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At a Glance

Is there room for artists in the Kingdom of God? Today, many Christians only value the arts to the degree that they serve as a means for evangelism. In “A Call for Balladeers,” however, Darrow Miller argues that artists play an essential role in the church’s mission of discipling the nations. He issues a call to Christian artists everywhere to become “balladeers” by using their work to bear prophetic witness to the beauty, goodness, and truth of God’s reign.

Darrow Miller recently spoke about his new book with Randall Flinn, the Founder and Artistic Director of Ad Deum Dance Company. We thought the interview was so good that you would want to listen!

What You'll Hear

Chapter 1: How the Book was Born (1:30)

  • Darrow shares how his early life and ministry took shape. He began by ministering to the poor but came to recognize the role of worldview in perpetuating poverty. Over time, he also came to see the arts as a powerful tool for discipling nations and transforming culture. (2:11)
  • Studying under Francis Schaeffer at L’Abri in Switzerland strengthened Darrow’s conviction that the Bible is objectively true and has good answers to life’s toughest questions. (8:25)

Chapter 2: Beauty (11:26)

  • Modern secularism cannot explain humankind’s creative impulse, but Christianity teaches that humans are created in the image of a creative God. (12:17)
  • In Genesis 1-2, God gives the first human beings a Cultural Commission to take the raw materials of creation and improve on them. (14:32)
  • Modern evangelism often begins with the Fall in Genesis 3 because it highlights our need for salvation. However, doing so omits God’s original purpose in Creation and the Cultural Commission. As a result, modern evangelicals often lack a theological basis for participating in culture and the arts. (19:08)

Chapter 3: A Theology of Beauty (24:42)

  • Evangelicals tend to recognize that goodness and truth are objective because they are rooted in God’s character and nature but fail to see that the same is true of beauty. As a result, many Christians today have accepted the cultural narrative that beauty is subjective and emphasize pragmatic concerns at beauty’s expense. (24:42)
  • In postmodern culture that rejects objective truth and morality, beauty often serves as a gateway to goodness and truth by speaking directly to the heart. (26:45)

Chapter 4: 
The Sacred-Secular Divide (31:43)

  • During the Protestant Reformation, Christians saw the Bible as the integration point for all truth. In the 19th century, however, the church responded to the aggressive secularism brought on by Darwin’s theory of evolution by retreating from culture and emphasizing spiritual concerns.
  • This “sacred-secular divide” within the church has led to an emphasis on “saving souls” at the expense of more “secular” callings (39:01).
  • If beauty is rooted in God’s nature, it can be a powerful aid to evangelism. Artists can create space for people to experience transcendent goodness and truth. (40:56)
  • The church can overcome its suspicion of the arts by learning to see them as an important part of its witness to the First Creator. (46:03)

Chapter 5: The Arts and the Great Commission (50:41)

  • The Great Commission is more than a command to “save souls for heaven.” It is a call to disciple nations into the Kingdom of God.
  • The Great Commission is actually the Second Commission in Scripture. The First Commission is the Cultural Commission in Genesis 1-2 calling human beings to fill and subdue the earth and create culture. (52:21)
  • The arts play a significant role in fulfilling both commissions. Therefore, the artist’s calling is not a secondary calling. (54:22)

Chapter 6: The Need for Balladeers (55:48)

  • Balladeers are more than artists. They are artists who use their art to speak prophetically to the culture. 
  • Christian artists do not need to wait for the church’s permission to become balladeers. They can begin obeying God’s call today. (1:01:58)
  • Darrow offers some practical ways to integrate the arts into the life of the church. (1:05:01)

Chapter 7: Q&A (1:14:42)

  • How can artists be incarnational as they create?
  • Darrow responds that the pattern of creation in Genesis 1 shows a movement from conception to gestation to fulfillment. Artists ought to ask themselves what God is trying to birth into the world through them. (1:15:18)
  • Incarnation is the process of making the word flesh, “fleshing out” God’s ideas in everyday life. (1:19:49)
  • A listener comments that Christian artists ought to see resistance as their place of calling, not as an impediment to their calling. Darrow agrees, adding that the world needs more Christians willing to be dangerous. (1:20:38)

Chapter 8: Closing Remarks (1:23:20)

  • How to get Darrow’s book, “A Call for Balladeers” (1:23:27)
  • Practical ideas for using the book and closing remarks (1:24:57)

Using the link above, you can read the transcript, listen along, and adjust the speed of the podcast while you listen.

Today's culture has very little interest in truth and morality, but when people see something beautiful, they stand in awe.

Darrow (31:01)

Team Member Highlight

Darrow Miller is a world-renowned author and teacher on Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. In 1981, he began 27 years at Food for the Hungry, serving there as vice president from 1994 to 2007 until he helped launch the DNA in 2008. 

Darrow Miller
Go Deeper

 A Call for Balladeers: Pursuing Art and Beauty for the Discipling of Nations

It’s time for Christian artists to really understand the significance of their gift and their calling.
Through a biblical lens, Darrow Miller examines what it means to be a Christian artist and the role of beauty in the world. As the First Artist, God created the universe to be beautiful, and set a precedent for all mankind: to create art, not for religious obligation, but simply for the sake of beauty itself.
With scrutiny and honesty, A Call for Balladeers takes a hard look at the faulty perspective toward art and beauty held by many Christians today and uses the Bible to make a case for why the Church should be concerned with the arts. Miller provides a hopeful, liberating outlook for Christians who find themselves caught in a dilemma between their artistic endeavors and their desire to minister to their community.
There is no divide between art, beauty, and the Christian faith. God uses the arts and artists to advance His kingdom of truth, goodness, and beauty on earth as it is in heaven. A Call for Balladeers will help Christians think biblically about art, teach them about historical and modern-day balladeers, and encourage artists to use their God-given talents to minister prophetically, bringing transformation to their communities and nations.

“Everywhere you go in the world, there’s not a culture that does not have people who want to express themselves creatively and that’s because they’re made in the image of God.” (12:26)

“We begin the narrative with Genesis 3, the Fall, because that sets up the Cross, and in fact, we truncate the whole Bible, in that we don’t cover the Creation and the Cultural Mandate of Genesis 1 and 2.” (21:14)

If you have a culture that wants nothing to do with a moral discussion or a discussion of truth claims, how are you ever going to reach them? If you start the discussion on the level of morality and truth claims, you’re probably going to turn the average person off today, but…when people see something beautiful, they usually stand in awe.” (31:01)

“I’ve wept with too many artists over the years who have been stuck. They know that they’ve got a gift for the arts. They love what they’re doing with the arts, but they don’t find support within the church or outside the church, generally. So we need to shift the paradigm.” (41:07)

“[Artists] can create spaces for people to experience something that they’ve never experienced before. They can step for a moment into a fuller understanding of what’s real.” (45:43)

“That’s probably the first quality of good art…through whatever the art form is, it conveys the existence of the first creator and the reality of the first creation.” (50:04)

“People can be gifted in the arts…whether they know Christ or not. The thing is, if you know Christ and God has given you a gift, what are you doing with it? Are you using it to speak…to speak beauty, truth and goodness to the culture?” (1:01:25)

Learned something new? Have a question? Enjoying the podcast? Let us know!

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Carl Bruun
Carl Bruun
1 month ago

Asked my wife (a classical pianist and teacher) to listen along with me to this episode… she was wonderfully encouraged! Needed to know her thinking and feelings of isolation were shared by other sisters and brothers in the church with a strong artistic bent and calling.

Tim Williams
1 month ago
Reply to  Carl Bruun

Carl, what a wonderful encouragement to hear from you! Thank you for taking the time to share this and I hope your wife will consider sharing it with other artists! Darrow is going to be hosting a “meet the author” online event soon — I hope you all will find the details at acallforballadeers.com and join us! The Christian artists in our midst are critical to the mission and success of the Christian church. We give thanks for your wife! Bless you, Tim Williams

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