On These Things
I recently finished reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Heinlein. I have extremely mixed feelings about it. On one hand, the concept and the execution are both brilliant. The writing is superb. On the other hand, by the end of the book, the main character has founded a sex cult, and that is the primary plot.
The Bible tells us that we should dwell on “whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute.” But what if something satisfies only some of these criteria? What if something is lovely and of good repute but could never be termed pure? For that matter, what if something is pure but is not by any means lovely?
I think that in Christian circles we often fall into one of two categories when it comes to books or art in general. We either only consume those things produced by other Christians solely for Christians and pay little attention to quality because we feel that if something speaks of God or Jesus and speaks truly, it cannot criticized, or we indulge ourselves in the artwork of the world, seeking out quality pieces and praising them while paying little attention to their value towards our edification. I don’t see either attitude as strictly correct.
We live in a fallen world. All artwork, all work in general, will be subject to the curse, and none of it will be perfect, so that can’t be our standard for selecting the art that fills our lives. In this, as in many things, the Bible gives us what seems to be an impossible command. It’s a command that seems impossible until one really looks at the entirety of the passage.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
So often I hear Christians using this passage as a justification for their own self-censorship, but that’s not what it really says. It tells us what we are to dwell on, not what we are to consume. Certainly, what one consumes as far as art will to a large extent determine those things which one dwells upon, but it isn’t the final word.
We have freedom.
As you are reading fabulous books with horrible messages or horrible books with fabulous messages, read critically. Find the things of beauty and the things of truth, and treasure them. Those are what we must dwell upon.