How Faith Influences Art

There is influencing, overcoming power in faith. Our faith places a hue over our lives, coloring our decisions the tinge of what we hold closest to our hearts and of what we have rooted tightest in our minds. A well-known quote by C.S. Lewis reads: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it, I see everything else.” Of course, faith does not refer to only Christianity, but I am going to hone in on faith in that sense. Be it fine art, photography, music, cinema, theater, dance or any other medium, art sings a domineering song in our culture today, and where there is passion–the area in which one drowns his soul–there is faith of some form. To get a better understanding of how faith influences Eastern students’ views and opinions of art as a whole, I asked around. Following are what I found in two of the students that I asked.

The first student responded directly, “My faith basically sums up the way in which I believe and ultimately determines the strength or depth of my relationship with God.” She added that she listens mainly to “Christian music” and finds encouragement in knowing that those who wrote these songs are, like her, followers of Christ, and are therefore quite possibly going through the same challenges that she has faced or will later face. It is in the message they portray that she hears and is encouraged: “We have a God who desires to have a personal relationship with all of us. No matter what happens in life, we are not forgotten…to hear various Christian artists affirm this truth strengthens me in my faith because I know I am not the only one who believes this.”

Another of Eastern’s own responded just as passionately: “I believe that playing music is the most beautiful feat my body is capable of.” She spoke of music being a spiritual connection and viaduct for worship. Of fine art, she elaborated that artistic ability reflects God’s fearful and wonderful creation. “God gave the artist a gift, and I think acknowledging that in the presence of a painting is absolutely an influence of faith.”

When I think of art as a spiritually influenced aspect of life, I immediately think of Mark Rothko, an American abstract expressionist painter. His paintings are immense, some being over seven feet tall. He paints on a large scale to evoke feelings–to involve the observer in a raw, real way. While some believe his paintings are so large with the goal being to instill overwhelming feelings, Rothko corrects that the immensity of his art is  intended to envelop the viewer–not to be “grandiose,” but “intimate and human.”

In light of this, when we claim Christianity as an influence on our lives, we should think of ourselves as the viewer of Rothko’s paintings. The vastness of what is in front of us should not overwhelm, but rather overflow. Our faith involves both who we are and who our God is. When we find that our lifestyles aren’t aligned with our faith, we need to let the immensity of our faith overflow into our actions, our words, our thoughts.

Think of it this way–an “alloy” is a combination of two different metals to form a new creation. This new mixture can be viewed in one of two ways: as significantly decreased in value due to the mixing of the metals, or as stronger, more durable, more usable, which is usually the reasoning behind the alloy. Similarly, we can view our faith in two different ways. We can compare our actions to our faith and see ourselves as a decreased value of what we are claiming to be, or we can see the power behind combining Christ’s word with our deeds and live a life in fear of God, for “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV). Though one of Rothko’s paintings could be seen as simply a huge canvas of blaring red, there is beauty beyond the color. There is enchantment to be found in the layering of hues, in the sheer size, in the true form of absoluteness experienced while standing before it.

While is it easy to say that faith influences our opinions, I think it is important to note, what is faith’s role in this influence? Does it intimidate us? We are not to be scared of our faith and its power over how we live our lives. We are to stand in awe of our God and (to repeat Rothko once again) be enveloped in an intimate and human way. Art is beautiful, and it is an absolute gift from God.

There doesn’t need to be a distinction between “Christian art” and “non-Christian art.” Rather, there is beauty present in some areas of life, and very much absent in others. James 1:17 reads,“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father.” Whether or not worship was intended by the artist, I believe anything that is beautiful can be an opportunity to worship. How dull would life be if it was devoid of art? We need to remember once in a while to embrace this resplendence and allow our faith to embellish this God-given experience as we seize art as a grand platform for worship.

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