Scriabin and Starbucks

Scriabin, one of my favorite composers, has left us with many piano work that are full of colors and sensuality, yet Scriabin is not just known for his unique musicality. He is also famous for believing himself to be God (or a being greater than God). He once tried to walk on water on Lake Geneva as Jesus did. Some say it was a result of his mental illness; some think he was mind-controlled by mystic cults.

Nevertheless, as Rene Magritte once wrote, “Art evokes the mystery without which the world would not exist.” Much of Scriabin’s piano work, in contrast to his personality, have only sucessfully revealed more of the splendid mystery of the Lord to me.

With that in mind, I did once wonder if I would be disapproved by some Christians for performing Scriabin’s compositions. I know it may seem ridiculous to some, but with the logic practiced by the Starbucks-boycotting Christians (or in other similar cases), it makes perfect sense. In the words of Russell Moore, “It’s just that, in this case (and in many like it) a boycott exposes us to all of our worst tendencies. Christians are tempted, again and again, to fight like the devil to please the Lord. ”

If I follow the logic of Starbucks-boycotting Christians, I probably have to give up shopping at most stores because the majority of people, myself included, are sinning or affirming sin everyday, according to Paul’s numerous lists of sin, the most common ones being premarital sex, gossip, and greed, etc.

And, following the same logic, I probably have to give up learning and performing Scriabin’s music because of his extreme idolatry. He basically violated the first three OT commandments. Does it mean I have to loathe him and his work? Does it mean I have to stop performing his work? Does it mean you have to stop listening to his work? Does it mean the Lord cannot use His music to touch people?

In the universal Body of Christ, members commit gossip, greed, drunkenness, and sexuality immorality everyday. Does it mean I have to boycott greeting one another in grace? (I do not intend to get myself involved into the topic of “excommunication” here.)

In my neighborhood, my neighbors commit gossip, greed, drunkenness, and sexuality immorality everyday, and they affirm a different set of values other than I do. Does it mean I have to boycott loving them as myself?

“Boycotting” a group or a person cannot be further away from the truth revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ, for it forsakes compassion and communication, friendship and fellowship, humility and hospitality. It is ultimately, an act of the devil, no matter how “righteous” your motive seems.  Again, in the words of Moore, it is “to fight like the devil to please the Lord”.

Finally, music is certainly one of the most powerful mediums that the Lord has used to reveal His mystery to mankin. Because art is just a medium. Because artists are just vessels. When I see a beautiful Chinese ceramic antique that was once offered to a king in whatever dynasty, I can still admire its beautiful colors and shapes to appreciate His, not men’s, greatness without condemnation in the same way I can eat freely food sacrificed to idols to sustain my physical body (1 Cor 8). But of course, when artists or lovers of arts begin to worship themselves as the “divine creators” instead of “image-bearers”, that’s another story. In the word of Francis Schaffer, “God’s creation and mine differ, of course. God can create out of nothing, by fiat. I cannot, because only He is infinite. In creation, He is limited only by His own character. I am limited not only by my character but also by my finiteness. When I create, I bring forth in the external universe that He has created”.

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