A little encouragement goes a long way. There are many Christian writers who have wrestled with what it means to be an artist not only in a secular culture, but also in a church culture that hasn’t always supported them or their creativity. Here’s part one of 8 great reads to help you along.
Art Needs no Justification, by H.R. Rookmaaker. Razor thin at 61 pages, this book neither wastes, nor minces, any words. Rookmaaker describes the historic role of the artist, implications for today, the church’s response, and the Christian artist’s task. The last chapter offers some guidelines for artists. Here’s an excerpt: “If in this way art has its own meaning as God’s creation, it does not need justification. It’s justification is its being a God-given possibility.”
Like a House on Fire, by Steve Scott. Approach Scott on his own terms and you’ll be richly rewarded. Scott writes about what it means to be an artist in a postmodern culture, because he is an artist in a post-modern culture. A songwriter, poet, author, artist, performer since the early 80’s, Scott has an unerring artistic vision which strips away any layers of insincerity in his work, and forces us to a place of authenticity in our own faith and art. Here’s a kick-in-the-pants excerpt from the book…
“There are many examples in the Christian subculture of poorly executed art propped up with appeals to the spirituality of the artist’s intentions or, worse still, the Bible itself. This practice is dishonest and sets a dangerous precedent in terms of biblical interpretation; passages of scripture are ripped from their context, twisted and misapplied. The artmakers insulate themselves from any critical discussion of their work and from genuine growth in their skills.”
See Scott’s Love in the Western Word video
Check out Scott’s work with the Christian Artist Networking Association, which “is committed to learning better ways of engaging, connecting and empowering art makers in different parts of the world.”
Imagine – a vision for Christians in the arts, by Steve Turner. Growing out of a series of lectures given to musicians in Nashville and Los Angeles, Imagine is a healthy and helpful reflection on what it means to be a Christian artist, with the wit and encouragement of an author who has written books as diverse as A Hard Day’s Write: The Stories Behind Every Beatles Song (1994), Amazing Grace: John Newton, Slavery and the World’s Most Enduring Song (2005), and The Man Called Cash: The Life, Love and Faith of an American Legend (2004).
Here’s a snippet: “What the Bible does give us is actually more substantial than a detailed guide. It gives us basic doctrines that can be applied to any art form in any age, and it gives us the wonderful example of itself. The Bible is a work of art that not only has survived over the centuries but has inspired artists in every generation since it came into being.”
Art and the Bible, by Francis Schaeffer. Very few people knew what the term “christian worldview” meant, much less lived it, until Schaeffer’s prodigious writing and lifestyle taught/modeled it. All of Schaeffer’s books are good for understanding culture and the Christians’ unique place in it as salt and light. Art and the Bible provides (still) refreshing perspectives on art, while offering four useful standards with which to judge art. Schaeffer was particularly thoughtful in applying scriptural themes to art, and helped Christians recognize the difference between artists’ individual pieces of work and their body of work.
Note the sensitivity in Schaeffers’ writing: “When Giacometti pictures the awful alienation of man, he makes figures which are alienated, but he is still living in God’s world and is still using the common symbolic forms, no matter how he distorts them. He plays with the vocabulary, but the vocabulary is still there. So there is a communication between Giacometti and me, a titanic communication. I can understand what he is saying, and I cry.”
What books did I miss? Let me know in the comment section.