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What is Christian Art anyway?

One of the ideas I’ve grappled with over the years is, What is Christian art?  I mean, what makes an artistic expression like music or drama or dance uniquely Christian?  What does that term mean anyway?  And I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t necessarily anything that has Christian symbolism or religious themes or doves and crosses.  More than anything, Christian art must begin to reflect the overarching story of God, the Meta-Narrative, that our Triune God is in the process of redeeming that which has fallen, that which He had created, that which He loves.

The story of all that is, is the story of God.  He takes His pen in hand to write this story: Creation, Fall, Redemption.  All of history, all of the Bible, all of what was and is and will be, reflects this three act play of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, that God is writing in the universe.

But that’s not all.  He writes this story in our souls as well.  For all of us have our own stories, our own vignettes of how God’s grace has saved us, changes us.  And our stories enter into His larger story of the redemption of the universe.

And this distinction can be subtle or overt. It certainly need not be forced or made formulaic. But it must affect us as artists. It must affect our art. Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin contend in their essential book, Art and Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts:

"In working through the most central plot of the Bible’s “grand story”—creation, fall and redemption—we have put in place the beginnings of a worldview. Through these spectacles we can begin to view and perhaps question the many assumptions that are tossed in our direction. Questioning assumptions is, of course, very much in the spirit of the post-modern age, but it is also the spirit of Christ."

We stand in the shadows of differing worldviews—a mosaic of religions, philosophies, mindsets, and historical eras. And in one way or another, art has been an expression for all of these co-existing yet unaligned worldviews. And we also live in a broken world. Because of the fallen nature of this earthly existence, we are thrust into unintended complexity—the universe has been invaded by sin, and as a result, we have disorder, distortion, disease, dysfunction. The universe does not operate as it was intended. We as Christians share the worldview that God created the world and in spite of the world’s broken nature, He is in the business of rescuing it and redeeming it. And in one way or another, our art should be an expression of that. This is what Christian art should be, honest in the brutal and complex realities of this world but also revelatory in the redemption of it.

So when we compose songs or choreograph dance or edit film or write a book, God’s story is told in some small way.  Creation, Fall and Redemption.  When you can see your art in this way, then I think you can begin to frame what it is to make Christian art.

Comments

I could not agree more. Stoked you're sharing your thoughts here on Conversant. This is a conversation that needs to continue.

It's so refreshing to hear "Art" even being talked about in a way that treats it as important and valuable for a Christian to invest their time in. I can't tell you how many times I've attempted to improve the artistic and design aesthetic of some ministry related event and the prevailing attitude I run into is summed up in a comment like "We just want to teach the word of God." As if doing both some how isn't possible, or creating relevant well crafted and creative art in some way degrades the sharing of truth?

Appreciate the post.

Von

Your perspective on art and faith is refreshing! I'm glad to see you got the book published and are now stirring up conversation on the topic. I wish more people understood the intersection between art and faith...so much of art has revolved around faith, yet art doesn't seem to get connected back to faith as much. Thanks Manuel!

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About
A rock musician turned rocket engineer turned Christian artist, MANUEL LUZ is a creative arts pastor, working musician, and author. His new book, Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist, is released by Moody Publishers.


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