- The Arts In A Postmodern Society
- The Arts in a Postmodern Society, part 2
A human life is incomplete without the arts.
If the “unexamined life is not worth living” as the ancient Greeks said, in the same way, a life without the experience and enjoyment of beauty is not a completely realized life. The Christian worldview takes into account the individual as a person made in the image of God, with emotional, intellectual, physical, spiritual and aesthetic needs. Not only has God created us in His own image, but the lordship of Christ extends into all of life. This also implies that education from a Christian perspective cannot be merely the acquisition of knowledge and skills needed to make a living. The making of a mature person, one able to deal with the challenges and aspects of the human experience, requires a Biblical worldview that includes instruction and training of artistic sensitivity. As we have already seen, an education that enriches our emotional and aesthetic sensitivity opens our imagination to the creative and spiritual dimensions of life, and deepens our knowledge and understanding of the human condition. One may even say that it complements religious education in a non-religious way.
Art discloses the invisible
As I have mentioned, we must not forget that through the arts and sciences, we can have a glimpse into the intricate and complex design of the world God created. This is probably why Cennino Cennini, an artist from the 14th century, said that the artist with his talent and skill is able to disclose to the gazing eye that hidden reality which before did not seem to exist. In other words, art can help us see aspects of reality that are not obvious to the intellect but accessible through our emotions and imagination. The arts therefore, can not only be good as tools for worship, evangelism and liturgy, or as gifts for providing relaxation and entertainment, though they do play an important role in all these. Good art plays a fundamental and important role in helping us be more human, sensitive, discerning, reflective, and, in the process, enriches our lives and develops our character.
Art can re-enchant the world!
Lastly, it is important to notice that one of the things art can help us see more clearly is how the process of desecration and demythologizing in the West has actually taken place. When reason was enthroned, the arts began to abandon religion: God, the saints and the host of angels disappeared from the canvas. But, in fact, this loss of religion is the very thing that disenchanted society, because not only did the Christian God disappear, so did the gods, goddesses and myths of the ancient world. Artists in the 18th and 19th century had nothing to paint but what can be seen by the naked eye. Not only faith disappears but also the free use of the imagination. This disapproval was at the root of all the Avant-garde movements who wanted to recover the imagination. In Kandinsky´s words, “We must destroy the soulless, materialistic life of the 19th century. We must build the life of the soul and spirit of the 20th century.”
Christian writers such as G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis clearly saw what the loss of imagination would mean. Their works are replete with Greek, Roman and Nordic myths. Indeed, God needs to be restored to His real place in the mind and imagination of the West. But maybe before that can take place, the world needs to be re-enchanted. It needs to go back to that paradigm in which the imagination was open to see and believe in more than what the naked eye can see. The artists of the Avant-garde movement, even though they tried very hard, have been unable to do that.
The arts open windows in the spiritual dimension of life
In twelve years of working with postmodern, non-Christian people, we have noticed they desire to cultivate and enhance their artistic sensitivity through arts education. They see this as good and necessary for every human being. They also realize, despite their secularism, irrationality and confusion, that for this learning process to be real, genuine love is required, an appreciation for whatever is good and beautiful not only in nature, but also in the world of human life. Even the secular mindset understands the nature of the artistic gift, values the aesthetic as well as the moral and ethical. All kinds of people recognize that the arts—the use of the imagination—are an effective tool for opening windows into the spiritual dimension.
According to historians the first mission to the West started when Paul obeyed the Holy Spirit and went from Troas to Philippi (in Macedonia, Acts 16:7-12), and finished around the end of the 4th century A.D. The second mission began in the 5th century with the conversion of the barbarian tribes and concluded around the year 800 with the proclamation of Charlemagne as the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
The necessity of a biblical worldview
Today we live in the time of the third mission to the West. Here’s another lesson we have learned through the years: we won’t complete this third mission in our own strength. Such a titanic task will never be fulfilled by human means, or merely through our own reason and imagination.
Therefore a mere nominal or intellectual approach is not enough. Above all, we need a Biblical worldview by which to live, think and work as Christians in this complex, postmodern world. This worldview would also take into account the spiritual dimension. Faith, prayer, intercession, dependence on God and spiritual warfare must be integrated in the dynamics of any efforts to reach this society with the gospel. We must embody, through the grace of God, forgiveness, freedom from bondage, healing, deliverance and the relevance of the gospel message in all aspects of life. Our walk with God has to demonstrate the reality of God´s presence in this world, including something as down to earth as finances, an aspect in which we have been able to see God´s miraculous intervention many times in the development of this ministry.
- Hector J. Ramirez Martinez
For further reading on this subject, visit Ars Vitalis.