Art: Culture of Christ

Colossians 1:20
“and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.”

Christ came to redeem and reconcile all things to himself, and by ‘all things’ the text means absolutely everything. Christ’s work on the cross stretched beyond addressing sin and death, beyond the physical world to thought itself. It stretches beyond ideas to the sociocultural fabric that we live in. Christ redeems culture, from the moment he died on the cross and rose he continues to do so through the body of the church. This is redemption culture. Art is a product of culture, its themes, aesthetic, narratives and meaning are symptoms of that culture. Redemptive culture aims to bring all things towards Christ, to reconcile them to him. Thus redemptive art can convict and call for repentance. Redemptive art can highlight the beauty of nature, glorifying God through his creation revealing His divine attributes. Redemptive culture does the work of Christ, the way he did it, it may offend, expose, confound or dumbfound, heal, reveal, revitalise, restore, breakdown and build up.

Before culture needed redemption and from the beginning God directed culture. In Genesis 1:28 the Bible says:
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
To Subdue the earth and have dominion over all living creatives not only is an existential imperative but a cultural one. God created us as cultural creatures. The very fact that culture needs redemption is proof that God placed the creation and perpetuation of culture in the hands of people. Thus we are given the job of subduing and redeeming culture. Both these processes are rather complex notions, if culture is a set of values that people uphold collectively, those values must be incredibly complex to create and to alter.

Take a painting for example; to what extent does a culture need to subdue the earth to create a painting? Firstly pigments need to be processed from the ground form rocks, stone or metals. A culture would have to have made technologies to grind these pigments fine enough to make paint. The pigments would need binders (glue) be processed from the bone, horns or hooves of live stock. To create the fabric natural fibres would need to have been bound together and strung into lengths then weaved together, beached and treated into a fabric. To make the stretcher frame trees need to be cut and milled into straight lengths then dried in a Kiln to prevent warping. Let’s also take into account the complexity of knowledge needed to join wood. All of this only to produce a blank canvas.

Now what does it take for an artist to exist in a society to paint the canvas? Firstly society has to be large and organised enough for this individual to pursue something other than focusing on feeding their family and just surviving. This is no easy mountain to climb, the culture will also have to be complex in thought enough to imbue the work with value as well as develop the principals of art and elements of design to a point to make something worth depicting.

“Everything you value is a product of unimaginably lengthy developmental process, personal, cultural, biological” – Jordan Petersen.

Bezalel and Oholiab
The account of Bezalel and Oholiab can be found in Exodus 31:1-38:29. Israel was a derelict nation of slaves wandering the desert, in no state to produce complex cultural products. Art, beauty and meaning were the last thing they were thinking of but the God of the universe in his mercy, goodness and unfathomable genius, miraculously gave them an artist and jumpstarted a rich culture of worship directed at Himself. Bezalel was the first recorded person to be filled with the Spirit of God for the purpose of creating the experience of the tabernacle in order to Worship God. Without God this enormous cultural leap would have been impossible. God values art, He directs culture towards worshipping and honouring Him, Christ values art as he reconciles all culture towards himself.

By Nathan Janse van Vuuren