Sunday, June 11, 2006

God, Art & Metaphor (Part 1)

God is an artist. God is the Artist. He is creator. He molds and sculpts us. He expresses Himself in the work of creation - in creative works. Like all artists, He communicates and expresses Himself in metaphor. Because we are made in His image, we are bound to be like Him in any creative endeavor. Our artwork, no matter the medium, is a metaphorical expression of ourselves – our mind, our will, our emotions, and our vision.

Art is metaphor.

Do you remember Jr. High English class?

Metaphor: something which represents something else without using “like” or “as”. If you use “like” or “as” it is no longer a metaphor, but a “simile”.

Art is metaphor and God is the Artist.

Yaweh/Jehovah – “I AM”


…the Light of the World
…the Vine
…the Gate
…the Bread of Life
…the Good Shepherd
…Living Water
…the Way
…the Truth
…the Life

(not like these things – He is each one – that’s metaphor)

God is

…the Alpha and Omega
…the bright and Morning Star
…the Lion of Judah
…a pillar of fire
…an encompassing cloud
…King of Kings
…Lord of Lords

God, You are

…my Rock
…my Refuge
…my Shelter
…my Sword
…my Shield

God expresses Himself to us in limitless metaphor. A rainbow is God’s promise. He is a stream of living water. Water saved Noah and his family and then becomes the metaphor for the washing away of our sin in baptism. Baptism by immersion (read any Greek lexicon – the meaning is to immerse, to plunge) is a metaphor for being buried with Christ and raised with Christ, our sins washed away (I don’t think other modes of baptism are wrong, but I do believe they are incomplete metaphors).

God told the prophets to express their message in metaphor. Ezekiel builds a model siege. Jeremiah takes a yoke, puts it on his shoulders and walks through the streets. Jeremiah visits the potter’s house and sees God reshaping Israel like marred vessel. Hosea is told to marry a whore as a metaphor of God being married to unfaithful Israel. The tabernacle and the temple were metaphors in their design, in their decoration, and in their furnishing.

Some of Jesus’ parables were similes: “The Kingdom of God is like…”
But many were metaphors: “A certain man had two sons…”

Attempting to understand God without understanding art, creation and metaphor will lead to a conceptualization that is woefully inadequate and impotent.

Next post: God, Art, & Metaphor Part II - Why Care?

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Friday, June 09, 2006

The Church's Right-Brain Lobotomy

It's not rocket science.

God is creator. It's the first thing we learn about God in the Bible next to His existence. More specifically, Jesus is the author of creation. He is creative.

"Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." John 1:3

Shouldn't being Christ-like then include being creative?

Made in God's image, we are given both a left-brain and a right-brain.

We see His right-brained creative expression in the work of art we call nature:
"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, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20

We see His right-brain in the creative use of metaphor:
"This is what the LORD said to me: "Make a yoke out of straps and crossbars and put it on your neck." Jeremiah 27:2

"So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. Then the word of the LORD came to me: 'O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?' declares the LORD. 'Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.'" Jeremiah 18:3-6

"Now, son of man, take a clay tablet, put it in front of you and draw the city of Jerusalem on it. Then lay siege to it: Erect siege works against it, build a ramp up to it, set up camps against it and put battering rams around it. Then take an iron pan, place it as an iron wall between you and the city and turn your face toward it. It will be under siege, and you shall besiege it. This will be a sign to the house of Israel." Ezekiel 4:1-3

"Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable." Matthew 13:34

To be Christ-like would then call us to be creative, as He is creative: expressing ourselves and His Word metaphorically in the visual arts, in written word, in dance, in film, in video, in theatre, in photography, in sculpture, in architechture, and in music.

If we are made in the image of the Creator, if the Spirit of Creation indwells us, then why do we relegate creative expression to "the world?" Vitamin Z recently asked "why does all the timeless music come from outside Christian music?" I could ask the same of any art form. Why aren't Christians producing creative masterpieces in art? Literary classics? Architechtural marvels? Breathtaking dance? Dramatic classics? Wonders of the cinema?

Conversely, why does our "creative" outflow so often follow what is fashionable and marketable in the secular marketplace? If we have the Author of Creation dwelling in us, why aren't Christians leading in creative breakthroughs? Why isn't the world looking at our creative expression with amazement saying, "where did that come from?"

Where is the tangible produce from the Spirit of Creation within us?

Who gave the Body of Christ a right-brain lobotomy?

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