Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts

The gospel is not limited to mentions of the death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  That, of course, is the hub of the matter.  There would be no good news without it.  But in its fullness, the gospel spreads out and embraces all aspects of our lives.  It includes the renewed mind that Paul refers to, the wisdom sought after by Solomon and the justice called for by Amos.

C.S. Lewis once said that he believed in God like he believed in the sun: “not because I can see him, but because by him I can see everything else.”  It is possible to create work saturated with gospel insights without spelling out the plan of salvation, just as it is possible to demonstrate the joys of marriage without showing off your wedding photographs.  Songwriter T.Bone Burnett, speaking to the L.A. Weekly, said, “If Jesus is the Light of the World, there are two kinds of songs you can write.  You can write songs about the light, or you can write songs about what you can see from the light.  That’s what I try to do.”

A sermon requires authority, clarity and a personal challenge.  Art, on the other hand, often deals in doubt, ambiguity and self-criticism.  The Irish poet W.B.Yeats once observed that the quarrel with others produced rhetoric but the quarrel with oneself produced poetry.”  So often Christian artists feel that their role is to take on the enemy, whereas they would produce better and more accessible work if they dealt with the contradictions, waverings and weaknesses within themselves.

The visual arts help us to see with greater clarity.  They draw our attention to overlooked details.  They restore our sense of amazement.

British philosopher and historian of ideas R.G.Collingwood, in his Essays in the Philosophy of Art, says, “The artist must prophesy not in the sense that he foretells things to come, but in the sense that he tells his audience, at the risk of their displeasure, the secrets of their own hearts.”

By Steve Turner, IVP © 2001

Michael WeiComment