Wednesday’s Words of Wisdom: The Artist as Prophet

As I was looking for some pearls of great wisdom to share with everyone today I came across this great post on Manuel Luz’s blog Adventures in Faith & Art:

The Bible had a word for those whose job was to tell the truth about God and about life, past, present, and future. The word is “prophet.” And unfortunately, the word conjures up many unintended meanings. There’s a lonely and quite misunderstood bearded man in the desert, yelling at people to repent. Or maybe a fortune-teller bearing a jeweled turban who promises to tell you the future. Or the man wearing the sandwich board yelling at the corner, bringing the annoying message that the end is near. Any modern use of the term requires a sense of explanation or apology.

To say that something is prophetic is to imply that we can predict the future. And there is obviously Biblical precedent for this (e.g., the books of Isaiah or Revelation). But practically speaking, the prophetic gift has more to do with helping people see things as they really are. Prophets clarify, illuminate, and reveal. Like Morpheus offering Neo the red pill, the prophet offers to help people see the larger reality, the Kingdom perspective. In the Bible, the role of the prophet was to remind people of God’s sovereignty and His direction for us, a voice from outside the babel that calls us back, a champion of all that is Godly when we have lost our way. Prophets remind us of what is real and important. Prophets are Truth tellers.

Such is the role of the artist as well. If we are doing our job, if we are creating art that is noteworthy and unique, then our art implies a perspective of life that stands apart from the norm. Our art pulls back the curtain, offers a different point of view, provokes thought and feeling. This should be even more true for the Christian artist as well, for our work provides a perspective of life that not only stands apart from the norm, but is grounded in the eternal.

In the collection, Intruding Upon the Timeless, author Gregory Wolfe explains:

“Like the biblical prophet, the artist is often an outsider, one who stands apart and delivers a challenge to the community. The prophets of old employed many of the same tricks used by writers and artists: lofty rhetoric, apocalyptic imagery, biting satire, lyrical evocations of better times, and subversive irony. To be sure, the true prophet came not to proclaim his own message, but that of the Lord.”

“The artist and the prophet bring far things near; they somehow bring the urgencies of the eschatological realm into the mundane world of the here and now.”

The Christian artist must be a prophet, in that in some small way, our art should reveal the greater Truth. And that is easier said than done.

Read the whole post here 

What are your thoughts on how artists and their creations are to tell the truth about God, life and the narrative of redemption? How can a sunset reveal “the greater truth”? For that matter how can a piece of art depicting the broken condition also reveal the greater truth? Are there some things that art by redeemed followers of Christ won’t create? If the direction of so much of art now days is about deconstructing how does the artist as prophet reveal the greater truth in or against this emphasis on deconstruction?

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