Poets & Prophets

Where do the fine arts, pop culture and religion meet? Has the Church awakened to its part in the dialogue? Recently, the wildly popular Left Behind series of biblically based apocalyptic novels has sold 4.5 million copies of books and audio products and has crossed over into non-Christian markets. Christian executive Norm Miller invested some his personal fortune in Joyriders, a major Hollywood release that featured clearly presented Christian themes. Jan Karon's popular Mitford novels are replete with faith-filled characters. Christians seem to be reassessing their role in the aesthetic side of culture and the public is responding.

As we emerge from modernist times, when science defined knowledge, and continue moving into a postmodern era, in which many look to their affinity group and "individual realities" for knowledge and meaning, how do those who believe in absolute truth speak most clearly and effectively? This question is especially pertinent to Christians, who see it as their biblical mandate to engage the unbelieving public and seek to persuade them toward faith. Will they reach many people with timeless messages of God-given standards, eternal consequence and gracious redemption by only focusing on factual analysis of Scripture? Or is something more soulish required, too? Can the arts and the creative use of media legitimately bridge the gap between the message and the hearers? Legendary author C.S. Lewis believed that we do not need more books about Christianity, but rather more Christians writing good books.

How should Christian literature and other art forms help shape public discourse? Public policy? Private and family lives? Conversely, how should Christians allow art to shape their own lives? These are all questions that require deeper reflection than is often given them. We offer you a place to begin reflecting in our special focus.

Image at top right is a portion of Grace Foretold, a painting by Makoto Fujimura, 1997.

—Byron Barlowe, Editor/Webmaster, Leadership University

Feature Articles:

Christianity And The Arts: Imagination Redeemed to Impact the World
A Dialogue with Luci Shaw, Interviewed by Stephanie Kirtland
In a candid and insightful dialogue, Luci Shaw, one of our foremost poets, discusses everything from the role of the arts to the transcendent, poetic power of asparagus.

"On Earth As It Is In Heaven": Is Art Necessary for the Christian?
Don Hudson
What role should art play in the life of Christians? Where do we draw boundaries? How do we even define true art, and its purpose, in the first place? Don Hudson asserts that contemporary Christians often shun art out of misplaced fear rather than embrace it as a vehicle to God's transcendence.

Martha Nussbaum, Poet's Defender
Review by Alan Jacobs
"Poetic Justice: The Literary Imagination and Public Life" by Martha Nussbaum is the subject of this review. Good introduction to a writer on a years-long mission to demonstrate the radical concept of compatibility between literature and certain branches of philosophy. The reviewer finds the observations of her latest work to be both fascinating and flawed, which he skillfully extrapolates to her larger goal of bringing poetry/literature together with the economic/political realm.

Partnership and Partings: A Comparison of the Genres and Themes in The Pilgrim's Regress and Till We Have Faces
Mark Linder
The novels named in the subtitle above--the least known and celebrated works of literary icon and Oxford don C.S. Lewis--are important for understanding Lewis's culture-shaping career. "...Each in its own way reflects important aspects of his life, his thought, and his use of fiction in communicating his understanding of Christianity," says author Mark Linder.

The New Wave of Christian Broadcasting
Terry Mattingly
Syndicated religion columnist Terry Mattingly profiles veteran Christian producer Bob Briner's damning critique of Christian engagement of the culture through media.

The Light of the World: Poetic Imagery and the Gospel
Charles Colson, Breakpoint Commentary
Noting the affect of the popular Bill Moyers book, The Language of Life, culture-watcher and author Chuck Colson urges readers to communicate the message of hope found in the Scripture to people through the emotional gateway of poetry.

Come, Bring Your Story
Don Hudson
A pastor's confession to losing interest in the Bible and his discovery: what he needed was not more discipline, but a renewed understanding of the intent and presentation of the Bible--as a grand storytelling. Hudson recounts two stories, one from within the Bible, one from without and compares them to show us the life-changing power of a story (as opposed to mechanical analysis), especially those stories that claim to be of God.

Special Section: Painting the Earthly and Transcendant

Makoto Fujimura, a world-class painter who uniquely uses ancient Japanese techniques, boldly integrates his deep faith in Christ with his art. In this special section, you will find examples of his work as well as essays on what motivates and inspires him--in art and in faith.

Related Articles:

The Character of God: Recovering the Lost Literary Power of American Protestantism
Review by Gregory Wolfe
The reviewer states that, "While there is much to admire in the historical sweep and literary intelligence of [the book]--and ample reason to support [its] dark story of a mighty tradition reduced to politicized theology--it is marred by questionable judgments."

George Rochberg's Revolution
Michael Linton
A renewed appreciation of artistic integrity and the prophetic role of the artist is very much the legacy of composer George Rochberg's musical revolt, and one for which we owe him our thanks.

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