On Reading THE GIFT OF ART

Though my latest read was written when I was just twelve years old—in other words, decades ago—it speaks so profoundly to my interests today. The Gift of Art: The Place of the Arts in Scripture by Gene Edward Veith, Jr. celebrates the biblical purpose of art: “glory and beauty.” At the same time, Veith considers art’s place among the more practical aspects of life: food, clothing, shelter, customs, etc. Veith says, “All of these are valuable gifts of God, essential parts of our humanity.” As I learn more about art and marvel at all of its forms, I couldn’t agree more.

The book cover also describes The Gift of Art as having a “liberating spirit.” I remain convinced by Veith’s arguments that God encourages creativity with very few, but very firm, boundaries. Here are a few of my very favorite key points from the book that support this theme and others:

[God] is the original abstract artist.”
In His making of the world, God also invented shapes and colors and concepts. No models or patterns to follow, just His good and perfect will. The ultimate creative process!

“Art is powerful because it heightens perception.”
Veith continues, “It does this partially by lifting an object or experience out of its normal context so that it can be apprehended freshly and more fully.” I expect to take this insight into my next visit to an exhibit—to appreciate even more the subject matter of an artist’s work and to stretch my understanding of the subject as to see it differently later in its “normal context.”

Art can never replace the Word of God.
Some Christian artists may feel pressured to portray the Gospel in their works. However, it’s essentially impossible—the Word is the Word is the Word. Art can definitely be inspired by it and founded on it, but the Word’s power is intrinsic to its medium and form. I love how Veith describes art as having the capability of being “sacramental,” communicating portions of God’s Word “not simply as an abstract doctrine but as a living and concrete reality.”

Art can help us understand a concept in a revitalizing way.
Veith offers this insight in a section titled “Recovering meaning.” He opines that art can help us recover in our hearts and memories the significance of our faith. The crucifixion. The resurrection. These, for instance, may be contemplated anew when observed in art.

“When art and religion are distinct, they can reflect each other.”
It all comes down to this: Enjoy God’s gift of art, be it a blatant expression of one’s faith or a whimsical seemingly unrelated experiment in color, texture, dimension, etc. God delights in it all, as long as they remain distinct—”…for the artist as a person, faith in his or her art alone leads to spiritual death,” says Veith.

Furthermore, Veith encourages our interests outside of religious doctrine; such interests actually help illuminate its relevance and timelessness and necessity. This is liberating indeed, just as promised at the beginning of reading The Gift of Art. So I plan to continue to immerse myself in any art and all art, trusting that it is one of the most divine gifts we are given in this life. I gladly receive it.