Living at the convergence of faith and art.

Artists of Faith: Where might we belong?

Byzantine AngelI’ve been deeply studying the realm of faith & art for some six or eight years now, and I believe God has given me some sort of an idea as to where artists of faith might “belong”.

This month I’ve had the privilege of taking an Adult Christian Ed. class from Pastor Bryan Burton.  It’s called Believing, Belonging, and Becoming. It’s just four weeks long and we’ve completed the second session.  Last Sunday Bryan talked, in depth, about believing.  The gist of it is that we must begin with belief, which he calls “intellectual assent”. Belief is just “head-knowledge”. Here’s the difficult part, to develop faith we must act on our belief.  It’s a back and forth, left-hand to right-hand process.  Begin with belief, develop faith, increase belief, develop more faith.

Most artists of faith recognize their artmaking as both an act of worship and an act of faith (Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water, ppg 18-24).

It’s a tough place to be because most of the artists of faith I talk to agree; we’re criticized by the church for being “too secular” and by the secular world for being “too religious”. I’m discovering, by reading the works of Calvin Seerveld, Hans Rookmaaker, Dick Staub, and others, that there are real dangers associated with trying to please either group.

Try to make art that’s somehow relevant to the unbelieving world and all too often we fall into the trap of looking, sounding, and acting just like the very pop-culture we’re trying to influence.  In a vain attempt to be relevant, we’re often simply assimilated.

Try to make art that pleases evangelicals and all too often the work is so sterile and devoid of any semblance of reality or Biblical truth that it has lost any meaningful value whatsoever.

As artists living out our faith through Christ we might well ask, “Where do I belong?”

Let me share an idea with you and see what you think.  I believe that artists of faith need to walk atop a razor’s edge to serve and glorify God in two fundamental ways;

1. Through our art and our lives, we are living witnesses to the world,  proclaiming that God loves us and in that love He has provided a way home through Christ Jesus.

2. Through our art and our lives, we are a living ministry to the Body of Christ, the Church.  Our work can encourage believers to engage their culture and fulfill Jesus’ command to love God, love one another, and in a healthy way, love ourselves.

I am excited to say that I’m seeing just such a walk being made manifest in the works of artists such as Mako Fujimura; whose works are beautiful spiritual abstractions of visual poetry and Edward Knippers; whose works are often brutal, violent, and disquietingly honest – just like the Bible.  And these are just two examples from the visual arts.  There are many more dedicated artists of faith employing a myriad of other media.

Let me know what you think.  Where do you think artists of faith can belong?  How might we glorify God, witness to a hurting world, and minister to a damaged church?

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