Tag Archives: art

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John Piper offers a wonderful theology of art, in which he defines art as that which is done not merely for utilitarian purposes, but to move or affect.

Strengths of this definition:

  • “good” art affects us in an emotional and/or spiritual way
  • purely pragmatic communication does not seem artful
  • everyone can be artistic in some fashion
  • art and definitions of art should be rooted in God’s character
  • Christians should be more motivated than anyone else to care about art
  • What we could add to this brief definition:

  • some art also has practical purposes (e.g., a beautiful advertisement)
  • art demonstrates the common grace of God, even amongst non-believers
  • art requires intent that sets it apart from everyday actions
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    The world spins madly on, and as it spins, our population continues to increase.

    Over and over again, artists have questioned our tendency to clump together in urban centers and destroy the natural world around us.  At the same time, philosophers and theologians contemplate how historical truths apply in an ever-changing landscape.


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    We often take our surroundings for granted, but that can be dangerous.  Rather than accepting the status quo, we should follow the lead of artists like Yang Yongliang and consider where our trajectory will take us.  For those of us who believe in God, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our time, our energy, our people, and our world.

    For more on Yongliang’s work, read this article by Gizmodo, and check out more of his work here.

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    Good design has dramatic effects upon the human brain. We have all sensed that in one way or another — maybe through an abstraction painted by Pollock, a computer designed by Apple, or a sunset displayed by God.  But have you ever wondered why?

    “Why We Love Beautiful Things” (you can read it here) is a well-written article that explores the connection between good design and science. It is worth reading for anyone who enjoys art and its relation to our brains. Here is how the article ends:

    “We think of great design as art, not science, a mysterious gift from the gods, not something that results just from diligent and informed study. But if every designer understood more about the mathematics of attraction, the mechanics of affection, all design — from houses to cellphones to offices and cars — could both look good and be good for you.”

    I would add that science, too, is a gift from God. Science does not diminish from art, but adds to the incredible wonder of our complex, yet utterly coherent, world that God has made. From a theistic viewpoint, art and science compliment each other because they have a common Creator, so these findings should not surprise us, but rather encourage us as we pursue the arts and sciences.

     

    Photo:  NY Times (click image for link)

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    Helpful comments from C.S. Lewis on experiencing the “art of worship” within familiar forms:

    “Every church service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do these things best– if you like, it ‘works’ best– when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it.

    As long as you notice, and have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don’t notice. Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.

    The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God. But every novelty prevents this. It fixes our attention on the service itself; and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshipping…

    A still worse thing may happen. Novelty may fix our attention not even on the service but on the celebrant. You know what I mean. Try as one may to exclude it, the question ‘What on earth is he up to now?’ will intrude. It lays one’s devotion to waste.

    There is really some excuse for the man who said, ‘I wish they’d remember that the charge to Peter was Feed my sheep; not Try experiments on my rats, or even, Teach my performing dogs new tricks.’

    Thus my whole liturgiological position really boils down to an entreaty for permanence and uniformity. I can make do with almost any kind of service whatever, if only it will stay put.

    But if each form is snatched away just when I am beginning to feel at home in it, then I can never make any progress in the art of worship.”

    –C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer (San Diego: Harvest, 1964), 4-5.

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    What makes “Christian” art? This debate has gone on for many years, but at least in my circles, the discussion has not progressed very far. In some ways, this question can be misleading because there is not necessarily a single answer. There are at least 3 ways to define Christian art:

    1. In terms of source: art made by a Christian individual or a group of Christians.
    2. In terms of motive: art intended to minister to others or to glorify God in a general way.
    3. In terms of message: art that communicates a message about the Christian God or is somehow influenced by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Considering the Oxford dictionary as an example, there are various alternatives when defining a word. A single definition is not more “correct” than another, so we would be better off describing what kind of Christian art we are talking about. As a result, the conversation can advance further when we avoid semantics and focus our discussion on a specific kind of Christian art.

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    Animoto is kind of scary, yet also very cool. Using this service, you can insert photos and music, and it automatically creates a video. This is an extremely practical tool if you need a quick alternative to a slideshow. My guess is that these videos will soon be all over the internet.

    I suppose that some people would consider randomness to be art. (Some fractals, for instance, are random.) But randomization can only go only go so far, especially if it requires little or no skill on our part.

    As we enter into a new realm of technological possibilities, we should enjoy the latest forms of digital art, but we need to avoid confusing the latest technology with art.

    Just as with any other decision that we make, it would be fair to say that true art must involve willful intent. Beauty can happen by accident, but not art.

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    In his closing comments at the Arise Arts Conference, Brian McLaren complimented Christian artists for “using the arts to better the church.” Most of us could agree with that because over the past 30 years the Church has made huge strides in music and arts in the church. There has been an improvement in quality and diversity, as seen in our churches and the success of contemporary Christian music.

    Following his brief compliment, McLaren challenged Christian artists to use the arts to “better the world.” His challenge resonated deeply with me. Far too often, we fall into the temptation of using art to improve our local, personal context. We only think within the walls of the Church. In reality, though, art can transcend that and become much more. Our art, in short, should be selfless.

    Through art, we can do amazing things. Just to name a few… We can personalize strangers. We can spread light. We can help people feel compassion. We can invoke emotions. We can bring people into the redemptive story.

    >>> By the way, be sure to check out Taylor Birkey’s blog and his post about the arts conference. He is a fellow Taylor grad that graciously helped me attend the conference, and his blog is definitely worth checking out.