A Vision for Cultural Renewal (via aesthetica: Part II)

"Christ’s body does not need to finish its cultural task in a given generation: it only needs to be faithful with what it is entrusted." ~ Calvin Seerveld, Rainbows for a Fallen World

This isn't a new entry so much as a relocation of an old one. I'm placing this here as an important machine piece in the vision for cultural renewal. It comes as, and becomes, a strategic measure for the local church in its specific role in relation to the arts.

If a reformation of the church in its understanding and practice of art is truly to take place, in such a way that our culture is redeemed and the lives of individuals and communities are restored by the presence of Christ, then the following, it seems to me, must take place at a very practical level, at the level of action.

In practice, then, the following must become the concrete work of pastors and lay leaders.

1. A Common Vocabulary. We need to acquire and grow a common vocabulary. This vocabulary will shape our vision and help us to cultivate a Christian mind about the arts. (Cf. Harry Blamires' The Christian Mind.)

2. An Intentional and Intensive Community. We need to foster community at all levels: from large group to small group, from friendship to inter-ecclesial gatherings and plenty of organic relationship-making with non-believers. It is in the context of genuine community that spiritual and artistic formation will best take place, and thus also real and permanent personal growth.

3. A unified, flexible-unit Mission. We need to be bound to a common mission that also allows us freely to pursue the specific calling God has on each of us. It is a unified and multi-pronged strategy, reminding us of a fundamental question: How can I give myself fully to my calling while also giving myself fully to the calling of the corporate body? How can I love my neighbor even as I love myself?

4. The Enemies of a reformative community must be identified and ruthlessly purged: including, among other things, busyness, selfishness, the tyranny of too many choices/options/too much stuff, and a lack of inherited wisdom.

"Their chief job right now [as Christian writers] is to learn the techniques of fiction, to read as many of the great writers as possible, and to learn from them, without worrying about how often they went to church or to what denomination they belonged. The important thing to look for is whether or not they could write." ~ Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

"Traditions are not easily dismissed, for they are more than idea and appearance, they are systems that work. Tradition is a means through which certain kinds of things can happen. . . . intimacy with tradition is a matter of bringing tradition into one’s bones; it requires of us a kind of embodiment if we are to make anything of it." ~ Joel C. Sheesley, “The Beauty of Borrowing,” (B&C, Jan/Feb. 2002, 16)

5. The Values of a reformative community must be diligently inculcated in the lives of each member: the supremacy of God's glory, a lifestyle of hospitality, the commitment to healthy community, an encouragement to collaboration, personal honesty, the courage to sound the prophetic note, and a holistic view of life.

"For the evangelical Christian community to develop a living artistic tradition, a mulching ground that generates deeper-going artistry which in turn will not be defensive but have staying power, will take a long time. It will probably take more than one generation of artists, art critics, art public, art patrons, art theorists, art publicists, working together in a communal perspective, to develop the normal body for supporting the numerous second-rated artists that are needed to get the few first-rate ones. . . ."

"Perhaps some Christian body, with resources and authority, can enlarge its long-term vision to give priority to such a ministry in the arts, giving support to a gifted artistic community with a united direction and a holy spirited vision of compassion for those caught in sin and by evil." ~ Calvin Seerveld, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves


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