Have you ever considered that audible art (music and spoken word) has more in common with the literary arts than visual arts? A great deal of the visual arts have sound along with them these days, but purely audible art has to compensate for the lack of visuals much the way the written word has to communicate.As I like to stress, the arts are communications. The written word is an art; if the message in a written text is written with meaning, appealing, and style, it is in it’s own right artistic. Anything can be told in a text, but choosing what needs to be stated and what can be left out, and how you should write what you want to convey acquires an understanding of the human emotions and thought processes.
What’s good for literary arts is also good for audible and visual arts, morally speaking. Have you ever considered that if a romance novel were too graphic in physical intimacy, it would also be too graphic for a consistently literal translation of the story into a visual representation of the same story? Romance can be expressed in a wholesome uplifting sense without divulging graphic depictions of physical relations. Just because some instances of physical intimacy are blessed and encouraged in God’s Word in a marital relationship, we don’t need to express those forms of intimacy explicitly to readers and audiences. Some things are meant to be private — even some good things.
With this in mind, how does the Bible communicate the good, the bad, and the ugly without crossing the lines? Wouldn’t a book like The Song of Solomon get a rating of something like PG-13 by today’s standards? Maybe even R? Is there a disclaimer before the story of David and Bathsheba warning readers there is “adult content” in the tale?
A rating system is non-existent in the Bible, and yet it is good to study and know for all ages, men and women, and cultures. How can a Christian dispute people wanting to learn by reading the word of God? How can we object if God’s Word is inherently good?
The important thing to note about the stories, exhortations, and other subjects in the Bible is the “bad” and the “ugly” are always proportionate to the “good.” The bad is never uplifted. The ugly never goes unanswered. If something wicked is shared — like Lot’s daughter having incest with him in his induced drunken stupor — the issue of the sin does not go without retribution. The Word of God evaluates the Word of God. Everything sown is reaped.
I used this example: a boy gets a cookie and eats it. There’s nothing wrong with anyone eating a cookie in and of the act. Now, if I add to the story that the boy is eating without permission from his parents, the situation is painted as a moral issue. The boy is gaining what’s not rightfully his — essentially, the child is stealing. The child is breaking the word of the child’s parent.
If we ended the tale there, one can assume the boy get’s away with eating the cookie. Still, this is a faulty assumption. Never assume. Just because the story ends there, doesn’t mean the child got away with it, or that the moral to the story is that it’s okay to disobey your parents.
This being said, there is a void in the story. The story is incomplete. It would be a simplified equivalent to Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit, then the story ending abruptly:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.
It paints an uncomfortable picture, so to speak. There’s something missing; a little discernment will tell you this. What’s missing is “where it is heading.” I think this is known subconsciously to all of us — we may choose to ignore this awkward ending, but it remains known to us because we have a conscience.
[You can finish the account of Adam, Eve, and the serpent here »]
So even in the artistic sense of the story communicated, there needs to be justice (or mercy) to make it complete. The story doesn’t have to resolve all known conditions; We don’t need to know whether Adam and Eve will blow it again. What’s written in the account in Genesis is all that needs to be shared.
So I make the case, that in storytelling, and in all forms of communication via the arts, it is evident a moral compass is inescapable for a palatable piece of art.
As always, I’d like to hear from you and get your thoughts on the matter. If you have questions, feel free to share a comment or write me on the Contact page. Thanks for reading!