The Importance of Christian Artists
Since the giving of the Law in the Old Testament, God's artists have worked to give their greatest aesthetic offerings to the worship of the Most High. The very first thing the Lord commanded the Israelites to do when Moses gave them the Law was to immediately start building the Tabernacle, a thing of supreme beauty and lushness designed by God himself. He did not have them pray or offer sacrifices. God literally called each of His artists by name to do artistic work for His glory (Exodus 35, NASB). The Hebrew phrase used in this passage, "Qara' Shem" or "Called By Name", is the obvious source of our gallery's name.
Artists were even the first people recorded in the Bible said to have been "empowered by the Spirit". In the same passage God commanded the Israelites to create the Tabernacle, God filled the artists with His Holy Spirit so that they could "make designs for working in gold and silver and bronze" and "perform every work of an engraver and of a designer and of an embroiderer".
The Bible has entire books dedicated to the emotional-filled songs and poetry of the Kingdom of Israel. Job is a historic epic, meant to be artistically recited and retold in a similar way that the Iliad and the Odyssey were performed by the bards of Greece and Rome. Lamentations records the weary cries of an elderly wise man giving his pessimistic observations of the world in traditional Hebrew verse. Song of Solomon tells the pure yet erotic story of a man and his lover through the songs of the couple and their friends. And Psalms, the largest of the poetic books, contains everything from the gut wrenching writings of David in the wilderness to the joyous communal worship of the priests in Solomon's temple. The contents of all of these books, regardless of positive or negative emotion, were seen as holy and worshipful, and deemed worthy enough to be acknowledged as part of God's written word as it is seen today.
Even after the death of Christ and the completion of the Biblical text, the Church had historically been the main patron of the arts for hundreds of years. Some of the earliest-known church buildings uncovered by archaeologists, including the Aqaba Church and The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, had many artistic elements and cosmetic flourishes in order to bring a sanctuary of beauty to their worship lives. During the Renaissance, entire guilds of artistic crafts were established in order to create art for their core patron, the Holy Catholic Church. In the time after the Reformation with the kicking away from the ornate aesthetic of the Catholic Church, songs and hymn-writing sped to the fore-front of Christian artistic expression, creating the well-loved theological lyric bombs churches still sing around the world today.
Why have God's people throughout antiquity supported the arts as a means of drawing closer to God in worship? Because fine art reveals emotional truth and spiritual realities in a way nothing else can. It is the physical manifestation of Man's inner musings in a way that is simultaneously refined, delicate, raw, and powerful. And with Jesus Christ being the inner musings of all Christians, it makes sense that we should crave the physical presence of His Divine beauty as we experience it in our lives.
And the creation of art is not a one way street, either! God uses the art we create to uniquely communicate truths about Himself. And He uses people living in the light of His spirit in order to create these life-giving offerings. If we as the Church do not support the artists God has called to create in worship of Him, we will continue to miss out on the truths that otherwise would have been readily available to bless the Body of Christ.
If you would like to better understand how this applies to the creation of Qara' Shem, visit What We Do to see how we bring this to churches around Chicagoland.