This post follows my recent post ‘Covenanted for culture, redeemed for cultural renewal’.
What is the job of Christian artists? Here are some thoughts.
First, Christian artists must produce art.
A statement of the obvious, perhaps, but let us feel the force of the word ‘must’. Christian artists must use the gifts God has given them to the glory of God.
Second, Christian artists must produce art that is beautiful and well executed.
Skill and artistry matter. This is art for the glory of God so trite, clichéd, commercialised art will not do. Though the artist must make her way in the world, we cannot be content with art for the sake money when our lives – including are artistic lives – are to be lived for the sake of the glory of God. So excellence and integrity matter.
Every Christian should pursue creativity to the glory of God. All of us should be creative in their work and home, valuing quality and beauty. A well-presented business report and well-decorated dinner table are expressions of the cultural mandate. A cleaned kitchen is a redemptive act against chaos. Some may also take up art as a hobby – a sabbath activity. All of these activities have their own intrinsic value.
But the value we give to less well-executed art does not mean those with ability are excused the pursuit of excellence (any more than the less skilled preacher mandates the skilled preacher to produce poor sermons). We should all do art to the best of our abilities to the glory of God. The community of God’s people should value all contributions as expressions of love for God and delight in his glory. But it will value some contributions as more beautiful and true because they are well executed by gifted artists.
Third, Christian artists must produce art that is true
Christian artists must produce art that corresponds to a Christian worldview. The work of a Christian artist must be true.
Does this mean artists are pedagogues and preachers? Must art convey moral lessons? No. God has given the church preachers and teachers. The artist has a different role. This is not how art works. Art is elusive, ambiguous, open-ended. Art makes us think and invites us to explore. ‘Peculiar to art is a parable character, a metaphoric intensity, an elusive play in its artifactual presentation of meanings apprehended.’ (Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows For the Fallen World, 27) Art approaches us from a side-ways direction, getting in behind our prejudices. It is precisely because (or when) it refuses to preach at us that it has the power to challenge our preconceptions. The message of the artist may not be as opaque as that of the preacher, but therein lies its power to unsettle and transform.