Can We Be Inspired From Non-Christian Literature, Music, and Movies or Even People? And Should We be?
A few months ago, in one of my writings, I cited Rihanna (the famous American pop and RNB singer) in one of his songs and said something like this; "we found love in a hopeless place". And do you know what happened next? Not very good. Someone, I still know and remember her name, rebuked me that it was evil to quote non-Christian things and people while bringing a theological, biblical or "godly" point on board.
I tried to discuss and persuade her in vain and we ended up on a bad string; disagreement.
But she is not the only one! In our churches, communities, and service areas, we have so many Christians condemning and pointing fingers at each other for watching and enjoying non Christian movies, singing and dancing to world secular music, reading novels about love, romance, crime, and magic, and indulging in all sources of information, information that, according to them (the celebrants), matters and inspirational.
Have you visited our book store yet? DO IT NOW HERE
And so we are we are left wondering; can there be an inspiration or revelation about God in other things and other people other than the Bible and the church? Should Christians really watch crime, romantic, detective, funny, sexual relationship (I don't mean blue movies) and all sorts of non Christian movies? Is it really okay for a Christian to get drowned in a novel or a book that is totally non Christian?
Maybe yes, but then; is it okay to even apply or use knowledge, inspiration, and experience got from these sources for the purpose of Christian teaching and motivation?
Let us reason together now. What does the Bible say?
In the book, Christian doctrine, Millard J. Erickson writes that God can actually talk or reveal himself to us through almost everything. While exploring the concept, natural theology as proposed by Thomas Aquinas, Erickson says that God can inspire and move us using nature, history (his day to day dealings with us and the world) and our inner being.
Considering his argument and that of Thomas Aquinas, it is really true that God can reveal himself to us through anything other than the Scripture or even the church. The idea of natural theology is, as emphasized by Millard Erickson, biblical (consider Romans 1 and 2, Psalm 19, and so much more). In all those chapters and verses, God is simply saying we can know him from what he created, the daily things he does and doesn't do in or outside people and creation, and the inside make up of humans (our moral and mind conscience).
Has anyone ever used non biblical sources to inspire or preach the good news?On the part of us, the Christians, the answers is clearly open; yes, I already did. And so many people still do. Instead the right question should be this; Did any biblical figure use non Christian literature or inspiration to make a biblical or theological point?
Non-Christians sources and the Cannon
According to Baker illustrated Bible handbook (by the way, who wrote or writes this amazing book? The one I have is edited by Mark L. Strauss), St. Paul quoted and used some philosophical ideas or concepts of his time to preach good news. Philosophers commonly talked of here are; Menander (a Greek poet, see 1 Corinthians 15:33), Epimenides (Cretan philosopher, see Titus 1:12-13), Epimenides and Aratus (see Acts 17:28).
It still said that the writers of the Bible as we know it (the 66 books) used some other sources that were not canonical (for example, the writing of books of Kings and Chronicles, see 1 Kings 11:41; 14:19, 29; 1 Chronicle 29:29 etc). And both Jude 9 and 14 are not from any canonical book but from other ancient writings, for example, 1 Enoch (non canonical book).
What is the point?
The point is this; philosophers, and other ancient writings inspired the writers and preachers of the word of God the way they did. In other words, there was or there is knowledge and truth (inspirational knowledge and truth) in everything if it's what God chooses to use to talk to you and reveal Himself to you, to us. And so it follows;
"Inspiration does not lie in the sources or traditions behind the text or message, but in the authors inspired by the Holy Spirit" (paraphrased)
In other words, it's not the source or the type of material that has the power to inspire, not at all, it's the power behind the message. God can inspire you through the most despised things or persons in the world. As Strauss says it, "inspired does not mean merely inspiring or inspirational in the way that a great work of literature or piece of art is inspiring. It means that God himself has spoken and has disclosed himself to his people" (Baker illustrated Bible handbook)
What it means: God is Lord Over Everything
We can be inspired from any source anywhere as long as God or His Spirit decides to reveal something to us using that source. And on this, I suppose it is okay to get inspired or enjoy the taste, the message, and everything else enjoyable through a specifically non Christian source like a novel, movie, song, or simply a motivational figure or speaker. God is Lord over everything and we can't really predict nor limit Him to some of designed channels.
If God can reveal himself through anyone and anything, how then do we say false prophets exist?
While it is possible for God's spirit to inspire us through anyone and anything of His choice, the same Spirit commands us to cross-check everything with His word (the cannon). According to Hebrews 1:1-3, God speaks to us through His son and His word. Yes, Jesus Christ, on leaving for heaven, promised to send His Spirit who shall explain to us His word and reveal the details of His will to us. In other words, the cannon (Bible) is the final word of confirmation.
Whatever inspiration we pick and whatever source we use, the main guiding question is; what does the Bible say about it? The Bible is God's word and the same Spirit that inspired or inspires (2 Timothy 3:16) that word to us is the same, I think, who shall be inspiring us from the non Christian sources or literature. And that Spirit cannot contradict Himself; he is one. And so everything else must be checked and verified by His word. It's His command. His word is final on everything.
Considering the above philosophical examples of Paul quoting some Greek and Cretan philosophers, it should be noted that the philosophers don't inform the cannon but the cannon informs them. Take an example of Paul. When Paul quoted philosophers, he is not actually bringing a new doctrine but simply showing that philosophers have thought correctly.
In other words, he is saying; "you see, this is the truth (the cannon is truth) and, surprisingly (no surprises with God-God is the one who reveals such truth to philosophers as well), your own thinkers have seen or said it as well" (see Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:33 and more). He is already teaching a doctrine from the cannon and simply quotes philosophers to show the people that some of them already know the truth or at least part of it.
Note: Usually, part of it (the truth) was or is known for we shall later see in other discussions that general revalrion and knowledge about God does not lead to salvation. Salvation is only possible through Jesus. And only the cannon or special revelation can make someone encounter Jesus for salvation.
Once again; the cannon (the Bible) is the final word and the only book of reference for all the truth and inspiration.
SummaryGod can speak to us or inspire our lives through anything or anyone but we must be sure that the inspiration we claim is indeed in line with His word (the cannon). And while it is okay for a Christian to quote or borrow helpful knowledge and insights from non Christian literature and people, the principle should remain that the cannon is informing and guiding those other insights and not the other way round.
God has revealed himself to us through nature, history and our inner being, but he has, in these last days, revealed himself to us through His son and word (Hebrew 1).
God Bless You
The Complete You Ministry