25 April 2006

Worldview point #1

Link to the original Worldview List

1. Christianity is literally true AND subject to imaginative application/interpretation.

First of all and above all, I desire that my students would come to a saving understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, codified in the creeds (Apostle’s Creed; Nicene Creed) and further explained through the teachings of the Reformers ( Some thoughts on Reformed Theology). If nothing else, I would that some chance word of mine would lodge in their hearts to the saving of their souls. I want to see my students in Heaven, every one of them! To this end, I unfold to them the works of great Christian writers and composers, and evaluate the works of “pagan” masters in light of Biblical truth. I show them the consequences of ungodly actions, such as the ultimate destruction of King Arthur’s society through (in part) the sin of Lancelot & Guinevere. I lead them in the search for truth and appearances of Christ’s work in poem, chant, symphony, novel, church policy, political decree, opera, short story, myth, legend, sonata, mass, historical event, and contemporary society. I want them to feel God’s pleasure in great craftsmanship, whether with words or notes.

Secondly, I desire to promote an understanding of the literal meaning of the Scriptures. I want my students to revere God’s Person and His word as being what they say they are. I confront them when they misuse Him name. I challenge them to examine their work to see if it conforms to His revealed will. It thrills me when they quote Scripture in class context or apply a Biblical principle to our subject of study.

Third, I want them (and myself! This is an ongoing task…) to understand that these absolute, immutable truths (such as Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection) are “subject to imaginative application/interpretation.” As can be guessed from the above talk on the literal nature of Scripture, this obviously does not mean that the truths themselves are subject to personal misunderstanding, misapplication, etc. It does not mean that each person decides for himself what they mean. What I intend to impart with this principle is that the truths of Christ’s life and work have endless possibilities of imaginative use and application to life and art.

The application of His life to our lives is endless. Who knows how many ways I can take the principle of forgiveness and let go of guilt, let go of anger, let go of victim-martyr feelings, let go of just-wrath emotions, forgive and be forgiven? Who knows how many times in this one day, even, I may turn to Christ for fullness of joy, delight in daffodils, thrill of birdsong, peace of new-unfurling leaves, happiness of music on the radio, thankfulness for fresh produce turning into dinner, gratitude for the comfort of couch and carpet, prayers of amazement for works of Turner or Waterhouse or Rockwell on my walls? Through Him, the Word, all things were created, and to Him I turn my thanks, endlessly application and endlessly interpreted into every corner of life. The opposite is possible, too, of course. If I render not my thanks and loyalty to God, to whom do I render them? The Enemy is eager to take whatever he can get.

The application of Christian truths to art is endless. For example: the fact of His birth has led to innumerable paintings, poems, and stories on Christmas, and will continue to do so. The one historical fact, a pinpoint of space and time, unfolds outward into millions of different expressions. There is no limit to how we can imaginatively interpret the event within the formal boundaries of the Biblical account—freedom within the framework of theology, to paraphrase Gordon College’s motto. Shaping art within theology is like ordering words within the sonnet’s “narrow walls,” or painting portraits of infinity within the 2’3” X 3’4” of a given canvas. Think how multitudinously truth explodes outward! Think of Dante’s threefold, many-circled and -terraced and -sphered universe, theology expressed in materiality, spiritual condition embodied in physical location. Think of Lewis’s Space Trilogy, the Temptation (but not The Fall!) reenacted on another planet, temptation and choice and predestination and innocence and goodness and glorification and perfection written into an imaginary world with all the passion of belief. The Lady’s skin was green, but her heart was human, and her soul was in the precarious position of our first mother’s. Thus do I hope that I and my students will see truth: infinite in application, infinite in variety, endless in artistic inspiration.

1 comment:

Rosie Perera said...

Sorry I haven't posted a reply yet in all these days. I guess I thought I'd think of something profound to add, but I haven't. You've pretty much said all that can be said on this point, and said it well.