The Art of God
Much of our Christian endeavour is spent trying to understand the nature of God and conduct our lives in the light of it.
But if we don't have a realistic understanding of the nature of human being, then we are likely to completely miss the point of God. In short, we could fail to factor our own biases into the equation. So half of the six million dollar question has to be "what is a human"?
My friend has a 'Gin and Tonic' analogy which I've swallowed (but only metaphorically). It goes like this… if God is the true spirit and human nature is the tonic, then we only ever get to experience God as in the Gin and Tonic. You can't separate the two; they're mixed, irretrievably mixed this side of the grave. This is the Gospel, God made flesh, and although it's good news for our souls, it's sometimes bad news for the intellect that wishes to understand it all! The problem is that we have always to factor in the human aspect to any experience, theory or revelation concerning God.
And the human aspect means both personal and cultural. There's always a need for a hermeneutic… an understanding of the context and the effect of the context, when we come to think about God.
So the question remains then, what are human beings really like and what do we learn when we attempt that difficult differential equation demanded by honest theological searching??
Here's my first point. That there's no single basic "law" that can delimit our nature
and God's nature -
And so our decisions are not clear cut. We are left to find our place in society and culture as befits the circumstance and where we'd put ourselves on the sliding scale of cultural decision making.
I suggest that most of life's decisions involve these dialectics; seemingly opposing positions which are in tension with each other but whose extremes are seldom warranted in their entirety. Other examples.. the freedom of the individual versus the obligation to the collective... "I am normal" ~ "I am special"
Fundamentalist belief of any type usually thrives on adopting a position at one end
of the continuum. There is security in adopting the black or the white position,
but it's my belief that behaving like this is against human and God-
Here's my big assertion then. That one of the most basic dialectics relating to human
"Logos", coming from the Greek for "word" is the element of all things which can
be measured, described, defined, trapped in time and communicated to others. So a
fish, for example, would have a whole pile of aspects which could be measured etc
which might help us define its fishness scientifically. Similarly there is much about
God which Christians would describe as the knowable-
"Eros", from which we get the word "erotic" does not, in my usage, mean "sexual",
but means the unmeasurable, indescribable, undefinable, unable-
So I'm saying that good theology understands the need for a "knowing" and an "unknowing". That is Biblically sound and has been a universally and intuitively known aspect of being human, until the enlightenment elevated "science" and "progress" into their own idols.
This mystery of God in all things has been broadly lost in the post-
And this is why, I believe, evangelical Christianity is frequently death to the creative spirit. An artist will usually want to explore more of their internal world in order to externalise their experience in their craft. They are frequently more restless and thus they often threaten those whose internal worlds are a source of discomfort or who are happy to accept emotional restrictions in order to confident about their own "logos". The cultures which surround many types of Christianity have emotional parameters which feel like conformity to creative artists.
What's missing is the Eros stuff.
The Eros stuff is threatening to church leaders because Western rationalism has infused our theological expectations and so church leaders are expected to "know" all the time. Moments of not knowing are not too welcome because they may look like failure. Or upset people.
So here's two examples from me of the destructiveness of a Logos-
A couple sit on the cliff top and stare out to sea. They are overwhelmed by the beauty of the creator's design and simply sit within the moment, allowing it to speak to their spirit's in humility. They are transformed by the experience. They have greater internal harmony and they leave praising the creator for the stunning work of art that is that landscape.
The same couple stand before a work of art by another, human creator. They look at it for a minute and ask each other "what's he trying to say?". "I don't know, typical modern art eh, says nothing".
Funny, they didn't ask the first Creator what he was trying to say. They knew the moment was en Eros one.
A second: "God has a plan for your life…"
This phrase has been the source of so much serious psychological disturbance to many people I know. It's not really Biblical as far as I can tell, and definitely not in the way it's taken up.
This is how I think it's often heard.. God is the great designer who sat making the
blueprint for the big everything He was about to make. The blueprint is the way it
should go & there's lots of mini-
The problem is the metaphor is a "Logos" one.
Here's an "Eros" option.
God is an improvising musician. In Her mind she can hear this fantastic bit of music…
a kind of half finished symphony which will eventually come good when all the orchestra
contribute their voicings and hear how it should be themselves. So God says to each
of us, "you start playing and I'll join in". So you start playing and there's a bit
of music which comes back to you which makes you sound a lot better than you've ever
sounded. You gain in confidence. The music suggests to you where else you might go
in your playing and enlivens your desire to make the music. You play some more and
God keeps the duet going and bringing new melodic possibilities to your hearing.
As time goes on you're much more likely to be moving towards the far-
Now this I can work with!
I'm drawn to love and want God more by this Eros metaphor than the Logos one I started with.
And I'll continually find myself needing to live to my Logos and my Eros.. and find all stations in between! To know that I can't know and that I can know. And I need both to keep my breadth of being going.
And if my "art" is drawing on my "Eros" at times when others can't see what the Eros is saying, then it doesn't mean it's saying any less. It might just be saying it to another part of my listener.
And if Christian Mission is about communicating God to others, then we can't allow it to be all "Logos" because although Jesus Christ is God made known, He, as recounted in the Bible, is not all that there is to God. He was clear about that. He was the image, not the totality. He came to bring us to the totality. The totality, as any "primitive" grouping knows, is Logos and Eros living in creative tension.
I believe that Christian Artists are part of God's mission to allow our full humanity come alive in Christ. That there is no obligation on artists to have their imagination be limited by a "Logos" defined mission context, but that our art must be lived in the context of a soul in submission to God, in service of the poor and in harmony with our faith family. Sometimes we'll have to be militant to establish that the "Eros" is as valuable as the "Logos" and in so doing we will liberate our sisters and brothers in the church and beyond.
Andy Thornton 26th Sept 1997