Monday, June 24, 2013

Christian criticism of artists

In Echoes of Eden, a very helpful and engaging book by Jerram Barrs, the author suggests two criticisms or challenges that Christians who desire to become artists often face. The first is the simple fact that "art is considered by many in our churches to be unnecessary and unspiritual, even wordly" (37). The second criticism is not leveled at art itself, but rather the artist; "the Christian who perseveres and enters the arts has to face all sorts of criticisms: the charge of hedonism, of worldliness, of being sinful or carnal" (37).

Barrs, with those Christians who feel called to the arts in view, suggests a response on behalf of those gifted individuals:

  • Art needs no justification. It is simply a gift of God, part of his created reality, to be received like any other gift-with gratitude.
  • We must not say that "art for art's sake," for this is the Romantic heresy. Art is to be tied to the reality of God's creation and to our human calling to live as his image bearers.
  • The Christian artist will regard himself or herself as a craftsperson. Artists will see themselves not as self-serving visionaries, but as ordinary humans (that is glorious enough!) with a particular calling from God to serve him and their fellow humans by working with words, music, color, stone, metal, and so on.
  • Most importantly, the Christian in the arts will be committed to humility. The true artist does not say, "I will be an artist, an inspired voice of the gods" (this is too religious a claim), or the "revealer of truth," as if a prophet, or a "self-revealing genius" (these suggest only the artist can truly see reality). Rather, the true artist sees his or her work within the context of and as a subset of God's larger and infinitely more creative work. The true artist values something more than self. The true artist holds up a mirror to what God has made. (37-8)

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