by Chad Burchett, Editor in Chief of SLAM
For many of us, New Year’s Day inaugurates a myriad of new resolutions, traditions, and ventures; however, for SLAM it signals the rebirth of something very old. Although we, too, eagerly await the newness of the year, SLAM seeks to kindle a new season of opportunities, resources, and advances with the tinder of a millennia-old tradition: the tradition of world-transforming Christian art.
In the pre-Christian era of the Old Covenant, God instilled an artistic impulse in the heart of the Israelites’ communal and religious life in a way that showcased his delight in non-utilitarian beauty (as noted in an earlier SLAM post: 4 Reasons for Christians to Love the Arts). The centrality of beauty in both the tabernacle and temple and in the daily rituals of the community served as a memorial which proclaimed the name of the Lord to the nations. Then in the New Covenant as the incarnate God tabernacled with humanity (John 1:14), the site of artistic beauty became decentralized as Christ—the beautiful radiance of God (Hebrews 1:3)—commissioned his people to proclaim the glory of the incarnate one in their words and work among the nations. Thus, the people of God dispersed among the nations as ambassadors of a world-renewing beauty, advancing the restoration of Christ’s sacrifice, cultivating echoes of beauty in the world, and heralding the return of the incarnate God-man who will renew all things.
Over the last two thousand years Christians have been prominent catalysts for the exposure and preservation of beauty through art. From early iconography in the Patristic Era to sculpturing and cathedral architecture in the Medieval Era to painting and literature in the Reformation Era, Christians have heralded the divine beauty through glimmers of beauty in their artistic expression. However, as Christians began to increasingly suspect contemporary culture, the church gradually weaned itself from contributing a strong voice for true beauty amid the burgeoning diversification of art. Thus, without the sharpening influence of critique and exposure and without the strong conviction to showcase divine beauty through art, Christians let artistic excellence fall by the wayside.
As James S. Spiegel comments in his article, “Aesthetics and Worship,” “The Christian church, once the leader of the arts, is now scarcely taken seriously in artistic communities. Worse yet, the formal worship of Christians is compromised by mediocrity in this area.” This reality exposes a general misunderstanding of the Christian faith—for Christianity centers upon beauty, glory, and illumination. This woeful neglect in churches, as Spiegel goes on to write, “is not for lack of inspiration, as the scriptures are brimming with aesthetic instructions, from the Genesis creation account to the hymns of Revelation, not to mention the nature of the Biblical writings themselves.” Christians, of all people, ought to be enflamed with a passion for the beautiful—for disseminating glimmers of the divine radiance in all of life (see an earlier SLAM post: An Art-Starved World: Why Christians Should Produce Art). Indeed, for it was the precious beauty of Christ that invaded our hearts—that the Spirit of God shone in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6). It was the divine radiance that opened our eyes to the victory won for us on the cross—that aroused our affections for Christ. We should be enflamed with a desire to express beauty, for our very lives are founded upon it.
Created to be a catalyst for Christian beauty through world-transforming art, SLAM seeks to equip students with the opportunity, community, and resources to develop their understanding and mastery of art in its manifold forms and to extend the influence of Christ’s culture-transforming kingdom, multiplying the praises of our creativity-endowing Creator. At SLAM, we are excited about what the new year holds and hope that you will come alongside us as we seek to reinvigorate the arts among Southeastern students. We are here to serve you, to encourage you, and to offer you opportunities to practice and develop your art form for the glory of God. Although the task is an old one and has spanned the generations of the people of God, the call to partake is as distinct and fervent as ever. The call goes forth as Christians all around the world rise to live for the glory of Christ, as they paint to reflect the beauty of Christ, as they write to enlarge the transcendence of Christ, and as they work to manifest the imminence of Christ.
The staff at SLAM ask that you consider how you might join SLAM this year in the grand task of renewing the world through art—through beauty which glistens with the all-satisfying beauty of Jesus Christ. We have embraced a new year; will we embrace an old call? The staff at SLAM propose that this year we resolve to be ambassadors of a world-renewing beauty through well-crafted art, advancing the restoration of Christ’s sacrifice, cultivating echoes of true beauty in the world, and heralding the imminent renewal of all things. This is our proposal for 2017—may God grant us grace to fulfill it.
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.