For some Christians, art of one sort or another plays an integral part of their faith life and worship. For others, it may seem like an afterthought. Should churches encourage artists? Philip Ryken, president of Wheaton College, thinks they
should. In an interview with Breakpoint, Ryken says churches are missing out on opportunities by not reaching out to artists.
This is more than a tragedy. It’s a lost opportunity. Ryken notes that ‘Christians called to paint, draw, sculpt, sing, act, dance, and play music have extraordinary opportunities to witness to the grace, beauty, and truth of the gospel… The arts are the leading edge of culture,’ he says.
Ryken asked some of his artistic friends how they had been discouraged from sharing their gifts by the church. The answers ranged from accepting bad art just because it’s Christian to being used as “window dressing” to not being paid for their work. Then, the questions are also raised, “What is art? And what makes Christian art Christian? And why should Christians pay attention to it?”
Artist Makoto Fujimura argues that for the Christian, art must be more than self-expression. It must be communication, because as Christians we deal with objective reality. As one of my mentors once said, art’s job is primarily to ‘paraphrase reality.’ I like that. We can present beauty without being trivial, evil without being gratuitous, and redemption without being hokey.
And the Christian artist is a communicator also because God created through communication—through His spoken word. The creative individual made in the image of the ultimate communicator must be one who communicates as well. Not just what we feel, but what is true and real. Art’s job is to paraphrase Reality.
Now this doesn’t mean Christian art must be preachy or obvious, but it should make us think more deeply and better about life and the world.
John Stonestreet of Breakpoint says that art allows the Christian to not simply think about God or communicate with Him, but art allows the worshiper to participate with God in His creation and Reality.