A Biblical Analogy
For seventy years during the Babylonian exile, the Israelites struggled to “sing the songs of the Lord” in a foreign land. In utter discouragement, they even abandoned their musical instruments and wept (Psalm 137). They longed to return to Jerusalem, but it lay in rubble.
During this time, the prophets began to speak of a day when freedom and renewal would come. God’s people eventually began to return home with a vision to “rebuild, restore, and renew” the ancient ruins of their homeland (Isaiah 61:4). By rebuilding a broken society and recovering their worship in the Temple, they would be a light to the nations.
Before the restoration could begin, however, they had to make the road smooth for God’s returning people: “Prepare the way for the people. Build up the highway. Remove the stones. Raise a banner for the nations.” (Isaiah 62:10)
Like the ancient Israelites, many artists have lived in exile from the church, and even from their own gifts. Some even abandoned their calling as artists because they did not have a sure sense of their own identity and a purpose for their creativity.
At certain times in history, the arts have played a strategic role in the life and mission of the Church. Christians championed artistic endeavor to the glory of God and led the way in artistic innovation and excellence. But at other times, Christians abandoned the world of the arts. Seeing it as broken and spiritually bankrupt, they went into self-imposed cultural and artistic exile.
The neglect of the imagination has deeply impoverished the Body of Christ. For too long the church has marginalized the arts and failed to articulate a theology that makes room for the creative gifts God has given for His glory and our blessing.
There has probably never been a time in which a biblical understanding of the arts is more needed by the Church than in our present visual and image-oriented postmodern culture. During the past few decades, there has been a global renewal of interest in the arts and the imagination amongst believers. We must build a highway for a new generation of gifted Christians so that they will not have to fight the same battles as earlier generations did. We must help them identify and remove the “stones” in their lives, in the church, and in the culture that would cause them to stumble. We must mentor young artists and encourage them to exercise their creative gifts with excellence and to the glory of God. Like the ancient Hebrew musicians who wept over the ruins of Jerusalem, we need to weep over the brokenness of our world and the distortion of the arts—only then will we understand the need for God’s work of restoration.
If the church is to remain obedient to the cultural mandate, faithful to the call of Christ, and relevant to our culture, we must recover the arts and the imagination. It is time for a global arts initiative that can inspire the spiritual and artistic formation of the next generation of artists, giving them a biblical understanding of the arts and a vision of God’s purposes, and equipping them to engage and reclaim the arts and the imagination for Christ.
The purposes of God are not limited to personal salvation. He wants all of creation (every area of life, including the arts) to be restored to His original intention. The vision to restore, renew, and rebuild the brokenness of the arts world is a vision to see the arts restored to God’s original intention—for beauty and for His glory. In turn, the arts will be a powerful way to bring truth, beauty, and healing to the lies, ugliness, and sickness of a world alienated from its Creator.