Christian musicians are fond of saying things like,
“We’re not a Christian band, were Christians in a band.”
…and think they’re being profound.
Frontman John Foreman was once asked if Switchfoot is a Christian band. He answered:
“To be honest, this question grieves me because I feel that this represents a much bigger issue than simply a couple Switchfoot tunes. In true Socratic form, let me ask you a few questions: Does Lewis or Tolkien mention Christ in any of their fictional series? Are Bach’s sonatas Christian? What is more Christlike, feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds. The view that at pastor is more ‘Christian’ than a girls volleyball coach is flawed and heretical…”
Good grief! Let me find a shorter example.
Christian filmmaker David Leo Schultz said,
“What I’ve learned from smarter men than me is that products can’t be Christian. A movie can’t be baptized, or take communion, or follow Jesus.”
So, are Schultz and other artists correct? Are we misapplying the word “Christian”? Is it true that music and movies can’t be Christian?
As with anything we talk about on “When We Understand the Text”, this all has to do with context. Believe it or not, the word Christian (Greek – Christianos) appears only three times in Scripture: twice in the Book of Acts (Acts 11:26 & Acts 26:28) and once by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 4:16). Christians didn’t call each other Christians. They use names like: Saints (Romans 1:7), Disciples (Acts 6:1), Brothers (Colossians 1:2) or the Elect (1 Peter 1:1). And Christianity was called the Faith (Jude 3) or the Way (Acts 9:2).
Christian was a word used first by unbelievers to describe followers of Jesus. It first appears in Acts 11 at Antioch, likely as a derogatory term used by unbelievers to describe Jesus’ followers. And do you think they knew what being a Christian entailed? They didn’t understand concepts like baptism or being redeemed. It was a word used in the context of describing a person associated with Christ.
Likewise, when we’re using the word Christian to describe a song or a T-shirt. No one is implying it’s born-again and going to heaven. It’s just a word to describe something that hopefully giving glory to God through Christ.
If a Christian artist doesn’t want that, they have bigger concerns than having their work labeled “Christian”. After all, as Peter said,
If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed but let him glorify God in that name! (1 Peter 4:16)
…when we understand the text.
(Many of the Bible stories and verses we think we know, we don’t! When We Understand the Text is an internet-based video ministry committed to righting some of the wrong understanding of scripture, all while advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ. Check out more at WWUTT.com!)