Wow. The whole trip to Calvin’s Festival of Faith and Writing to speak about faith and art was worth it, just to read this reflection on the festival’s presentations.

My thanks to Justin Boyer for his generous words…

On the last day of the festival, I get to my first seminar a few minutes late; it is standing room only in the seminary chapel. Jeffrey Overstreet, another unbeknownst speaker, is sharing part of his spiritual journey, intermingling faith and film. He stands at the foot of the cross, banners of light hanging from either side. He is not as dynamic as Mr. Doyle was, but there is something in his tone and his wit and his content that draws you in and keeps you attentive. Of all the speakers, Overstreet is the one I appreciate the most as an intertwining of the Gospel, the message we are to proclaim, and culture, messages we should listen to, takes place over the next hour.

Eternity is written on the hearts of men and women (Ecc. 3:11). Overstreet reminds everyone that this common grace includes both saints, whose art can be terrible, and fools, whose art can be beautiful. Culture, as an artistic metaphysical idea, is neither inherently good nor inherently evil. One thing it is however is a representation of worldview and beliefs, a tool that can often be used to expose darkness (Ephesians 5:11).

Frequently when culture and art is used or reacted to, it is either in the religious form of picketing and book burning, or in the worldly form of amusement, which is originally meant to divert attention away from serious matters or simply to not think. Overstreet suggests neither of these should be the case with Christians. Rather we should test all things, holding fast to what is good, and use dialogue about the art to buy back the time. The way friendships tend to go with our non-believing friends is that they need to ask questions before we can give them answers. The movie Closer is his example. Christian reviewers condemned that film, and while Overstreet could not necessarily recommend it to others, it displayed the depravity and brokenness of human relationships and did not try to hide it. If used in a redemptive way, one could shed light on another’s thoughts about sexuality and identity that resulted from viewing the film. This requires engaging a person, however, with kindness, patience, knowledge and gentleness of truth (2Ti 2:22-26), a far harder thing than yelling at a corporate building holding a sign.