Francis Schaeffer, Art & the Bible.
My love for the creative process has been a lifelong joy and a purpose filled journey. It seems that I have always found a way to integrate making art in my role as a mother, a teacher, a homemaker and even in my ministry. Now, after years of personal practice, I have given myself the opportunity to develop this passion into a professional career and to expand my knowledge and abilities as a professional artist.
Having been a teacher of art for nearly 20 years, I fell in love with the artistic process. Watching others create beautiful art and seeing the students’ appreciation for what they have made has been a great inspiration to my own pursuits. The study of art and its affect on history and culture, the examination of the critique and assessment of the value of art in today’s outlook, and, of course the long lived questions on what gives art its value as it aims to attain a standard of excellence and measure of beauty are all important concerns as I attempt to write.
Since I am first and foremost a Christian, I believe that anything that I do academically, artistically or personally must be accountable to my personal faith and service to the message of Christ. We are created beings, meant to reflect and create the beautiful, what is true and what is good. But, how is that actually lived out in the life and work of an artist striving for faith and the practice of a particular gift while being an effective steward? There was a time in my early career that I wondered if I was fulfilling my call as a disciple of Christ, and a disciple maker by attending to my zeal to be an artist? When I have asked guidance from others, I have gotten varying responses, so continued to seek the Lord asking if my aim for a personal growth in this field is worth my time, attention with limited life opportunities to serve God faithfully. Some believe that one’s gifts must direct us to one’s purpose. That is a likely help to determine ones path, but, as a believer, we must be willing to relinquish anything that hinders the path that He desires or requires.
In the midst of all of these wonderings, I have come to appreciate the role that an effective, creative person can have when they are freed to use their gifts to their fullest. The heritage of artistry and the contribution that Christian art has had on the world is astounding. To understand a culture, you must look at its art. The mind, faith and passions will be demonstrated in what has been created, either for necessity or philosophical or religious expressions. Man has always created. Being creative and being part of participating in culture, the artist is always found.
Francis Schaeffer is quoted to say of man “An art work has value as a creation because man is made in the image of God, and therefore man not only can love and think and feel emotion, but also has the capacity to create. Being in the image of the Creator, we are called upon to have creativity. We never find an animal, non-man, making a work of art. On the other hand, we never find men anywhere in the world or in any culture in the world who do not produce art. Creativity is a part of the distinction between man and non-man. All people are to some degree creative. Creativity is intrinsic to our mannishness.”
So, the question for the Christian (visual) artist, is how do we contribute in a way that reflects our desire to be used of God while communicating ideology beyond a mere attempt to draw attention to our own inclinations and self expression? Certainly, the artist may have something to say, and will no doubt be inspired and moved by the stirrings within him.
Brianna Mcclean writes, “The first interaction between God and humankind is a command to create. As image bearers of the ultimate Creator, the one who designed molecular structure and composed bird songs, it should be no surprise that we are called to creativity. The creation mandate is one of cultivation and the Arts are fundamental to this. When we are commanded to “fill the earth and subdue it”, this is a task which speaks of order and beauty, two things the Arts epitomise. Art helps us understand the world and add to it in meaningful ways, a noble profession which finds its roots in Genesis. Being “fruitful” is not limited only to the creation of families but extends to the creation of music, art, theatre and writing. Being an active Christian in the arts presents extraordinary opportunities to point peers and audiences to Jesus. This is not to say that Christian artists should make only “Christian art”. In fact, the very opposite is true.”
She quotes Francis Schaeffer, “A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself.”
I agree with this theological approach to helping the artist find their place within blended callings of artistry and ministry. God is interested in all parts of our lives. The body, soul, mind and spirit, and imagination made available. In Romans, the theological guidance we get from Paul infers that as we offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, we are offering our unique gifts as a form of worship.
In reference to John, who when testifying in the name of Christ and then was questioned of who he was, answered, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord…” This is the cry of the Christian artist as well. Making the way of the Lord clear and accessible, revealing great or simple truths within great or simple works. All the while allowing his “captivated imagination” to be subject to something greater than himself.
“The study of art is a lifelong pursuit for those who have come to appreciate its origins. The creative gifts are meant to be explored, urgently pursued and once attained, shared with the world with all of the generosity as it was given to us.” Laura Ury 2019