This past Friday night I had the opportunity to attend two lectures centered on Christ and the arts. It was really neat to see how the two went back to back, different venues, and were so perfectly tied together.
Makoto Fujimura spoke at Duke Divinity School on his work of The Four Gospels for Crossway. Bruce Ashford, from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, spoke at First Baptist Church of Durham’s Disciple Now Weekend.
Mako’s work on The Four Holy Gospels is astounding. If you haven’t seen this short video of his work on this project, watch it. His understanding of theology is much deeper than I would have ever given him credit. Here are some takeaways from the 90 minute lecture and Q/A:
“Why don’t we stop trying to find everything wrong with contemporary art or culture and highlight what is right?” I think Christians have a tendency to knock anything that is possibly different. Fujimura’s art isn’t my primary style, but it is still beautiful and exquisite. It is still done for the glory of God. We as a Christian, conservative subculture (if you will) definitely have our opinions and would almost rather tear down culture and art rather than see the beauty in it – knowing that all beauty originates from the Beautiful One.
“The antidote for anxiousness in Matthew’s gospel: use your senses. Glimpse the eternal purposes of God.” He was referring to the passage that says do not worry, look at the lilies, look at the birds. On a conversation on the way to FBCD, I was talking about this comment. How the lilies don’t even have a brain to be able to worry if they are going to grow or not, the birds just fly and nest and eat, etc. Can we live in that much dependency upon our great God or do we have a natural way of leaning on ourselves and fretting.
The speaker settled on John 11. I took much away, but one thing I wanted to share here is about compassion. Jesus’ compassion: he meets us where we are, takes us where He wants us to be. My prayer: Teach me Lord to be more compassionate, to know people, to be a studier of people’s hearts, not just what I want them to be. This takes listening more than speaking, gazing instead of passing quickly, hearing instead of running thoughts through my head.
Best takeaway of the night, and still need to ponder this thought and revel in its beauty: “Restrictions and limitations actually give you more freedom.” I am thoroughly enjoying this right now. Anxiety doesn’t creep in as much. But, such mornings as this, I need to be reminded of who God made me and what His Son did for me on the cross. I’ll be writing more about this in the coming weeks.
On to Bruce Ashford…few miles away from Duke Divinity, lecture 2. Dr. Ashford is a friend, husband to Lauren, dad to two little (cute, adorable) girls. He loves to speak on this topic of engaging the culture with the truth of Christ.
He spent about 25 minutes going through the metanarrative of the work of God in the world (creation, fall, redemption, new creation). This set his stage for everything else he was going to talk about as the evening progressed.
How is fashion, food, photography, writing, and music all grounded in the meta narrative of the Bible? He said all art finds its answer in the meta. The meta shows a strikingly beautiful truth on every part of life.
How did sin corrupt: “spirituality, morality, rationality, creativity, relationality.” Every one of these relationships are marred and scarred by sin.
Society is made up of families. Genesis 1-2 says we are to build families, grow families – of worshipers. Only problem with this is that we tend to grow families of worshipers of other things than Jesus. What are we training our families to worship? (More on this later for my job.)
“Basis of every question in the world can be answered in the meta.” God’s truth resounds to everything.
“All beauty should guide you back to the one who is most beautiful.”
Bruce gave 4 criteria for judging art:
1. Technical excellence.
2. Validity (is the artist true to himself)
4. Integration of Content and Vehicle
How do you study art? How do you anticipate and participate in art? How are you an artist? How do you see God in art?