"The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."—Francis Schaeffer
The arts are jam-packed with bold statements. Laurel Gasque
said this more simply, "Art, the silent one, speaks volumes." Some of the statements the arts make are about God. These statements are sometimes implicit and are often explicit. Some of these proclamations about God the artist is conscious of, and some are unconscious. The absence of God and/or affronts to God and to religion in the arts also communicates a worldview or belief system. It is in this communication, the stated and the unstated, the explicit and the implicit, that the arts can contribute to our understanding of humanity and theology.
Art is not unbiased in its existence. Art has an agenda. Art evokes a response in us, and the artist typically has a purpose or goal in mind for his or her art. In art's very essence as a created work, art makes assertions about God, either positively or adversely. Art is not static. Art is fluid and subject to its creator and admirers, as well as to its cultural context. The artist brings him or herself to art as does the spectator. As Howard Zinn
said, "You can't be neutral on a moving train." Art is transporting us somewhere from our current positions or perspectives.
Theology can and does enlighten the arts, as well. Hans Rookmaaker
said this best: "Art cannot be used to show the validity of Christianity; it should rather be the reverse." Our beliefs or worldviews can dictate the art we gravitate toward, appreciate and create. Our beliefs about God also can dictate whether we participate in the arts at all. We may be so cautious about the arts that we neglect them for sole devotion to God, seeking to be unhindered by the arts out of fear that they are incompatible with our beliefs about God.
In the opposite extreme, art can become our religion or an idol. Art can become an end in itself. As "Art is my Religion
" blog stated: "The galleries were so quiet...It was like being in a church dedicated to art, and I truly felt the reverence that the paintings demanded...I wished I'd been with someone I knew, so I could turn to them and say: Aren't people amazing? Look what we can do!" In this instance, art points no further than humanity and is elevated to religion and worship without the thought of God or of God's gifting of creativity.
So why would a Christian study or participate in the arts?Tim Keller
said, "The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination 'gets you,' even when your reason is completely against the idea of God." According to Keller, art has an evangelistic purpose and value. We can come to know God through creativity and imagination. While we may agree with this statement, there is more to the importance of art than evangelism. Keller likely would agree there are many other values to the arts than evangelism.