The Role of the Arts in the Faith Community

When I was a young woman I desperately used my passion for the visual and performing arts to meet a self-serving need for significance and adoration from others. Upon becoming a Christian I realized how wrong my goals were, and I laid my creative interests before the Lord and swore that I would not take them up again unless they could be used for His glory. There they lay for a couple decades until I could take them up again in ministry and teaching. In addition to being cautious about my earlier misuse of the arts I had by then gained enough maturity to consider what the legitimate role of the arts might be to the faith community and to a person of faith. Working that question out has led to my book, The Genesis Approach to Art, as well as this blog.

Recently I was reading a book entitled Called to Create which is a collection of essays edited by Carol Walden and published by Resource Publications, Inc. and Youth with a Mission in 1986. The first essay, “The Rebirth of Creativity in the Church” by Ron Trudinger, has some interesting contributions to the discussion of the role of the arts in the faith community.

Trudinger asserts that “(Creativity) is an integral part of God’s historical purpose for the church. Without the creative arts, the world may see a monochrome view of Christianity which has very little attraction or appeal.” Furthermore, he complains that we seem to have conceded the arts to the world and in so doing, we have fallen prey to the sin of neglect which is the same sin that the unfaithful steward, in the parable of talents, was guilty of. Trudinger insists that “We have a Christian heritage in the arts,” and he suggests that we examine biblical creativity for inspiration in how “to proclaim our faith in a way that will be heard. Creativity is a vital key in reaching the world today (p 4).”

Trudinger goes on to examine biblical creativity by taking a look at the creative expression fostered by King David. The Bible provides a record that, under David’s leadership, both instrumental and lyrical music was fostered as well as poetry and dance. From my reading of the Old Testament I’m fairly confident that considerable drama and pageantry was used as well as intricate forms of visual arts. Trudinger even suggests that David’s biography and literature have been recorded to serve “as an example to a twentieth century church that seems to have lost much of its luster (p 5)”.

But it is not the contemporary church alone that seems to struggle with the challenge of balancing traditional ritual with vibrant creativity. Trudinger asks us to consider the message of the saints who have gone before us, “The phenomenal creativity that was a hallmark of (David’s kingdom) inspired many prophets to encourage the people of God to return to the features of the Davidic tabernacle.

Amos prophesied: ‘In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David, and wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old’ (Amos 9:11).

The apostle James also singled out this era to explain God’s desire for the church. ‘After these things I will return, and I will rebuild the tabernacle of David which has fallen . . . , in order that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my Name, says the Lord (Acts 15:16-18).

It is interesting to observe that one of the purposes for the restoration of the tabernacle of David was that the rest of mankind might seek the Lord. It seems that there is a strong correlation between creative expression and evangelism (p 5).”

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