This fall I will be teaching a Seminary course on Christianity and the Arts in which we will determine how a Christian view of beauty and truth meets form and content within the arts. One of the texts we will examine is Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible in which he states, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars”. This book is a primer on biblical creativity with the idea that “we create out of a worldview and it is our responsibility to align that point of view with Scripture before continuing on” (9).
This has been my tenet for many years as an aficionado of all Liberal Arts: poetry, architecture, literature, painting, and art history (French, Dutch and German). Experiencing these arts has brought me much joy over the years. I try to spend a few hours each week immersed in one or more activities of: copying a masterful works by the Impressionists ;reading prose from nineteenth century authors such a Longfellow, Melville, Goethe; discovering and translating the traditional languages of past centuries such as Greek, German, Russian and French which have not been available in English; or digging deep into the Scriptures in the original language of Greek to find hidden nuggets of truth. These are my happy places that renew my mind and spirit.
What is the place of art in the Christian life? Schaeffer looks at several of these areas of art in the Bible. For example, in the Old Testament, God instructs a specific pattern in the building of the Temple including the architecture, pillars, oracles, bas-relief, the priest’s robes etc. (I Chron 28:11-12). The same is true in Solomon’s temple (2 Chron 3:6) which required Hebrew artisans to handle marble and clay (30).
With reference to poetry, the most obvious Biblical reference is in Psalms. But there is also Jewish poetry in 2 Samuel and the Song of Solomon. Schaeffer states that it is probably much easier to write Anglo-Saxon poetry than Hebrew poetry which requires strict literary discipline (40).
Schaeffer reminds us that “all of us are engaged daily with works of art” (49). When we read books, listen to classical or praise music, admire flower arrangements or paintings we are engaged in art. Man was given the ability to create by God, THE CREATOR of all life. Of course, this was expressed more in the early eras of Renaissance up through Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century. We see this not in a single painting, Schaeffer states, but in their whole collection just as in a series of poems by a poet or the novels of an author (56). Of course, not all art is edifying to God. Just as all language and thoughts of mankind are not automatically edifying!
“The Christian’s life is to be an art work. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world”(94). My expectations of having art in my life extend to eternity. I believe there will not be any platonic separations of art forms there. There is much freedom in artistic expression which allows me to find joy in painting.
This creative part of my life is committed to Christ in hopes to bring Him glory!
Schaeffer, Francis A. (1973). Art and the Bible. Illinois: Intervarsity Press.
Copyright 2020 by Robyn Lowrie. May be quoted in part or full only with attribution to Robyn Lowrie (www.frenchquest.com)