Redeeming the Arts

Nor am I of the opinion that the gospel should destroy and blight all the arts, as some of the pseudo-religious claim.  But I would like to see the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave them and made them.  I therefore pray that every pious Christian would be pleased with this (the use of the arts in the service of the gospel) and lend his help if God has given him like or greater gifts.   (from the Preface to the Wittenburg Hymnal of 1524)

In this statement the great Reformer, Martin Luther, sums up an attitude of openness and inclusiveness that sets the foundation for our rich heritage of music in the Christian Church.  Granted, there are traditions within Christianity in which the use of music is limited, or even eliminated, but for the most part music is a commonly accepted and essential part of our worship experience.  I would note, however, that Luther is making a statement which has much broader significance.  Although he specifies music (because he is writing a Preface for a hymnal), he is actually referring to the arts in general.  In other writings he points out that the arts are a reflection of God’s image in humanity – that part of His image which is creative and dramatic.

This should cause us to reflect upon our own opinions and notions of the arts and whether we utilize them or neglect them.  Music, drama, painting, sculpting and a multitude of other arts can be practiced for God’s glory and the communication of the gospel.  We learn more about God as Creator when we see a painting or photograph of majestic scenery or the intricacies of a flower.  The prayer of the heart can be made more intimate when coupled with appropriate music.  The need of humanity for redemption in Christ can be seen in a drama depicting the broken-hearted and move us to action.

The Christian message is one of redemption – of restoring our relationship with God – yet for many Christians that redemption has too often only focused upon the spiritual.  We miss the reality of what redemption means to each of us today, where we live, and how we act.  We have been blinded to the ways in which Christ restores in us those things that represent the image of God.  Our redemption is holistic – body, soul and spirit.  Our experience of redemption is both now…and not yet.  This means that as we live here on earth our lives are evidence of that redemption every day – even as we look forward to our final redemption (see Romans 8:18ff).  Not just in our devotional life, but in those acts which reflect Him, even in the smallest way, in who we are.  In other words, part of what Christ has redeemed is the arts and creativity in man.  We all express, in some way, our gratefulness to God and artists do so out of their creative imagination and expertise.  Again, this imagination and expertise is under Christ’s Lordship as He draws the artist to Himself and begins to mold him or her and these gifts for His purpose and glory (see Romans 8:29).  Paul even speaks of each of our lives as great “masterpieces” of art, and that God is active in preparing our way in this (see Ephesians 2:10).

Artists in so many fields yearn for the opportunity to use their God-given gifts in service for Him and the Church.  Often their expression of faith is misunderstood, or entirely rejected without allowing for a fuller explanation from the artist.  Sometimes our own preferences cause us to miss the value of a particular art form for someone sitting next to us in the pew, or people of a different generation.  I would encourage you to find the artists in your own congregation and set them free to use their gifts for His glory.  Your faith will only be enriched as God works through these men and women to help us see (both literally and figuratively) His word in fresh and creative ways.

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Posted on September 8, 2014, in Arts, Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Martin Luther, theology, Worship Leader and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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