Creative and Christian! Biblical principles

The splash of colour through a car windscreen gives an attractive front cover to this slim paperback. Otherwise, and oddly for a book on creative arts, Creative and Christian is almost exclusively printed text. But it’s an easy read and addresses its purpose well: ‘54 short devotions [to] encourage Christians with artistic and creative gifts to become mature in their own spiritual understanding and to get to grips with the present day culture’.

The subjects range from art in churches to leadership qualities, using our gifts in worship and engaging in creative communication. The author, from Holland, is well placed to tackle these issues. Leen La Rivière chairs the International Association of Christian Artists. He works with the European Academy for Culture and the Arts, financed by the EU. In 1999 he was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands for his contribution to the cultural life of the nation.

La Rivière gives a strong Christian apologetic for art, suggesting that he feels it necessary to vindicate the profession amongst Christians. The prophetic role of artists is well expressed in chapters 15 to 17. These focus on King David who is credited with reorganising a nation’s worship, setting up music schools and inventing new instruments.

The book is steeped in biblical source material, but apart from a text printed in full to close each chapter, the references need looking up as endnotes. This makes the material seem more suitable for personal devotion or mini-sermons than for group discussion. Having said that, the style is lively and provocative. ‘Worship can be the art of drinking tea’, says La Rivière, describing real worship as an attitude. A house group leader could profitably work on many of these chapters to produce conversation material to follow (or perhaps precede) the tea!

Creative and Christian has a confident moral tone. Occasionally I found myself irritated by the baldness of certain statements, eg. ‘Celebrating God never results in wild parties’, especially as in other places the author warns against ‘curling up in our little ghettos’. Perhaps some subtlety has been lost in translation from the Dutch.

If your church council is considering commissioning some stained glass or a sculpture, and needs some theological rationale, take a look at the chapter headed ‘The tabernacle: a work of art’. This would serve well as a devotion for a meeting. There is a useful list of resources and organisations which might help a church to select an artist, in much the same way as the newly launched website www.churchart.co.uk.

Generally, this is a refreshing and affirming book. There is humour, there is inspiration, and it will be a valuable resource for all those seeking to communicate the creativity that is so integral to Christian faith.

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