As I've read through the Bible, I'm struck by the vast array of art that is present in it. But, as is often the case, some of the most interesting stuff lies beneath surface. There are the obvious, books like Psalms which are clearly poetic or even literally lyrical in nature, but that's just the beginning. Beyond the other books and passages that contain poetry, references to instrumental, vocal music, and dance are throughout the old and new testaments. Then there are the far less obvious. Read Ezekiel 4. The stuff God directed the prophet Ezekiel to do there was nothing short of a cross between performance art and civil disobedience (not an unfamiliar combination.) In chapter 8 of the Gospel of John, Jesus Himself certainly shows an awareness of the power of visual elements to redirect a conversation when instead of answering a direct question, he kneels down to write in the dirt. The combination of whatever He scratched-out on the ground, the posture that action created, and the words He said clearly silenced the accusers and saved a woman's life!
Both the scriptures and the archeological record make it clear that since man's earliest days, art has been a major voice in our midst. It's also a voice that tends to last and comes to symbolize the people and the time that gave it birth. And it's a voice that's uniquely human.
What is it that gives rise to art wherever human being are present? It's my belief that it is the image our Creator shining through. Creativity is a reflection of how we're made in His image. It allows us to express things that can't be said any other way, or at least offers another voice that reaches people who might not hear.
Here are a few ways I believe art in all forms communicates to those who will listen or observe.
Art offers brings a unique voice to the conversation.
What is it that the poet, the songwriter, the painter, or any other artist has that others don't? Skills in a particular artistic discipline? Perhaps, but it's not the whole story. Almost anyone can learn to paint, play an instrument, or write given the right set of experiences and proper instruction. But even with the right skills, only a portion of these people would become "artists." That's because an artist isn't just someone who has certain skills, they are a person who sees the world differently, and who is able to document that in their chosen medium in such a way that others get a glimpse of it. This is why art can at times be powerfully divisive. It can lead people to see things they otherwise would't, and sometimes that's uncomfortable.
Art gives a voice to what we already know in our hearts.
What we believe, feel, know, and experience is far richer than words can convey. We all know this. Who can't remember a time when they found it impossible to fully express what they were feeling inside? This is so because our inner voice, that which God truly hears, doesn't need words to express what it feels. Nonetheless, to communicate feelings to other people, words are our default medium, despite their limitations. Artistic mediums aren't perfect either, but they give voice to our feelings in a very different way. Physiologically, they address different parts of the brain. In bypassing (or supplementing) language, art moves us in a wholly different ways. In this, it can give voice to to that which others already think or know, but are unable to put into words. As the same art is taken-in by more people, it becomes a collective voice.
Art can be a voice to and from the Holy Spirit.
As asserted earlier, it's our inner voice that the Holy Spirit hears. The Apostle Paul in chapter 8 of his letter to the Roman church discusses how the Holy Spirit comes to our aid by going beyond what we can express in words and interceding on our behalf without words. This is amazing, and it underscores the limitation of human language. But it highlights the ability of our spirits to connect with the Holy Spirit and bypass words to communicate truly heart-to-heart. Did you catch that? That's our hearts, directly communicating with God. Wow! I believe it is from this holy place that truly inspired art comes. In conversation with artists over the years I've often heard the creative process described as feeling more like "dictation" than "creation." That is, that it felt as if the ideas flowed through them, not from them. Having experienced this personally, I agree that it's noticeably different from what we normally experience as creativity. This is inspiration, and I believe it's a different thing all together.
How does this match-up with your experience?