Genesis 1: 1a.' "In the beginning God created,'
Gen 1:27.' "So God created man In his own image in the image at God created He him; male and female created He them."
Col..1:17: `And he [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."
John 10: 10:"I have came that they might have life, and that they might have it mare abundantly."
John 15: 11.' "These things I have spoken ta you, that my joy might remain in you. and that your joy might be fulL"
Phil. 2:12-13. "..work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God Who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure."
A, Human Creativity Part of God's Image in Man
As we said in Lesson 7, God is the Only true Creator, while man's creativity is part at God's image and likeness given to man at creation (Gen. 1:26-28). The very first fact we learn about God in His revealed word, the Bible, is that He created. Therefore man also "creates." However, God is Creator out of nothing ("ex nihilo"), while man can only "create" out of pre-existing things. Further, man is wholly dependent upon God in human creativity because his creative ability, his very existence, and the pre-existing "raw materials" he uses all come to him tram God.
This is not only true far science and technology, but also far literature, music and the arts. (`)We noted in Lesson 7 that(*) literature depends upon man's use of language, which he received at creation from God, Himself the Word, also as part of his likeness to God. In painting man depends upon the God-given primary colors and their combinations, In music man depends upon the fixed relationship of sound intervals created by God in the beginning (Jab 38:4-7). (`)The beautiful Christian writer George MacDonald (1824-1905), whose work, alive in Christ, helped convert C. S Lewis (famous twentieth-century defender of the faith as a modern "apostle to the skeptics"), said of man's creativity and its root and ground in our Lord.'
We make, but thou art the creating care.
Whatever thing I dream, invent, or feel,
Thou art the heart of it, the atmosphere
Christians, as in all their work, exercise their literary or artistic creativity by "thinking God's thoughts after Him." Unbelievers, though rejecting God mare or less consciously', and attempting to live and act "on their own." independent of God (impossible though this is), still brokenly reflect God's image in which they were created. Therefore they can produce literature, music and art which also. like themselves, is a mixture of value and non-value, edifying here and there, and destructive more or less subtly.
B. How a Work of Art Arrives
In the beginning of a new work of literature, music or art there is usually on idea, vision or image of the whole. It combines with a fervent desire to persevere in hard work until thai idea. vision or image is expressed, embodied, "incarnate" Os it were, as faithfully and perfectly as possible.
Dorothy L. Sayers, a Christian and a masterful writer of detective stories as well as Christian theological works, (`)has rightly stated that The true work of art "is not manufactured to specification, Os on engineer works to a plan... though it may involve compliance with accepted rules...and may also contain... "effects" which con be mechanically accounted far. [Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World [Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Ml 19691. p.77.)
She then rightly(*) compares the creating activity of the artist to the way in which God Himself creates. God creates by Christ His Son Who "is the brightness of His glory and express image at His person" (Hebrews 1:3) Indeed all God's creation whatsoever began by His own "express image. the eternal only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16J, Christ the Word (John 1:1-3). The idea, vision or image at a Christian's truly creative work (omitting mere "manufacture to specification") is the "firstborn" of his creation. By this image his creations, like God's creation in Christ, "hold together" (Col.1:15-17). We must remember that while God Himself of course knows every detail of HiS entire creation "from the beginning of the world" (Acts 15:18), men's creations must proceed step by step in time (Proverbs 4:12, 20:2a: 2 Car. 3:5). (`)Since the completed work must have internal cohesion or integrity ["hold together") to be satisfactory, additional ideas, visions, images or sound patterns arising while a work at art is in progress cannot be essentially incompatible with the initial one. They rather relate to the initial vision, and to the completed work of art, as the tiny seedling and the young sapling relate to both the acorn and to the full-grown oak.
Dorothy Sayers points out that this idea of Art as creation is... the one important contribution that Christianity has made to aesthetics [the philosophy at the arts).... the Greeks had not this word in their aesthetic at all They looked on O work of art as...a manufacture. Neither, for that matter. was the word in their theology-. -they did not took on history as the continual act of God fulfilling itself in creation. [1bid.)(*)
For the Christian endowed by God with literary, musical or artistic talent, to exercise this talent is not wrong. On the contrary, it is part of our God.given created identity and to be done to His glory. (~As Christian professor of art history H. P. Rookmaaker said,
Art has done its task when it provides the neighbor with things of beauty. a joy forever. It has direct ties with life, living, joy, the depth of our being human. just by being art... That is so because God, who created the possibility of art and who laid beauty in his creation, is the Life-giver (H. P. Rookmaaker. The Creative Gift [Westchester, IL: Cornerstone Books, 1981~, p. x20.)(*)
C. Some Warnings to the Christian Artist
Because reasons exist why the Christian must be wary about the arts and humanities. and especially about his own part in them, some earnest believers and also churches have tried to withdraw from. or suppress. Christian artistic creativity altogether. Since man is created in God his Creator's image and likeness. he is endowed with creativity. Furthermore. he must exercise his creative talents if he would serve and glorify God (Mt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-27]. Neither is it wrong to want to enjoy the artistic works of others, and through them the beauty of God Himself, their "creating core" Who Himself shines forth from Zion, "the perfection of beauty" (Ps.50:~. (`)Some well-meaning parents have contributed to their children's rejection of Christianity as a religion of legalism and gloom by their own rejection of literature and art This is very sad, because(*) Christianity lays the foundation for man's creativity and joy in beauty in biblical creation, and in man's restoration to Christlikeness, and it is the only faith which gives man life and joy abundantly, forever by making him a new creation" [John 10:10; 15:11, 17:13; 2 Cor.5:17].
However, there are dangers in exercising one's artistic creativity. One danger is idolatry. the worship of the work of one's own hands, Another is jealousy of other, perhaps more talented or more successful artists, A third is the prostitution of one's artistic talents in the service of evil causes. Yet another is the falsification of artistic visions received from God, This danger is unavoidable in our sin-perverted world, as any godly writer or artist will instantly admit. Because literature and art can be so influential in society. Christian writers and artists must take very seriously the Scriptural admonition to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" as God is "working out His good pleasure in us" (Phil. 2:12-133. Christian writers and artists also should bear in mind that their work is in many respects of an instructive or teaching nature, The writer or artist as teacher `~ill be judged more strictly' by God (James 3:1). Lastly. Christian literature and art should "bless our Lord's holy name with all that is within" the artist (Ps. 103:1). Our creativity must glorify our Creator (Rev.t:1 1). To glorify our wonderful Lord we must forsake mere "Christian utility" aimed at mere entertainment. How sad that Franky Schaeffer, son of the late Ltr .Francis Schaeffer and a talented painter and film maker, could rightly accuse today's Christians of "addiction to mediocrity' and shoddiness in craftsmanship in the arts, This cannot glorify our Creator (Rev. 4:11).
D. Literature, Music, Fine Arts in "Post-Christian Age"
While Christian artistic creativity will consciously "think God's thoughts after Him," unbelievers will not, (~ln some instances they open themselves up to visions inspired by Satan. Such a one was the great Russian artist Mikhail Vrubel (1856-1910) who was literally hounded into an insane asylum by his intense visions of "the Demon" whom he painted over and over again. He had turned away from Christian art in his youth. Other artistic visions include the portrayal of post-Christian man's disintegration and meaninglessness by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the founder of cubism. Truly without a vision of God, the people perish (Prov. 29:18).(*)
All the "humanities" (literature. music and the fine arts as particularly human activities) show modern mankind's radical departure from biblical Christianity. Western literature, music and art is generally anarchistic ('without rule"); communist-totalitarian literature, music and art is generally propagandistic ("made to indoctrinate people"). Both strive to impose man's wishful thinking or godless vision of society upon society in conscious rebellion against God. "Post-Christian" man in his artistic endeavor wants to be an original creator out of nothing, that is, to be as God (Gen. 3:5). This is of course impossible because man cannot help depending on God for his raw materials (language. musical scale, primary colors, form) and for his very life upon God.
(~)The West turned to artistic anarchism in the latter part of the nineteenth century and even more so after World War I. Painting gave us abstract art, cubism, dadaism, surrealism and pap art. Music properly speaking gave way to Arnold Schoenberg's extreme atonality introduced before World War I and still with us. Today drum beat and literally deafening noise have extensively replaced musical harmony and melody This loss of harmonious, melodious music is closely related to the decline of biblical Christians influence in society. George MacDonald (1824-1905) still knew that in Heaven (reflected in hearts indwelt by Christ) "all that is not music is silence." C. S. Lewis's master devil Screwtape elaborates, "The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end," (The Screwtape Letters [New York: Macmillan, Thirteenth Printing 1970], p.103.)(~) Western society is surfeited with "noise" today. Modern music is not meant to lift up our hearts and minds to joy that is clean and refreshing but on the contrary to extinguish in us what older writers and saints knew as the hearfs "sweet desire" towards God.
Western literature including theater, films and videos has largely lost purpose, plot and any ethical meaning. No longer do heroes triumph over villains but rather all characters are villains more or less. The sense at wonder, always present in art and writing at least influenced by Christianity and reflecting the God of Scripture Who does mighty wonders has been perverted by addiction to the occult or technological futuristic fantasy. Romance has given way to sex. Literary and artistic techniques include randomness, poor and crude writing. mere linguistic noise (curses, foul language) and perversion. The ugly is portrayed as beautiful, the boring as thrilling, the innocent and honest as stupid, the heroic as silly, and so on.
Pornography is virtually everywhere to the point that Christian people, especially parents with young children, must shun all popular entertainment. Finally, propaganda for New Age causes coinciding with the goals of communism (feminism, population control. one-worldism) and eliminating man's dominion (ecology falsely understood as man's equality with "nature," reincarnation) has invaded children's books and TV programs. Totalitarian literature and art is strictly propagandistic. At first sight it seems more "traditional" but it makes a mockery of man's creativity as it is all dictated by the Party in control (Communist or Nazi. for example) for its own ends. As in architecture, ballet, operatic music and painting, so in literature pre-1917 writers tower tar above the trite and dead "Soviet Realism." Russia's two greatest twentieth-century writers are Bans Pasternak (Doctor Zhivago and wonderful Christian poetry), and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (Cancer Ward, The First Circle. etc.). Pasternak was killed by forced starvation. Solzhenitsyn was expelled to the West. Both are Christian believers whose faith gave them the vision of true reality lived by man created in God's image. though fallen and though oppressed by a godless tyranny
How hove we fallen so deeply from the zenith of Western Christian art? It is because our modern society denies that man has been created in the image and likeness of the God of the Bible. and instead sees him as but another "evolved" animal. Thus his goal is nat restoration in God's image and likeness and preparation for eternity with God and Christ. His "recreational needs" which have become his only artistic rationale reject the artistic portrayal of purity. beauty. innocence. heroism. martyrdom. honesty. faithfulness. abiding love. worship and glory. Man reduced to animalism only "needs" what animals need: eating. drinking and merrymaking before death (I Cor.1 5:32). Thus man the creator dies when he kills God the Creator in his heart and mind.
To sum up. man's literary. musical and artistic creativity depends on God Who made him in His own image and likeness as Creator. A work of art begins with a vision which "holds it together" even as Christ. God's own express image and Word. holds together His creation. The Christian can and must exercise his God-given artistic talents in the arts. and he may enjoy artistic beauty reflecting God's own perfection of beauty. Dangers include idolatry of one's own art work; jealous towards fellow artists; using one's talents in the service of evil; falsification of the vision from God; care lest teaching through one's art be contrary to God's Word and will: and rejecting mediocrity and shoddiness in artistic work. The art of unbelievers today is anarchistic in the West and propagandistic in totalitarian society. "Post-Christian" art has sunk so low because mankind today no longer sees man as created in God's own image but rather as an "evolved animal" with only animal "needs."
1. How does man depend on God in artistic creativity?
2. What is the beginning and "Molds together"
a Christian work of art?
3. How is men's creativity comparable to God's?
4. Name several dangers or pitfalls tar the Christian artist.
5 Name some characteristics of "post-Christian" Western and totalitarian literature, music and art.
For Further Reading:
H. R. Rookmaaker. The Creative Gift: Essays on Art and the Christian Life. Westchester. IL: Cornerstone Books, 1981. Dorothy L. Sayers. The Mind of the Maker. Westport. CT: Greenwood Press Publishers. . 1968.
Franky Schaeffer. Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts. Westchester. IL: Crossway Books. Fifth Printing 1982.
Francis A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books. 1976, 1981.
Lesson 8 Man's Creativity: Literature. Music, Fine Arts
Gen. 1:10; Gao 1:27; Col. 1:17; John 10:10; John 15:11; Phil. 2~12-13
A. Human Creativity Part of God's Image in Man
1. God's own image given to man at creation (Ge n.1 :26-28)
a. God creates out at nothing man out at pre-existing things 2 Man wholly depends upon God in his artistic creativity a. literature depends upon language given to man by God at creation
b. painting depends upon God-created primary colors c. music depends on God-created sound intervals (Job 38:4-7) 3. Christians think God's thoughts after Him in artistic creativity 4. unbelievers attempt to "create" independent of God a. still brokenly reflect God's image. so artistic work possible b. their work mixture at value and harmfulness
B. How A Work of Art Arises
1. begins with an idea. vision or image at the whole
2. man's artistic creativity resembles God's own way of creating
a. God creates by Christ, His own "express image" (Heb.1:3; John 3:16; John 1:1-3)
b. image holds work together Col.1:15-17
c. God knows all His work tram the first (Acts 15:18). man proceeds step by step in time (Prov. 4:12;20;24; 2 Cor .3: 5)
d. art as creation is a Christian idea
e. art to give joy and to be done to God's glory
C. Some Warnings 10 the Christian Artist
1. suppression of artistic creativity not the answer
2. art as stewardship Mt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-27; Ps.50:2
3. Christian faith not gloomy but gIves life and joy (Jn. 10:10;15;11.17~13)
4. dangers idolatry; jealousy; serve evil; teach falsehood Phil .2:12-13; Jas.3:1
5. glorify the Creator wholly Ps.103:1; Rev. 4:1 1 mediocrity & shoddiness wrong
D. Literature, Music, Fine Arts in "Post-Christian Age"
1. unbelievers do not "think God's thoughts offer Him" demonic visions (Vrubel) visions of disintegration and meaninglessness at man (Picasso) 2 Western literature and art anarchistic; totalitarian art propagandistic
3. abstract art and anti-musical "noise"
4. literature lost purpose. plot. meaning. sense of wonder; is perverse
a. Pasternak. Solzhenitsyn Christians
5. Today's artistic crisis due to rejection at biblical creation at man; man reduced to animalism. his "needs" made only sensual (I Cor.15:32)