In recent years, there has been a sharp increase in books published on Christianity and the arts. This seems to be increasingly on the radar in many of our churches and theological circles. Unfortunately, this renewed emphasis on art stands in contrast to the past four or five hundred years in which the Protestant church has been sometimes ambivalent and often hostile toward Christians serving in the arts.
Even with the renewed emphasis on the arts, however, many of our churches are unsure of how to relate to the artists in our churches. How should we view their calling as artists? How does that calling fit within the overall life and mission of the church? What role should we play in shaping their spiritual and even artistic lives? What role should the artist play in shaping ours?
These are important questions, and unfortunately, the church doesn’t have a great track record in answering them with insight or sensitivity. If you’re wrestling with some of these questions, I’ll point you to a couple of resources that will help you think this through.
- “How to Discourage Artists in the Church.” This is a short online article written by Philip Graham Ryken, arts advocate and president of Wheaton College. It’s humorous and insightful, and will orient you to some of the pitfalls of misunderstanding artists in your church. (For those wanting a bit more, Ryken wrote a great little book on how Christians should relate to art in general: Art For God’s Sake).
- For the Beauty of the Church. Each chapter in this book began as an address for a Christian arts conference, and carries some insightful thoughts for how art should enrich our churches.
There are many excellent books on the arts, but I mention these for their specific focus on art in the church. If you want to look more into the arts from a Christian perspective, take a look at our blog series on the subject, or consider the following books:
- Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts by Steve Turner
- The Liberated Imagination by Leland Ryken
- Art & the Bible by Francis Schaeffer
- The Crowd, the Critic, & the Muse by Michael Gungor
- Mystery & Manners by Flannery O’Connor
- Walking On Water: Reflections on Faith and Art by Madeleine L’Engle
- Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts by Jerram Barrs