When we walk into the studio or theater and start talking with artists, we enter a world of creativity that represents the other half of God’s design for our lives.
The half we’re more familiar with is that of science and technology, which western culture regards as ultimate reality. From this point of view, art is romanticized, isolated – serving merely as an add-on to the quantifiable “real” world. It is enjoyed only in one’s spare time.
But the artistic environment jolts us into realizing we need creativity, feeling, and sensitivity as well. Art can help restore the human spirit and elevate our lives to the status of full image-bearers as intended by God.
So we should be eager to add paint and quarter notes alongside our knowledge of gigabytes and molecules. We will learn to infuse elegance, order, story, movement, humor, metaphor, and other aesthetic qualities into our ministry. And in so doing, we will grow into human beings who look and sound more like our Creator.
Why bother with art at all?
Because art is biblical.
The arts begin with the glory and creativity of God, who made a wondrous world and fashioned men and women in his image. As bearers of the divine image, then, human beings are created to create. That is, they emulate the artistry of God when they engage in artistic activities.
Some image-bearers will pursue the arts as a specialized vocation or hobby. Their works remind us of whose world we inhabit. Others are not gifted specially as artists, but still hold the privilege (as image-bearers) of appreciating truth and beauty as presented by practitioners.
An example of art-making in the Bible, at God’s instruction, is the myriad of designs, patterns, and sculpted figures that adorned the temple built by Solomon (2 Chron 4-5). In Art and the Bible, Francis Schaeffer commented, “The temple was covered with precious stones for beauty. There was no pragmatic reason for the precious stones. They had no utilitarian purpose. God simply wanted beauty in the temple. God is interested in beauty.” Art enhances our humanity and beautifies our world.
How can we serve artists?
God is real and loves art and artists, but many artists on campus have lost touch with their spiritual family of origin. They are adrift. They are authentic to the self they’ve constructed, but this self is orphaned from its Creator and its true vocation of kingdom service.
Thus disconnected, the constructed self misses the opportunity for true authentication, and must seek it in performance. But of course performance – human performance, whether moral or artistic – is the precise problem for which the cross is the solution.
So we humbly (but boldly) offer the gospel of Christ to artists on campus.
Imagine the young artist who embraces the cross and comes alive, for the first time, in the arms of her heavenly Creator. As she discovers God, she also discovers her authentic self. And when this new self sets the imagination to work. . . well, watch out! Something powerful will happen.
Rick Mattson is an apologetics specialist for InterVarsity and an advisor to InterVarsity’s arts ministry. He also works as a campus staff at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.