Understanding Arts as Language


  • Lorn Gieck


The evangelical church is often understood as a people of “the book.” Scripture is the key foundation of the evangelical identity. However, the Bible has had a longstanding companion volume in the hymn book. Generations past demonstrated an intuitive sense of aesthetics as a key component in expressing and learning the practices of Christian faith. Yet, there has always been an uncomfortable tension between these two books in the life and experience of the church. The arts tend to be employed as subservient to either utilitarian or decorative purposes.

Unfortunately, this diminishes arts’ full range of effectiveness to bear and transmit meaning. I would like to argue that the issue is not one of pragmatics but rather an issue of language. What is at issue here is a loss in the contemporary evangelical church of understanding the arts as a unique and diverse complex of language. This article will present an understanding of arts as language capable of communicating meaning as well as giving some direction in recovering our aesthetic sensibilities, particularly through the role of the local artist. Just as everyone is on some level a theologian, everyone is aesthetic, and thus an artist. The evangelical church will need aesthetic skills in communicating with the diversity of cultures, subcultures, languages, and dialects increasingly presented in a postmodern world.