William Dyrness’ Visual Faith challenges evangelical Protestant leaders to add an artistic eye-lens when viewing how to do church and claims that art reflects order and wholeness to God’s creation. I immediately associated with the visual art forms connected with Scripture. For example, “you can’t walk on water if you don’t get out of the boat” that some Christian’s have drawn in their Bible margins in the book of Matthew. I have high hopes and expectations that I will find God honoring artistic forms that will help me help others to both understand and withstand the schemes of the devil in spiritual warfare. This post will use a Bayard technique to “orient” myself to the author and book; yet maintain a peripheral position so I can wonder, reflect, and connect the themes and ideas of Dyrness with other authors themes and ideas.
First, I was inspired by Dyrness’ challenge to “make our unique image” to praise God. I wondered what it might be like to see present-day Christians putting on each piece of the armor of God. Like athletes in the locker room, Christians are called to put on their spiritual defense uniforms, one piece at a time. Putting on Christ metaphorically as a personal armor of God wardrobe is how the Holy Spirit prepares Christians to both understand and withstand the evil schemes of the devil. I see this process as a pre-battle spiritual checklist that can be expressed in an artistic manner. One example of this is the armor of God challenge coin that serves as an ethnographic tool and practical spiritual aid on how to defend against spiritual warfare.
Second, I did some deep work reflecting on the attributes of God. I took intentional time to ponder and think about the awesome attributes of God’s power, knowledge, and presence. Out of this supernatural context I considered how to take up the whole armor of God from Paul’s 1st Century command to stand firm and withstand in the evil day. My goal, with the help of my artistic wife, is to envision and design a type of Magna art form. We hope to use it to help connect spiritual ideas, theological principles, and appropriate Scripture for Christian leaders so they can train, equip, shepherd, and prepare their congregants to survive in the evil day.
Third, I connected reviews and articles on Dryness to see how he fits into the greater body of scholarship focusing on art and theology. According to Jones’ review Dryness is rather “esoteric” for his British readers because he focuses mostly on American art. Nevertheless, he does commend Dyrness’ second half of the book with positive theological principles that help Christian ministers verbalize and reorient themselves to how visual arts may help enhance ministry and worship. Lemke points out that Dyrness overstates his historical claim that Protestantism gave up on the “visual arts.” Lemke reasons that while the Reformers took a strong position against the Catholic’s misuse of art objects, he believes the Protestants still found graceful ways to make “valuable artistic contributions.”Sokolove describes Dyrness’ “new vision” for artistic theology as a type of grassroots movement to help reintroduce a historically alienated ministry art tool to further the spread of the Gospel. He praises Dyrness for identifying the “Reformation divorce between art and the church” and believes the time is right to bridge the gap between the artistic beauty of God’s creation and the idea of doing church differently. I agree with Sokolove’s assessment but I am not sure what that looks like yet in my marketplace ministry context?
I am certain there is plenty of room to expand the Gospel message using various honoring and appropriate art forms. Yang says that when combining “image and text” in new Gospel formats that it may help bridge the gap between the “media we watch and the media we read.” Exorcism is not something we often think about when describing Evangelical art forms, but Yang expressed the Eastern idea of exorcism in his depiction of “Big Belly.” Yang’s graphic novel with Big Belly’s exorcism can be ethnographically compared to Scriptural accounts like the one when Jesus Christ purged a legion of demons and drove them from the bodies of possessed men into a herd of pigs that ran off a cliff into the water and drown.
I believe we can integrate Pink’s image-linked ideas with Dryness’ goal to do church better by adding new and creative artistic genres that pass the theological sniff-test. While Pink’s goal is to expand visual anthropology into the 21st Century scientific community I think her ethnographic techniques can be leveraged to help expand Visual Faith’s connection to a rapidly changing ministry context. I like her approach to information; the intentional process of exploring the “relationships” between visual, verbal, and other forms of knowledge, which I believe can become new theological artforms to advance the Good News. In summary, Visual Faith inspired in me wonderment, reflective thinking, and connect-the-Gospel to new and creative expressions of how to do ministry and worship. Let’s all get out the crayons and start marking up the margins of our Bibles.