A Creative Church Book review - Elizabeth Mallicoat

A Creative Church is a non-fiction book published with the intent of giving background information and history on the Church’s involvement in the fine arts. Beginning with a history of the Church in the nineteenth century, it covers how the Church has grown and changed its perception of how it should be involved in the fine arts. It goes on to give personal testimonies and examples that inspire Christian readers to become involved in the arts.

The author of the book, Todd Smith, has been involved in the creation of art in various fields and has aided in research for organization such as the Institute for the Advancement of Emerging Technologies in Education. Additionally, he serves as the Chair of the Studio and Digital Arts Department at Liberty University and is an exhibiting member of the Piedmont Craftsmen.

To convey the meaning of the book, the cover shows areas of fine art such as dance, music, and architecture. Additionally, the introduction provides a background and states the purpose of the book. Overall, the introduction and the physical book convey the purpose and allow for readers to understand the content.

History

The book begins by providing a history of the Nineteenth century and its impact on the culture of modern times. The perception of art began to change at this time as the Church began to see it as a method of worshipping God.

Francis Schaffer argued for art glorifying God and said, “We do not seem to understand that the arts too are supposed to be under the lordship of Christ.” This shift in thinking was a catalyst for the creation of large organizations that supported the creation of Christian art.

The Religious Education Association and other universities, organizations, and other schools promoted the use of art in the Christian culture. One area of this shift in thinking was in theatre and music.

“(T)he church is beginning to learn that there is a tremendous potential force in the dramatic presentation of religious themes, and it purposes that men shall see as well as hear them.”

The Church began to realize that although performing art were previously a very secular area, they could be used to reach the culture in a unique and powerful way. Additionally, the growth of Christian music has led to the current popularity of contemporary Christian music and worship.

The next chapters cover the continued emphasis on Christians participating in the visual arts and dance. Visual arts includes architecture, sculpture, painting, digital design, and other forms of aesthetics. While the middle ages and Renaissance produced many paintings and sculptures that exemplify biblical themes and stories, the years following tended towards more secular topics. However, recent years have brought about the challenge to Christians to become involved in the visual arts and engage in the culture by creating visually appealing art.

Similarly, dance has grown in popularity in the 1960s. Although looked down on by many denominations in the nineteenth century, many organizations now use dance as a method of worship and Christian entertainment. Moreover, there has been a recent growth of Christians studying the arts in Christian schools. Recently the Church has come to accept the concept of using music, art, and other medians as ministry opportunities. Many individuals have also used art as a method of overseas evangelism.

The book covers multiple themes within the church, mainly how many times the church tends to treat art with fear and ignore it. Because art can be used misused in secular media, Christians believe that there is no way to use it for God’s glory. This book shows the recent growth of the church and how it has slowly come to embrace art as a method of worship and evangelism. By seeing how the Church has gone from shunning art to accepting it, Christians are allowed to question God’s purpose for art themselves. The author causes readers to debate the purpose of art and decide for themselves how it should be used.

However, the book lacks a full discussion on modern art forms such as cinema and music. While it mentions the rise of popularity in these methods, it does not address the struggles of breaking into a highly secular field and providing quality work that pleases audiences. Today there are many Christians who seek to provide Christian alternatives to inappropriate music, movies, and other media, however they do it in such a way that lacks the quality of other forms of entertainment. The book could have covered this more thoroughly and provided more insight into how Christians should approach these forms of art. Finally, the book thoroughly supported the points it strove to make with testimonies. These stories supported the purpose of the book and provided more insight into how Christians can use art.

While A Creative Church does generate thought provoking questions and enable Christians to grapple with this topic, it lacks the emotions impact that it could have. The closing chapter of the book ends with a challenge to Christians, yet it does not adequately inspire. I believe this book provides important research and information on an issue is often times ignored in the church. In modern culture, all forms of art have become important in our culture.

Although secular groups have used art in a negative way, Christians cannot simply distance themselves from it. Instead, Christians are called to be in the world and make those connections. God has given us music, dance, and ways to make aesthetic things as a means of connecting with our culture and sharing the gospel. Instead of hiding from art, we must seek to create beautiful art. Striving towards excellence will enable us to share the gospel with unbelievers.

Bibliography

Smith, Anthony Todd. Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. N.P.: n.p. Print.

Newton, E., and W. Neil. 2000 Years of Christian Art. Yugoslavia: Harper and Row, 1966. Print.

Woodruff, Helen. The Index of Christian Art at Princeton University. Menasha: George Banta, 1942. Print.

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Elizabeth Mallicoat
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