Thursday, June 13 2024 - 11:42 AM

Sharing Christ Through the Arts

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Adventist Society for the Arts

The Adventist Society for the Arts (ASA) provides a venue for Seventh-day Adventist church members who have an interest in art in its many forms—architecture, calligraphy, digital graphics, drama, drawing, film, painting, photography, songwriting, street art, sculpture and more–to network, collaborate and produce art that speaks to today’s culture and world.

The philosophy behind having such an organization within the Seventh-day Adventist Church is linked with the purpose and mission of the church—to share God’s love with a fractured world.

The mission of ASA is to create art that brings good to life, promotes justice and truth, and inspires others to want to know the God we love.

There is an attitude among some, both within and outside of the church, that art is nice, but unnecessary. Their view of life and beauty is utilitarian—if it doesn’t have a practical purpose, then it’s probably a waste of time and money.

Several years ago at an inSpire gathering in Southern California, a woman who attended referred to herself as, “a recovering Adventist, because of some of the things she had experienced earlier in life. Although she was delighted to be there, she was surprised that the Pacific Union Conference would sponsor an event that celebrated the arts. She grew up in the mission field and had always loved art, but her parents told her she should not waste her time or interest in pursuing it. They encouraged her to become a nurse or teacher, or to work in some other profession that had a more useful, godly purpose. Today she is a thriving artist in Southern California with her own studio and gallery. Art was in her DNA and she felt compelled to pursue it.

Where did the idea come from that creating art is of questionable importance, or not appropriate for people of faith to engage in?

When we look at creation and the beauty God has made, His fingerprints are everywhere. What He did is incredible! If you doubt this, go to the zoo and observe the diversity of life, texture, and color God used when creating animal life. He didn’t have to make male Peacock feathers look so exquisite, but He did so for two reasons: 1). When Peacocks spread their tail feathers in the sun, they are gorgeous, and 2). When Peacocks spread their tail feathers, it attracts Peafowls (females) who become their mates. God is notorious for blending beauty with something that has a functional purpose.

Having said that, what is the purpose of a beautiful sunset, other than to lift our spirits? God’s canvas and gallery is the sky—which appears in a spectacular wide-screen format for all to see.

Art in Scripture

Art is a gift from God. Some Christians have taken biblical prohibitions against making graven images, which were used in pagan fertility rites, to mean Christians are prohibited from sculpting, drawing, painting or depicting anything.

If that were the case, God would not have given His children the ability to create art, which He clearly has. Nor would he have instructed Moses to put an artist by the name of Bezalel in charge of all the artistic creations essential to the services of the sanctuary in the wilderness. But Exodus 31:1-5 explicitly says that He did:

The Lord said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (English Standard Version).

In commenting on Exodus 31:6, Volume 1 of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary makes this observation on page 661:

Every artist, whether he be poet, painter, sculptor, musician, or designer, must have within him a natural talent, without which he can never attain to excellence. Such gifts should be regarded as a sacred trust from God, to be used for His glory and for the betterment of mankind–not for the advancement of self.

We may not share the gender-exclusive language of the era when the commentary was published, but the overall message is clear: artistic and creative gifts are divine blessings entrusted at birth to some individuals for the blessing of all. Just as some are born with the desire and ability to pursue medicine, ministry, nursing, teaching, or accounting, others are gifted with the desire and ability to pursue artistic endeavors for the edification of the Body of Christ and humanity in general. Like the talents in Christ’s parables, these gifts are worthy of pursuit and development. It’s time for Christians to embrace art and artists with respect, dignity and discernment.

There doesn’t need to be a practical reason for beauty to exist.

God is a lover of beauty, and Scripture tells us we are created in His image. So it is only natural for us to look at the world with curiosity, wonder, and an eye for beauty. It is as if God placed us here, then said, “I have created all of this for you to enjoy, now let Me see what you can do.” I think God is inspired by our efforts to mimic His creative efforts. It is what some are destined to do.

From time to time the Adventist Society for the Arts (ASA) may sponsor online virtual gallery shows, contests, and publish coffee table books, etc., that can be enjoyed and shared by all.

Questions About ASA

Adventist Church members who live in the United States and Canada and who are passionate about creating and sharing art in its many forms, may participate. For ASA, art includes architecture, calligraphy, digital graphics, drama, drawing, film, painting, photography, songwriting, street art, sculpture, and more.

Are there any member fees or dues? No. From time to time when we sponsor an art show or contest there may be a submission fee, but there is no membership fee. We wish to include as many Adventist creatives as possible.  To stay connected with what’s happening, subscribe to receive inSpire’s FREE eNews.

Working Guidelines

The purpose of ASA is to provide a place for Adventist creatives to connect, share, and collaborate. It can also serve as a stage to help new artists get wider exposure. The focus of the Society is limited to Adventist church members because we want to raise the level of the importance of creative expression within the Adventist community as a legitimate gift from God. As with any gift, it all depends upon how it is used.

Because we are members of many different Seventh-day Adventist congregations throughout North America, we celebrate diversity, as well as racial and gender equality. We believe everyone is of equal value in God’s eyes and that He gifts both men and women to fulfill unique roles in life and ministry.

We embrace the teachings of the Adventist Church and celebrate the unique perspectives of our faith on God’s character. God is a lover of people and beauty. But we live in a broken world where many despise the qualities of goodness that God wants us to embody and enjoy. Just as Scripture itself does not shy away from stories of war, violence, conflict, injustice, and sin, so we may choose to create art that includes some of these elements to illustrate a point. In the same way that Scripture uses stories of pain and brokenness, some artists depict the grim aspects of life to directly, or indirectly, reveal God’s love. This does not necessarily mean the message must be obvious or didactic in nature. Subtle hints of God’s love and redeeming power can be explored in many forms and told in numerous ways, while bringing about powerful, life-changing experiences to an audience.

Questions about ASA should be sent to the Adventist Society for the Arts.

Adventist Society for the Arts originated as an initiative of inSpire, and was produced by Pacific Union Conference Church Support Services. Now it is being administered by AdventSource, from Lincoln, NE.

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About Rich DuBose

Rich DuBose

writes from Northern California.

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