep theology when true crisis appears, and who will be too distracted by the bells and whistles each Sunday to bother the Enemy all that much during the week.

    • (Issues a low whistle …) Amen times ten, sir. And I do regret that some artists feel they must be the “priests” in place of not only the equal “priesthood” of all believers, but the great High Priest (reference: Hebrews) whom some professing pastors simply don’t preach about, favoring sales, marketing and moralism as you said. … Yet of course, other artists intentionally want a priestly role over and above God’s revelation, ignoring His appointment of more-direct pastors and teachers to expound on His Word.

  4. Thanks, Stephen. I appreciate your faithful stand for the truth. May God multiply your ministry.

  5. Peter Boysen says:

    @Mr. Burnett,
    I’ve been giving your column and answer some more thought. In what instances do you see the artist attempting to usurp the pastor’s role?

  6. And now that I’ve managed to make an overall-gentle landing after being in orbit during most of the holidays, I can offer a response — and also to your other thoughts elsewhere:

    Do you think it’s possible to fix the church’s problems AND proclaim the gospel? I see your point about people who would rather nitpick than minister, but if you subscribe to the notion of the priesthood of the believer, how is someone who, in good faith, sees error in the ways of the church, usurping the pastor’s role?

    I think it is, yet without confusing the means for the end. We’ve all heard of active professing Christians, on the “right” (who fight against, say, moral compromise, lack of discernment and needless pragmatism in churches) and on the “left” (who decry the way many churches have acted legalistically and unlovingly to, say, homosexuals, the homeless or the poor in general). Yet either side can lapse in “ministry myopia,” as if there is only one set of problems to fight against, and forget what and Who we’re fighting for — the Savior Who, despite His challenging words, also promised “rest.”

    Often in my discussions with cultural “fundamentalists” (I mean not lovers of real Biblical truth, but those who confuse particular traditions with truth) and “emergent”-style Christians alike, I like to ask a question like this: what happens if, in all your zeal to Fight the Good Fight and that’s it, you end up in Heaven and there’s nothing to fight? No poor people to feed, no heresy to condemn, nothing that makes you feel or act like a Warrior as an end to itself. All you’d have left to do is worship Christ in other ways, be it music or work, exploration, subcreation, learning and more. In such a place, when all vestiges of self-as-“savior” are gone and there is only one Savior of us all, are you sure you would not be bored?

    So the motivation for criticism of the church, Christ’s beloved Bride, matters: it’s to edify her, yes, even as an “institution,” and not simply to criticize all of her various ills for criticism’s sake. We exhort, discern and seek to improve for God’s sake, whether that includes how we do our Art or how we teach truth and theology.

    I’ve gotten a bit nervous about Francis Chan in recent months (mostly because of his seeming overemphasis on wild-‘n-crazy Christianity as if that’s a higher spiritual plane than “regular” day-to-day, plodding Christianity). But in his book Crazy Love he rightly said this:

    As a pastor I hear a lot of emergent leaders talk about what is wrong with the church. It comes across as someone who doesn’t love the church. I’m a pastor first and foremost, and I’m trying to offer a solution or a model of what church should look like. I’m going back to scripture and seeing what the church was in its simplest form and trying to recreate that in my own church. I’m not coming up with anything new. I’m calling people to go back to the way it was. I’m not bashing the church. I’m loving it.

    I’m also among the many Christians who want to love the Church, the Bride for whom Christ died (Ephesians 5), and want to see her more closely follow the pattern of Kingdom and Church growth (facilitated through local churches) prescribed in the Bible. Yet that can too easily overlap with, or become, criticism for its own sake, and an attitude of anti-everything-that’s-gone-on-before — the same kind of attitude C.S. Lewis termed “chronological snobbery.”

    In recent weeks I’ve come to see that some of this is sourced by a very simplistic view of Jesus’ mission on earth. He criticized religious institutions of his day, goes this notion, so we should too. But this ignores the fact that Jesus didn’t fault the Pharisees merely for being “religious” or because they had “institutions,” but because they ignored God’s real Word in favor of their own traditions and rejected God’s actual Word because of their pride (Mark 7), and missed the whole point of the Law in the first place, which was to reveal people’s inability and point us to Christ (John 5).

    Any kind of view that makes Jesus into a 24/7 promoter of merely “everything you thought you knew is wrong” not only flattens His nature and His main mission — to die for the sins of His people — but exalts Self As Savior, rather than Himself as Savior.

    In what instances do you see the artist attempting to usurp the pastor’s role?

    Webb’s interview, linked above, seems to be the most recent. I recognize that not everything can be said in an interview, and any interviewer might edit other good things that were said. But his “priesthood of artists” view seems to supersede any Biblical understanding of the equal “priesthood” of all believers (though with different gifts and roles), under the final High Priest (Christ Himself — cf. 1 Peter 2, the book of Hebrews).

    Webb would likely decry the traditional views of some spiritual caste system, as if the pastors/priests/clergy/”second blessing” Christians/whatever are on one level, and the “laypersons” or less-spiritual Christians are on another. Without dismissing the Biblical role of overseers and elders (1 Timothy 3), that is an un-Biblical and hurtful notion.

    But isn’t Webb simply setting himself up, even if by accident, as some kind of just-slightly-higher-“priest” because he’s an Artist? It is not just him who has a “responsibility to think long and hard about things” and “give [people] a jumping off point for subject matter that might be too tangled for most people in the busyness of their daily lives.” This smacks of a kind of spiritual-elitism, in the guise of humility.

    If Webb is serious about wanting to point people to “tangled” and tricky truths, he’d best do it in the context of what the Bible does say: all believers are “priests” under Christ as the ultimate High Priest, with different roles and spiritual gifts, and that includes church overseers and pastors who are especially charged to teach the Word. No such charge is given in Scripture to some “priesthood of artists.”

    I don’t mean to say Artists — including writers, such as myself! — are less spiritual, charged with less, or not included in the concept of spiritual gifts. But we need not over-elevate ourselves in overreaction to the equally wrong ways churches have often shunned artists (so long as they don’t Bring In Visitors, that is!). And any novelist, musician, whatever, who criticizes the Church — and there is much to fault, for sure! — yet overcorrects against un-Biblical beliefs and behavior with more of the same in opposite directions, just adds to the problem, and fails to glorify God through His wonderful gifts of creativity and imitating Him.

    Shai Linne, a hip-hop artist, had a great message at Capitol Hill Baptist Church a few weeks ago (download the MP3) about honoring God through art — art that is both for the Church, specifically to edify believers, and from the Church to proclaim Christ to non-Christians (though of course there can be overlap between the two). In response to at least one question during the Q and A portion, Linne’s strong recommendation was that artists, like people in any other field, need to be committed to a local Gospel-emphasizing church just like anyone else, to be teached and to teach, to be accountable in love to one another and grow in love and holiness.

    So really, the question of how the Church ought to interact with artists fits within the broader question of how the Church should edify and work with any believer with any kind of Biblically permissible vocation. Artists aren’t “worth” more to the Kingdom, or less, than any other Christian with another calling, any more than elders/pastors/clergy.

  7. […] which the author copies a previous lengthy comment and fashions it into the column it should have been, about problems with “priesthood of […]

What do you think?