I’ve been in a sewing mood the last few weeks, so Sally Lloyd-Jones’ blog on her quilting workshop experience peaked my interest. At this workshop the participants were asked to randomly choose quilting scraps (even the ones they didn’t particularly like) and sew them together in the path of least resistance.
So, inspired by Sally’s blog and keeping with my current sewing interest, I ‘sort of’ randomly picked some things, and, even if I didn’t particularly want to write about them, I have attempted to ‘sew’ them together in the path of least resistance. If you’re reading this, I’m hoping that what was created will be worth your while.
Scrap 1: Rublev’s “Holy Trinity” Icon
I accidently happened upon Dan Siedell’s blog, “Art in Theology.” Comparing the goal of art between the western and eastern world, Siedell explains that western art represents or illustrates “truth” so that it can be visualized, with the result that works of art become visual texts to be read. He explains that this is not what eastern art does.
To explain what eastern art does differently from western art, specifically sacred art, Siedell uses the example of the Russian saint, Andrei Rublev’s, “The Holy Trinity,” and notes that Rublev’s work was inseparable from his practice as a Christian. Later in the blog, Siedell notes that Rublev’s “Holy Trinity” icon, based on Gen. 18:1-8, is rooted in Rublev’s rigorous training in Scripture and his theological understanding of the Trinity all of which left me totally confused about how the purposes and result of western and eastern art differ.
After a bit more research I learned that there is (at least some) thought in Eastern Orthodoxy that the iconic art utilized by the Eastern Orthodox Church is believed to take the viewer straight-way into the presence of God 1 verses just revealing a truth about God (the goal of western art identified by Siedell). Perhaps this is what Siedell is getting at by his statement that, “The icon is thus more than theology in paint. It is prayer in paint.” This purpose however does not contradict the seemingly prevalent understanding that iconic Eastern Orthodox art is rooted in theological understanding.
As a side note, I disagree with the idea that art, in and of itself, can transport one into God’s presence. But, to the degree that art truly reflects aspects of God, God the Spirit can and does (I believe) use it to point people to him. And truly seeing God results in worship of him – being in his presence. (Think of worship evoked by the poetic song compositions in the psalms or of God’s own artistic creation that declare his glory.) Note that if art is a catalyst to bring one into knowledge of or even to the presence of God, who is himself the basis of all truth, art must proceed from the truth of God and lead back to truth. 2
Historically, however, according to the official web site of the Department for External Church Relations of the Russian Orthodox Church, iconic art served the primary purpose of a “Gospel for the illiterate, ”3 meaning that, the iconic images represented the church’s theological confession of faith and served as a wordless means to transfer the church’s theological understanding to non-readers.
I found this information interesting because the premise of the “Creating Art from Theology,” Doxology Publishing’s small-group study for artists that examines attributes of the Trinity (available free on this website) is that art should be rooted in truth that leads to worship; art should spring from God’s revelation of himself to us through his word, and God’s revelation of himself should awaken God-glorifying affections in the observer. Is this western or eastern thought?
1. Bardelmeier, Andrea, “Andrei Rublev, Monk and Iconographer, 1430, available from http://liturgyandmusic.wordpress.com/2011/01/29/january-29-andrei-rublev-monk-and-iconographer-1430/
2. Art cannot save. Only God can save and he does it through the medium of the Gospel message (Romans 1:16). But perhaps, as the Eastern Orthodox Church believes, art can convey the Gospel message to some degree.
3. Russian Orthodox Church: Official web site of the Department for External Church Relations, “Theology of Icon in the Orthodox Church. Lecture at St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 5 February 2011”, retrieved from http://www.mospat.ru/en/2011/02/06/news35783/
Scrap 2: “Breath,” a Poem
This second scrap, a poem, began pushing its way into my head while I was swinging my granddaughter. It follows the Trinity thread, so I place it next.
Steeped in great mystery,
Breath before history.
Not cold, dull, blank-filled dark.
Exhaling breath all One,
God: Father, Spirit, Son.
His thought, the crucial spark.
Fell breath from God to sand;
His gift exposed to man.
All passion whirled on arc.
Scrap 3: The Baptist Confession of Faith
All of this made me think of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, so I wondered what he had to say about the Trinity. Google took me to The Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) with revisions by Spurgeon where I found this:
God and the Holy Trinity: Point 3
In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word or Son, and the Holy Spirit. All are one in substance, power, and eternity; each having the whole divine essence, yet this essence being undivided.
The Father was not derived from any other being; He was neither brought into being by, nor did He issue from any other being.
– The Son is eternally begotten of the Father.
– The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.
– All three are infinite, without beginning, and are therefore only one God, Who is not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties, and also their personal relations.
– This doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of all our communion with God, and our comfortable dependence on Him.