A Creative Church Book Review Laci Clark arts 105-001

A Creative Church by Todd Smith tells the story of how art has revived and flourished within the church since the early 19th-century. Throughout his book, Smith takes you through the century and focuses in on the art revival surrounding the church while also giving credit to the creative Christians who bravely expressed their faith through art. In his book, Smith breaks down the advances of Christan art into several categories, including theater, studio art, dance, and music. Overall, he accurately highlights and defines the meaning and importance of art, the Christian role of the arts, and the growing involvement of the arts inside the church.

As the chair of the Studio and Digital Arts Department at Liberty University as well as the Director of their Art Gallery, Todd Smith is well qualified to give a historical account of art history with a Christian perspective. His book contains nine chapters, each beginning with a quote by a Christian artist and ending with a Pioneer Creative summary that includes the renewal of art for each category. Smith explains, in his introduction, how his book is not an intense instruction manual on how to be a good Christian artist, but its purpose is rather that of “an impressionistic painting.” “We have to step back a bit further to see the big picture,” (Smith, Introduction 1X) he writes. This analogy within the arts couldn’t be more accurate because as Christians it is extremely important to be critical thinkers in analyzing every piece of advice, even when it’s from a good, Christian source. Smith states, “I have attempted to the best of my ability to cover the most important background developments beginning in the late 19th and early 20th century to the present that gave rise to what I believe has been a century of arts renewal in the church,” (Smith, Introduction 1X) and his book clearly defines his goal. In his book, Smith presents a timeline of the bold Christian artists who influenced their culture and changed history. He then supports every reason for the importance of art revival and continual growth inside the Church using scripture. Finally, he expresses the uniqueness of art and explains how we can share the gospel using artistic expression. Todd Smith’s novel is an excellent resource in discovering how art is advancing in the church, as well as learning what role the arts should play in the church.

What is God’s purpose for arts in the church, and how do we glorify God through art, you may ask? Well, to start, Todd Smith writes that art is a significant part of God’s story. In his book, he not only explains how and why we should use our artistic creative skills and talents for God but Smith also highly encourages it. He explains how we, Christians, have a purpose and an obligation to serve and glorify God through our creativity that He has given us. One of the artists Smith supports in his book is Ralph Adams Cram who exclaimed, “Art has performed and always can perform, as an agency toward the redemption of human character” (Smith, Pg 27). We were made to be creative beings. Our human character and our love for God as imaginative beings urge us to create art and it’s a beautiful expression of how God made us. Art and the church were designed to be intertwined as one; the two worlds shouldn’t be separate. Art and Faith: Reclaiming the Artistic Essence of the Church by Jon Bowles passionately expresses this issue of our battling culture as well. Bowles states, “If art and faith were the immediate scenery, everyone seemed to be wearing bifocals,” and “The critical marriage of faith and art has somewhat vanished” (Bowles, Pg 9). God designed us to be creative thinkers and we were meant to expressive ourselves through art. Thus, the need for the revival of the arts in the church is more evident than anything.

Smith continues to highlight the famous creatives who stepped out of their comfort zones and expressed their art in theater, dance, music, film, and global ministry with a Christian influence. Before the 20th century, Christian movies, plays, dance, and music genres were unheard of, but now the arts are rapidly advancing within the church. People like Billy Graham(1949), Hillsong Church(1983), TobyMac(2001), Mercy Me(1990), and Phil Fischer and Mike Nawrocki, the creators of Veggie Tales(1993), are just a few people Smith mentions who marked the beginning of Christian media. The entire genre of Christian rap and films, first developed in the 1990s, has grown so much in popularity and continues to advance in the pop culture. Smith writes, “Suspicion is still present among western believers, but the involvement in the arts of a younger generation is eroding the suspicion allowing the arts to be a resource of hope for faith our communities. The arts are being accepted as a context in which one can meet God and experience the divine presence as well as to disclose to us something of God’s truth” (Smith, pg 160).

In summary, Smith’s book, A Creative Church, the Arts and a Century of Renewal, is an accurate documentation of the arts revival inside the church since the 19th century that includes countless creative influencers who transformed Christian media. Human beings were created in God’s image, and thus, we were made with the gift of creativity. We were created to be visionary and imaginative people in order to reflect God’s beauty and truth in our artwork and to speak the gospel to the nations through drama, dance, story, music, film, and art media. As Ray Bradbury said, “Science is no more than an investigation of a miracle we can never explain, and art is an interpretation of that miracle” (Bowles, pg 12). Let the arts continue to flourish within the church as the artists glorify God through their beautiful masterpieces.

Bibliography

Bowles, Jon. Art and Faith: Reclaiming the Artistic Essence of the Church. Kansas City, US: Beacon Hill Press, 2014. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 21 April 2017.

Ehrman, Bart D. Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew. New York: Oxford UP, 2003.

Smith, Anthony T. A Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal. Kendall Hunt, Dubuque, IA, 2015.

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