Thursday, September 20, 2012

What is Christian Art? (Or Why Do Christian Artists Get the Hard Questions?) (Part 1)

What is "Christian Art"? What is a "Christian artist"? What kind of art is a "Christian artist" supposed to create? These are questions that artists who are Christians get to face. Christians who are called to creative vocations get the "hard" questions. Ultimately, all Christians come to a wall where they must answer hard questions as to what is "ultimate" in their life, but artists get hit with hard questions right from the "get go". I know that after God brought me back to Him at the age of 56 years old, I had very serious questions, like, "Okay God, now what? How is this supposed to work? How does my art fit with God?" Thankfully, just as we cannot limit God by putting Him in a box, God does not desire to limit us by putting us in a box either.

Sometimes we have a tendency to have preconceived notions about what some things are, or what they should look like. In order to find some answers, we need to slow down and really examine what our Christian lives are all about. We each need to pick this “idea about our art and our God“ up and turn it slowly in our hands; look at it, feel it, meditate on it and see it from different perspectives.

So, what is a "Christian artist"? I follow that question with more questions... What is a "Christian furniture maker"? What is a "Christian factory worker", or a "Christian firefighter"? 

The real heart of the matter is not what kind of art an artist makes, or what furniture a craftsman makes, or where a weatherman works, it is more a matter of where we place God in our life! In Western culture, we have separated our spiritual life from our “everyday” life. We have largely taken God out of our everyday life. How we approach everything we do is a matter of worship - especially relating to gifts of the Spirit…gifts from God. The level to which our callings, our vocations, our jobs, our arts, are an act of worship, is a direct reflection of our attitude of worshiping God in the first place. Do we worship God from a place of fear, duty or love? Do we worship God primarily for what we can get, for what He can do for us? Is our worship self-centered or God-centered? 

We seek to be excellent in what we do, as a matter of glorifying God. We seek to make custom furniture, make accurate weather reports, give good customer service, produce art in a manner that ultimately glorifies God, not ourselves.

What kind of art should a Christian artist make? I don’t know. That’s between God and the artist. As mentioned at the outset of the article, God doesn’t put us in a box. God doesn’t give you a gift and not want you to develop and use it to its fullest. It is more likely to be other Christians who will not know what to do with you as an artist and try to put you into a box of presupposition and limitation. They probably will even be well-meaning, but have been conditioned by church culture and tradition.

I encourage every artist who is a Christian to take time and examine how being Christ-centered applies to your art. Seek God’s face. Don’t let anyone tell you what “Christian art” is.   If you “Google” the topic “What is Christian Art?”, you get some very interesting and varied ideas about what “Christian art” is. I encourage you to read, study and pray about it. Do not let someone, even if they are well-meaning, put you in a box. Each believing artist needs to come to their own place before God.

To me, being a Christian artist is about two things - being an authentic Believer, and being an authentic artist. 

 God uses the broken and the un-useful, as well as the beautiful to give Himself glory.


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