Where 1,000 Christians Contemplate Theology and Good Art
Theology and Good Art.
Not necessarily concepts that you expect to come together for a conference. That is, until you realize that the God we study is the supreme Artist. The One we worship is the Creator who spoke artistic beauty into being. The One we live to glorify has communicated his gospel creatively throughout all of Scripture. As his image bearers, then, we, too, are to communicate our theology artistically, and our art must be informed by our theology. But how?
And that’s why the Canvas Conference was born. Dr. Ryan Lister, a professor of theology at Western Seminary and Thomas Terry, owner of Humble Beast Records, created a conference to “help people sing their theology and make their theology sing.” Drawing on the teaching and artistic skills of almost 40 speakers and performers, they communicated the gospel of Jesus Christ with theological accuracy and artistic skill for two days.
The theme for the year was image and idols. The lights dimmed, and fog filled the room. A DJ introduced each speaker to their own unique track. (Here's a taste with a short video montage.) With a frank confession of our tendency to make ourselves the center of our lives, the speakers explored how art can become idolatrous and how the theology of the worship of God changes that. There was discussion of the need for humility and repentance. And there was hope that the gospel means our artistic work can glorify Christ, whether it is overtly Christian or not.
Here are some of the truths that were spoken:
“True & good theology will produce humility in the heart of the artist."
“Eden's lesson: Don't settle for just the divine art when you can have the divine artist.”
"Redemption is God's most prized form of art."
In addition to the teaching, the Canvas conference also displayed the beauty and effectiveness of theologically informed art. Spoken word artists poetically explained gospel truths. Skilled performers sang the Word. And writers told stories to communicate the gospel to our hearts.
And so, theology and art came together for a conference. A necessary discussion that will make our communication of the gospel to world more effective has begun. And at the center of it all is Jesus Christ, the one worthy of our best efforts in theology and in art. I hope that Canvas 2016 was just the first of many. We need it.