How creativity relates to theology is a topic of ongoing conversation among contemporary Christians. While, in a former era, Christianity and the arts enjoyed an especially fruitful marriage (just think of Bach’s voluminous sacred compositions, or Michelangelo’s majestic work on the Sistine Chapel), in modern times, it often seems as if this union has been all but dissolved. So much so that, especially in the modern West, many would say the relationship between Christianity and creativity (at least of a variety marked by substance, excellence, and originality) has been defined more by antithesis than synthesis. The examples of this are manifold: kitschy religious-themed trinkets; derivative, sappy, theologically vacuous songs; and cartoonish portraits of a blue-eyed Jesus in flowing robes.
So then, is there hope for the reconciliation of Christianity and laudable (rather than laughable) creative output? Perhaps there is – as evidenced by endeavors like the forthcoming The Canvas Conference.
A joint effort between Humble Beast and Western Seminary, this conference, taking place August 12-13, 2016 at Imago Dei Community, seeks to address the intersection of Christianity and creativity, and to do so through a robust gospel-oriented and gospel-driven lens. As the conference organizers put it, they want to “help build strong theological foundations for the artist and, likewise, to push Christians to pursue creative orthodoxy in their theological craft.” At the end of the day, their desire is that conference attenders will “walk away better artist-theologians and better theologian-artists.”
The conference features a number of notable speakers and performers. In the former category: Bret Lott, Shai Linne, Art Azurdia, Jarvis Williams, Mike Cosper, Joe Thorn, Drew Dyck, Sho Baraka, and Randy Alcorn. In the latter: Kings Kaleidoscope, Beautiful Eulogy, and Citizens & Saints. For a full listing of speakers and performers, see the link above. Along with the conference, a graduate level course entitled “Creativity and the Christian” will be offered, being taught by Western Seminary theology professor Dr. Ryan Lister.
The theme of the conference will be “Images and Idols,” the idea being that as Christians (and more specifically here as Christian theologians and artists), we are prone to “moving from bearing the image of our great God and King to replacing him with selfish idols.” As a corrective, the conference aims to “help identify our idolatry and help us understand what it means to image God.”
The registration page for the conference can be found here. Note that group discounts are available.