Faith as Expressed through the Arts

By Bell, Wishart | The American Organist, January 2007 | Go to article overview

Faith as Expressed through the Arts


Bell, Wishart, The American Organist


This essay relates the arts to the expression of faith. Throughout its history the church has turned to the arts as a means of telling the stories of faith and expressing humankind's response-not only to these accounts but also to the human condition. I hope, in this article, to remind us of the value of the arts in modern worship.

Historic worship events have involved the recounting of stories. We learned the tales of Abraham, Moses, and the prophets. We learned of the life of Christ and the apostles. These accounts develop theological understanding and form beliefs. They frequently include the idea of struggle, through which humankind grows. Often we have connected them to the church year.

Additionally, our inner soul seeks meaning, fulfillment, and release. We express joy, love, hope, faith, longing, sorrow, and pain. We believe in the church, which, for all of its failings, has provided humanity with the means of connecting with God and community, and experiencing grace and redemption. The church has also provided a vital support of the poor and downtrodden.

We believe in beauty, in transcendent glory, as it describes faith and theology. Composers, poets, authors, sculptors, painters, and others have created wonderful representations. Most church musicians know the Psalms through music. We have learned much of our theology through hymn texts. A visit to an art museum reveals magnificent studies of historic biblical themes.

In the church context, participation in the fine arts becomes a spiritual discipline. Placing the study of Scripture in the framework of artistic settings (visual, sculptural, musical, poetic, dance) adds to its meaning. The church has long believed in excellence-resisting the draw of the mediocre or the purely emotional.

Liturgy-the arrangement of worship that took root in the Old Testament, evolved through the Middle Ages, and developed through the Reformation and denominationalism to current times-takes its own place among the arts. …

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