LeAnne Martin
Christians in the Arts

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Roundtable II: Why Christians Should Care about the Arts

Today is the second part of a new feature I'm calling the Roundtable. I'm talking with Sandra Glahn, fiction writer, teacher and speaker. Her answer is so thorough that she's the only person at the roundtable today!

LeAnne: Why do you think Christians should care about the arts?

The Bible is filled with places where we see God's passion for art. In Genesis He makes the world, animals, humanity. In Exodus we see Him giving fantastic instructions for a beautiful tent complete with a wardrobe for those who serve in it. In Leviticus we see him creating all sorts of symbolic ways to express His holiness. Fast forward to Ezekiel or Hosea where we see him giving bizarre instructions to serve as object lessons...

Christians should care about the arts because God created us all to be artists and to appreciate art. It's a human thing and humans are made in God's image. The first verb/second word in Genesis is "created," and the subject is God. Part of reflecting God's image is creating. We were made for this! Have you ever handed a preschooler a piece of paper on which to draw and heard, "I'm just not creative"? (Only when we get old enough to compare our work with that of others do we shut down creativity.) God reveals himself through special revelation (the Word) and through general revelation (creation in its many forms), and we learn about God and express the works of the Almighty in our lives through interaction with both.

And think of Jesus using metaphor--I am the way, the door, the bread, the good shepherd... And communion with its bread and wine engaging our senses of touch and taste and smell and sight as we partake, and sound as we hear the familiar lines "This is my Body." Even the least literate societies can "get" communion and baptism.

I saw an exhibit of Early Christian Art not long ago at Fort Worth's Kimbell Art Museum, and the predominant image was of Jonah. Much more than crosses, images of Jonah's three-day entombment and deliverance were the favorite images of Christ-followers in the first few centuries of the church.

And that's not to mention the Sistine chapel.

Where would art historians be if they knew nothing of the Bible? How much sense would Rembrandt's Prodigal Son make without the story it illustrates?

My brother is a curator for a museum in Oklahoma and when he was in art school, he saw a painting of Bathsheba holding a pomegranate--a symbol of faithfulness. His classmates had no idea what that meant. But he had enough biblical tools to discover the painting was probably not intended to express irony. Many scholars believe Solomon wrote Proverbs 31--and that he wrote it about his mother, Bathsheba, who was--as a righteous woman--taking a ceremonially cleansing bath when a sex-starved king sent his troops to bring her to his palace. Art--including storytelling--and theology intersect beautifully.

Not long ago I attended the funeral of a former boss for whom I'd prayed for more than a decade. To my delight, I learned at that service that he had come to faith in the past few years. As his son-in-law described it, he had walked into a country church and heard the strains of "Amazing Grace," and he knew he was home. I love how God uses art to move people!

Next week, I'm featuring an actor and professor.


Light for the Writer's Soul said...

LeAnne, I enjoyed this so much, I just *had* to link to you in my post today.


LeAnne Benfield Martin said...

Thank you, Vicki! I enjoyed Sandra's comments too. She has a lot of good insights.



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