And with that my soul was captured. I believe this is the most vision-producing theme in William Dyrness’ book, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. If we are to follow the author’s lead and encourage dialogue involving art, theology, and worship, then can we not have that conversation is such a theater?
In the theater imagery of John Calvin we hear an echo of Psalms 19:1, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” It is our joy, privilege, and calling to fill that theater with theological, verbal, and visual truth that holds high the glory of God.
Indeed, over the entrance to this theater we find the words of the Shorter Catechism which declares that our chief end IS to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The arts contribute to this glory and enjoyment.
Visual Faith begins with a lofty goal: “to extend and enrich a Christian conversation on the visual arts.” 
The book offers historical reasoning for what could be, at best, a lack of emphasis on the arts and at worst, a lack of trust of the arts. “…in recent history at least, art and the Christian church have not been on good terms.”  It struck me that some of the old arguments opposing the use of artistic images come from a misunderstanding of Scripture’s command to avoid idolatry and the worship of idols. Sadly many have not differentiated between idol worship and visual aids to seeing the life and activity of God. “The second commandment is often cited in support of the supposed biblical reticence about imagery… But this clearly has to do with false worship and not with the attempt to portray religious truth in the form of images.” 
“But a deeper examination of biblical materials shows that there is an important biblical pathway to thinking about the arts.”  Biblical precedence for artistic beauty and creativity in places of worship obviously lies in the detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle in the Old Testament. Exodus 26:1 “Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman.” (Some have even read in the phrase “skillful workman” to mean that God gives a spiritual gift of craftsmanship.)
Dyrness states, “…given that Christians have not until recently involved themselves in popular culture, we should not be surprised that these arts often express values that are at odds with a Christian worldview. In fact, it is tempting to say that until Christians and the church get serious about supporting the arts, they ought to temper their criticism about the kind of art that is produced. Meanwhile, if they are serious about their involvement in culture, they should take seriously their role as patrons of the arts.” 
Just this morning I saw a post on facebook that said, “National Endowment for the Arts – 50 years of shaping America’s Cultural Landscape.” This is no doubt true, and as such is an indictment against the church for having given this up to secularists.
Flowing from this book are so many good questions. What IS Christian art? Can art glorify God even if it contains no overt symbols of the faith? Can the visual be an aid to worship? What topics should be covered in this dialogue between art, theology, and worship?
It is this writer’s opinion that creation is a reflection of the glory of God, and that when we showcase the magnificence of His creation, we honor Him.
Sadly, if a person has no propensity toward believing in a Creator, they may well miss the point of natural beauty (general revelation). But it is possible for people to be awakened to the possibility of a Creator by natural beauty.
For some it may be true, as Dyrness says, “Simone Weil has argued that there are three ways people are drawn to God: through affliction religious practices, and by the experience of beauty. The first two, she points out, have been virtually eliminated…leaving the third.” 
For the believer this discussion reminds me of Psalms 27:4. “One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord And to meditate in His temple.” I think something like the beauty of a sunset or of Yosemite Valley invites us to sit down in that theater and bask in the wonder of God’s reflected beauty.
But whatever we think of the value of art, I think Dyrness is right when he says, “When Adam and Eve are drawn to the beauty of the tree outside the moral context in which it was given, they take the first fatal step toward making beauty into an idol.”  The powerful counterpoint to this is “An examination of some of the biblical language for beauty reveals that beauty is connected both to God’s presence and activity and to the order that God has given to creation.” 
My prayer follows Dyrness’ statement, “Biblical images demand, when they are placed within their larger biblical context, a response of the whole person not simply to the image but ultimately to God. They call upon one to respond not simply to the images in question but to the Word of God that is embodied in those images.” 
 William A. Dyrness, Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 80.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 83.
 Ibid., 69.
 Ibid., 17.
 Ibid., 22.
 Ibid., 75.
 Ibid., 80.
 Ibid., 85.