A Christian Vision for the Arts

And for culture, too.

In his book, Culture Care (IVP, 2017), Makoto Fujimura lays out a vision for bringing new vitality to the arts, and the arts more fully into the Kingdom agenda of our Lord.

Art is the quest for beauty, which is the earnest desire of every human soul. Art begins with “generative thinking”, that is, thinking that seeks beauty and new ways of expressing it: “What is generative is the oppo-site of degrading or limiting. It is constructive, expansive, affirming, growing beyond a mindset of scarcity.” “Generative values are given to us as a gift by our parents and predecessors. They grow in conversation with the past and in our intention to speak and create so as to cultivate the values of multiple future generations. Generative thinking requires generational thinking.”

Generative thinking is foundational to culture care, the work of restor-ing beauty and health to culture. “Culture care restores beauty as a seed of invigoration into the ecosystem of culture. Such care is generative: a well-nurtured culture becomes an environment in which people and creativity thrive.” Culture care is a work of stewardship and looks to the next generation, to leave it more of beauty than we ourselves have known.

Culture care requires community, and this is why it’s so important to reestablish the arts in the life of the church. Culture, Fujimura insists, “is not a territory to be won or lost but a resource we are called to steward with care. Culture is a garden to be cultivated.” Artists can play an important role in culture care: “Artists and their friends (hopefully including their friends in the churches) may now be uniquely positioned to break the malaise of the current polarization and develop a truly prophetic stance toward culture.”

Christian artists need to have their souls and their craft firmly rooted in the great traditions of the faith: “On an aesthetic level, learning to perceive deeper depths of beauty includes training or apprenticeship in the craft and tradition in which we are participating.” This is a way the church can serve Christian artists, so that they and their art can thrive.

The goal of culture care is beauty, and beyond beauty, Him Who is Beauty itself: “Beauty touches on some combination of qualities, diffi-cult to quantify, of pattern, design, form, shape, color, sound, light, integrity, and relationship. It appeals to us at multiple levels, speaking to our intellect and our logical capacities as well as our emotions and spirit.” “Beauty is the quality connected with those things that are in themselves appealing and desirable. Beautiful things are a delight to the senses, a pleasure to the mind, and a refreshment for the spirit. Beauty invites us in, capturing our attention and making us want to linger. Beautiful things are worth our scrutiny, rewarding to contemplate, deserving of pursuit. They inspire—or even demand—a response, whether sharing them in community or acting to extend their beauty into other spheres...Beauty is a gratuitous gift of the creator God; it finds its source and its purpose in God’s character. God, out of his gratuitous love, created a world he did not need because he is an artist.”

The Christian artist lives on the borders of culture, and thus can play a very important role in breaking down the barriers that divide us. He insists, “It’s not enough to have artists who seek after beauty, truth, and goodness; we must have churches, policies, and communities that promote a long-term nurture of culture that is beautiful, truthful, and full of goodness.”

Fujimura offers many helpful examples of artists at work, caring for culture, including from his own experience as an artist, and in the work of the International Arts Movement, which he founded.

This is a good book, and an easy read. I recommend it for pastors, artists, and all believers who are looking to realize more of the beauty of God in their lives and culture.

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