Theology of Art 201

Last week I sent you to a couple links that, for me, are examples of a great and beautiful truth: God is the original Artist and cares deeply about the art we create as well. (Read the first post here.)

As this truth has sunk in more and more over the past few years, my appreciation and enjoyment of different genres of art has grown deeper and richer. One of the main reasons for a deeper appreciation of creative expression and artistic excellence is that I have begun to notice the power art has in my life to “put flesh on the bones” of truth.

Let me explain.

I believe there are different ways to ‘know’ the truth. We can know a fact is true on a purely intellectual level. But we know things in a different way when we know them on an experiential level – when we feel and experience the truth in the real world – when we live the truth.

For example, my medical school buddies may know that a certain drug cures a certain disease. They read it in a textbook and the facts are corroborated by their professors. They for sure know it is true: it is real knowledge. But they know it in a different, more ‘real-life’ way after the first time they actually administer the medicine to a sick patient and watch the treatment cure the problem. The more they use the drug and see it work, the more they rest confidently in their knowledge of the drug’s power. The experiential knowledge is different from (and deeper than) the cognitive knowledge.

Art, for me, often serves as a source of experiential knowledge. When I read the Bible, I fight to truly believe and know the statements I find there. But when I see a beautifully rendered, creative, artistically excellent depiction of that propositional truth, it is brought to life in a new way. I experientially begin to sense that truth is real. I feel its force. I dont just simply cognitively know it. Art puts “flesh on the bones” of propositional truth.

For example, we watched and discussed the film Chocolat the other night at the Missouri Theater and it was a great night. One scene in that film puts flesh on the bones of Colossians 2:21-23 better than any other artistic depiction I have experienced.

21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

(Side note: apparently it is illegal for me to pull a clip from the dvd and post it on this blog, so the scene I am referring to is buried in this longer clip from Youtube. The scene runs from minute 5:00 to 8:45. Sorry for making you hunt for it.)

The Bible says man-made, self-discipline sort of rules are of no use in changing our desires…desires always win. Alfred Molina, playing Count de Reynold, brings this truth to life comedically, but also poignantly.

Another example, for me personally, is the end of the film Man on Fire. This scene puts flesh on those passages in the Bible that speak of Christ as my ransom (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45; Heb. 9:15; etc). It causes those propositions that I already believe cognitively to resonate more and more for me on an emotional, experiential level.

(Again, the scene starts at 2:30 and ends at 7:30.)

There are many Biblically faithful reasons we should enjoy and create good art. The fact that art has the power to put “flesh on the bones” of scripture is just one of them. But it has been a helpful framework for me to begin to interact with art in a more Biblically faithful and personally beneficial way.

What art-experiences have “put flesh on the bones” of Biblical truths in your life?

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