Stewart Lundy has an illuminating interview with Japanese-American artist Makoto Fujimura . A committed Christian and world-class artist, Fujumura is likely the only elder of the Presbyterian Church in America to have a following among New York’s avant-garde art scene.

DK: What aesthetic elements or themes — if any — do you consider uniquely Christian?

Fujimura: I suppose only ones that have the experiential knowledge of God’s grace in salvation can be thankful for that, and let their art speak of that thankfulness. We see works like Amazing Grace as an example of such a uniquely Christian work. But, when we speak of “uniquely Christian,” that assumes we know for sure who belongs in the Christian category and who does not. Jesus’ parable on the wheat and tares from Matthew 13 makes it clear that we do not know for sure. Only God knows our eternal destiny. So what is “uniquely Christian” may not be something we have the discernment for.

All human beings are created to be creative, and yet we twist the good gifts of God and turn them into idols (to worship ourselves). So the question is, what art truly glorifies God. But then even if there is to be such an art (pure art that glorifies God), the uses of such an art may turn into idolatrous error, such as Moses’ bronze snake (a uniquely Christological art indeed) being used in King Hezekiah’s time as an object of idol worship. So this is a hard question to answer.

In some sense, though, I believe, because of Common Grace, that all art is uniquely Christian, in that we cannot have art apart from the conviction of material reality and the reality of communication. Art is at least spiritually neutral to have the potential of being used, or misused (I also argue in my recent Refractions that the main function of the arts is not to be “used” at all, but that’s for another conversation). But material reality has significance, and potency, because of the Gospel of incarnation, the fact that God became a man. God pours his Spirit in all people: from our cave days to our fog of post-modern time, art is full of signifiers that point to the Reality of God.



[ . . . ]

DK: What would you say to Christians who are enamored of things ‘Eastern’?

Fujumura: East/West distinction is also a categorization that is very difficult to define. The Bible is an “eastern” book. The Bible is much more culturally “eastern” than “western,” if by “western” we mean post-Enlightenment rationalism. Certainly, the Old Testament Hebrew culture was far more eastern than what we consider to be western. The Last Supper makes more sense in a Japanese context (that eating and drinking wine can bond a community together) than American. Early theologians like Augustine and Origen were influenced by African and Egyptian culture, which is more East than West, and certainly medieval art and theology has much to do with eastern influence, while “western” theology grew out of them. I know what you are asking pertains to our fascination with Japanimation, eastern new age mysticism, etc., but I would be careful not to fall into unhelpful distinctions.

I think though there is spiritual danger in Paganism, and as Origen stated (and recently quoted by Pope Benedict) Paganism is defined by “Lacking feeling and reason, they are transformed into stones and wood.” In other words, Paganism flattens our perception, makes all experience virtual, dumbing down our senses. Paganism, as in the Matrix movie, is virtual, manageable, flat reality, whereas the red pill takes you down into the harsh reality of pain and suffering. Christianity opens our perception and our understanding of Reality. Sensationalism of contemporary art to easy sentiments of animations (excepting, of course, some recent noble efforts like Ratatouille, or Up) give up too much of our humanity, and can be dehumanized. It is the “stone and woods” of our times.


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(Via: Gene Veith )

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