I Exist! (Towards an understanding of Christ in Culture.)
We spend all our lives in the secular world. Much of this time we are either listening to music, watching TV, movies, videos, or YouTube, enamoured with our iPhones, or reading newspapers and adverts. We attend art museums, theatres, and music festivals. We compose letters, write poetry, send photos and enjoy the latest fashions. We have grown up with and are surrounded twenty-four hours a day with sensory stimulation for our eyes and ears. Jesus stated that we are to be in the world although not of it. Never has our culture been so influenced by the art forms within it. When I say ‘art’ or ‘arts’ I am referring to the totality of artist expression, those previously mentioned and many more.
What does God think about all of this? Does He speak through and within all these voices, within these various forms of expression, within this whirlwind of sight and sound? What does theology have to do with the arts and vice versa? Is there a prophetic voice within, speaking, whispering, singing, screaming, moving and dancing towards us? And is there a theology of, for or within the arts? I believe there is a strong biblical foundation and a powerful prophetic vision for all spheres of life. This, of course, includes the arts. So the answer must be a very affirmative yes.
An artist simply recreates what God has already created. Nothing is new under the sun. Everything has been created before by God. As artists, we simply imitate the creations we witness which God has produced. Musical scales, every instrument, pens, papers, computers, internet, paintbrush, stencil, sketch board, camera, lens, stage, set, location, studio, museum are all created and established by God. Not to mention every sunrise, sunset, mountain top, ocean, flower, forest, field, jungle, bird, insect and animal, as well as all philosophies, intuition, insights, ambitions, feelings, loves, hates, thoughts and desires.
Two important questions we must raise concerning our understanding of art, "What is Art", and "What is the purpose of Art"? A theology of the arts must begin with God and his creative purposes. We must see God as the first cause in all creation and therefore all creative purposes. Therefore, all art must be viewed as re-creations of the initial creation, which came from God. The deepest way God exhibited his perfection was by utilizing all forms of Art. Examples of this is seen in His word:
· Exact proportions in the construction of the tabernacle and temple
· The use of dance and song throughout the Old Testament
· The poetry and lyrics of King David
· The artistic narratives and parables of Jesus
· The glorious doxologies from the Old and New Testament
· The dramatic portrayals of the prophets of God's judgments to come
· Creation itself declaring the prophetic and awesome existence of God
Through art, God communicates not only His beauty, but also his wisdom, holiness, and joy, as well as His judgments. In this way, all art has all the theological and prophetic implications. All artistic endeavours have the power, influence and obligation to lead the recipient towards or away from Christ. With this understanding, Art is seen to possess Christocentric ramifications. Which raises the question of its opposite, can art possess satanic ramifications? The answer is yes and we will see this when we discuss Art in concerning the Fall.
Prophetically, the entire realm of art is seen within the reality of Creation, the Fall and Redemption. All art will be seen within one of these three categories. Either we are expressing God’s creative excellence, exposing (or glorifying) man's tragic fall, or revealing Christ's redemptive power and beauty. We simply recreate what has already been created
In relation to creation, we must see God as ‘first creator’. God is the Master Artist. All creation and creative things flow from him. And with all things He created, He stated that He was well pleased. The crown of his creation was man, the only thing in all His creation that was created in His own image, the only created being into which He breathed His own breath. This places humankind in a very special place with God and the creative process. No other part of creation willfully and premeditatedly creates for the sake of creating. Flowers bloom extraordinarily and consistently, birds sing sweetly, oceans resound, and lions roar viciously, but not one of these creates or performs premeditatedly. God has put eternity within every human heart. It is this essence within every human being, this divine spark, this present eternity within us that longs for expression. It is this that sets us apart from everything else in God’s creation. We were not created simply to be part of His overall creative expression, but we were made in His image, we were created to create, to release eternity from within us, and to proclaim with God as He proclaims every second of the day, "I exist!"