Sunday, August 13, 2006

How Should Christians Do Art?

A while back I did a series on how Christians engage our culture. In looking at culture, I focused specially on the arts and thought through how we as Christians should encounter secular art. In this series, I intend to ask a different question: how should we make art? What does it look like for a Christian to make music or paint paintings or film films? Some may not think this question is important. When you think of how much engagement my contemporaries have with the arts, though, this becomes an important matter.

Though we may not know it, we're encountering philosophies on this question all the time. When you turn on your local Christian pop radio station, you are hearing a philosophy through the music they choose. When you ask a young person which bands they like and they reply "Coldplay, MuteMath, and Bob Dylan," you're hearing a philosophy. The choices Christians make about what to listen to or watch likely reflects the way they would approach the creation of art. Now, there are not enough Christians out there making art. This is a slight diversion from the question of this blog, but that's fine. This is an important matter. Many Christians don't think much about art. That's not right. We should not cede the making of art to non-Christians. There is absolutely no good reason to do so. Beautiful creations show the beauty of God's creative power and actually reflect the glory of God, whether made by a Christian or not. Why on earth would we cede the making of beautiful things to those who have no care for the Creator, who shake their fist at him even as they form works of great beauty? We should not. We should be evangelists for art. We should make it to give shape and color to the presence of ineffable realities such as grace, beauty, horror, and sadness. The arts give us a powerful vehicle for expressing the inexpressible. We should be the most communicative of all the world's people, as we have found in the Bible the Ultimate Reality that allows us to make sense of our world. Through the arts, we can point out both that Ultimate Reality and also the attendant experiences, emotions, and truths that make up that Reality. We should not leave it to the secularist to construct shards of reality when we may shape the whole stain-glass window. This is our task, not the world's.

Christians should be evangelists for art. To amend my own question, then, should Christians do art? The answer, I think, is a resounding yes. In coming days, we examine how.

3 Comments:

Anonymous BC said...

Well, recently, there have been some interesting posts at firstthings.com on this topic.

That said, there is a rather long standing tradition of Christian art, e.g. Dante, Bach, Caravaggio. This is not to say that we should imitate the specific artistic forms and styles of these artists - Flannery O'Connor is not Dante - but they do, perhaps, offer some suggestion. BC

3:33 PM  
Blogger Dad said...

I find this very interesting and challenging. When I consider my work I see, hopefully, nice things. However, I am having trouble thinking beyond beautiful things. May a piece(s) of wood convey a message? I think so, but I am finding the conceptualizing of this a bit of a challenge. I am having to learn to think about this, and it is not an easy road. Looking forward to the next installment.

Al

4:48 AM  
Blogger Jed said...

BC brings up a good point. One of the problems with Evangelicals is that we are artistic myopes. We seem to think that Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith invented "Christian Music", a category which I'm not even sure is helpful. Indeed one of the more interesting cases is that of Bach who thought a lot about what it is to write music for God's Glory alone (as he inscribed his music). Contrast this with the Romantics who emphasized self-expression (which Bach would never have thought was a good reason for doing art) and again with Plato (who, for slightly different reasons also thought self-expression a terrible reason for doing art). questions for you to think about: 1. what does it mean to do art for the glory of God? 2. how is this different from doing anything else for the glory of God? (for all things are to be done for his glory) 3. Is the modern fascination with self-expression re. art a religious question or is it primarily one of metaphysics? (say those of Plato versus those of Nietzsche)

10:09 AM  

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