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05 April 2008

Why Dancing and Not Sculpting?

This post in one in which I simply ponder some things.

As I understand it, there are some groups out there which embrace painting, sculpture, and those sorts of thing as creative, artistic, communal expressions of worship. I'm not writing this to hammer on them (I think that Scripture hammers pretty well on them without my help), but they've made me begin to ask, "Why did God do it this particular way?"

Praise the Lord!
    Sing to the Lord a new song.

    Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.
O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.

    O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King.
Praise his name with dancing,
    accompanied by tambourine and harp.

For the Lord delights in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.
    Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.
Psalm 149:1-5 (NLT)

Why did God prescribe music and dance as acceptable expressions of worship, leaving out painting, scuplture, and other art forms? We are to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, and therefore everything we do is to glorify Him, but to attribute corporate or communal worship to every type of creative artistic expression is not Biblical.

As my wife and I observed some beautiful paintings in a hotel, I had some thoughts about this. Obviously, my thoughts are not Scripture -- they are my guesses as to why God decided to do things this way.

Painting and sculpture are static things. Once they are completed, they stop. Music and dance are fluid -- "living," if you will. Until the 20th century or so, they could not be captured or preserved. Once they were done, they were done. Painting and sculpture have always had the potential to be set up as icons or idols, and I can't help thinking that this is a primary reason that God did not inspire David to write, "Praise him with the pastels and chisels!"

By the way, tomorrow is my 17th anniversary, which coincidentally falls on my wife's 17th anniversary. I knew we were made for one another -- the coincidences are just too great!


Anonymous said...


Connie and Ralph

Anonymous said...

Well, you are correct in saying that the Lord does not address the painting/sculpting issue as worship. However, this has become a frequently done thing in churches all over the country...tradition and non-tradition.
A few years back we had the chance to have a chalk artist come to KJ church (Childrens Church) and he presented the gospel as he drew. He did a very good job. I believe that is very exeptable and very capable of getting kids attention. I do believe that is totally different than corperate painting. Although...are they painthing to christian music when they paint? Is it inspirational paintings? I would have to learn and research more about this new movement....quite interesting I must say.

I will say this...I love painting and looking at artwork from artists in the past and present. Where would art be with out "The Last Supper" or Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel? Those are still very insperational to Christians to see today. I would like to think that was a form of worship for them to paint.

Good Blog!

Dean Lusk said...

That sort of thing (a chalk artist's work) would be much more akin to presenting a parable than it would be to leading corporate worship, I think. It's very appropriate for the target audience and helps to communicate and illustrate a point.

Anonymous said...

As I go back to read your comment, read over mine again and spotted all my typo's!! I was in such a hurry when I wrote time to proof!! LOL


Anonymous said...

Yeah, the sculpting thing didn't got so well with the Isrealities... In "Knowing God", JI Packer writes against 'graven images' (even 3D symbols of the cross or portraits of Chirst) saying something to the effect of: they can't adequately represent, reveal or duplicate the God-head, and may even distract the believer to imagining God as something less than what He is. I've struggled with this thought and it may be the main thing I remember from that book.

What I am convinced is God is the Supreme Sculpture and nature is his art work. Ever been in the mountains or beach or Grand Canyon or star gazed and felt closer to the Lord? Ever looked in the face of a newborn and been in awe of HIM? Now, can anyone duplicate that and stir the same response within a person?

WE are His workmanship. He takes delight in us. God is concerned with our hearts and motives. (What is our purpose for drawing, dancing or singing? Self or Christ's glorification?) I think art has its place and I am totally amazed at others' ablities -as I have none. Nature scenes brighten any day care or hospital room or hall way. Craftmanship and art in a room can create the setting/atmosphere. But, worship by definition is participatory. It is an action. Like Lori stated, it was probably worship for the artist as s/he was creating.

Art (as well as music and dance)is good; we just make sure to not worship the creation rather than The Creator!


Tony M said...

I agree with your sentiment that there is the danger of a "thing" of worship becoming the thing being worshiped (e.g., the sculpture becoming an idol). However, I think there is something more in your paragraph that starts "Painting and sculpture are static things." (You know, one of those hidden meanings you didn't realize you'd written into your writing.) Actually, I think you already hinted at, maybe even implied, what I'm about to mention, that part about "when it's done, it's done." Song and dance are part of the person... but it's an act, an "in the moment" thing. An expression. Yes, art is the same way, but (as you said) once you're finished with your song/dance, there's nothing there - it's all poured out, so to speak (like the sacrifices on the altar). When you want to worship again, you sing/dance again (ok, that's sounding a bit silly, but I think you know what I mean). With the art, you can say, "Oh, I already worshiped, look at it." Sort of an idol thing, but also sort of, "I've already paid my dues (so to speak) - why do I have to do it again?" And perhaps you might say, "Maybe it won't be as good this time." The main point, of course, is that with song/dance, to continue in worship, you continue in the song/dance, whereas with something static you might simply revel in what you've already done (yes, could be idolatry, but I mean another aspect, where you simply fail to worship because "I've already worshiped").

Hopefully this makes sense; if not, I'll try to explain my thoughts more fully. Note: I'm not saying not to do the "other" form of art (even as worship), just offering another idea (that I think you already implied) about why song/dance is the "scripture-approved" method of "worship" (then again, isn't worship more of a lifestyle than a song and dance?).

heatherb said...

Once a good friend of mine and I were talking about artists and she made this analogy- you know when you watch a child do something that they have seen you do a million times- Like for instance my 2 year old son will put on my husbands tie and shoes when he comes home from work and say "bye bye going to wurk now" That feeling of yumminess that overcomes me right then... maybe that is similar to what God feels when we try to create a piece of art...
and so were are worshiping Him by imitating Him... by trying to create...

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