Culture

The Curious Case of Faith and Work

[eltdf_dropcaps type=”normal” color=”” background_color=””]G[/eltdf_dropcaps]rowing up in the 90’s, I thought Christian art was flaky. Unoriginal. Uninspired. Bland…  yet godly. The mini art critic in me could spot from a mile away that the perm fixed in the depiction of Jesus that we see in Catholic art was far from me – and almost everyone else too. But it was art. Christian art. So, when I started considering the claims of Christianity, the art work I was exposed to made the culture seem narrow and detached. Being a creative person myself, this was a big deal. Would I need to substitute my creativity and artistic expression with the creation or recreation of religious art or scenes from nature? My thoughts echoed the voices that had gone before me. I was like Dorothy Day who once questioned, “How can anyone remain interested in a religion which shows no concern for nine-tenths of a person’s life?” Would I need to give up design altogether to embrace this new way of life? Far be it! Why? Because Christ is Lord over all.

Okay okay. Some might wonder what the lordship of Christ would have to do with art yet alone culture, especially when considering that for decades the church has seemed rather apathetic to both. The best way I can tackle this (without turning this post into a book) is by taking a walk through the gospel narrative that runs through the pages of the Scriptures.

The song of creation in the first chapter of Genesis is simply beautiful; God spoke everything into being and all He created was good. The climax of God’s design was the creation of man, whom He made in His own image. What’s more, He described mankind as “very good”. In subsequent chapters, God gave both the male and female a mandate to tend the garden, to keep it and to preserve it. Life was as it was supposed to be: Utopia. Then, the most unfortunate event took place.  The first image-bearers of God, Adam and Eve, were deceived.  Immediately following this deception, they chose to directly disobey God by indulging in fruit he forbade them to eat or to even touch. However, they ate it and thus became separated from God. All of creation was tainted; the first sin cultivated the breeding ground for all forms of distortion, even distorting the way we engage in the world around us and especially distorting the heart within us. 

[eltdf_blockquote text=”The plunge of the whole human race into darkness left us in dire need of redemption. For the Christian, the redemption of the soul begins and ends in Jesus Christ. In fact, the redemption of all things (think culture, relationships, art and even womanhood) is no different than the redeeming of one’s soul; Jesus Christ is the focus.” title_tag=”h2″ width=””] One may ask, “Why have I been redeemed?” We have been redeemed so that we can understand the purpose of God’s design for life. I like how the Westminster Catechism puts it, saying, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” (1 Cor 10:31) We can only do this because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross for all who believe. Great! That is the bottom line. Yet all too often, one may sit and gaze at this truth and still wonder if one is doing things right. Take the classic case of the redeemed artist who is plagued with questions about whether or not artwork is a good and godly thing. Consider the accountant who ponders how balancing a ledger pleases God? What does the outworking of faith look and feel like?

We can take comfort in this: Christ always has been and always will be Lord over all. Colossians 1v15-23 helps us understand this. It reads,

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

One of the greatest advocates of the lordship of Christ over the whole man (as opposed to the view many hold fast to: that Christ has come to only save the soul and equip missionaries and gospel workers, and that God pays no mind to the rest of life) is Dr. Francis Schaeffer who uses art to set the platform for us to enter into good discussion or great debate about Christ’s lordship. He states in his book, Art and the Bible:

“As Evangelical Christians we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life… We have misunderstood the very concept of the Lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives and for our culture. The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there is no platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul and redemption is for the whole man…God made the whole man…In Christ the whole man is redeemed…Christ is the Lord of the whole man now and the Lord of the whole Christian life and…in the future as Christ comes back, the body will be raised from the dead and the whole man will have a whole redemption. It is within this framework that we are to understand the place of art [and all things*] in the Christian life.” *Interjection mine

The struggle for us women to present all that we are before the Lord is real, especially in an age of multiple choice. Should I be married or stay single to work in the mission field?  Should I study architecture or nursing? Should I home-school or pursue a career as a marketing executive? Whatever the struggle, present it to the Lord who cares not only for you, but about what you do. He is Lord over all. Abraham Kuyper summed this up superbly when he said,

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

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