(Close Window)
Topic: Christianity and Art
Message: Posted by: Steven Steele (Jan 6, 2009 09:05AM)
I know many of us have experienced some negativity expressed by friends, family, and churches about art in general and many times our art, magic, specifically. Christians have had a tough time coming to grips with a piece of art and the whole 'graven image' thing which gives rise to idolatry.

Christians, in general, know that music plays an integral part in our worship services, but many are suspicious of music in a secular setting. The Christians view of theater is often not much different. One has only to look how Christians view Hollywood to get a feel how many feel about magic.

There have been some discussions here over the years about magic and art and sometimes even from a Christian perspective. I, personally, have been wrestling with this for many years myself.

In my search, I've come across many articles and talked to many people, but for those of you who might be interested in furthering your 'Christian Magic' and faith I would like to suggest four books that I found especially helpful. As of the date of this post, all are still in print and can be found. However, I won't post a link as they may go out of print sometime in the future and the links won't work. In any event here they are:

'Art for God's Sake' by Philip Grahma Ryken. Really an essay (60 pages) that can be read in a couple of hours, but a great read.

'Imagine...a Vision for Christians in the Arts' by Steve Turner.

'Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture' edited by Spencer Lewerenz and Barbara Nicolosi. This is more about how Christians should approach Hollywood, but lots of interesting thoughts of how we should think.

and finally,

'The Creative Call' by Janice Elsheimer. This is really a workbook that contains thoughts and questions to cause you to integrate your faith and beliefs into your art. There are some really meaningful exercises that will change the way you think.

Anyway, there they are. Four more reasons to make Christian Artists more meaningful and Magic more appreciated as an art form. And if you need one more...here is an oldie but goodie. 'Addicted to Mediocrity' by Franky Schaeffer (yes, Francis' son).
Message: Posted by: Terry Owens (Jan 6, 2009 10:05AM)
Thanks for sharing that with us Steven.
Message: Posted by: Steve_Mollett (Jan 6, 2009 10:09AM)
An old pastor of mine once addressed my concerns over applying my abilities to God's designs.
He said that everything in life is preparation, and should not be neglected.
He advised me to go about my business, using my skills in whatever productive way I could, honing them.
When God wanted me to use my skills in his service, even if for only one pivotal moment in my lifetime, he would let me know what to do; there would be no doubts.
In the meantime, he advised, keep honing my skills in any productive way, so that they would be ready when God called for them.
Message: Posted by: Kif Anderson (Jan 6, 2009 11:00AM)
Steven -

I've read 'Behind the Screen: Hollywood Insiders on Faith, Film, and Culture' and agree it is a good book. Will check out the other suggestions as well.

And Steve, my life reflects what your pastor told you. I've been performing magic since childhood. It lead me to want to study theater and eventually stand up comedy. And then one day, the door opened for me to start doing "gospel magic" and pretty much all my experiences fit together like a puzzle...and this was the picture.

I have met with some people who think Gospel Magic is an oxymoron, but it has not so much to do with the effects, but the presentation. If someone does it and makes it all about how wonderful they are or that they have some sort of "magical abilities"...then their style (which can work in some venues) isn't right for gospel type of performance. However, when it is integrated effectively into a message, as do some motivational speakers, teachers, etc., then it is very powerful tool for communication.

Steven's comment about music is a great one to use when commenting on magic. I would add to it that lots of people had a real problem when when they started bringing organs into churches, because organs were used in dancehalls. But it seems most churches got over that bias.

Magic is a great way to communicate to some, but it doesn't appeal to everyone. Just like some music is both enjoyed or not by different types of people.

><> J
Message: Posted by: Waters (May 10, 2009 05:51PM)
I guess I am a bit surprised that this thread is the only one that "appeared" when I searched "Francis Schaeffer". I would love to have a discussion on art, culture and faith. Any takers?

Message: Posted by: stempleton (May 10, 2009 07:03PM)
Thanks, Steven. I abandonded the hobby of magic when my parents continually presented the "when I was a child...now I have given up childish things" scripture. Then no one was really familiar with the art of gospel magic. I can only imagine what I might have been able to accomplish had I realized how it could have been used for a higher purpose. Oh, well...to every time... I will definitely check out these titles. Thanks again.
Message: Posted by: MagicBus (May 10, 2009 07:06PM)
I guess I am not a taker, but wanted to tell a fast story. I heard Francis Schaeffer speak at Moody Bible Institute's "Founders Week" many years ago, one of his last speeches in the U.S. before he died. Many thousands jammed into Moody Church to hear it. You can still probably get a copy of it from Moody, it was stunning, could have heard a pin drop in the auditorium. "How Should We Then Live" was a huge topic at the time, I heard his son Frankie speak at Chenery Auditorium in Kalamazoo many years ago as well on the general demise of our film culture. What this has to do with Gospel magic I do not know, but Francis Schaeffer helped inspire my brother (an architect in Chicago) to put together a fantastic three screen multiple projector slide show using Pink Floyd music and other stuff, all ending on a beautiful three screen display on the wonders of Creation with a dramatic Gospel conclusion. He did this program for years in all kinds of settings. It was very classy, something which I as a Gospel magician fall far short of and should strive more toward in practice, practice, practice. I think many folks like myself really enjoy watching a well performed magic routine as much as listening to a fine orchestra. I know that has little to do with your post, but faith can obviously inspire art (and not just in old Rembrandt paintings). Have a great day all, and as always, a pleasure to chat with you and put in my two cents worth.
Message: Posted by: MagicBus (May 10, 2009 07:29PM)
I just checked the Moody "Audio" portion of the Moody Bible Institute's web site. They have over 80 (wow!) audio tapes of Francis Schaeffer speaking. Amazing. If you ever are in Chicago the first week of February, you can hear so many wonderful speakers at Moody live: Lutzer, Swindoll, MacArthur, McDowell, McDonald, and so many more. And of course, my personal missions favorite and Moody grad: George Verwer of OM (www.GeorgeVerwer.org -I believe that is his web site). I told George last week that MagicBob and I were going to do Gospel magic soon at the new Logos Hope Theatre (www.logoshope.org), I think this is a terrific perfect destination/venue for a missions trip for the Gospel magician- doing multiple programs on a nice stage repeatedly throughout the day for many thousands of curious people/families hungry for the Gospel. I'll keep you updated on that and how our eventual trip goes, I'd love to see a steady stream of Gospel magicians/FCMers available for this new outreach ship. Several of us went to the old Logos II and did shows in Grenada several years ago, it was a wonderful performing missions experience. I know MagicBob is leaving again for India with Campus Crusade in November, these trips also were also previously with Toby Travis and Brad Brown. Yep, there really is a useful place in our world for well performed Gospel magic. Fired up! and Psalm 67 to all of you.
Message: Posted by: MagicBus (May 10, 2009 07:32PM)
Whoops, the correct site is http://www.GeorgeVerwer.com Check it out, a great inspiration how someone even in their 70ties can be a world traveler for Christ.
Message: Posted by: Waters (May 10, 2009 07:39PM)
Great posts. Thank you both.

I really enjoyed your thoughts MagicBus. I do not think that any art should have a "Christian Stamp" necessarily (though that is fine, if one chooses), but the act of creation itself, done with a desire for excellence is a reflection of the nature of God. In this way, I think art glorifies God (even when it is not consistent with a world-view that agrees with his teachings). Please understand, I did not say all art has redeeming qualities, just that the act of creation is a reflection itself.

Thanks again for sharing that.

with regards,

Message: Posted by: MagicBus (May 10, 2009 08:20PM)
My friend George Verwer (www.GeorgeVerwer.com) has an inclusive view of cinema. I'm sure George has thousands of friends on a first name basis, many on his "call" list- so it is wonderful to know him. Click on his audio message #12 on the upper right of his web site, he speaks freely about film. His son works for the BBC. When George was at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference in Muskegon, Michigan, we often discussed the latest films and the "impact" they had on society. I helped George with his massive book displays- he has written many missions books and has given away literally hundreds of thousands of Christian books worldwide by various Christian and missionary authors.

George is incredibly fired up about missions, and uses through OM every means he can to get the Gospel out there including through the internet, using "untrained" students in short term and long term projects, and Gospel outreaches of all sorts including films, ships, art, T-Shirts and jackets, posters, book stores, festivals, street evangelism, and much more. When we were on the Logos II ship, they had an ongoing class on using chalk art for evangelism- which I have since seen used effectively outdoors near Watertower Place in Chicago.

In case you may be wondering if you are not familiar with OM or George Verwer, OM is non-denominational, and works with all kinds of churches and Christian denominations worldwide. So it is a "safe site", no one will ever try to sell you anything, or ask you to join up, or give anything. Just a great non-profit organization sold out for "missions" worldwide, church planting, discipleship, and general Bible outreach by any means available. So as you can tell, I believe OM is a great organization for a FCMer to take advantage of. OM has its huge book warehouse in Waynesboro, Georgia, and is the largest publisher of Christian books in Asia through its outreach in India. So if you are a Gospel magician wondering how you can be used by God in the area of missions, either on a short-term or long term basis, consider checking out OM. I know there were other organizations as well that did short term trips (with Toby Travis, for example), but I am not as familiar with those. But this I do know, you do not have to be as obviously talented and equipment blessed as Andre' Kole (who we have sponsored several times in Kalamazoo with wonderful success)to get started out with OM.

Roger Magic Bus from http://www.ChristianMagician.org (site owned and maintained by MagicBob)
Message: Posted by: Waters (May 10, 2009 08:37PM)

I appreciate you taking the time to post. I did not know about OM (interestingly enough, a good friend of mine is from Waynesboro). I will check out the sites you kindly posted. Thanks again.

With regards,

Message: Posted by: MagicBus (May 10, 2009 09:08PM)
I volunteered for a week at the Waynesboro warehouse, it is/was open to the public. Massive place, aisle after aisle of books stacked to the ceiling in a huge warehouse. Right behind the high school football field. I took a guy visiting from India (a book buyer) to see his first ever football game, had a blast at their "homecoming" game. He had no idea what was going on. He loved the boiled peanuts they sold at the game, I could not quite get into those! The warehouse at that time was run by a former Zondervan executive, Don is a great guy, my guess is he is retired from there by now, I'm not sure. They had a zillion Christian books, all at wholesale prices too, many "over-runs" from publishers from all over the place. I spent my time loading up tons of books for overseas shipments, scraping price labels off donated books, and mowing their lawn. They did have some nearby manufactured housing that volunteers such as myself could stay at for free. Waynesboro is not too far from Augusta where I flew into. Thanks again for the kind words, appreciated!