The True Role of Art

We become what we behold. We are both drawn to beauty and transformed by beauty. From music to movies to television to books, art shapes who we are. In every work of art, in every piece of media, lies a story about how we should see ourselves and the world around us, informing our desires and beliefs.

That’s why acclaimed artist Makoto Fujimura says that, “To see with the eyes of the heart so that we may know hope: that is what is required of us artists.” Borrowing language from the apostle Paul in Ephesians 1:18-23, Fujimura highlights the true role of the artist: to draw us to truth and goodness through beauty. But if the artist is required to enlighten the eyes of our heart toward hope, then the artist must be equipped with the biblical story of new creation.

But the artists of our world tell us a different story. Philosopher Charles Taylor argues that, in our secular culture, people account for meaning and significance through narratives that make no appeal to the divine or transcendent. Instead, the prominent narrative of our time is exclusive humanism. This story enters into our hearts and minds through the books we read, the movies and shows we watch, and the podcasts and music we hear. The storytelling of Amazon, Google, Apple TV and Netflix is shaping our culture toward a vision of hope and flourishing often contrary to that of the biblical story.

Yet only the biblical story holds the power to shape our hearts and world for the fullness of human flourishing. As theologian and educator Marva Dawn writes, “Our profound yearning can be met only by a spacious narrative, personal enough to help us find our particular place in it and enduring enough to make that place significant….The Scriptures enable us to discern our most profound longings, to name who human beings are and what we want to be, to fathom ever more clearly who God is, and to perceive how all these things connect.”

As a part of our strategy at Novum, we want to give hope to artists and creatives, equipping them to display God’s truth, goodness and beauty through the arts so that the world might behold and be transformed by his story.

Mark Catlin