God the Artist
Creativity is of the essence of God. The first words of scripture are
“In the beginning God created …” Genesis 1:1
and we see this creativity continuing through time and through scripture. In Christ we are new creations, liberated from our old self-centred natures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and when He returns He will bring a new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1).
We also find that our God is one who expresses Himself, in creation,
“for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen being understood from what has been made” Romans 1:20
He also expresses Himself in scripture, in His becoming human to live amongst us, and now through His people and the continuing work of His Spirit.
We see that this creative expression in not merely a functional thing, but we see the trees in the garden
“were pleasing to the eye and good for food.” Genesis 2:9
The Human Response
We are made in the image of God and so we share his creativity and his ability to be self expressive.
So much of expressive art involves the observation and exploration of His creation and so will allow us to see more of God and to be drawn into awe and worship. For the Christian much of art will be a celebration of our wonderful God, whether in songs of worship, through paintings celebrating his creation, or dances of joy.
We are also called to express his life within us and so should be seeking to communicate his goodness so that others can share His love and joy. We need to learn to understand the impact of our expression on other people.
God is, within himself, community, since he is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has made us also for community and so communication must have a very high value in Christian thinking. All the expressive arts encourage us to learn to open up and share with fellow humans our own thoughts and feelings and to reach out to understand others.
Since our God is a God of love this puts limits on our human activities, and this extends into the arts. Many things are just not healthy for us such as listening to long pieces of depressing music or focusing on violent images. Since we are called to battle against the forces of evil there is a place for dealing with darker themes, but as a way of overcoming them. The Christian’s use of expressive arts will be one focusing on
“love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” Gal 5:22
In the Classroom
The expressive arts will in common with other elements of the curriculum be linked into the theme of the project. This will give a lot of reasons and stimuli for expression of all sorts and allow pupils to see the unity within the work.
There will remain a place for expression that is simply an enjoyment of the medium since joy is such a central theme of this curriculum area.
In all areas of the expressive arts pupils’ work should be valued and encouraged since God has gifted us all and given us all something to express. We should give pupils time and a setting to appreciate and praise others’ work, and should as teachers model ways of expressing our appreciation. We should also give space for pupils’ individual styles.
We need to also be able to guide pupils into what is Godly. We need to encourage our pupils, to
“whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
Sometimes, however we also need to recognise particular expressions are an important working through of difficult or painful issues.
Our guidance should therefore not be heavy handed, and may include getting alongside children to find out what is the driving force behind a particular expression of something that is not good. This can provide good opportunities to build children up by listening, counsel and prayer. Different standards may also be appropriate in different settings; where things require more focus and time we may be more wary of prolonging exposure to negative ideas. One thing may be appropriate in a quick sketch but not in a major illustration.
We should also guide pupils as we choose which artists or musicians work to look at, and to encourage critical evaluation of this work. While we have said God’s creation was pleasing to the eye, not all that is pleasing to the eye in God’s spoiled creation is good.