The arts. Just what are the arts and how do they apply to our everyday living habits? The arts include a large number of skills and efforts. The arts include painting, drawing or sculpture – these are the fine arts because they are creative. Then there are the other arts such as are found in academic learning. These can be things such as literature, music and mathematics. Play-writing and acting are also classified many times within the arts.
I believe as a Christian, that the church certainly has room for the arts. The arts, after all, are given to us by God just as all the things of this earth are given to us. We have an obligation to use the arts as they are presented to us by God. The arts are presented to us in quite a variety of ways, as we know. In our everyday walk in life we are saturated by the arts. We are looking at one facet of the arts when we look at a building, or a car or an airplane or even a piece of clothing. Everything man-made about us took a great deal of thinking, figuring and designing to be produced. The pictures we see in books and magazines are also part of the arts. If we admire a great painting or a sculpture in a museum, we are admiring the result of God-given talents. Our radios and television sets overflow with the abundance of the productions of the arts. Even when we see a crayon-scrawled paper of a firs grader we are looking at part of the arts.
But we must remember that we ourselves do not create the arts, nor are they evolved by man’s deep thought and efforts. God gives talent, and God also gives the result and realization of that talent.
If, for a moment, we go back in time to the period before the flood, we can see the development of the arts by sinful man. Jubal and Tubalcain beings sons of Lamech were both very talented and skillful men. Jubal was one of the first men to develop more fully the art of music using the primitive harp and organ. He was a musician, and a developer of one facet of the fine arts. Tubalcain, on the other hand, was a technical man, working with iron and brass. The Bible says he was an instructor in this field, which is also an area of the arts. Throughout history, then, the arts have been more and more expanded and enlarged. As various men contribute their talents and discoveries to the arts they have come to be what they are today. This, of course, is no accident. God, in his decree for man, both reprobate and saved, has brought civilization, including the arts, to this point.
The real question, as we see it then, is the relationship between the arts and the church. Can we as church accept the arts, and following from that, indulge in them? We as Christians first of all live in the world. We have jobs and responsibilities, and these jobs inevitably include part of the arts. From a practical point of view, then, we must engage in generally working with the arts as a means of support.
Since we have already established that we can and should involve ourselves generally in the arts, what can be said about the fine arts more specifically? As mentioned, they are things such as drawing, painting, writing, music, acting, and can include studies such as mathematics. I think we must remember again one important fact– that these things have been given to us by God. God has given us talents and skills to be used to the good of His kingdom. Many of us have talents in one or more of the fine arts listed above, or in some other fine art. Positively, I believe that we as Christians must use whatever talents we have in everyday life to God’s glory. If we have a talent for music or writing, for example, I think we should explore these fields and contribute whatever we can to these areas. We should be willing to explore these fields through education, experience or whatever means we have at our disposal.
Sometimes it has been said that too close a pursuit of the fine arts brings a Christian into an unhealthy contact with the world. It is true that many times in order to study in a certain field a person comes to see all facets of his art, and this always includes the “bad” sides. However, in order to fully study any certain subject, all sides are and should be studied in depth. The fine arts are no exception, because they are really just as important as any other field.
In summation, then, I think it can be said that there certainly is room for the arts, both general and fine arts, in the church. We as Christians must also exercise our talents and skills in the areas of the arts as God has given us the command to use our talents to His Kingdom’s good. As members of the Church of Christ, we also must be involved in the arts as much as our abilities allow us as we strive to honor God’s name.
Originally Published in:
Vol. 30 No. 3 May 1970