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Exploring the Intersection of Christianity and the Arts – The Gospel Coalition

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As believers, we create because we’ve been created by the One who fashioned everything together, with no point of reference. In this episode of Glo, Blair Linne, Aixa de López, Sharon Dickens, and Soojin Park talk about how all creation, especially the arts, points us to God—the Creator himself. They discuss broadening our definition of “art,” the difference between art for the church and art from the church, how art can move us to worship the person of Christ, and more.


Episode time stamps:

  • Topic introduction (0:00)
  • Graphic design and Christ (3:59)
  • The peace in drawing and painting (6:19)
  • What does it mean to be creative? (8:36)
  • Shakespeare, The Great British Baking Show, and hip-hop dance (10:18)
  • Art is everywhere (11:36)
  • Valuing art (14:03)
  • How we find meaning in art (15:52)
  • Why do we become afraid of the unfamiliar? (17:51)
  • Art for the church and art from the church (20:49)
  • Music as a bridge to art (24:47)

Transcript

The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Soojin Park
You know, whenever we create, we always have some kind of reference point. But it amazes me that God had no frame of reference. Like he made colors, with absolutely no point of reference, you know, just out of his own creativity, we always say God is creator, God is creator. But that also means he has creative part of imaging him is to create when we broaden our scope of what art is, we see it every day.
Blair Linne
The ladies, here we are again, able to have a conversation. It’s been so enriching, being able to chat together for Glo, our podcast on the gospel coalition Podcast Network. Again, we’re for women from four different contexts with the same goal, which is that we want to magnify the Lord, we want to talk about what he’s doing in our lives and ministries and around the world. And so today, we’re actually going to be talking about art. And, you know, art, ultimately points us to the artists capital A, our Creator, you know, I was first captivated by words, when I was nine years old. Every week, I attended a spoken word reading with my mom in a place called Lambert Park, which is in Los Angeles, and we would go to this place, it’s called the world stage. And it was filled with culture and jazz music and natural hair, and African dance and African art. And there were writers, and vinyl records to sift through and there was nine year old me. And I was taking it all in, and it would be late, like 10 o’clock at night. So it was pretty fun for a nine year old to be there. And it was significant. Because in that time in my life, oftentimes in my high school curriculum, there wasn’t much mentioned about the immense contributions of African Americans in our history, curriculum. And so the world stage was that place that I felt welcomed, and I felt celebrated. And it began to influence a lot of my writing. So at a young age, most of my writing had to do with my ethnicity, that was kind of like all I talked about, and then I got to be about 17. And I concluded that while the fact that I was a black girl, that was something to be celebrated, it wasn’t all of who I was, you know, I was emphasizing that which was physical and cultural. But I also wanted to communicate that which was spiritual. And so I started incorporating scripture in my poetry in my spoken word. When I was about 17, I had never seen it done, what I thought I want to communicate about, you know, that which is important, and I actually became a Christian five years later, so I was a professing Christian at that time. And when I became a Christian, five years later, I really wanted to use spoken word specifically, to communicate the message which it transformed my life, which was the gospel of Jesus Christ. Francis Schaeffer, in his book, art in the Bible says Christian life itself should be our greatest work of art. And I just love that we are a work of art made in the image of God. And the fact that we are made in the image of God means we have the capacity to create and what we create, it testifies to the fact that were image bearers and so today, we’re going to be talking about all things creative, different art forms, different art form expressions, and so that may include painting or sculpting or dance drama, you know, film all of the different art forms, which are the result of being made in the image of God and ultimately are made for the glory of God. And so I’m interested I shared a little bit about spoken word which is something that really lights me up and inspires me it’s an art form that or a gift that the Lord has given me I’m interested to know like, what types of art inspires you ladies?
Aixa De Lopez
So you talked about your nine year old being just I can picture you there just surrounded by a whole lot of movement and music and and color around you and it brought me back to the circle we should we could we made when we were little in class and the teacher had us all sat down in the in the circle in the center of the classroom and and we read Babar for the first time Barbara the elephant. And I just I love the story and I love the drawings and it was like, so mind boggling to me when I must have been six when I when I saw this book for the first time and and I sort of fell in love with the idea of picture books and I enjoy the my father got, you know, got me so many books throughout the years and I just spent afternoons watching, just looking at The details and the, you know, the artistry that behind in the words. And so I think it has a very big impact to this day. And it took a while it took Well, I’m a graphic designer by by my major is graphic design. And it’s very funny how God just combines everything that you’re passionate about and uses it for His glory. So I never expected my career, my professional career, to have something to do with my walk with Christ. Some sometimes when I was early earlier, in my walk with Christ, I assumed it had nothing to do with spiritual things like this wasn’t spiritual. And now you know, as I’ve matured more in walk more with God, how beautiful is it, that everything you love and makes you passionate, is actually from God. And so I am very moved by the common grace of good art, be it dance, and music in picture books still, you know, I get so inspired by that. And so yeah, that would be me.
Sharon Dickens
Since you started chatting about art. I mean, we’ve been talking about this for a while, I realized that I hadn’t really thought about it. So I don’t know enough to feel like I don’t know enough to be sitting at this table today. Same here. Big sutured. But when you we were chatting yesterday, there’s that wider scope of wall art is made me realize that actually, there’s quite a lot that that I do that would be classed as art. And so probably the thing that I love the most and I have always done is drawing and painting. And so when I was a kid, it would be my happy place. Am I even now as an adult, it’s one of the few places when I’m really stressed. Or when I just need my brain to be quiet and find the painting or drawing something actually makes my brain stop. So for me, it’s a, I’ve loved it, I love looking at a really good paint and then thinking I love that. But I also love looking at a really good pen. And then thinking actually, I don’t like that at all. I can appreciate the effort. Like I know what like. And I love. There’s times where I can look at like you were seeing a shoe look at something like a piece of creation, and particularly sunsets. And I think, man, that’s amazing. I mean, I can’t even capture that with my eyes never made a photograph for a picture. So for me, art would definitely be it. And it sort of became a thing before I was saved. And I was I would have trained in architecture. So I’m a bit of a building geek. But because I like the straight lines of drawing buildings, it’s very satisfying in the fact that someone paid me to draw is, is severely being a graphic designer you get paid to draw is pretty amazing. It feels
Aixa De Lopez
like they they pay you to play. Yeah. Like I told you a few episodes ago that my first picture book is coming out. And I still can’t believe that that is a thing. Like, wow, that’s my job. And I have to almost pinch myself sometimes. It’s part of what I do now. And I’m a grown up and I draw, and I still draw.
Soojin Park
Yeah, I think for myself, too. I don’t think I know enough about art. But when I look back, I’ve always enjoyed being like a little creative. I think painting and doodling and drawing has always been kind of my peaceful place as well. Last couple of years, I got a really got into making cards for some reason like birthday cards and Christmas cards, painting them. So I started doing that a little bit. I was really into origami for a while. But I really like making things with my hands. That’s
Sharon Dickens
That’s amazing. My friend does a so intricate, it’s beautiful.
Soojin Park
I always say I have small hands. So it’s easier for me to do the little folds. And I actually when I was thinking about this question and kind of broadening my understanding of what art is and what it means to be creative, I was thinking about how I actually used to do event planning before my job at my church. And so much of creating an event is designing an experience, which I think is very much an art form. You think about what people are going to see and experience what they’re going to hear and what they’re going to you know, and so it’s very much engaging your creative side with the planning side of it. And so I really love that and for me, I think the thing that really moves me the most is movies. Yeah, we talked a little bit about that. But you know, I think every Any movie, you can find the gospel or gospel narrative in any movie, and I just love that some people are so gifted in capturing human emotion, or the things that seems so common to us. And yet we brushed by it, but they can capture it in film, I get so moved by that. Yeah,
Blair Linne
that’s someone who I think is wonderful at doing that. It’s not a movie, but in theater is Shakespeare. So I’ve loved I haven’t read him recently, but just loved how he’s able to capture human nature. You know, and I find inspiration in so many ways. So yes, Shakespeare, but also, the great British baking show is what I love, like just seeing people be able to bake these like, breads, you know, and twist it around, and, you know, create just so many wonderful treats. I think it’s so sweet. And, and then also hip hop dance. It’s like, what I wear, I take inspiration as well, and I’m not a dancer, I’m not a baker, you know, but I just think it’s amazing to be able to move your body in a particular way. And it just, it inspires me and inspires me to create other things like writing. But those are some ways that I’m in, I’m encouraged and inspired. And, you know, I wonder, you know, even as we come in contact with art all the time, but why should we value it? I mean, have you guys thought about that? As a Christian? Why value art? Because we don’t often value it these days?
Aixa De Lopez
Yeah, I think we take so much for granted, like we are on this earth. And we first of all this day and age, we don’t go out as much, we don’t take the time to look outside the window intentionally. We don’t we don’t sit in the grass. And we don’t, you know, look at things long enough. And our God is art is the artist, as you said in the beginning. Why would he make 1000 shades of pink for one sunset, like why he takes pleasure in beauty, just because. And, you know, I don’t know how many people get up to see that. Half of the time I’m asleep, I don’t even get to see that. And he does it anyway. So it’s just a part of the character of our God, or creator that just loves in loves through creating. And so it’s an expression of love and pleasure in just beauty is part of who God is. And so being able to connect in some way, shape or form, even when people say, I don’t know enough about art, or I’m not an artist, you Susan, you pick your color for your highlights and your hair, and your lip gloss. And I mean, it’s the art is everywhere. If we look real close, it’s it’s everywhere. The world wouldn’t function without it. But we take it for granted.
Soojin Park
And one thing I think that really gets to me about God as the Creator is, you know, whenever we create, we always have some kind of reference point whether we’re conscious of it or not. But it amazes me that God had no frame of reference, like he made colors, with absolutely no point of reference, you know, just out of his own creativity. And I that amazes me, right even the sunset, like he designed that out of his own imagination. And I think that is astounding. And our God, we always say God is creator, God is creator. But that also means he is creative, you know, he created and I feel like part of imaging him is to create and like you said, I feel like when we broaden our scope of what art is we see it every day.
Sharon Dickens
I was thinking more like you asked the question, how do we value our and my brain instantly goes well, people put monetary value on it. Like this pin is worth $25,000 And I was thinking more from what we’ve been talking about another podcast that actually the value is sometimes without even spoken word it speaks to us. Like, like you making your cards. There’s there’s an image that can speak into that. Recently, in one of our last podcasts. You were talking about how people died during the pandemic and the never got to say goodbye or and so this happened. My mom died during the pandemic and my brother can get those and my friend for my birthday. So we have a Christian RS at home called Susanna and she’s exceptional. She works for us sometimes and Chi marry, my friend commissioned am Susanna to make this picture, this piece of art pencil drawing of my mom and my kids and me and gave it to my birthday. And so she took all this, like pictures from everywhere my daughter was in, in this in the background. And so the value to that is priceless. Not only because of all the people that were in the chain that made it a bit like the shoes that we had on one of our last podcast, but also because the thought of that they knew I would like it, I love I love art, I love paintings, she’s she’s amazing. So that value behind it is was priceless. And it’s an image that I’ve got that didn’t exist because it’s not like a photograph. And it was taken from but this this nice memory that didn’t really exist is what it is.
Blair Linne
That’s beautiful. And it’s interesting how we can, you know, as we look at a work of art, we find meaning, you know, there’s a connection there between this picture that you have now. And in one sense, it’s like when you think about art, it kind of does imitate life or nature, you know, things that are there that really resonate with us. And I was thinking about how typically in our, quote, unquote, camp, we can be much more cerebral and much more analytical, and intellectual. And I think sometimes we leave out the mystery, we leave out the beauty beauty for beauty sake, you know, this idea that God creates beautiful things. And it’s not superficial, I think sometimes we we associate beautiful things with with, you know, things that are trivial. But even in the tabernacle, for example, you know, he’s he says, it’s all its ornate, and all of these vibrant colors and pomegranates, you know, that are purple and red and blue. And, well, what’s the purpose? It must be because God values beauty, you know, the Levite priest and what they wore, and there’s actually a scripture that talks about, they were to wear these particular clothes for the sake of beauty. And, and I think we missed that sometimes settling into, you know, the imagination. Taking those moments in, as you mentioned, like to pause and reflect and say, law, you know, and, and, and I think we need art, you know, because we need to focus in on the imagination, we need to dream and not have everything figured out. Like there’s a mystery here that I think is really important for us to capture. And one of the things that that I wonder, as Christians specifically thinking about art, a question that I have is, does art need to be explicitly Christian?
Aixa De Lopez
So I think what I see is, we move into human tradition a lot until we become afraid of that, that is unfamiliar. And art tends to go into the unfamiliar, although it uses familiar elements. So we feel very intimidated when something is not explicitly, you know, gospel announcing in traditional evangelicalism in Latin America. Music is a very strong example. You know, and I understand the argument behind you know, you have to be careful what you listen to, and whatever. But then we go to the extreme, and then anybody that says, I am a Christian artist is, is lended in the ear, and maybe the quality of the lyrics is nothing like it does not proclaim the gospel, it just because it has a label on it, you accept it, and then use you stop using your brain and your heart. And so that’s that that lacks this, the pure, you know, force of what art is supposed to be, which I think is not only moving the motions, but actually making you think, and we should be able to discern that the Holy Spirit is with us. And the Lord gave us the tools to actually discern and enjoy and digest what we’re capturing with our senses. Also, I believe, no, it doesn’t have to be explicitly Christian in order to be enjoyed. And in fact, what you said about movies proclaiming, like, you’ll see the ark of God story in everything. I do that all the time with music with songs, good songs, good love stories always point to Jesus and sacrifice and all that good stuff. So I think we do deprive ourselves of a lot of goodness when we limit our consumption.
Soojin Park
And we talked about this too, about the concept of common grace, and how we can’t negate that we can’t negate the fact that, yes, you know, Unbelievers may not have special grace to give them salvation, but they still are image bearers of God, they still are creating, and it’s all thanks to God, God is creating through them. And I think it would be such a waste, to forego everything, just because it’s not explicitly Christian, because at the end of the day, all good and beautiful things are a reflection of God.
Blair Linne
It’s good. What there are two categories that I was told that was actually really helpful, I think, in this conversation is that and that is art, for the church, and art from the church. So you know, when you look at, for example, you know, Colossians three, which says, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly. You know, so that you’re able at singing, you know, songs and hymns and spiritual songs. You know, here’s art specifically for the church that, you know, it’s going to explicitly be about Jesus, when you meet on a Sunday morning, I want the songs to tell me about the gospel, like, Wash me with the truth, you know, but then also, you could be a Christian who’s creating art outside of the church, it still has the worldview of a Christian, so you’ve not lost sight of your Christianity. But it may not have the gospel in every lyric, do you know what I mean? But as you think about the worldview, the overall worldview of that person, it is still coming through that truth and beauty and goodness is, is shining. I don’t know if those are helpful for you guys. But I know it was helpful when I heard that.
Aixa De Lopez
Totally. And also, let’s not forget that your endeavors your your work, is mission is a mission field. And so we need we need artists, we need good art coming from the Church for consumption in mainstream. And it’s respectable. It’s commendable. It’s beautiful to see good art good work being done.
Soojin Park
And I think there’s something to be said about high quality work. Yeah, like, beautiful artwork, right? Just because it’s explicitly Christian. If it’s poor quality. That’s not always a good thing. Right. And I think there’s we need to appreciate good quality art.
Blair Linne
And he thought sharing
Sharon Dickens
No. I mean, I love it. I’m like, I’m listening to you making me think all these things that I’ve no, I’m a mess, but it is by the conversation that you’re having. You have such a passion for AR that you tell in such a big story, it makes me pause and think, Kim, my brains thinking, a scene that we would have in Scotland, which would be don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. And so I think that what have you seen is that, actually, there’s a place for our and when we think that we can only face that, whether it is in song or in what we read or in right. And when we only fit it into one tiny box, there’s a potential for us to miss so much good stuff out there. But we do have to look at it with discernment.
Blair Linne
Absolutely. And I think about the Lord, as I think about Psalm 19, you know, which says, The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky is proclaimed the work of his hands, day after day, they pour out fourth speech, night after night, they reveal knowledge, they use no speech, they use no words. No sound is heard from them, yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. And so, you know, it’s like, as you talk about the sunset, you know, here’s God displaying his glory, through his art, you know, through His creation, but he didn’t choose to write John 316 in the sky, he could have said, we all could have seen it very clearly. He chose to, you know, inspire men, you know, to write that in a book. And so we see God using different forms of art in order to communicate his worldview in different ways. And, and I think the same I think the same with us. You know, there there are many different ways to communicate God’s truth and who he is.
Aixa De Lopez
I have a little story here with a little bit of, I don’t know if you would consider it high art, but it is art it’s music. When we adopted our nine year old then she would, I asked her a question in order to bring her home and have some sort of softer transition. I asked her what her favorite music was, and come to find out the only music that they had access to wasn’t an old VHS, VHS tape of Michael Jackson. Thankfully, it was the King of Pop. So she knew all the words to the to the, to the repertory that they had in that VHS. So I bought a playlist. That’s Michael Jackson’s Greatest Hits. And I put it on the on the car on the way home when we drove home the first time in some evangelicalism people in near me raise their eyebrows, like why that sounds, even Christian. And I’m like, You know what, that’s coming Grace, I’m building a bridge for my daughter to come home to something that sounds like what she has known. And little by little, I had started introducing her to different music. And so music has been a bridge for me. And her and still, Michael Jackson sounds in my you know, I have a mixed, a very mixed playlist. And I have to say that God used that bridge to bring her home in a more, you know, comfortable, tender way. And so, I guess Michael Jackson never even dreamed about being part of my family.
Blair Linne
Maybe he did?
Soojin Park
You never know.
Blair Linne
Right? Well, wonderful. This has been a great conversation on the art and what it means to think about art as a Christian. So it’s been lovely ladies.
Sharon Dickens
So get it was we’ve been thinking about our and so back to normal, shining the light on our differences. And what are some of the artistic expressions and don’t make me dance?
Blair Linne
It’s too late. You already promised you would
Sharon Dickens
walk into what artistic expressions and a view participate in or do you consider yourself worse? I mean, you’re a graphic artist. So but do you actually consider yourself artistic?
Aixa De Lopez
Yeah, I’d live I’d say anything else. I am a creative person. I am I actually have it’s always very, very entertaining inside my brain. And it’s hard for me to function very structured. people’s way of seeing life,
Sharon Dickens
but what’s the most unexpected form of art that you’ve taken part in and thought wow, I didn’t expect that. Oh,
Aixa De Lopez
unexpected. Yeah, maybe this
Sharon Dickens
well put yourself where?
Blair Linne
Yeah, I, I am creative for sure. You know, having, as I mentioned, been writing since I was nine. I love to sing. If I could, like take on or excel at one form of art. I wish I had learned an instrument. I started playing the piano in church when I was maybe eight or nine. And I wish I kept up with that. So
Soojin Park
yeah, I’m not gonna call myself an artist but I will answer the question of if I could be an artist in one way what would it be and it would probably be singing Yeah, I mean, my friends know I love karaoke, but I don’t sing I just scream I just scream the lyrics but there’s so many times where when I watch someone sing, especially leading worship, it just moves my heart it’s an instrument in itself and I if I had one artistic form, I could excel it I would probably choose singing
Sharon Dickens
that’s great. I also like singing but I prefer it be congregational is Friday. Yesterday we were talking having dinner and player was trying to get us to say yes and say we were to surprise it because you love karaoke. No, but
Soojin Park
not this kind of
Aixa De Lopez
you have limits Yes.
Sharon Dickens
I like I like all forms Well, in my head are is is painting and sculpting. And I recently took a class and one of the things that I realized is I like to turn monotone plain and simple black and white. are like I like to find the depth that like you were talking about how many Pink’s were in the sunset? Like some one blue, how home home how many blues can you find them that and they taught us this. This this method where you cover your whole pin and in an oil pin and then you peel back so you’re scraping off the pain of the color to do Do your picture. So it’s like a negative. But you then lead on more paint to create these, like other colors. So it’s like one color. Again doing 50,000 things, it melts my head. So yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s, it will be the one thing and participate them.
Soojin Park
Thank you everyone for listening to this episode of glow sorry there’s no singing or dancing maybe next season. But I just want to end with a reminder that you are the light of the world. A city that is set upon a hill shall not be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket but on a light stand and it gives light to all who are in the house in the same way. Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Thanks for joining us and please join us next week for our ninth episode.
 
Blair Linne is a Christian spoken-word artist, actress, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Finding My Father: How the Gospel Heals the Pain of Fatherlessness. Blair and her husband, Shai, live with their three children in Philadelphia.
Aixa de López is a graphic designer, writer, and speaker. She serves as a volunteer on the board of directors of Alianza Cristiana para los Huérfanos (ACH). She is the author of Lágrimas Valientes (Brave Tears) and Para Siempre (Forever: What Adoption Teaches Us About the Father’s Heart) and cohosts a Spanish-language podcast named Religión Pura (Pure Religion). She and her husband, Alex, live with their four children in Guatemala City. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Sharon Dickens serves as the director of women’s ministry at 20schemes in Edinburgh, Scotland. 20schemes seeks to plant and revitalize healthy, gospel churches in Scotland’s poorest areas, called “schemes.” She is the author of Unexceptional and Unconventional.
Soojin Park (MDiv, Reformed Theological Seminary) is the events manager for The Gospel Coalition. She previously served on staff at Christ Central Presbyterian Church in Centreville, Virginia, as director of youth ministry and adult education. Before entering vocational ministry, she started her career supporting anti-human-trafficking organizations and later worked as a conference planner for tech companies.
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Written by: Christianity Today

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