Previously submitted to Liberty University. An outstanding place to receive an education.
Art Resists Restraint
Do I agree that Christians can freely, without guilt, without the fear of hellfire dog-tailing them, create art outside of biblical stories and its truth? Absolutely! Art, whether writing or painting, sculpting or sketching, dancing or singing, demands the freedom to spread out and breathe. The subject and medium does not matter. The artist, who happens to be Christian, is free to paint devils trampling the earth, write sex and romances, choreograph a dance to secular music—which is just music without chains—, and use the inexhaustible power of poetry to speak, in fragments, the language of the divine.
There is no subject off limits to art because art by its very essence, reflects human psychology and perspective—our soul and conscious. When we, for example, chisel a face out of stone, we share, in fragment, that same experience of God creating us. Honest art, in my case writing, always reveals a truth, and all truth belongs to God, both the good and bad.
Portfolio Sample of W. Alexander’s Artwork:
Therefore, there is no actual category called Christian art, not really. There are Christians who create art, even some who brand and sell themselves as Christian artists, but art belongs to no single world view, no religion, no specific type of personality, or lack thereof. “Art forms add strength to the world which shows through, no matter what the world view is or whether the world view is true or false” (Schaeffer).
To condemn an artist’s technical ability because they aren’t Christian is unproductive and unloving. We can love Voltaire’s romantic plays, replete with wit and sex, on the grounds that he sowed tension like no other before him. We can relish in Harry defeating Voldemort because the novel’s message has nothing to do with witchcraft and wizardry, instead J.K. Rowling reveals the power struggle between good and evil, and how darkness is overcome only by self-sacrifice, love, and friendship. “We are not being true to the artist as a man [or woman] if we consider their artwork junk simply because we disagree with their outlook on life” (Shaeffer). The emphasis is mine.
Art is free of faith, and by being so, it is the only vehicle capable of understanding the human condition. —W. AlexanderTweet
True and valid art rejects restriction. So, no! Art cannot be, by the technical definition, a Christian discipline. It is, however, an act to which all of God’s creation are called to take part and delight in, and, if the Christian focuses on the subject first, and not worry over its interpretation, the artist’s religious world view will naturally bear witness.
P.S. Art is free of faith, but by being so, it is the only vehicle capable of understanding the human condition.
Ryken, Leland., editor., “Perspectives on Art,” by Francis Schaeffer. The Christian Imagination, The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. ShawBooks, (2002), Colorado Springs, CO. Essay.
Sample Portfolio of W. Alexander’s Writing
A Note From W. Alexander
I shared, written above, with you a previous discussion assignment I had at school. I attend Liberty University, and the professor was eager to get the class engaged, hence such a prompt was assigned, which was originally titled Can Art Be Christian?
Naturally, for the hyper-conservative evangelicals, art is seen as a distraction, a useless exercise when believers should be focused on their bibles and not stories of knights. These reproofs are shallow and damaging. Art and faith, and not limited to the Christian faith, go hand-in-hand. The Bible is filled with some of the world’s greatest pieces of literature. Paintings and sculptures and song and dance since before the renaissance have helped believers worship, experience, and share with God in the ultimate expression—the act of creating.
To anyone struggling with creating the art they want to because of family, friends, church leaders, or fellow partitioners, I say this: reject their advice! Art is life; art demands all of the artist. You have my permission, not that you need it, to create. Because, when we create stories, poems, paintings, songs, and sculptures, we are doing the most important job in all of humanity, which is revealing insight.
So, make art. Even if it costs you everything to do it, because in the end, we all end up with empty hands, but the artist will have something to hold, the legacy they gave the world: their hearts wide open.