Ever since the late modern era and especially into postmodernity, fine art has seen a decided shift in subject matter, away from explicitly Christian principles of art. Whether it’s a screen printing of a soup can (I am still partial to[Andy Warhol], being a fellow Pittsburgh native), or songs about Jeffrey Bezos, fine art has been mostly uninvolved in divine play. The production and consumption of a work of art is an incarnational act and a divine interaction, as God works the piece to be a medium of revelation. It is in art that we can participate in the Trinity. Let me appeal to Dorothy Sayers – a contemporary of the famous group the Inklings and celebrated writer. In her play The Zeal of Thy House, a Trinitarian conception of a creative work is described thus:
For every work [or act] of creation is threefold, an earthly trinity to match the heavenly. First [not in time, but merely in order of enumeration], there is the Creative Idea, passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning: and this is the image of the Father. Second, there is the Creative Energy [or Activity] begotten of that idea, working in time from the beginning to the end, with sweat and passion, being incarnate in the bonds of matter: and this is the image of the Word. Third, there is the Creative Power, the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul: and this is the image of the indwelling Spirit. And these three are one, each equally in itself the whole work, whereof none can exist without other: and this is the image of the Trinity.11 Dorthy Sayers, “The Zeal of They House,” quoted in Dorthy Sayers. Mind of the Maker, ed. Susan Howatch (London, Mowbray, 1994). 28. Bracketed portions original to Mind of the Maker
As Sayers points out, a creative work is intrinsically Trinitarian. Our God-given capabilities for work and play coincide to mimic the incarnation and the dissemination of the Holy Spirit. In this way art is a little incarnation. We as artists put ourselves into the work, in the same way that the Father and the Son are of the same essence. And further it is our hope that the work will communicate to others our own selves, just as the Spirit communicates to us God’s self. We hope that it will rouse good affections and joy in those who view it. Yet, now there is a conundrum. What are we to make of soup cans? Do they serve any good? We are witness to a perverse trinity in art when it is made without substance. That is not to say that all postmodern art or pop art fails to serve a good (see Keith Herring), but when that is the prevailing notion, we have to recognize that our call as participants in Christ is to make and play. This is the hope of The Bell Tower: that we would amplify the faith-driven expressions of art that seek to fulfill the soul and glorify God, and thus reveal to the world our the hope and love of Jesus Christ.