A Theology of Art


In his comment to yesterday’s “Fiction Is …” post, Ken linked to an interesting article, one of three blog posts actually, by Trevor Cairney, a university administrator in Sydney, Australia.

As I read Dr. Cairney’s questions and comments about the lecture series presented by Professor Trevor Hart from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, on the topic God and the Artist: Human creativity in theological perspective, I realized I in fact had my own theology of art.

Actually I revealed much of it in yesterday’s post. Here are the salient points with elaboration on some:

1) God made us in His own image, and in part that means we are creative. At one point Professor Hart talked about artistry as obedience, but I don’t think that’s true. First, I don’t think the idea of doing art to be obedient is something Scripture teaches, but in addition, I don’t see God commanding us to be who He made us.

He gave us a will and emotions and intellect. He made us relational and He made us creative. All these things need to be brought under submission to Him, but it’s not like we have to work at thinking in order to be obedient. Or work at feeling in order to be obedient. Likewise, we don’t need to work at art in order to be obedient.

However, I also think it’s important not to limit the concept of creativity to the fine arts. Is an architect not creative? Or a chef? A hairdresser? A basketball player? A carpenter? A florist? An inventor? A gardener? Of course some people don’t express their creativity in their profession but may in their hobby. And some may not create at all. But this latter fact doesn’t mean they don’t have the capacity to create.

2) God created a beautiful world, but it was also utilitarian. From my perspective, God is an amazing economist. He created lavishly, but as scientists have discovered, even the smallest, seemingly unimportant creatures add and detract to the world in ways that make them irreplaceable. In Eden God made trees that were not only pleasant to look at but that had tasty fruit and that could make one know good and evil. All in one package. He didn’t waste His materials.

3) Creation (art), then, is not lessened if it also has a utilitarian function, but enhanced.

4) My purpose on earth is to make disciples, to glorify God, to be in relationship with Him, to be salt and light to the lost and dying. Consequently, my art, when it is at its best, should not only be beautiful but should fulfill some part of my purpose.

All this brings me full circle to what I said yesterday: My contention is, the best art always says something meaningful. That it doesn’t convey an overt message shouldn’t be misconstrued: despite the bill of goods Modern Philosophy tried to sell us, the purpose of art, especially written art, is still communication.

Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 1:39 pm  Comments Off on A Theology of Art  
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