A Critical Review by Christopher Parks

In the book “A Creative Church the Arts and a Century of Renewal” written by Todd Smith, cover many forms of art from theatre to music, and visual arts to dance. While all of these forms of art are widely known to be accepted by the majority of the Christian community today, it was not so long ago that the same could not be said. In a not so distant past, the printing press was viewed as the work of the devil. Todd Smith covers the arts as someone with a biblical world view in his book and uses the stories of actual people who experienced the Christian art world first hand, to give real world examples of the times that Christians and everyday people have gone through in the art world.

Todd Smith starts his book by referring to his own experience in church as a child. In the church Smith attended as a child, music was very popular. Smith describes his church as having “quite a few creatives” (pg. IX). Smith began to study religion and investigated the connections between theology and culture after reading a book by Francis Schaeffer. In the late eighty’s, Smith began investigating how creatives shaped Christianity through art mediums such as dance and theatre. Smith was able to educate himself on the topics he was investigating and did it with, what seems to be, a non-biased opinion. Smith was raised to enjoy music, even when in a Christian atmosphere and was able to see the positive effects that creative mediums could have on Christianity and vice versa. Although the Christian culture as a whole, genuinely accepts creative mediums such as dance and theatre in the current times, Smith does a good job of reminding his audience that it wasn’t always so and it took courage people to change the Christian communities mind that art is a dangerous and un-Godly way to spread the gospel.

The world of art today consists of mostly secular work, but the same could not be said about the art world many years ago. Paintings of angels, godly figures and religious figures can be seen everywhere throughout the world. The music scene today is full of rappers who use lines such as “I pray to God”, but it is impossible to call it Christian music when you hear the next line about sex and drugs. In today’s day and age the media promotes more artists that sing about sex and drugs than they do artists who sing about the love that God has for us. The book “Art Histories, Theories and Exceptions”, written by author Adam Geczy describes change in the media to be “a bit like warfare” (pg. 84). In Smith’s book, he talks of a man named Ralph Carmichael. Carmichael is a Christian composer and contemporary Christian music pioneer (pg. 81). Carmichael talks about a situation where a church that his father attended considered the radio “the devil’s little-black box” (pg. 82). In today’s time, Christian radio is extremely popular and those who listen can hear evangelical preachers speak all the time and spread the gospel. Today radio and television are considered one of the best tools for sharing and spreading the gospel by many Christians. It is so effective that many people who share God’s word has been able to make a fulltime career out of sharing the gospel on radio and television. Carmichael started a gospel band at Southern California Bible College. The band became so popular that the band was asked to perform on a television show called “Campus Christian Hour” (pg. 83). Originally the band was supposed to perform one time until one performance turned into many performance leading up to an Emmy win. At the beginning of performing the president of the school did not want to be a known affiliate of the band until the president of the school realized that the band is doing amazing things.

Historically the Christian world has shied away from many art forms because many believing that the devil was responsible for most of it. Smith shows throughout his book that the art world has done many great things for the Christian community. Smith does a great job of including many examples that reflect the positive benefits that the arts have had on the Christian world. Artists such as Kirk Frankin, Hillsong United and Newsboys are all examples of musicians that have been able to break out into the main stream media while spreading the gospel at the same time. If people like Carmichael never broke the mold and did not have the courage to bring the gospel into the main stream, it is almost easy to say that the Christian population may not have grown as much as it has in the past fifty years. Movies such as “God’s Not Dead” and “Passion of the Christ” were able to break into the main stream movie scene while spreading the gospel to the millions who have seen it. Smith’s book reminds the people who read the book, that the media while not flooding with the gospel now, at one point and almost zero gospel flowing through it because of flawed beliefs that Christians once had and stood by even though the beliefs were heavily flawed. Smith’s book shows the good that can be found in art, even when it is surrounded by tons of evil influences that could otherwise harm people’s faith. As the Christian faith and culture continues to grow in the main stream media, Smith’s book becomes more and more true in the sense that the arts has benefited the Christian world in a positive way. Smith’s book is still up to date and it is shown when the reader is able to see popular names talked about in the book. Other books fail at this because they are either out of date or contain people who are more known by an older audience who already has more knowledge on the subject.

Emerling, Jae. “Theory For Art History.” Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2005, pg. XI-235

Geczy, Adam. “Art Histories, Theories an Exceptions.” Berg, 2008, pg. 1-164

Smith, Todd. “A Creative Church The Arts and a Century of Renewal.” Kendall Hunt publishing company, 2014, pg. IX-165

Credits:

Created with images by greg westfall. - "rapture" • desertdutchman - "Fashion Imitating Modern Art" • Abode of Chaos - "Rumeur sur un mystérieux Cercle des amis de l'esprit de la Salamandre, 1999 _DDC5984.JPG" • fancycrave1 - "art creativity drawing" • nan palmero - "Modern Art McNay Art Museum" • novelrobinson - "paint streak color" • avantrend - "murano glass object glass art"

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