"This parable insists that the kingdom enters the world at creation and that there is not, and never has been any 'unkingdomed' humanity anywhere in the world. For by, through, and with the very breath and waters that make and restore creation... in the mist that watered Eden, in the paschal blood upon doorposts, the Jordan waters and the flow from Christ's side on the cross, the river of life of the New Jerusalem is evidenced - the Word is indeed the yeast that leaves not one scrap of the world unleavened - He has always been hidden within creation".
Robert Farrar Capon on the Mustard seed & the Leaven.
I was recently reading C R Wiley's review (Modern Reformation magazine) of Alain de Botton's recent book, Religion for Atheists, which makes a mixture of astute and predictable observations of both contemporary Atheism and Christianity. What truly struck me in the review was both writers' focus upon what Wiley terms "Reformed aesthetics", or more precisely, the lack thereof.
Since my childhood, I've been drawn to the power of 'picturing' the wonderful, be it Tom's magical garden, or the snow-covered woods of Narnia. When I was fourteen, my art teacher introduced me to the Tate Gallery in London, and I spent an amazing afternoon amidst the Pre Raphaelites. In the mid-90's , I can also recall a truly wonderful visit to London's V&A and being enthralled in the renaissance sculpture gallery. These are just a few select moments of many where the visual has enthralled, inspired and informed my own life and fed my soul.
Painting such images - using the visual to speak loudly of the spiritual in life - is not alien to our faith - far from it. The Old Testament and the Gospels, as well as Revelation, are full of images from history, and equally in poetry and parable that are provided to convey some key truths to us about the spiritual within the material, so where are such manner of illustrations in our modern culture?
Contemporary artists of all stripes around us are not afraid to tap this rich resource. Some of the best movies, shows and books of our times readily access the themes of human nature and the need for redemption in many of their major themes, and yet the church often seems strangely removed from such potent inter-action. Are we meant to be the advocates of the bland, the mediocre, the ugly? Shouldn't we be using the visually striking to stand up and say "do you see that? Do you understand what that implies?"
In the work of Creation, the very first element that is brought to bear upon the crude, unfurnished mass of the heavens and earth by the Word is light, for this brings clarity and allows an understanding and an adornment of the universe that is satisfying and inspiring. The work of God is to allow to us to see His hand in Christ within life if we genuinely look for this. If we are children of His mercies, then surely, our art (speaking, painting, writing) can do no less.