Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Art and redemption

As a writer and a lover of nature and of all things beautiful, I have spend a decent amount of time thinking about the place of the arts in the Church, and the role of artists from a spiritual perspective.

If God is the Creator, then His creation is the greatest art ever made. But if He made us in His image--if we are the pinnacle of His creation--then He made us with the ability to create things ourselves. I feel like it's our place to "add to" creation. Art, I believe, is one of our highest forms of worship. The first role God played in our documented knowledge of His was the role of a Creator. If we create things and try to make them beautiful and meaningful, then we're imitating God in the very first capacity in which He revealed Himself to us.

Last year I was involved in leading a ministry called Artspeak, which sought to unite artists (writers, painters, dancers, actors, musicians...) on campus and encourage them, in their artistic expressions, to seek and express the very heart of God. If all of our talents and abilities are breathed into us by our Creator, then they are inherently good and intended for good purposes. The arts are in need of redemption, and I have seen God moving in those artists who have given themselves to Him, all around the world. All art is a chance to explore the natural world, human nature, and even God. Exploring God and His creation is something that, I believe, is very lovely to Him.

There have been great human minds that have contributed so much to the marvels of this world. While I tend to look at mountains and oceans and leaves and feathers and think that there is no created thing more beautiful than creation, there is still much beauty in the creations of mankind. Some of the most amazing art is in the form of architecture. The pyramids of ancient Egypt, old castle ruins scattered across northern and western Europe, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, Aztec ruins, the Great Wall of China. The list goes on forever. It is perfectly acceptable, even wonderful, to build and invent for our convenience and our progression and our expression--as long as we are good stewards of God's original creation. Do we always remain good stewards? Certainly not. But that is a tangent to be exploerd in other posts.

I do not try to bring undeserved glory to human art. I try, like the apostle Paul, to "count all things as loss for the sake of knowing Christ..." But our God is a creative God. And He has made us as reflections of Him. So every human characteristic that is not inherently bad can be redeemed to reflect an aspect of God's personality--to express in fresh ways His heart of love and beauty.

Why have I felt compelled to explore this topic today? Two and a half years ago I went on a mission trip to Paris, France, where we worked directly with an arts ministry. Imagine a group of 70-100 artists, all coming together in an effort to bring glory to God through their creations... It was beautifully moving. Here is a website that tells about the event we worked with.

This morning, I had an unexpected contact with one of the artists I met while on the trip. His art is incredibly beautiful and expressive of the Lord. His blog features some of his work, and it's truly worth checking out. After two and a half years, a comment from him pops up in my e-mail box and sets my mind in motion again. Such incidents do not happen without meaning; I have always known that my purpose on this earth was connected with art, and each time I forget that, a reminder is sent my way.

Amazing, yes?

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