Art in Action: Toward Shalom

Wolterstorff-Art in ActionWolterstorff’s book on Art is appropriately titled Art in Action. He states, “Works of art equip us for action. And the range of actions for which they equip us is very nearly as broad as the range of human action itself. The purposes of art are the purposes of life. To envisage human existence without art is not to envisage human existence. Art—so often though of as a way of getting gout of the world—is man’s way of acting in the world. Artistically man acts.” (p 4-5)

But to what end? What is the purpose of humanity’s action through art?

shalomThe answer is Shalom.

“Shalom—of man dwelling at peace in all relationships: with God, with himself, with his fellows, with nature. Shalom is a peace which is not merely the absence of hostility, though certainly it is that, but a peace which at its highest is enjoyment. To dwell in shalom is to enjoy living before God, to enjoy living in nature, to enjoy living with one’s fellow, to enjoy life with oneself.” (Wolterstorff, p. 75)

Shalom is the purpose of all callings, of all vocations. It is the purpose of art as well, for art is one of the ways that God brings about a lushness of life that goes beyond vulgar utilitarianism, a sin of modern evangelical Christianity. “We have adopted a pietistic-materialistic understanding of man, viewing human needs as the need for a saved soul plus the need for food, clothes, and shelter. True shalom is vastly richer than that.” (p. 82)

As Calvin Seerveld writes, “There is nothing worse than baptizing our technocratized hecticness and poverty of aesthetic life time into a christianized utilitarianism. It is no help to understand ‘redeeming the time’ to mean ‘Are you making money at it?’ or ‘Is it useful?’” (Rainbows for the Fallen World, 63).

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