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Volume 8, Issue 2: Cultura

Faithful Aesthetic Acts

Roy Atwood

Aesthetic moments are a wonderful gift from God. They adorn our lives, bless our days, and fill our senses. From the very beginning, the Creator of the aesthetic realm filled the whole earth with aesthetic delights and wonders (Ps. 8; Prov. 8:22-31). Across the millennia, He has never tired of splashing golden sunsets across His horizons, freshening His gentle breezes with the fragrance of blossoms, conducting His song birds in their hallelujah choruses, sweetening the fruit of His vineyards and orchards, and wrapping His creatures in the soft warmth of His sun. The Lord of Aesthetics delights in the playful shalom of His creative handiwork. God's heavens, the work of His fingers, the moon and the stars are aesthetic marvels, but they pale in comparison to His crowning creative achievement. From the dust of the ground He formed mankind in His own image, crowned us with glory and honor, and gave us dominion over the works of His hands (Gen. 1:26-28, 2:7; Ps. 8:3-6). And in the ultimate creative act, He gave His imagebearers the capacity to also be creators, to offer back to Him -- everlastingly -- faithful aesthetic acts for His glory and for the delight of our fellow creatures. From the very beginning, the Lord of Aesthetics called His covenant children to be busy aesthetically. He inspired David to compose songs of worship and psalms of praise. He blessed Solomon's elegant designs for the Lord's holy temple (I Kings 6-8). He gave heavenly poetry to Mary when she heard she would give birth to the Son of God (Lk. 1:46-55). He generated an outpouring of joyful song from the early church (Lk. 2:29-32; Acts 14:26, 16:25; Rev. 4:11, etc .). And the Lord commanded that whatever we do, aesthetically or otherwise, we must do it all in the name of the Lord with thanksgiving (Col. 3:17). Our aesthetic mandate does not require us to all become "artists" or "musicians" or "authors." The aesthetic sphere is not the exclusive province of "experts" or "professionals." Aesthetic moments are not found only among the "high arts," in museums, concert halls, theaters, or galleries. To be sure, those who are called to offices of aesthetic responsibility in or out of the church must be talented and well trained (I Chron. 25:7-8), and we should support them appropriately and prayerfully. However, not all Christians are called to such aesthetic offices. But all are called to magnify their aesthetic talents, great or small, before the Lord. Faithful aesthetic offerings to the Lord can be as humble as placing freshly cut flowers on the dinner table, or singing lullabies to our children at bedtime, or filling our homes with the sweet aroma of homemade bread just out of the oven, or savoring a carefully prepared meal of fresh meats, vegetables, and fine wine. Such simple aesthetic acts turn br ute biological or economic necessities into moments of godly celebration and aesthetic delight. Aesthetic faithfulness has less to do with the institutions of art, music, literature, or drama, than with the thoughtful exercise of our aesthetic talents and opportunities. Notice this does not mean burying our aesthetic talents by covering our walls with "art" or stocking our music libraries with the latest hit CDs or strategically placing glossy literary magazines (or Credenda for that matter) on our coffee tables. Surrounding oneself with artsy commodities produced by others no more constitutes a personal act of aesthetic faithfulness than does owning a stack of Bibles make one a Christian. Owning fine art, music, or literature is not wrong, of course, but mere possession is not the same as faithful action. Faithful action in the sphere of aesthetics also means that we dare not subordinate aesthetics to some other sphere of creaturely activity. If our home is a spartan four-walled cubicle shorn of any aesthetically redeeming value because good art and furniture cost too much, or if we'd rather wear our work clothes to our 20th wedding anniversary dinner at Arby's than spend money on clothes and a meal more suited to the occasion, then we have probably buried our aesthetic talents somewhere under our economic anxieties. If we limit the art on our walls to praying hands and cross-stitched Bible verses, or if we listen only to sermon tapes and "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs," then we have probably bound ourselves aesthetically in a theological straightjacket. Our finances and theology do have obvious implications for our aesthetic acts, but reducing our aesthetic acts to matters of economics, theology, or any other sphere denigrates the Lord's sovereignty over aesthetics. We must be faithful in all things, and not just few things, pretending that by so doing we fulfill our Christian duties in the supposed "lesser" spheres such as aesthetics. The Creator of the aesthetic sphere calls His image bearers to be busy doing faithful aesthetic acts. While the world may be busy pursuing "art for art's sake" or treating aesthetics like it rested on the bottom of the food chain, Christians should adorn their lives, their homes, their worship with humble acts of aesthetic faithfulness because they know the Creator and Lord of Aesthetics delights in them.

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