29 October 2010

NYC report part 1

This is a three-post report that covers three overdue topics. First, in this post and the next, I report on two speakers I heard at Redeemer Presbyterian’s InterArts Fellowship two weeks ago: Dr. Gordon Fee and W. David O. Taylor. InterArts is part of Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work: a ministry designed to help people integrate their Christian doctrine and commitment into their vocations. In a third post, I (very briefly) review Taylor’s new book, For the Beauty of the Church. Finally, I recount some of Peter Hitchens' talk at Socrates in the City. Enjoy!

I. Dr. Gordon Fee on “Artists as people of the Divine Presence”

Dr. Fee, a well-known Reformed scholar, talked about the Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit in relation to our work as artists. He was mostly focusing on visual artists (painters, sculptors, etc), but his comments applied to all the arts, as well. His overall point was that artists are people of the Divine Presence: everything we do filled is with the Holy Spirit because of the Incarnation. The Incarnation allows us to discover that God is “just like Jesus Christ!”—i.e., that Christ lived out God’s character for us in a visual, tangible (and, I would add, write-able) way. Because of this, we must learn to live without envy. Especially, we must learn not to envy other’s artistic gifts, but to appreciate and receive them as microcosms of the Incarnation. They are God’s gifts as they are manifest in others. Therefore, we must do our art with personal integrity, and perhaps to bring joy to someone else. Think, live, and walk in the Spirit. Do our work with personal delight as a gift to others, joining in the act of creation.

Dr. Fee made two others points that I really loved. First, he said we need to get rid of “Christian” as an adjective: rather than being a “Christian artist” (or Christian poet, etc.) be an artist who is also a Christian. We are divine image-bearers, so we do not need to paint a superficial “Christian” veneer over our work; the image of God is manifested in the integrity of our work.

Second, he emphasized that everything is gift. He went so far as to say that everything outside of hell is grace. That must be the basic orientation of our lives. Everything outside of hell is grace. Our art is grace. Our sufferings are grace.

And that last point, that our sufferings are grace, tied right into David Taylor’s talk.

1 comment:

Annelise Holwerda said...

I love your thought that Jesus' Incarnation has made God writable. When you read the Old Testament, you see how all kinds of genres painted the great harmony who God is- already possible because He has always been stepping into the fabric of our history. This is no abstract philosophy or aesthetic train of literature, but God Himself being known among our human story. The Incarnation of Jesus was the crown of this tangible closeness: the door through which humanity has entered deeply into God's own story.

So it is enough for Paul to say, "When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Yet also for this reason, John could explore the depths of mystery: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life." Psalmists may write more worshipful psalms, historians have a greater story of God's people to explore, and the Spirit Himself opens the promises of the prophets.

I also adore the thought that living without envy is one of the most astounding, beautiful ways when it comes to the arts and to all of our lives. I feel it would not be better to be the only person who could create anything of worth, astounding the masses, rather than to live in a world of most brilliant artists with only a humble talent. I am coming to understand better that the second, if we understand our sure place within God's glory, would be more blessed, more enjoyable. Happily, we are in fact given parts of both!

I've recently been spiritually fascinated by the implication of the medieval understanding of Nature: that with God's perfect goodness at its heart, all the universe is full of its echoes, transposed for our ears. This 'hierarchy' of real goodness must still be a spiritual reality, and even more so a resounding image of the beautiful communion of the Church. There is an abundance of love, honour and enjoyment that approaches idolatry not at all- but the opposite!- when all reflections point to and are found in Jesus, ordered in a love for Him that sacrifices even glory and goodness if asked. We are graced from glory to glory. Nature, God's servant, is therefore no corruption of some aetherial motionlessness, but its variety testifies with full song to the Word Himself.

So it is, even more fully, with the beauty of the Church. So much brokenness comes from pride, both for the Church and for the individual. Although it is daunting that the world is filled with so many books, voices, ideas and others, which make it hard to speak words that have any effect on the nature of things, it is so rich to be a servant here. Or to be a free child of God wandering with Him through the Kingdom as vast as the world; to be part of its splendour in intimate places according to our kind, with real individuals (a closer image of God's love for them than any words might be), rather than attempting to hold all things for all people. "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."