Why the Spirit is the Artist’s Best Friend

Zac HicksArt and Worship, Worship Theology & Thought1 Comment

“May Hour of Pentecost,” by Makoto FujimuraBringing Life & Bringing Beauty

There is an interesting link worth pondering between the Holy Spirit’s creative and aesthetic roles.  Scripture speaks often of the unique role of the Spirit in vivifying—bringing life.  Job 33:4 exclaims, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”  Isaiah prophesies, “The Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest” (Isaiah 32:15).  The Psalmist cries, “When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth” (Psalm 104:30).

No wonder, then, in the Trinity’s group-strategy of our salvation, the Spirit is tasked with the role of “new birth.”  “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).  In Trinitarian soteriology (the theology of how we are saved by God), the Father chooses and calls, the Son accomplishes the work, and the Spirit, as the life-giver, applies the work of the Son to us. 

Making Life is Making Beauty

When we take the Spirit’s life-giving roles one step further, we enter quite naturally into the realm of aesthetics, because the lines between bringing life and bringing beauty are fairly blurred.  To vivify is to beautify.  Think of the people you know that you might describe as “full of life.”  Don’t they also seem beautiful to you?   Or think of those perhaps semi-attractive people you know of whom you’ve said, “Once I got to know them better, and saw their [full of life] personality, they seemed more attractive, more beautiful.”  When life bursts forth and grows, it’s intrinsically beautiful, isn’t it?  Nature reflects this in spring.  Humans reflect this in conception and birth.  It makes sense, then, when Job says, “By his breath [or Spirit], the skies became fair.”  Creation is not just a constructive endeavor.  It is an aesthetic one.

Why the Spirit is the Artist’s Best Friend 

This helps us understand why the Spirit is the artist’s best friend:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship.”  (Exodus 31:1-5, ESV)

I often pray with the musicians I work with before the service something like this prayer: “God, fill us up with your Holy Spirit to make beautiful art to You today.  Establish the work of our hands that the beauty You make in us might serve to inspire Your people to sing mightily unto you.”

If it really is true that all the world runs on Trinitarian fuel, then certainly every creative, beautiful endeavor, though marred by the fall, human frailty, and sinful privation, is the work of the Spirit in us.  The beauty we make is more than just echoes and reverberations of God’s beauty; it is the very Power of God, through the Spirit, in us.

Discipling Artists in this Truth

One of the ways we worship pastors can help make disciples of artists is to remind them of the Spirit’s work within them.  We should be quick to point out that God cares enough about art and beauty that one of the central roles of one of the Persons is to uphold, supplant, sustain, indeed inspire that human enterprise.  We should encourage them that their work has value not only because it might impact lives but because it is simply beautiful…and beautification is central to the heart of God.  We can edify them by reminding them that their art-making is, in fact, evidence that God is at work within them.  The beautiful outcome of their craft is a sign that God is near.

The understatement of the century: the Spirit is the artist’s best friend.

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