Art and worldview: The Way or my way?

A couple of years ago, I got a chance to visit the Guggenheim art museum in Bilbao on the northern route of the Way of St. James (you can read my post on the journey here). Wearing a pair of unfashionable running shoes, I was walking on the corridors of the famous museum excitedly inhaling the freshness of contemporary art and original architecture. Yet, at the same time, another feeling emerged. I was disappointed, because most of the exhibited artwork was reflecting something else than what I was convinced life is about.

Guggenheim brought me to think about the power art and creativity have to communicate worldviews, influencing what people value and consider true. For instance, artists might fancy relativism or romanticise pagan religions, passing on related truth claims through their works. While contemporary art is not everybody’s cup of tea, all people, however, consume culture in some form. Tv-shows, podcasts, journalism, movies, dance, music, literature, theatre, comics and visual arts as well as a number of further cultural channels is material for people to make sense of their lives. Therefore, creative people contributing to these aspects of culture are true value leaders. What are the worldviews you can identify within the scope of your tailored cultural menu?

The Christian faith would have a lot to give to culture and creativity. However, it requires first seeing artistic talent as what it really is, a gift from God, and then translating the biblical worldview into a variety of stories, pictures, allegories, aesthetics, metaphors and values. When a creative Christian is using their talents, he or she has the chance to remind people of another reality, getting them to examine their lives and question the slogans of the surrounding society. Jesus Himself used to practice something like this through His mere habitus and through the way he used to speak to His audiences using metaphors and contemporary vocabulary.

What could the integration of faith and creativity look like in practice? Authors such as J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis used to draw on their Christian worldview, enriching thereby the lives of a great number of people. Makoto Fujimura in turn is a theologically aware visual artist who has also published several books on the relationship between art and faith. Of course, the list goes on. In any case, I’m finding it cool how these Christian artists have dared to pour their treasures into their works, and I’m hoping the trend to spread.

I myself, too, have been processing the role of my creativity in relation to being a Christian since I became one about a decade ago. Photography, painting and writing are integral parts of who I am and what I enjoy doing. Already as a child, I used to find great joy in creativity, but later started to feel also pressure to do something significant with it and to measure up to other creative people.

It didn’t cross my mind to consider my talents in relation to the One who had given them to me, because I hadn’t quite gotten to know Him yet. After accepting Christ, however, I started discovering a new approach to creative activities. I realised I needed to deal with the unnecessary comparison that had been connected to the theme before and started asking God instead about His plans for the use of my creative side. Little by little, I began to understand that all people’s artistic talents are given by God to be used for His glory (whether they realise it or not). Realising the sovereignty of God in this has freed me to enjoy more the gifts I and other people have, creating mental space for delight, freedom and inspiration.

To conclude, I believe creativity is something to be used prayerfully and conscious of the produced works’ worldview effects, for the glory of God. It’s also a source of thankfulness, for it can bring a massive amount of joy, perception and recharging to the lives of all the people involved. It makes my heart sing.

PS. Interested to look into the history of art, science and philosophy from the perspective of worldviews? I loved reading Nancy Pearcey’s Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, & Meaning (2010) and would like to recommend it to you, too!

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