Throughout time, there has always been a niche in creating religious art, most prevalently Christian art. Throughout the book, the history of Christian art is explained. From the desire to filter it into how the church wanted to portray itself, to the thousands of forms that exist in the present day to portray and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. While speaking on Henry Turner Bailey’s speech on implementing Christian pictures into the curriculum, Smith notes, “Further Bailey associated the renewed use of art by churches as a means to fulfill anew the prophecy [given by the Lord]) (26). A Creative Church by Todd Smith explains how the church and its members have been glorifying the Lord through the arts since the inception of the religion; some of these forms include architecture and the visual arts.
The structure and appearance of the Christian church has held a special significance throughout time. The design of churches has been designed as they are for a reason, to give an insight as to what values are held by the Christian community. In “A Creative Church,” Todd Smith states, “Among its many purposes in culture, the church building serves as a visual symbol and communicates the ideals and aspirations of the Christian community” (86). The physical church is an iconic symbol; any person can identify a church and name a few features of a Christian church. Everyone, religious or not, can name a few features of a classic Christian church. Whether it be stained glass windows, the iconic bell and bell tower, or the gold cross that towered on top of the building, all of these features are specifically created and even mimicked in the churches of today in order to portray a message about what happens in the building, the importance of it, and what Christians as a community are about. These features that are visible outside of or within a church, although they seem small, are all very well thought out and serve the common purpose of glorifying the church and the God that is worshipped within. In “The History Principles and Practice of Symbolism in Christian Art,” F. Edward Hulme states, “The church is represented as a woman, ‘the spouse of Christ’” (123). Since the church is viewed as the bride of Christ, Christians take pride in the appearance and reception of the church of Jesus Christ. There is no need for anything that is of God to be tarnished or taken care of poorly. If it is of the Lord, it is to be the best.
The visual arts, most specifically painting, have for many years been the most classical and admired ways to glorify the Lord. These paintings were commissioned to the most prestigious of painters who were hired to capture specific moments and themes in the bible. In his survey of the history of the history of Christian arts, Smith notes, “From its inception, the church has used art and artists to tell the story of the gospel, and thereby shape culture” (146). This type of art was revered for its importance; it was believed it was a way to bring you close to God and Christianity, almost as if you were commissioned by angels themselves. There was a very prestigious badge of honor given to those who completed works or art for churches or with religious themes. For years, the church has commissioned artists to proclaim the gospel through their God given talents. Christianity is one of the most prevalent topics in classic art. In his book, “Spiritual Seeing,” Herbert L. Kessler notes “Throughout the Middle Ages the makers of images struggled to develop appropriate linkages between the contemplation of the objects they created and of the immaterial beings being represented in them” (XV). Different forms of art, especially painting and similar visual art forms, are made in an extent to help some people understand the Gospel better; it is a way to bring the stories and lessons of the bible alive and makes them a lot easier to relate with and apply in everyday life.
Throughout A Creative Church, Smith makes it clear how much of an impact the arts and artistic community has on Christianity. Not only are there an infinite amount of ways for people to hear the gospel and practice in their way, but there are also infinite ways to understand and make the gospel come alive in a certain person’s eyes. Matthew 28: 19 says “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations,” by implementing all these facets of art to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ is a tool that has made and will continue to make the gospel more accessible to all people and all interests around the world.