Review: Imagine

Commenting on a line in the well-known Christian hymn, Turn Your Eyes upon Jesus; the line that says, “And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,” Steve Turner makes this poignant point: “This can lead people to wonder why God bothered to create the physical world and its enjoyments if we can only be truly fulfilled by escaping them.” (Imagine: a vision for Christians in the arts. p 57) Yes, we might wonder indeed. As a photographic artist and Christian, I have sought out mature reflections on the relationships between my desire to photograph and my desire to know God in Christ. When I played basketball at a Christian college many, many years ago, I once spoke with our coach, a fine Christian man, about the relationship between our Christian faith and our sport. He replied that basketball is just something Christians do. I was satisfied with that answer at the time but I do not find it satisfying in my attempts to produce art with the camera. Is it only something I do, like mowing the lawn, or driving my car?
Steve Turner has spent many years as a writer and poet, and has been heavily involved in the music industry. He has written books about Johnny Cash, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye and The Beatles, to name a few. So when he sets out to write about the arts he has established his credentials. This is a slim book written from a solid Christian theological perspective. It celebrates true creativity wherever it is found. It promotes the full engagement of talented people of faith with the creative world on the grounds that all creativity is ultimately a gift of God. He notes that, “Each time Christ performed a human activity, he was blessing it.” (p. 60) Art requires no more justification than the creation and the incarnation.
Turner is not happy with the tendency in some Christian circles to think that all art by Christians requires some sort of explicit reference to the Bible or theology. As he puts it, “The best art doesn’t tell people what to believe but enables them, for a short while, to see things differently, and the Christian can enable people to momentarily glimpse the world through eyes that have been touched by Christ.” (pp 115, 116) This is an exciting book for me, and one I heartily recommend to any religious person who wants to reflect upon the arts and faith issues.

[Steve Turner. Imagine:A Vision for Christians in the Arts. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2001. 131 pages.]