A Call to Artists...

The following excerpt from N. T. Wright's recent book Evil and the Justice of God is a compelling charter for painters, sculptors, authors, musicians, playwrights, et al.

"How can the Christian imagination be reeducated so that we can become conscious of living between the victory achieved by Jesus and the ultimate renewal of all things? At this point we must speak about art. One aspect of being made in God's image is that we ourselves are creators, or at least procreators. The extraordinary ability to bring forth new life - of course through begetting children, but in millions of other ways as well - is central to the mandate the human race is given in Genesis 1-2. To make sense of and to celebrate a beautiful world through the production of artifacts which are themselves beautiful is part of the call to be stewards of creation, as was Adam's naming of the animals. Genuine art is thus itself a response to the beauty of creation, which is itself a pointer to the beauty of God.

But we don't live in the Garden of Eden. Art which attempts to do so quickly becomes flaccid and trivial. We live in a fallen world, and any attempt to plug into some kind of pantheism, worshipping the creation as if is were itself divine, always runs up against the problem of evil. At that point, art, like philosophy and politics, often swings round the other way, and determinedly responds to ugliness with more ugliness. The British arts world has a rash of this at the moment: a kind of brutalism that, under the guise of realism, simply expresses futility and boredom. Surely there is a wonderful opportunity here for Christians with an integrated worldview and with the longing to love God with heart, mind and soul, to find the way forward - perhaps to lead the way forward - beyond this sterile impasse.

Once again Paul can help us. In Romans 8 he affirms that the whole of creation is groaning in travail as it longs for its redemption. Creation is good, but it is not God. It is beautiful, but its beauty is at present transient. It is in pain, but that pain is taken into the very heart of God and becomes part of the pain of new birth. The beauty of creation, to which art responds and tries to express, imitate and highlight, is not simply beauty which it possess in itself but the beauty which it possess in view of what is promised to it, as an engagement ring is beautiful not least because of the promise it symbolizes, and as a chalice is beautiful because we know what it is meant to be filled with. If Christian artists can glimpse this truth, there is a way forward to celebrating beauty, to loving God with all the soul, without lapsing into pantheism on the one hand or harsh and negative "realism" on the other. Art at its best not only draws attention to the way things are but to the way things are meant to be, and by God's grace the way things one day will be, when the earth is filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea. And when Christian artists go to that task they will be contributing to the integration of heart, mind and soul which we seek, to which we are called. They will be pointing forward to the new world God intends to make, to the world already seen in advance in the resurrection of Jesus, to the world whose charter of freedom was won when he died on the cross. It is by such means as this that we may learn again to imagine a world without evil and to work for that world to become, in whatever measure we can, a reality even in the midst of the present evil age."

p 126-128

I challenge those from among us who are creative, what is it you are doing?

...reacting to the world you see?
...or working to create a new one?

...simply describing the way things are?
...or subverting the status quo?

Anyone can engage in culture, or even engage in cultural critique... Christ's call upon us, however, is neither engagement, nor is it mere critique, rather it is change; implementing in advance what God is promising to do for the world as a whole.

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