Every now and then, I get frustrated with myself for procrastinating over things. In some cases, I miss the proverbial boat (on hindsight, I am grateful that in some instances I did – like when the boats I missed end up sinking!). For others, I end up having to sail twice as quickly and three times as hard. Sometimes it works out ok, sometimes it doesn’t.
There are also delightful occasions when the procrastination is ‘redeemed’ and actually weaves it perfectly into rewarding insight. The impossible timing of the result of procrastination with other concurrent events leaves me in amazement – and gratitude. God is merciful, and chooses to use my weakness to teach me. In spite of myself.
This happened again with a piece of homework for my Faith and the Arts class. Lucilla gave us this article from Sights and Sounds: A Christian Perspective to the Creative Arts and Media (Bishop Robert Solomon & Lim K Tham (eds), Singapore, Armour Publishing, 2006) two weeks ago. For various reasons, I didn’t get down to reading it till an hour before class yesterday.
Too many times in the selected chapter, I found myself thinking, “Ah-ha, this is like what I read just X days ago” or “Goodness, this was the exact question I journalled yesterday morning!” or “This so lines up with Incident A, Event B and that strange observation C…” If not because there were so many glum people on the MRT, I’d have burst out laughing!
Every time I think I know Him, He blows my mind. Again.
Because art is a cultural activity, it cannot be separated from ethics… Furthermore, insofar as the arts are a form of communication, reflection on their significance and value cannot be divorced from the question of truth. Thus, this essay will examine the arts within the nexus of the true, the good and the beautiful…
Because the Bible conceives of God as Creator, many Christian theologians have described God as the supreme Artist and the world as His opus. Conversely, the work of the artist is compared with the creative activity of God… It is important to note, however, that the “creative” work of artists is only analogous to that of God. Only God creates “out of nothing” from eternity; the artist “creates” from existing material in time and space… God alone is the only true Creator. When we use the word “create” or “creativity” to describe a human endeavour, we do so in a derivative and accommodative sense.
True human creativity is “redemptive” in that it unmasks disorder, restores harmony and transfigures the commonplace. In this sense, since God is the Great Lover, the true artist must also be motivated by love.
So what makes art unique and how is it different from other human activities? The arts are a commentary on the way things are, on the order and disorder of the world, on its beauty and misery. As such, art is that human activity that deals firstly with the materiality of the world, and secondly inquires about its meaning… The arts, therefore, can be said to be a way of knowing, a way of being and a way of doing. They represent knowledge of reality by reflecting on the meaning of the way things are: the world’s being and becoming. Art is an activity because it is also a response to perceptions of reality. In this way, the arts, like everything else about human culture, cannot be understood in abstraction but must be located in a historical, cultural and social milieu. But from the standpoint of theology, the arts must be profoundly located within the created order and within this concrete world fragmented and torn apart by sin and decay. The arts are also located within a world shot through with God’s redemptive grace, a world for which the Son of God gave his life. Art is thus located in a world caught in the profound tension of the “already” and “not yet”, a world which already has the foretaste of salvation but which awaits the revelation of the fullness of that salvation.
Question: If art reflects the eyes/perspective of the artist, and the eyes are the windows to the soul, then art also reflects the state of the artist’s soul? For the artist who is and is becoming an increasing likeness of Christ, what does his/her art look like? What messages will it carry? And how?
A Christian attitude towards the arts cannot be that of total indiscriminate censorship. There is something “inhuman” about the person who is unwilling to appreciate the beauty and splendour of human artistic achievements and who treats everything with equal banality. A Christian perspective of and attitude towards the arts must be developed from the standpoint of the theology of the Cross… It is from the theology of the Cross that the true Christian response to the arts is to be understood. That response is encapsulated in one concept: discernment.
Hmm. Discern and inquire of the Lord before and for every artistic endeavour. Seek that which is true (and truth is not necessarily pleasant – it can cause unease and even repugnance), pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.
… Gaebelein has argued that it is just as inconceivable for one to pick up any book from the newsstand and read it, as it is for that person to go to the medicine cabinet and swallow at random anything in it. “We simply have to have standards,” he maintains. By this he means that we must discriminate what we read and what we view. This is true for every aspect of human culture. Christian discernment requires wisdom.