On The Arts

Originally published in The Global Voice, Volume 15, Issue 2, Spring 2017.
You can read the whole edition here.

The arts are often considered impractical and typically fall within the scope of “extra-curricular” for most education systems. Given, there are some forms of art that are, at best, media schemes for selling a product, and at their worst, a favor from an influential uncle to his favorite nephew so he could display his tantrum-inspired photography on the wall of a building he’ll one day inherit. The kind of art that that this edition of the Global Voice is going to capture, however, is the kind that has meaning, and is intentionally done with the purpose to serve others and help them engage the gift of life.

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Genesis 1 introduces God as Creator. His creative efforts culminate in ordering an environment for human habitation, coupled with the potential for humanity to work with the materials he gave them, and turn that environment into a home, and a beautiful one at that. The beauty of creation, however, wasn’t the end of God’s creative effort; the aesthetic was only one aspect of the artistic endeavor. God also gave humanity the responsibility to make sense of their environment, to learn how to talk about it (education); “and whatever the man named it, that was its name,” (Gen. 2:19); to learn how to make use of it (food production, shelter, and clothing); and to learn how to develop as people in his image, moving towards an understanding of life (tree of life), rather than merely a scientific or philosophical pursuit of reason through the acquisition of knowledge (tree of knowledge).

Created in the image of God, our creative endeavors should include this effort to understand the life we’ve been given; to make sense of the mystery by walking through life being taught by God. Chapter 3 of Genesis hints that this was God’s intention with man and woman as he came in the cool of the breeze of the garden to walk with them, but the people didn’t show up for class. Humanity instead chose to make sense of life by breaking down what was before them into digestible bits of information: “She saw the tree was good for food, to look at, and to make one wise” (Gen. 3:6).

I believe that an artistic approach to life can ensure we take the time to appreciate the mystery of our existence, and walk it out with God. Allowing the Lord to speak into our moment and help us make sense of it, rather than searching for reasons why things are they way they are, on our own. This is a creative venture, it’s art. You can’t attach yourself to an algorithm and predict outcomes. You have to enjoy improvisation, and be patient to sit in the unfolding of a storyline that moves through action, dialogue, and even silence.

There’s so much to say about a biblical theology for art, and perhaps I’ll write more in the future, but for now, enjoy this edition of the Global Voice where you’ll see us implementing this kind of creative work for God’s people to move into an understanding of the life he’s intended for them. It’s good. Very good.