The arts have had an important role in the Church at certain times in history. Arts have also at other times been abandoned. In over forty years of church work I didn’t consider the need for a biblical understanding of the arts by the Church. Since I have stepped back from active Church ministry, I have become concerned and objective about the arts in Church.
Christine and I visited numerous churches and cathedrals during our two months in France this spring. In most of these historic settings religious art is one of the attractions as it has always been. The wing of the church in which my life has been spent is cautious if not uninterested in the Arts within the Church. Of course many church goers love the arts in their private lives and homes but it stays outside the Church. The reasoning is that there are more important life and death issues with which one should occupy time and thought. Many gifted people have not been encouraged to develop this creativity or been validated by the Church. Not until recent years in evangelicalism has the door been opened to embrace the arts. For artists and artisans this is liberating. It is also right.
Early in the Old Testament story of ancient worship God called a person named Bezalel to make ‘artistic designs.’ That identifies artistic expression as a spiritual calling and creativity as a gift from God. Those who have such a calling and gift show their obedience and appreciation to God by using them, not exclusively outside the church but inside to be sure. The arts should be incorporated into the life of the Church in its worship and service. We humans with a relationship with deity are commissioned to form the culture in which we live rather than be formed by it.
Exodus 31:1-6 “Then the LORD said to Moses, "See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts - to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you”.
* Philippe de Champagne, Bruxelles 1682 - Paris 1674, "Le Christ mort couche sur son linceul" (with what emotion must this artist have painted the Christ slain for sinners. You don't worship the artist or the art but the Saviour that the art enables you to approach with a heart made tender by the sacrifice.
I credit the Lausanne World Pulse e-mag for informing and inspiring me.