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What Do the Arts Have to Do with Evangelism?

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August 5, 2014 Tags: Christian Unity, Education, Worship & Arts
What Do the Arts Have to Do with Evangelism?

Today's entry was written by the BioLogos Editorial Team and features Mark Sprinkle. You can read more about what we believe here.

Former BioLogos staffer Mark Sprinkle recently gave the keynote lecture for the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries summer program at Wheaton College. The program aims “to address the most pressing needs of the church in America today” and drew a crowd of some 249 pastors and church leaders to Wheaton’s campus.

We highly recommend Mark’s talk, in which he addresses questions such as, “What role can the arts play in Christian theology, in the life of the church, in our mission to the world? Can the Incarnation of Christ open up a distinctive way of viewing what art is and what it does? How might our engagement with the arts help us to live out an embodied faith more integrated with every aspect of what it means to be human?”

Mark Sprinkle is an artist and cultural historian, and was formerly Senior Web Editor and Senior Fellow of Arts and Humanities for The BioLogos Foundation. A phi beta kappa graduate of Georgetown University, he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, where he studied how artworks embody complex relationships in different cultural contexts. Since 1996 he has been an independent artist and frame-maker, also regularly writing and speaking on the role of creative practices in cultural mediation and renewal, especially in the area of science and Christian faith. Mark and his wife Beth home-schooled their three boys, and are active in the local home-school community in Richmond, Virginia.

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Tony - #86137

August 6th 2014

Editorial Team…

Mark Sprinkle comments at 13:55 minutes, “This integrated understanding of our personhood is revealed to us most exquisitely not by modern medical science, or sociology, or philosophy, but in that central and ongoing mystery of our faith—the incarnation of Jesus.  Which is the fulcrum, really, upon which turn the other core mysteries I named, the trinity and the body of Christ.  Tonight, I’d like to suggest that the arts must be at the center of our ministry as followers for three reasons: first because they give concrete and sensory form to the paradox and revealed mysteries, like the trinity and incarnation, and make those things real in a way that statement and argument cannot; second, because that same combination of the material and immaterial, the sensory imagination we might say was at the heart of Jesus’ own ministry; and third, because it powerfully represents the heart of who we are called to be in Christ, as his body, offering his love and grace to the hurting world.  I’ll take Jesus’ own perplexing use of parables, his dramatic appeal to the physical senses, and the pattern of radical hospitality he established for his followers as the turning points for a Christian approach to the arts that helps us do justice to our complex identity as individuals and together as the body of Christ.”

Students simply regurgitate what they are taught in college, university, and seminary, what they read in books, the internet, and what they hear from other “intellectuals.”  They program themselves to “download” information and store it in memory (through study), and then “upload” it (at exam time).  Those who have good memory, and of course, other necessarily pertinent skills required in their field, advance, graduate, and spend the rest of their lives working in their profession till retirement.  Sure, what academics do in their particular fields is commendable and everyone plays their part in the cycles of society.  However, most scholars do not train their imagination for independent, creative, and original speculation.  Neither do most acquire [all] the essentially significant knowledge for transcendence to take place.  Every science does study and research in its particular field, and the conclusions are advanced to the superiors of the command structure of that particular field.  Quintessentially, [all] conclusions make their way up the hierarchical structure to the philisophical level of the governing authority.  Hence, the reason they cannot understand the “Mystery of God.”  This independent, creative, original, novelty, engineered through Abraham, Moses, and the prophets that Jesus fulfilled and brought to the Jewish nation two thousand years ago is God’s creative process at work.

I agree with Mark Sprinkle that “this integrated understanding of our personhood” is not revealed to us “by modern medical science, or sociology, or philosophy” as [individual sciences].  Remember, this is an “integrated understanding,” involving most, if not all of the sciences, under philosophy’s jurisdiction.  In example; psychology, criminology, sociology, and law—Moses, the prophets, and Jesus, understood this well.  I also agree with Mark that, “statement and argument [Alone] cannot give concrete and sensory form to the paradox and revealed mysteries like the trinity and incarnation, and make those things real.”  Hence, to Mark’s suggestion that “the arts must be at the center of our ministry”—hasn’t this been the case all along?  The problem in winning souls to God, however, is that the other side—Satan and his minions—has also used the arts in its pursuit—Hollywood, the music industry, literature, painting, etc..

I will state, for the record, that my line of work involved lots of imagination, creativity, originality, and visualisation on a daily basis.  This is why my life journey, through logic, reason, and critical thinking, has granted me the understanding of the “Mystery of God.”  Others who have lived this same experience can attest to this fact.

Yours Respectfully

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