Critical Book Review
“A Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal” by Todd Smith
In his book, “A Creative Church: The Arts and a Century of Renewal” Todd Smith shares about art and the views of art by “Christians” today. Smith gives clear cut examples of many different types of art, and shares throughout the book about the way that these art forms have changed over the years. Though the book focuses a lot on change, most of the change is not all about the way that the arts have changed or even humans having a love for the arts, which has been around for centuries, but Smith shares some interesting points on the facts that the arts forms, that we know today, have not always been as widely accepted by Christians. He shares stories about how back in the olden days, but also not even too long ago, art was not as much accepted by Christians as it is today. He gives examples of how lots of Christians or should I say denominations of churches have come full circle when it comes to the topic of art.
. From once believing that some art was even from the devil and anyone who took part in the arts was going to hell, to now being lovers of the arts, and even using different forms of art today in worship at churches. He uses the word “renewal” as if the transformation from the church and Christians today is almost as if they have been renewed in their ability to accept all art forms that they may come across. The book begins with Smith sharing a bit of his own story on how he became a believer and how that coupled with his love for art was a bit confusing when he would hear others talk about art in a negative way or looking down on the arts as if they were not to be respected in the way that they should. Smith shares how he grew up in church and his love for the arts continued to grow as he did. He had a talent and gift for art but in the beginning of his life, he did not have many people around him in the church that pushed him to further that gift. Smith spent a little time talking about the dancing form of art and how the view of dancing by the church has been changed in recent years.
Not even too long ago dancing was viewed as sin, no matter how or where it was done, if you were dancing, you were sinning. This, along with many other forms of art being accepted by the church was not an overnight switch, and it took years to have some come around to the arts. Even today many churches still go by the unwritten rules in their minds that dancing and other forms of arts are sin. But the main thing that those churches are missing out on is the fact that of course dancing and other forms of arts can be used as sin and in certain situations can cause people to stumble, but when used correctly and when done in a way that can honor God, many forms of art can even be used as an evangelism tool to help other see and learn more about what God has created. Smith talks about how in recent years a lot of forms of art have turned from the spiritual because of the way that Christians and the church has acted. If you think back to some of the most famous art pieces in history, many of them have been done to honor God, and bring people to Him. Works like the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo were created to teach people about God, and bring them closer to Him. Smith talks about how there is now a clear line between Christian art, and secular art. This line has not always been there but now days it is easy to visually see or hear the difference in art that is honoring to God, and art that is not. Music is one form of art that has changed drastically over recent years. Used to music that was played on the radio was all similar, now yes, there was some music that was a bit more risqué than others but for the most part, music was just something to listen to. It seems like today just by going to the top playlists on Spotify, it is hard to find a big name artist that is not dropping the “F bomb” or talking about illegal things in their songs. This was not always the case.
David Platt shares in his book, “Counter Culture” how the “same rights to religious liberty that should protect followers of Christ should also protect followers of Moses, Muhammad, Krishna and Buddha, as well as those who believe that there is not god to follow in the first place.” Platt shares here what Smith also alludes to in his book, as believers, one should never expect someone who does not follow the Christian faith to follow the rules and guidelines set up in the Bible. In the same way that as a Christian, one would not be convicted to follow what is in the Book of Mormon or another sacred text from another religion. As Christians holding up their belief standard for the entire world to follow is not only impossible, but it works against the goal of Christianity, it turns people away from the love of Christ when they hear the hate of Christians.
Smith shares stories in his book about people who got into the arts, such as music, and were turned down by radio stations or churches because they sounded to much like secular music. But now days when you turn on the radio, it seems like every third station is a Christian station that is playing music that, if you did not listen too closely to the words, could be mistaken for secular music because of the way that it is being produced and made today. Our world has changed a lot over the years, especially when it comes to the way that Art is viewed by so many. Smith shares how even though in the past, the Christian has tried to move away from the art forms in order to “remain holy”, now days Christians are using arts such as music to evangelize to many people who would never step foot in a church building, but would flip through a radio station when they are trying to find something to listen to. This book is a good reminder to live life like Jesus did. Not separating yourself from the world but as it says in Scripture, being in the world, but not of the world. As John 17:14-16 says, “I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.” The Christian should not be praying and seeking to get out of this world, but they should know that they are in the world for a reason, the love and serve like Christ and share the good news of Jesus to whoever they can, however they can. Smith gives a reminder in his book that even though there are a lot of forms of art that are not what the Christian may agree with, there are many forms of art that the Christian should agree with, because it is doing good work for the Kingdom.
Platt, D. (2015). Counter culture: a compassionate call to counter culture in a world of poverty, same-sex marriage, racism, sex slavery, immigration, abortion, persecution, orphans, and pornography. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House , Inc. 222.