Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Christians Doing the Arts: Excellence

Wow. I wrote alot last night. Got on a tangent, I guess. Today's post is shorter. Here's the idea: Christians should make artistic works that reflect excellent craftwork. As the Lord fashioned a beautiful creation from nothing, so we take materials before us and make works of beauty.

Is anyone else tired of mediocrity in Christian artwork? I'm not talking only about music. I'm talking about paintings, movies, handcrafts, etc. We do things so poorly, and for no good reason. If we do a movie, it's bound to be preachy and overwrought. If we do music, it's bound to sound dated and exhibit little true songwriting ability. If we do artwork or handcrafts, it's likely to be kitschy. Reason for the lack of good Christian artwork evade the intelligible mind. Think about this for a second. We are the people who claim to appreciate God, who is true beauty and excellence and perfection. We have been given the work of "salting and lighting" the world with our words and deeds. We have the power of the Holy Spirit in us and the promise of eternal rewards before us. Somehow, we take these factors, exert ourselves, and produce...mediocrity. How is this? How can this be?

I confess that I'm not sure why. I guess I could say that we Christians have long thought that art was good if it was true only. We gave no attention to whether it was beautiful or not. Truth is the main thing, but it is not a substitute for beauty. The two work together. The most beautiful work of art should be the most true, and the most true should be the most beautiful. God is the example of this for us. He is both absolute Truth and absolute Beauty. He is not simply philosophically right. And He is not simply radiantly wonderful. He is both at the same time, and we are the richer for it. Armed with this knowledge, we should make art that is both true and beautiful. Our songs should be written with excellence and composed with harmony. Our movies should be subtle, powerful, and engrossing. Our paintings and handcrafts should be solemn, reverential, and arresting. When our art is done in these ways, it will more fully witness to the reality of God and more fully reflect His glory. In turn, it will commend this God who is Truth and Beauty to a culture that knows neither in any meaningful way. The Lord has taken care and time to fashion us into creatures beautiful in His sight. How can we not do the same?


Blogger Aedonis said...

Some great insights, Owen. I appreciate you tackling a difficult topic.

Some things to consider: what about arts within the Church? By your argument, some old ladies in church choir should perhaps go elsewhere. If excellence is the standard for art in general, shouldn't that apply even more so to art as worship?

Also, God has not made all of us talented in the area of the arts. I enjoy writing, but I am by no means a C.S. Lewis. By what standard am I to judge my own ability? In effect, what does excellence really mean?

Last point: Art is subjective in its appeal. Not everyone likes the same thing or for the same reasons. Art is also subjective in the sense that it, by its very nature, appeals to emotion. No one can look at a piece of good art and feel nothing. Art is also greatly influenced by the culture and background of the artist. As such, no one is an unbiased judge of what constitutes excellent art.

I agree with you that we need to put forth great effort in our desire to both honor God and reach our dying brethren with our artistic ability. But my question to you is, if we are succeeding in both of those areas, aren't we doing something excellent?

7:07 AM  

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