By Chad Burchett, Editor in Chief of SLAM
Every Christian should be an artist. Although many Christians maintain that art is just not for them, their world is immersed in art—some of which they contribute. Intentionally or not, we all serve as constant collaborators in a world of art. As Francis Schaeffer pens in his book Art and the Bible, “All of us are engaged daily with works of art, even if we are neither professional nor amateur artists.” Whether we produce high art or popular art or just contribute the art of a well-lived life and a well-spoken tongue, we are all functional artists. Denying the arts extinguishes a vibrant part of your identity and mission.
One of the primary ways believers can engage culture is through art. Households that would not open their home to a gospel presentation or a door-to-door evangelist may welcome our art onto their walls or shelves. The same people who recoil from a Bible may embrace our books, watch our films, read our poetry, and admire our photography. By our art we have the power to engage thousands of lives which we may never interact with any other way. Art is a stewardship—a powerful instrument of cultural transformation that we can either intentionally wield for the glory of God or wrongly choose to ignore or misuse.
As stewards of art and ambassadors to the culture, believers have been entrusted with an innate creativity which impels us to find ways to make, magnify, and multiply things around us. Like sea spray from the ocean, our modest creativity emanates from the torrent of beauty and originality: our Creator. However, this creativity can either be employed as an endowment from God to magnify his glory unto all nations (all cultures) or be suppressed—turned away from its rightful object and function.
Art is quite often the manifestation of culture in a condensed form. Thus, a vital way we can create or transform culture is through our art. Every piece of art—however insignificant—will either serve as a corroborating witness to culture that encourages the status quo or as a countercultural influence that challenges its norms. As those who desire to transform culture, we as believers should be intentionally invested in the production of carefully-crafted art. Although we should be active and eager to generate art, we must never become indiscriminate about the quality of our art. Schaeffer alludes to this truth in Art and the Bible when he writes, “While creativity is a good thing in itself, it does not mean that everything that comes out of man’s creativity is good.”
Now some believers may suppose, then, that art is only productive if it is explicitly theological. However, this is not entirely true. Although good art can and oftentimes should carry with it a theological message, all our art does not need to be lavishly wrapped in theological tinsel. By creating well-crafted art through a distinctively Christian worldview, our art—whether crafted overtly or not—will effectively communicate to and engage our audience. Christians should contribute art beyond the walls of distinctly religious spheres. The key for Christians is to embrace the diversity of art and craft every acceptable form of it masterfully, demonstrating awareness of creation, love for neighbor, and delight in God.
Art is everywhere. And we are part of its world-wide diffusion. Yet the world is starving for the meaning—the beauty—behind it all. Ironically, many critics in the world may have a better eye for aesthetics and symmetry than Christians often do, but we know what underlies it all. We know what imbues every masterpiece with grandeur because our souls have been awakened to true Beauty—to true Reality. We know what underlies it all. Until our delight in the en-fleshed Word makes all of creation ring with his resplendence and all art redound with his beauty, then we will never be able to lead the beauty-loving world around us to the true Beauty and the true Meaning behind it all. We are artists, and this is an art-starved world.
Chad is the Editor in Chief of SLAM and a junior at The College at Southeastern who is majoring in English and theology and minoring in Christian studies. He hopes to employ his love for writing and his delight in theology to edify the church and evangelize the nations. Chad desires to magnify the beauty and supremacy of Christ through well-crafted art and vivid literature. He enjoys helping others develop their passions and skills with excellence so that the excellencies of Christ might be luminously displayed through them.