Art from the Christian point of view

by Beat Rink

Many Christian churches have discovered the importance of various forms of art in recent years – going beyond the previous use of organ and worship music. This is true at least of protestant churches, while the Catholic and Orthodox churches have always attached a different, in some cases higher, value to art.

This rediscovery has been welcomed in established and independent protestant churches and, for obvious reasons, not least by artists themselves. At the same time, church leaders and members have often expressed the wish to be helped towards a deeper understanding of the phenomen “art”.

Amongst Christian artists, new initiatives have grown up in various countries since the 1980s, mostly in the form of interconfessional movements. This was also the case in Switzerland, which is also where Arts+ was founded in 2005 as an alliance of Christian cultural initiatives. Discussions conducted in such artists’ movements and networks centre around such topics as the “self-conception (and the daily experience) of Christian culture makers”, “aesthetics and theology”, “ethics and art as a business”– or generally: “The Kingdom of God and culture”, thus also returning frequently to the relationship between “art and the church”. The process reveals a need for thinking on a more relevant and deeper level, primarily theologically, on the subject.

The present statement is conceived as a sketch-like and provisional attempt to illuminate various facets of the extensive topic “art” (using this term always as applying to all branches of the arts), constantly bringing in the Christian perspective. The multiplicity of individual topics has been subdivided into three areas: “Art and society” – “Art and the individual”– “Art and the church”. It is inevitable that many questions will not be addressed at all, while other recur repeatedly and lead to a certain amount of overlapping amongst the chapters. “Defining it is a work of art in itself”, the Polish aphorist Stanislaw Jerzy Lec writes. This quip has something comforting about it, reminding us in advance the impossibility of understanding creativity in any way other than as a gift originating in God and defying all our attempts to pin it down intellectually.


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Table of Contents:

Preface

A. Art and Society 1. The present-day art boom 2. The function of art in society B. Art and the individual: how does art affect persons? C. Art and the Church 1. Points of contact between “art and religion”

2. Points of contact between “art and Christian faith”

3. Points of contact between “Art and the church

Translation: Bill Buchanan © Crescendo, 2009 Statement by the Swiss Evangelical Alliance, Arts+ and “HOPE FOR EUROPE” Approved by the Central Committee of the Swiss Evangelical Alliance (SEA-DS) in March, 2009

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