This chapter serves as the foundation for the rest of the book by establishing God as the Creator, the First Artist, and the only one who can create perfect art. Schaeffer uses the Scriptures as well as the glories revealed in Creation as proof of God' creativity and diversity of forms and media. Since humans were created in His image, she explains, we are called to be artists. Schaeffer echoes J.R.R. Tolkien's famous essay "On Fairy-Stories" when she states plainly that "Man was created that he might create."
We do not, however, have God's ability to be infinitely creative and unlimited. She stresses that we must make choices. We are finite human beings who are limited by time, talent, and ability, yet we still are called to create. We must choose wisely how we spend our 24 hours in a day, and she believes (as do I) that it is not only important to use our time to create art, but to respond to and communicate with others' art as well. In our art we are reflecting the image of God. Though that perfect image is often marred by our sin, through common grace we imperfect creatures have "retained fragments of the perfection" originally created by Him, and the history of art through the ages reflects that perfection found only in the First Artist.
But why, you might ask, should we spend time puruing creativity when we also should spend time reading Scripture, spending time in prayer, sharing the gospel, etc.? She acknowledges that these are all important and are indeed priorities that are not "ignored or contradicted by" spending time on what she calls the "Hidden Arts," but concludes by asking a profound series of questions which I think can be applied to all aspects of life:
Is a Christian -- one who communicates daily with the Creator (communication made possibly because of redemption through the blood of Christ) -- to divorce himself from the things God created and intended man to have, and which demonstrates the fact that man has been made in the image of God? In other words are we, who have been made in the image of our Creator, and who acknowledge and understand what that means because we know God exists and experience communication with Him -- are we to be less creative than those who do not know that the Creator made them in his image, and have no contact with him?
Too often I think Christians have been less creative than unbelievers, and it is not only to our detriment, but to the detriment of those with whom we come into contact. As Schaeffer writes, "The Christian should have more vividly expressed creativity in his daily life, and more creative freedom..." because we know God.
The entire time I was reading this chapter I was reminded of Jesus' first miracle, the one he performed at the wedding in Cana. When Jesus turned the water into wine, he was performing an act of creation! What a beautiful picture of the work of Christ! "In Him all things were created..."
This past summer we attended a seminar by T. M. Moore at the JEI conference in Annapolis. He discussed aspects of beauty and whether or not there is a universal standard for beauty and if so, where we might find that in Scripture. He turned to what I at first thought was an unlikely example-- the gospel account of the woman anointing Jesus' feet with expensive perfume. I don't remember all of his points, and I can't find my notes, but there were three that stood out. Take time to glance over the passages from Matthew, Mark, and John amd consider what they have to teach us about beauty.
1. The oil that was poured out was expensive, "more than 300 denarii." This teaches us that beauty is costly. Art requires sacrifices of time and sometimes of resources. Something that is beautiful is not slapped haphazardly on a canvas or written hastily without thought. If those moments of inspiration come it is because someone has taken time to practice writing for days on end, or to learn the chords well enough to play them when they come to mind in a new way, or to mix and experiment with paint colors. And even if one is not a professional artist, the small things we might do for each other still require some thought and care.
2. Art brings pleasure to those who experience it. Though there were some naysayers who were present when she poured out the nard, you can be sure that they did not think the smell unpleasant at the time. In fact, they immediately recognized the fragrance to be costly! Jesus, in direct opposition to the complaints, describes the woman's act as "a beautiful thing." Certainly, it can be said, there is a standard of beauty -- whatever brings joy to our Lord!
3. Art is not pragmatic. Many in the room complained because the money spent to buy the nard could have been used for other, more "useful" purposes, but the woman poured out the fragrance for Jesus because she loved him. We also should create beauty on the lives of others because of our love for Christ and our love for those around us. We should be extravagant. Sharing creativity with others is one way to show love.
Consider how you may spur one another on to love and good deeds in ways that reflect the image of the Creator.
Here are some books to read and websites to visit that encourage Christian participation in and support of the arts. Please feel free to add to this list in the comments, but I will be listing more specific sites as we cover a particular topic.
(I promise I will attempt to post tomorrow's entry much earlier in the day!)
Ch 2: What is Hidden Art?