On yesterday’s podcast, Brett talked to screenwriter and author Brian Godawa about Christian artists, beauty, truth, and storytelling. Art is indeed a powerful vehicle for expressing truth, but as Brian explains in the interview, when we use story merely as a tool to communicate a message, neglecting the beauty of the craft, we tend to end up with preachy propaganda. He argued that beauty is an aspect of the truth about God that we must not downplay when speaking through artistic forms:
When we talk about God and theology, we often talk about things like: we have to have a proper epistemology (or theory of knowledge), we have to have a proper ethic (or system of morality), we want to have a notion of ontology (or reality)—this is what traditional categories are in terms of philosophy. And [with] theology, you could talk about soteriology, salvation, these kinds of things. But what is often lacking in there is aesthetic. There are so many Scriptures in the Psalms and many places where it talks about the beauty of God’s holiness...My point being, beauty is not just something there to be appreciated; it’s actually part of the whole theology of how God communicates Himself.
So to the extent in which you ignore that or downplay beauty is just as if you were to downgrade any element of truth that we should have, whether it’s Christ’s nature as God, or whether it’s soteriology and salvation, or the work of the Spirit. [In the same way as these,] beauty is a part of that understanding.
Telling stories in a way that reflects God’s beauty testifies to the beauty of our God. Beauty itself is an apologetic for God because it reveals His beauty, just as making a case for the truth of the gospel through apologetic arguments reveals His truth, and serving people in love reveals His love. As Christians, we ought to be declaring God’s beauty to the world through our art. Brian had some good words of encouragement and warning for Christian artists:
I want to encourage Christians who are artists to do two things equally: Seek to value your craft and beauty as high as the truth, and secondly, seek to study and know your God (study theology and study apologetics) because [these are] both two sides of one, unified truth. And to the extent in which you’re imbalanced in either of them, it will show in your art. You’ll either have bad art that is preachy, or you’ll have art that is teaching falsehoods because you don’t understand how truth is embodied in it. So seek to pursue them both...
Study your craft. Do everything you can to learn it...But pursue that beauty in a way that will value the craft equally with the truth.
The Canvas Conference humbly exists to inform all acts of human creativity and beauty with biblical, gospel-centered theology for the worship of the triune God.... We want to help build strong theological foundations for the artist and, likewise, to push Christians to pursue creative orthodoxy in their theological craft...
The Canvas Conference seeks to build bridges between the artist and the theologian by inviting God to take center stage in every human endeavor. We want to watch the Lord as he puts theology and creativity in their proper place. We want to show that creativity begins and ends with the God of Christian Scripture. It is our Creator who created us in his image to create. Thus, we should do so for his glory, for our good, and for the benefit of all.