I consider myself a relatively creative person. I played the flute for many years. I enjoy writing poetry. I love finding new uses for old things.
But I can’t draw to save my life.
I’ve admired the talent of artists who portray what they see onto paper or canvas with skill and accuracy. Both of my children took a drawing class for several years and I was amazed at what they achieved. Even today, my youngest will print out images from the computer to use as inspiration for his drawings. I have a dear friend who expresses her love for Christ in beautiful encaustic works.
I’ve long told myself that one day, I will take an art class.
Recently, I read Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism. These lectures were delivered to students at Princeton Seminary in 1898. In these lectures, Abraham Kuyper spoke on the influence of Calvinism on all aspects of life, from government to science, religion to the arts. What stands out to me the most from his lecture on the arts, is that for a Reformed believer, artistic expression is a natural overflow of our theology.
“But if you confess that the world once was beautiful, but by the curse has become undone, and by a final catastrophe is to pass to its full state of glory, excelling even the beautiful paradise, then art has the mystical task of reminding us in its productions of the beautiful that was lost and of anticipating its perfect coming luster..Calvinism honored art as a gift of the Holy Ghost and as a consolation in our present life, enabling us to discover in and behind this sinful life a richer and more glorious background...arts points out to the Calvinist both the still visible lines of the original plan, and what is even more, the splendid restoration by which the supreme Artist and master Builder will one day renew and enhance even the beauty of his original creation.” (p. 139-140).
The artist images the first Artist, the one who crafted all things. When we paint, draw, sculpt, or craft, we reflect the One who made us. And in doing so, we bring him glory. But even more, the arts can be a spiritual exercise, a way to express what God is doing in us, in this world, and in the world to come. Like music, artistic expression speaks to the human heart in a unique language. It goes beneath the surface, to our very heart and speaks to our emotions: our longings and hopes, our heartaches and sorrows, our dreams and aspirations. It speaks to the sorrow in all of us of a world fallen and broken from sin and to the hope we have in seeing all things made new.
You might say that Kuyper and Calvin have inspired me. As a result, I decided to take an art class this summer. Whatever comes of it, my prayer is that I what I learn will help me express my love for Christ. I hope to gain skills to sketch or paint what I see in the world around me. And to live out my theology through creative expression. As Kuyper said, “If a common man, to whom the world pays no special attention, is valued and even chosen by God as one of his elect, this must lead the artist also to find a motive for his artistic studies in what is common and of everyday occurrence, to pay attention to the emotions and the issues of the human heart in it, to grasp with his artistic instinct their ideal impulse, and lastly, by his pencil to interpret for the world at large the precious discovery he has made.” (p. 150)