The church-pained artist

The good folks at The Gospel Coalition are touching on themes dear to the Brushfires mission: the role of beauty in the mission of the Church. In his article How to Discourage Artists in the Church, Wheaton College president Philip G. Ryken shares about the discouragement some artists feel by their poor reception in the Church.

Before getting to his list, it’s worth exploring why the arts are so important to a life of faith. Ryken quotes Francis Schaeffer here:

“For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God—not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God.”

With that, let’s look at Ryken’s list of ways that churches can discourage their artists:

  • Treat the arts as a window dressing for the truth rather than a window into reality.
  • Embrace bad art.
  • Value artists only for their artistic gifts, not for the other contributions they can make to the life of the church.
  • Demand artists to give answers in their work, not raise questions.
  • Never pay artists for their work.
  • When you ask them to serve through the arts, tell them what to do and also how to do it.
  • Idolize artistic success.
  • Only validate art that has a direct application, for example, something that communicates a gospel message or can be used for evangelism.
  • Do not allow space for lament.
  • Make artists not feel fully at home in the church.

You’ll need to read the full article to get the deeper meaning of some of these, but it’s worth pondering that the importance of art and beauty to the Gospel may be incalculable. Let’s close, as Ryken does, with what W. David O. Taylor writes in For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts:

“Whether through paint or sound, metaphor or movement, we are given the inestimable gift of participating in the re-creative work of the Triune God, anticipating that final and unimaginable re-creation of all matter, space, and time, the fulfillment of all things visible and invisible.”