I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love Andrew Peterson’s heart and ministry.
The magazine I write for featured AP in the latest edition but the following snippet had to be (regrettably) trimmed, so here it is for your enjoyment and edification. It’s so good. Praise the Lord for His grace to us through Gospel-centered artists like Andrew Peterson.
Author and musician Andrew Peterson has a desire to see “Christian” art move from the realm of cliché to the realm of excellence and beauty befitting the Gospel in which we live and breathe and have our being.
“Christians have been writing the best novels for hundreds of years,” Andrew said. “They do the best works of art, the best music, and we don’t have any reason to be bashful in the world of storytelling or art. We’re a part of a tremendous tradition of great stories, it’s just in this narrow sliver of popular Christian art that’s happened in the last 50 years or so that people kind of go, ‘Ugh, Christians don’t make good art,’ and it’s like, no, no, no, we do make great art, but we’ve lost some of that sense of mystery and obedience to the Holy Spirit in the creative process that I think would be good to recover.”
Some of that recovery includes a return to the willingness to be misunderstood, something Flannery O’Connor and C. S. Lewis grasped.
“How many Christian artists or songwriters do you know that are willing to be misunderstood? Not very many of us,” he admitted. “We don’t want people to call into question what we’re doing and if somebody does misunderstand us then we jump online to defend ourselves. I think some healthy appreciation of mystery and paradox and a willingness to be misunderstood if you feel called to that kind of story is really crucial.
“G. K. Chesterton wrote a lot about paradox and Christianity and the fact that God is both holy and righteous but He’s also infinitely tender. What other religion can claim this kind of mystery? The Gospel is full of that stuff. Jesus driving the moneylenders out of the temple and saying really, really hard and difficult things, and also have little kids come and sit on His lap. That makes you lean in and go, ‘Who is this guy again? How does this work?’ I’m trying to be a student of that. I want to keep writing songs that are honest and willing to not know all of the answers and at the same time call a spade a spade and be willing to say, ‘This song is actually about Jesus.’”
For that to play out, Andrew says it comes down to one major thing.
“Trust that the Holy Spirit is going to use your gifting however He wants,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with having themes but I think the best way to approach it is to trust that it is ultimately up to the Lord to smuggle the truth into the heart of the reader, not you. The reason I say that is because He is a better writer than we are.”
Andrew has learned that when he lets the best story unfold that he can think of, it leaves room for the Master Author to endow it with whatever He wants.
“I think if you want to be a writer or novelist, if it’s fiction especially, then you’ve just got to learn to trust that a good story is good enough,” he said. “You don’t have to justify the story’s existence with a Scriptural truth that you’re serving up on a platter. I just don’t think that’s the way people were wired. Flannery [O’Connor] had this thing where she wrote these stories that were shocking but she also trusted, ‘Well, this is what God called me to do and I have to trust the grace in this story, even if it’s strangely hidden, will do its own work.’”
Andrew readily admitted that we shouldn’t try to be Flannery O’Connor (we can’t be), but to see that the confidence and trust in God, so much that she was okay to be misunderstood, finds roots in Jesus Himself.
“Jesus had this willingness to be misunderstood. He wouldn’t even explain Himself to the disciples sometimes but here we are, 2,000 years later still thinking about it. There was a work of art—maybe a movie?—that I experienced the other day that I didn’t understand, and the fact that I didn’t understand meant I was still thinking about it six hours later. I think that’s part of the idea.”
Read the main article, Breadcrumbs of Grace: Seeing the Gospel in Art, here.