“We create because God created.” This refrain became very familiar to me after pursuing arts in Christian institutions at SVCS and then Biola University. And the explanation works on a surface level, but upon examination just does not hold up as a solid reason. God does many things I should not imitate(act as judge and savior, for example). I think we have an even more direct reason than this to make art and to spend time interacting with art.
The first command God gives to man is to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it(Genesis 1:28). The first bit is pretty clear, but subdue could be a bit more complex. We might define subdue as “to bring under control.” When we consider its context, the command to subdue directly follows the Lord instilling his image in man so we can assume it is directly related to His image in us. Our “subduing” reflects the Lord’s sovereign and good rule over the Earth. He made us physical beings and placed us in a physical world over which we are to have a dominion of goodness and life. Even further, He sent his Son to become physical flesh and blood, indicating the beginning of His redemption of our now fallen physical world. Christ’s death and physical resurrection began the work of bringing creation back into the perfect harmony it possessed upon being created, before sin entered in. Artist’s use their mastery and control over physical materials in the physical world to play a part in this redemption, in bringing harmony and purpose to creation.
We can look back to Genesis for further exploration. Adam’s dominion gave him authority to name the animals: he defined and described what he saw, giving himself and those around him language with which to relate and communicate about their experience of the world. Subduing in that case meant thinking about the world around him, and giving words to the truths he saw. The Artist’s task includes this same task: to examine and then present anew the truth we see around us in physical form.
In this way, art acts an instrument of redemption. It may simply express the joy of our physical experiences, the act of creating itself acting as a meditation on the incarnation of Christ. It may form something beautiful to look at. It may be an object which prompts contemplation in it’s viewers. It may communicate some truth which would otherwise be inexplicable in words, and in so doing, bring people into relationship.
The arts provide an arena in which we can examine the world with eyes for the truth: acknowledging the fallenness while seeing the potential for redemption all around us. Artists then use their incarnational dominion over their materials to demonstrate these understandings, and viewers tap into their incarnational dominion in experiencing them. Art-making is deeply rooted in our dominion over creation, our very first commandment, and in the work of the gospel to redeem all creation.
An alumna of SVC, Mrs. Rexinger went on to earn her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Arts, with an emphasis in painting, from Biola University. As a product of Christian education herself, she understands the impact a Christ-centered education can have on a student’s life. Her desire is to pour into her students in the same way that her SVC teachers poured into her. You may reach Mrs. Rexinger at email@example.com.