The Faithful Artist. A Vision for Evangelicalism and the Arts
This review first appeared on the Artway website,
and is reprinted here with permission.
Cameron Anderson has written a compelling book of Evangelicalism’s historical role in shaping religious life as well as tracing the unique focus of this particular stream as to the visual arts. As the historical context has played a role in shaping the acceptance of artistic expressions, Anderson brings a breadth of perspective by reviewing the different philosophical and theological developments of thought that impacted how various artists redefined and revolutionized this historical flow. By weaving together the impact of different individuals who were key in influencing the thinking of various periods up to our current age of postmodernism, he notes artistic expressions that uniquely reflected these prevailing views. Bringing together an interfacing of Evangelicals with their cultural contexts as well as with Catholic and Orthodox artistic contributions, he shows how these streams of Christianity sometimes evoked extreme theological reactions resulting in dramatic effects on art within the church. The conflict between word and image has been an enduring tension for Evangelicals, to say the least.
Anderson also offers a grounding for the expression of artists of faith within the postmodern world they are immersed in without defaulting to sentimentality or a desire to go back to any nostalgic period of the past. He respectfully integrates our current world of contemporary art and finds touch points that enable a way of participating that engages a comprehensive engagement of body, mind and spirt in the calling and work of the artist. In the closing chapters he challenges artists of faith to consider carefully their approach to their creative work by asking six questions. These may help them define and shape a God-centered worldview that will employ all their gifts and talents in ultimately honoring ways, not for the sake of art alone, but ultimately for the glory of God.
As the Executive Director for Christians in the Visual Arts (CIVA) in the U.S. and as an artist himself, Anderson speaks from his own personal journey. He draws from his experience in the art world for schooling and pursuing his own creative career, while focusing on the broad academic perspectives that help form a workable pathway for the faithful artist. Artists of faith will find Cameron Anderson’s book to be a rich resource encouraging creativity that reflects the foundational confession of our faith that all human beings are created in the Image of God and “that the corporeality of Christ, his flesh, is the shimmering illumination of God’s presence. In God’s Son, the true Word of God and the true Icon of God fully and gloriously coexist. In Jesus of Nazareth the verbal and the visual are forever reconciled.” Anderson assures us that the Evangelical community is able to embrace the arts because “this vision… presupposes that both word and image communicate meaning and, therefore, both are worth pursuing.” Does he guarantee an easy pathway for the faithful artist? Only if you are in it for the wrong reasons.
Rhodara Shreve is on staff at Vineyard Columbus, in Westerville, Ohio.