In the words of C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce:
Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower—become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.
Though I disagree with many of Lewis’ theological beliefs (and would not recommend his writings to new believers due to some serious errors), I think he is a literary genius with some insight of how people think. The setting of the above excerpt is Lewis telling a story about a conversation between an angel and a famous artist who has just died. The angel tells this artist of the stunning beauty of heaven, to convince him to enter in. The artist grew excited, imagining the beautiful paintings that he will make of what is in heaven. However, he became angry upon learning that, once he enters heaven, there is no more need for him to paint; in heaven, he gets to simply enjoy the real thing. He protested that, as a painter, art itself is an end. The angel replies, “Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there [during your earthly life], but they are also dangerous stimulants.”
Each good thing in this world points us to, and tells us of, its Maker. A picture of beautiful scenery tells us of the creative handiwork of its Creator in real life to His glory. However, rather than using art as a means to point to the Master Artist, the artist in the story elevates art (and perhaps his artistic abilities and reputation) as an end. The story reminds me that this danger of idolatry applies not only to poetry and music and art, but also to religious activities and theological conversations.
May the object of my love not be in the telling about my Savior, but in my Savior Jesus Christ Himself, who is altogether lovely.