How long has it been since you’ve been to the symphony? Or visited an art museum? Quick, who’s your favorite poet?
If you’re like most people, you probably answered “A long time ago, beats me, and I don’t know.” And that would be a shame, because, as my friend theologian T.M. Moore argues in a pair of great new ViewPoint study series at ColsonCenter.org, enjoying, creating and engaging in the arts is a profoundly divine activity.
God, as T.M. points out, is “the Great Artist” who created a universe of “such wonder, diversity, order, color, sound, dimension, scope and harmony that He could confidently pronounce Himself pleased with what He had made.”
And then He made us in His image. We too are creators, and the arts, T.M. says, “are an integral aspect of our humanity. To ignore ... them is to frustrate our development as people made to reflect the very essence, purpose, and character of God in the world.”
Now, I’ve got to admit, it’s been a while since I went to hear a symphony myself. But just a few weeks ago, my daughter’s school assignment included attending a concert. So I saw in the paper that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra was performing the music of Charles Ives at Carnegie Hall. Well, Ives was the only really famous person from my hometown of Danbury, Connecticut. So I decided I needed to know more about his music, and we went.
Well, it was spectacular! Even though Charles Ives’ music is known for being experimental, I found it so beautiful and so majestic and moving that I couldn't help but feel closer to the Lord. It pointed me to something beyond, to Someone beyond.
Now, even though Ives wasn't himself a believer, he once said that in writing one of those symphonies he was searching for meaning at the heart of the universe. Of course, as Christians we know that the human search for meaning is ultimately a longing for God. And that the grandeur and beauty we encounter in great art all speak of Him.
That’s one of the main thrusts of T.M. Moore’s ViewPoint study series on art. For Christian artists, T.M. says, art absolutely should be a “testimony to the grandeur and pleasure of God” in all settings — sacred or secular.
T.M. tells a wonderful story about Johann Sebastian Bach, the great 18th-century composer. Now Bach loved his coffee. And in honor of his passion, he wrote the “Coffee Cantata,” which involved a funny drama about a father and daughter arguing over the daughter’s love for the bean. The music itself, T.M. says, is as rich and beautiful as any of Bach’s famous sacred pieces.
And that was on purpose. “For Bach,” T.M. writes, “even the most ordinary things of life could convey a message of divine glory and pleasure, even your morning cup of coffee. Great art functions like this, taking as its focus common ... subjects and using them, in the setting of a big, sweeping vision, to communicate a simple message.
“In Christian art,” T.M. continues “whether the images are saints and martyrs or a parental dispute with a daughter over the supposed evils of coffee, the message remains the same: Life has meaning and beauty when it is lived within the framework of the overarching majesty, goodness and love of God.”
Think about that folks, the next time you’ve got an opportunity to see, hear, or read a great piece of art — at a gallery, in a concert hall or in a book of poetry.
And please come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. You can download T.M. Moore’s excellent study series on faith and art. It’s perfect for personal or home group study.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Publication date: July 24, 2013