Secular And Sacred Culture

Most people in western culture, consciously or passively, consider art to fit in one of two categories: secular and/or sacred arts. Few people know how to define these categories. Churches usually don’t educate their flocks on the arts, but along the way—going to church, Sunday school, Bible studies, etc.—members of the flock get an indirect idea of what religious art is, and what it is not. The rest of the culture wants to put sacred art into a box that they can tuck away from their lives. Only on the rare Christmas or Easter church services they attend do they enjoy religious icons, decor, or other religious artistic works.

In a way, it is true there is a distinctly religious form of art and a unreligious form of art. For instance, not all paintings, songs, or movies illustrate the crucifixion and resurrection. Nor would most people want them to. All that do are counted religious in nature. There is room for music, movies, and other art forms to depict human relationships, nature, adventure, history, war, and other topics that aren’t faith-based.

Have you ever considered, that if Bible is right, and I believe it is, then Jesus Christ’s death on the cross 2,000 years ago and his resurrection three days later is not just a religious event, but a historical event? Have you considered that because so many believe the Bible, that it has had changed the course of civilization in an infinite number of ways, and continues to do so? Church is a part of the culture on every continent, and Christianity has spread to the farthest corners of the world. Does that not influence the secular culture? What is secular, anyway?

If secular means unrelated to absolutes, morality, and reality, you may have truly unreligious expressions of art that would be defined as secular. Apart from the biblical paradigm, the world does not make complete sense. For a Christian to extract himself from biblical thought patterns long enough to watch a movie that is supposed to be devoid of a Christian worldview, does he to put his presuppositions in the closet? Seriously, I think not. A mature Christian cannot see culture and the arts apart from his understanding of Truth (God’s Word).

While the art and culture Christians enjoy may not be Christian by design, the arts and culture cannot be separated from absolutes of the real world except through man’s vain imaginations. If God is real, and He is the one described in the Bible, and if the Bible is truthful, then God Himself governs the most objective standard of good and evil. If He governs good and evil, He dictates what man knows to be right and wrong in his heart. You may willfully disagree with God’s absolutes, but the Bible tells us that the truth is established in the heart of mankind—we already know right from wrong without being told what they are. We loose sight of them when we refuse to live by them.

But if you review the characteristics of the arts culture enjoys, you’ll find a distinction that even the culture accepts of what is traditionally accepted as morally suitable for all audiences, and other arts that are morally bankrupt and inappropriate. Often times, Christians have little to do with setting the standards. Consider what you listen to on the radio, and how a lot of stations edit out culturally unacceptable language. Or consider the TV, movie, and video game ratings like “PG-13” and “Mature.” What about pornography? Porn, in and of itself, is not an art, but explicit material produced in the arts comes with disclaimers also—not just for the religious crowd.

I pose to you that culture and the arts are defined by absolutes, and absolutes on the will of God. Consistent with this view, the world has adopted a semblance of God’s standards. So, is there truly anything secular? Is there truly anything that is an exception to the rule of objective reality? Can man’s standards usurp God’s? It doesn’t appear possible if secular art and culture is used as evidence.

Further Consideration:
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