Daniel J. Kim

In this article, I would like to propose a missiological strategy regarding the means of creative arts as cultural bridge to global mission. The focus of this thesis will be to establish the basic biblical theological framework for understanding the nature of art and its implications for mission. The outline of the thesis is as follows: (1) cross-cultural language of art; (2) theological basis for art;(3) redemptive necessity in art; and (4) transformative mission of art.

The significance of the role of creative arts can be best appreciated in the context of globalization. Globalization is the process of “interaction and integration” of economic, technological, communicational, and cultural elements at a global or international scale.[1] Such global “inter-connectedness and movement” of people, products, and information effect cultures to mutually interact with and transform each other through “trade networks, international development projects, telecommunications, education, migration, and tourism.” [2] Here, the arts play a key role in globalization and distribution of ideas and products. A case in point is what has transpired among Koreans in the past decade or two at both national and international scale.

Since the turn of this century, Korea has been experiencing a sort of cultural revolution especially among the younger generation. The movement known as “Korean Wave” (“Hallyu” in Korean) refers to the global diffusion and influence of the Korean culture. What initially began with the spread of K-pop and K-drama across Asia in the late 1990’s and the early 2000’s, the Korean Wave has now become a global phenomenon primarily due to transmission of cultural ideas through the internet and social media. The impact of the movement was clearly impressed on the global mind, for example, through Psy’s “Gangnam Style” dance which became an international sensation when its video viewing became viral through the YouTube. Today, the Korean Wave refers to a wide range of influence, not only in terms of K-pop music/dance, TV dramas, movies, sports, and entertainment, but also in terms of language, literature, fine arts, fashion, cuisine, and other aspects of the traditional Korean culture. [3]

In recognizing this phenomenon, the Korean government has committed to strategically promote the movement as a cultural legacy and diplomatic agency. President Park Geun-hye in her 2013 inauguration speech hailed the Korean Wave as the “new cultural renaissance” which would transcend barriers in terms of language and ethnicity, and even overcome differences in terms of ideology.[4] The implication is that as South Korea invests heavily in cultural industry and engages more in cultural exchanges with North Korea, a natural bridge may be established even toward unification.

In the light of such cultural-historic prospect, what then would be the implications of such a movement for mission? First, it needs to be acknowledged that Korean missionaries are experiencing much favor in global community than ever before, thanks to the widespread propagation and overwhelming popularity of the Korean Wave. It is a common testimony among Korean missionaries that at the disclosure of their Korean identity, people everywhere would gravitate toward them primarily out of their personal interest in Korean celebrities, dramas, or fads.

This craze regarding anything “Korean” would serve as a most convenient ground for missionaries to begin gradually ushering people into the gospel truth. In other words, in this 21st century, “Hallyu” has naturally been established as a cultural bridge for Korean missionaries or businessmen to cross over to the nations and connect with the natives in order to engage in their appropriate ministries or businesses.

This is similar to the case of Paul and the early Christian missionaries of the first century who benefited from the Koine Greek language and the Roman road system which provided the common linguistic-cultural bridge and the necessary infrastructure for them to traverse through the entire Roman Empire and to interact with people of diverse cultures and ethnicities. For the 21st century missionaries, Korean as well as other nationalities—who are living in this age of globalization known for its economic, technological, and communication network, as well as cultural (and specifically, artistic) cross-assimilation—there seem to be unlimited opportunities for trade and communication, both material, aesthetic, and spiritual.

Second, it needs to be recognized that now the typical barrier or burden in mission related to language learning may be greatly alleviated. The general notion in missionary training has been that one should become quite proficient in the native language before one can effectively reach out to such people. As a result, besides the basic theological, missiological, and spiritual training, the missionaries in general tend to focus intensely on learning the language and culture of the targeted people group.

According to Ralph Winter’s E-Scale (E-0, E-1, E-2, E-3) of evangelism, the missionary must cross the necessary cultural distances in order to effectively witness to others. Here, E-0 refers to mono-cultural evangelism of unsaved members within church congregation. E-1 refers to mono-cultural evangelism of neighboring community. E-2 signifies cross-cultural evangelism to close, yet different cultures. Finally, E-3 refers to full cross-cultural evangelism to very different cultures.[5] Corresponding to the ascending level of difficulty in evangelism, the emphasis in the past has been on an intensified linguistic/cultural training, as well as strategic methodology. This, of course, would mean that a sufficient delay is necessary in order to properly equip the missionaries especially in terms of language.

Language learning and cultural assimilation are no doubt essential part of training of any missionaries. But we need to open ourselves to other means which can supplement (and occasionally transcend) these conditions in actual missionary approaches. Art is one of those exceptional means. As a matter of fact, from a philosophical perspective, art may be considered a language of its own.[6] As R. G. Collingwood,the philosopher, once commented: “What kind of thing must art be, if it is to have the two characteristics of being expressive and imaginative? The answer is: Art must be language.”[7]

Art has a way of connecting people at a deeper level, whether emotional, aesthetic, or spiritual. When people establish a connection at such a depth, they naturally become more motivated to engage in linguistic and cultural training. In other words, the more you feel connected with people at an emotive level, the more you would desire to know about them, both in terms of historical and cultural backgrounds. This emotive language can be readily found in the creative arts of all types: music, dance, mime, drama, media, design, fashion, and cuisine, among others.

Most art categories, however, tend to be non-verbal in terms of expression, and thus become the means of communication which may require more than words. Ronald Carter comments:

… creativity in spoken language is never simply a matter of words. Words are accompanied by body language and the use of gestures, eye-contact and gaze, as well as uses of silence, and different kinesic and proxemic constraints. And the communication is often even more acute in the case of the listener who, while not speaking much, may contribute even more (creatively) to a communication through channels of non-verbal feedback.[8]

Along this line of thinking, Maeve Louise Heaney considers music—as representative of all artistic expressions—to be the necessary language and mode of communication especially relevant to the postmodern generation, which may be described as “after-word”[9] generation.

My conviction is that music is not only an apt but a privileged mode of communication of Christian faith in the contemporary cultural situation. … Could music be a new “language” that certain fibers of our being, no longer containable in the philosophical and theological frameworks we have understood expressed them in for centuries, are pushing to the surface in the quest for expression and recognition? Could this not be one way in which the Spirit of God seeks to “breakthrough” in postmodern culture, which Steiner so eloquently describes as the time of the “after-word” when words are just not enough?[10]

Moreover, in the realm of visual arts, like music and literature, it is particularly the language of sensuousness with its powerful seductive quality which becomes “a necessity of the human spirit as elemental as spirit and hunger and something so central that not to know it deprives one of part of one’s humanity.”[11]

Furthermore, there seems to be a natural connection between art and spirituality, whereas the language of sensuality and sensitivity may be the common language of both soul and spirit. In other words, art may be considered spiritual in the sense that it can be deepened through spirituality so as to become a channel of spirituality. Rudolf Steiner, the philosopher of science and mysticism, stated it well:

The starting point for a new life of art can come only by direct stimulation from the spiritual world. We must become artists, not by developing symbolism or allegory, but by rising, through spiritual knowledge, more and more into the spiritual world.[12]

Theologically speaking, art must find its biblical foundation in the very nature of God as Creator and Redeemer.[13] The Book of Revelation—which emphasizes heavenly and eschatological perspectives—well depicts this dual theology of God as Creator-Redeemer, particularly through the central vision in Chapters 4 and 5. In Chapter 4, John testifies to his vision of the heavenly throne, with the surrounding entourage of the 4 living creatures, the 24 elders, and the myriad of angels. The common song of worship around the throne is that which focuses on God the Creator:

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being. (Rev. 4:11)

In Chapter 5, John focuses specifically on the central figure of the once-slain Lamb of God, Christ the Redeemer:

And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” (Rev. 5:9-10)

The Book of Genesis begins with a grand statement of God’s work of creation: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). It further elaborates the fact that God created the universe by his creative Word and his activating Spirit. “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Gen. 1:2). This imagery may be likened to a cosmic mother bird covering her young and nurturing them to maturity. John H. Sailhamer comments:[14]

The image of the Spirit of God hovering over the waters is recalled in Deuteronomy 32:11 by the metaphor of God as an eagle “hovering” (yerahēp) over the nest of its young, protecting and making their nest fit for them.

The Holy Spirit was thus brooding over this non-existent state which is described as “formless,” “empty,” and “dark.” Then when God spoke forth his creative Word—“Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3; cf. Jn.1:1-3)—light came into existence. In other words, it is when the Word was spoken, the Spirit dynamically birthed the cosmic elements into existence, and brought forth all the dimensions of light, space, time, matter, and energy. It is then the very nature of God to create ex nihilo (out of nothing) through his Word and Spirit.

Moreover, when God created humans, He did so in a personal and meticulous way—according to Genesis 2—as a potter would form the clay. “The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). “He took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man” (Gen. 2:21-22). These are imageries of God in the likeness of an expert sculptor or potter who would meticulously carve out and mold the image of his creatures.

Thus, God in all his creative and sustaining works in human life, history, and nature is likened to a master artisan and craftsman. Such artistry of God is well described by Vivien Hibbert:

The Lord is the consummate artist. He is a sculptor and potter who made His own clay and a painter who created all the colors (Gn. 1-2; Jer. 18:1-6); a musician who formed every sound and gave us ears to hear with, a dancer, and singer (Zeph. 3:17; Rev 1:10); a poet (Job 38-41); a writer who has written the greatest best-seller of all time—the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16); a story teller and actor (Jesus used parables in the Gospels to convey mysteries—Hos. 12:10, Amp.); an architect (Ps. 90:2; Is. 44:24); a worker of needle and thread—He has woven a garment of light for Himself (Ps. 104:2), and has provided a golden wedding garment for His Bride (Ps. 45:9, 13-14); a creator of culinary delights (Ex. 16:31; Num. 11:7-8; Pss. 3:8; 119:103; Song 2:3); and a perfumer (Ps. 45:8; Song 1:3; 3:6; 5:1; 5:13). In all of these, He is without compare. There is none who can match His artistry, excellence, and genius.[15]

It is thus significant that when God created humans, he created them in his own image: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). What then are the human attributes which are likened to God’s own image? Regarding the concept and meaning of the so-called “image of God” (imago Dei), interpretations seem to abound. The general understanding is that humans, like God, are rational, emotional, spiritual, moral, and relational. The nearest biblical context also indicates an authoritative element to the image of God: “Let them rule over the fish of the sea and birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen. 1:28). Another text indicates a servanthood or stewardship element to the image of God: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15). Moreover, there are texts which seem to indicate a creative element attributed to the image: “He brought them (animals) to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Gen. 2:19). “The man said … ‘She shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” (Gen. 2:23). In other words, God has created human beings in his own image to be authoritative, accountable, resourceful, and creative.

The creation story, then, is filled with comments which address the very creative nature of God and the creative nature of humans as image of God. Perhaps the only thing that humans are not capable of imitating God is the ability to create ex nihilo, which of course is the exclusive right and power of God the Creator. Only God is able to create something out of nothing. We humans can only create something out of something that has already been created. In other words, technically speaking, we cannot actually create anything, nor recreate anything in a redemptive sense. If we are acknowledged as creative beings, then we are creative only in the sense that we imitate or mirror God’s own mind and heart in his creation and recreation. We could only work with the materials and resources given to us to produce such artistic products. We are creative only to the degree that God allow us to be creative. We cannot presume to create independently of God’s provisional means. Because he has given us the inner attributes (intellect, emotion, spirit, morality, aesthetics), as well as the external resources (material, energy, technology), we are able to make usage of them to creatively produce a variety of artistic works, whether composing a song, poem, or thesis, or choreographing a dance, mime, or drama, or designing an artwork, clothing, or building.

There are, of course, various levels of degree and scope of creativity, and the closer we approach the essence-level and/or cosmic-scale of creation, we may somehow be participating in the creatio ex nihilo process of God.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them we may participate in the divine nature … (2 Pet. 1:3-4).

If Genesis 1-2 depicts the foundational nature of creativity, the rest of the Scripture illustrates a wide range of art in diverse forms. We may find precedents for design arts in Noah’s blueprint for the ark (Gen. 6) and Moses’ blueprint for the tabernacle, the sacrifice, and the priesthood (Exo. 25-30). Design artists (architects, graphic designers, interior designers, and fashion designers, among others) can find their inspiration in Bezalel and Oholiab, who were specially gifted by God to design and craft the tabernacle, the ark, and all the furnishings, as well as the priestly garments (Exo. 31, 36-39).

Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel … and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab … to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you. (Exo. 31:1-6)

The precedents for music and dance may be found in the various ministries of prophetic individuals whose inspired words were often accompanied by singing and dancing. Miriam was known for singing a prophetic song of deliverance and leading the women in a celebratory dance after the Israelites experienced the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea (Exo. 15-16). Samuel was known for his association with the procession of prophets who played all kinds of musical instruments (lyres, tambourines, flutes, harps) while prophesying (1 Sam. 10). Elisha was known for having a harp accompanist while he prophesied before King Jehoshaphat (2 Ki. 3). David, undoubtedly, was the most passionate singer and dancer before the presence of the Lord. David was known for his numerous Psalms which comprise a diverse repertoire of songs of worship, thanksgiving, and lamentation. He was also known for his passion for God as he danced with all his might before the Lord’s presence as the ark was being restored to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6). Moreover, David was instrumental in mobilizing a company of singers and instrumentalists for the future temple worship during his son Solomon’s reign (1 Chr. 15-16, 25).

David, together with the commanders of the army, set apart some of the sons of Asaph, Heman and Jeduthun for the ministry of prophesying, accompanied by harps, lyres and cymbals. … All these men were under the supervision of their fathers for the music of the temple of the LORD, with cymbals, lyres and harps, for the ministry at the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the supervision of the king. Along with their relatives—all of them trained and skilled in music for the LORD—they numbered 288. (1 Chr. 25:1, 6-8).

Precedents for mime and drama may be found in the prophetic acts and gestures of the biblical prophets, who sometimes used mime (silent gestures/movements) to communicate God’s word, especially when the people and the nation were hardened in their hearts and ears of hearing God’s word. The following are a number of significant prophetic mimes/dramas in the Scripture, among many.[16]

Hosea’s married an adulterous woman, Gomer, signifying God’s relationship to the unfaithful Israel (Hos. 1:23), and named accordingly the children born to Gomer to signify God’s judgment (1:4, 6, 9).
Isaiah walked around naked for three years, demonstrating the divine humiliation of Egypt and Cush (Isa. 20:1-6).
Jeremiah wore a yoke around his neck to depict Judah’s bondage in Babylon (Jer. 27:1-28).
Ezekiel laid a mock siege to signify the Babylonian siege on Jerusalem, while lying on each side a number of days bearing the sins of Israel and Judah (Ez. 4:1-17).
Ahijah tore Jeroboam’s cloak into twelve pieces, depicting the division of Israel‘s kingdom (1 Ki. 11:30-40).
Elijah wrapped his cloak around Elisha to signify Elisha’s adoption as his spiritual son, as well as impartation of his spiritual power (1 Ki. 19:19; cf. 19:13; 2 Ki. 2:8, 13).
Elisha commanded Jehoash to shoot an arrow toward the east as a symbol of his victory over the Arameans, and to strike the arrow on the ground as a symbol of defeating them a number of times (2 Ki. 13:14-19).
Jesus unclothed himself and washed the feet of his own disciples (Jn. 13:1-17) as a sign of humility and servanthood that the disciples are to imitate.
Jesus celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples (Mt. 26:26-29; Mk. 14:22-25; Lk. 22:17-20) signifying his new covenant with them through his broken body and shed blood.

Moreover, the precedents for literary art may be found in the poetic materials of Job, Psalms, Song of Songs, and the prophetic books, as well as the narrative stories throughout the Scripture. Among these, the book of Psalms stands out both for its poetic as well as pietistic nature. John Calvin regarded the Psalms as “an anatomy of all parts of the soul,”[17] providing an excellent guide for expressions of all range and fabric of feelings and emotions before God in prayer and worship.

Interestingly, there are also biblical precedents for multi-media art. For example, the Book of Revelation depicts a most fantastic vision of the heavenly throne-room and the cataclysmic scenarios of the end-time through the means of audio-visual presentation (of a mystical order). The visionary experiences of John may be likened to a highly upgraded version of virtual reality—in which the boundary between techno images and actual reality are increasingly becoming blurred. Significantly, what the modern media art is questing for—imaging and perfecting—is already a perfected reality from a biblical eschatological worldview.

The above sampling of biblical motifs on creative arts clearly demonstrates that the Scripture is indeed a book of illustration of diverse expressions of art. This is only natural since the ultimate author of the Scripture is none other than God the Creator, and the Scripture bears witness to the story of God’s people who have been created in the image of God to be creative like him.

Although humans have been created to be creative and artistic like God, and art has been created as means of cultural expression in the likeness of God, both the artists and the arts have fallen just like all realms of human society and culture. Throughout centuries, as much as art has been instrumental in enhancing the quality of life and culture, art has also been used to promote sinful nature. Art has been used to promote ego-centered ideology, licentious mindset, and immoral lifestyle. Although art was meant to be used to glorify God and to allow God’s glory to shine forth in the world, art itself has been vainly and falsely glorified, and the artists themselves became the focus ofworship. This, of course, signifies perversion of art and sin of idolatry—that of worshipping the image instead of God who is the source of the image.

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Rom. 1:20-25).

Thus art, like everything else in this fallen world, need to be converted and redeemed. What is called for, then, is the transformation or sanctification of art.
It was Richard Niebuhr, in the early 1950’s, who pointed out the need for transformation of culture by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his book, Christ and Culture, Niebuhr analyzed 5 historical typologies describing the relationship between Christ and culture, which may be outlined as below:[19]

  1. Christ against culture: Christ is opposed to culture in an exclusive way.
  2. Christ of culture: Christ is assimilated into and domesticated within culture.
  3. Christ above culture: Christ transcends culture, yet can be reconcilable to culture.
  4. Christ and culture in paradox: In Christ, we must live in tension with culture.
  5. Christ the transformer of culture: Christ can transform the worldly culture.

It is the final typology, “Christ the transformer of culture,” which represents the view of Augustine and the Reformers, particularly John Calvin. Here, human culture, as a creation of God, was initially good. But subsequently, every part of creation, including human culture, became corrupted by the fall. So Christ came to redeem all creation, calling the church to engage in works of transformation of culture for the glory of God.

The biblical concept of God is that He is both Creator and Redeemer. It is through his Son that God creates and redeems what He has created. Through incarnation, God’s Son, Jesus Christ, entered this world in order to redeem it through his sacrificial death on the cross. However, God through Christ desires not only to redeem the souls, but the whole persons. He desires to redeem not only individuals, but families, societies, cultures, nations, and nature itself.

Significantly, in 1975, three key Christian leaders, Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham, and Francis Schaeffer, simultaneously received personal conviction regarding the divine mandate to bring transformation of the so-called “spheres” or “mountains” of society and culture.They proposed that God’s vision was to mobilize Christians to influence 7 major realms of society and culture: family, church/religion, school/education, media/communication, arts/entertainment, business/economy, and government.[20] The vision seems to be a reasonable conclusion to Jesus’ mandate for his disciples to function as the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world,” influencing the world for God’s glory (Mt. 5:13-16). In other words, the church is called to be the transforming agent of God, penetrating into the world systems with the gospel essence of Jesus Christ. This certainly is consistent with Jesus’ final mandate to the church: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).

Such a call for transformation requires conversion/redemption of all cultural realms, including art.Moreover, redemption of art should begin with the conversion of the artists themselves. Indeed, it is a common sight in the modern world to observe the newly converted artists, celebrities, and athletes using their profession as a platform for witnessing. Such bold act of faith before the public sight, of course, is to be highly commended. The problem, however, is that oftentimes these Christian artists who are witnessing to Christ do not seem to have a high view of art itself as a redeemed venue. Art may be used as a platform for evangelism and conversion of souls, but art itself is not perceived as a realm to be converted.

What is called for in the Christian arts community and the churches in general, then, is an aspiration for a higher view of art—the vision of God redeeming the whole realm of art as holy instrument of ministry in the kingdom. The ministry of art comprises of manifold dimensions, as listed below:

  1. Ministry to God himself: Art as means of worshipping and glorifying God
  2. Ministry to individual selves: Art as means of liberating and activating individuals of their creativity in Christ.
  3. Ministry to the churches: Art as means of teaching and inspiring the body of Christ.
  4. Ministry to the lost: Art as means of witnessing the gospel and evangelizing the unbelievers.

Basically, the redemption of art implies the vision of God transforming art to transform individuals, societies, and cultures.

Redemption and transformation of art also imply something prophetic in nature, which art intrinsically seems to possess. Robin M. Jensen presents 4 usages of art in Christian history as follows: (1) art as decoration; (2) art as didactic; (3) art as devotional; and (4) art as prophetic.[21] Of these, it is the prophetic usage of art which seems to be the most promising prospect for transformation of culture and society. Jensen comments:

In a sense, the prophetic role is related to the didactic role of art, but it goes further and in a particular direction. Rather than reinforcing the teachings, stories, or values of the church, the artist may challenge the church and confront the viewer with disturbing images which raise profound moral questions that religion cannot ignore. These images may be drawn from Scripture, but they are just as often drawn from scenes in the modern secular world. Thus, art can be more than a transmitter of tradition or dogma—it may be a social critic and even an agent of change or liberation. Such art points the viewer not to the transcendent or the divine realm but rather to the human plane, calling attention to contemporary problems. Art in this case has a moral urgency and an ethical purpose.[22]

However, the prophetic role of art needs to be distinguished from its tendency to be used for the purpose of fulfilling the propaganda agenda, as the history of art has shown us. Calvin Seerveld states:

In summary, propaganda is rightly didactic, and can be certain, forceful and convincing. Propaganda has a bias, promulgates a point of view and disseminates specific teachings. Who doesn’t? However, when propaganda is coloured by greed and violence, hate or deceit, it has been perverted and is evil, no matter what the cause which is promoted may be.[23]

Vivien Hibbert suggests that the redemption of diverse arts representative of their cultures and their incorporation into ministry of worship would inspire the unbelievers from all nations to be attracted to the way of God’s kingdom.

Our worship can only be enriched by a genuine effort on all of our parts to redeem the arts from all nations. When we do reclaim the treasures from the nations, a new sound and culture will emerge in the Church that will entice and summon the unredeemed to the Kingdom of God.[24]

Ernest Gentile comments as to how true worship would align us to a proper worldview so that God may grant us a heart for the nations.

This call to the nations is both missionary zeal and prophetic insight. When one worships the true God fervently, the Holy Spirit reveals the heart of Father God to bring all peoples before Him in worship.[25]

Judson Cornwall presents an eschatological vision of the body of Christ in which a truly Christ-centered worship would cause a blending of different cultures.

Worship is the one religious activity that ends itself to such a delicate blending of different heritages, for worship is so Christ-centered and requires such a God-consciousness that participants must look away from themselves in order to worship.[26]

This, of course, is the eschatological vision of international worship which John witnessed before the heavenly throne, as depicted in Revelation 7:9-10.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Art has its origin in the creative nature of God. God has created humans according to his own image to be creative. Art was ordained as a means of worshiping God and ministering to fellow humans. But humanity and art, along with other gifts of God, has been corrupted by sin. Historically, art has often been used/misused for sinful and/or humanistic purposes. So God through the incarnation of his Son Jesus Christ came to redeem human beings, along with all realms of society and culture, including art. By redeeming the individuals, God plans to redeem the people, as well as the society and culture in which people live. By redeeming the artistic individuals, God plans to redeem the artistic realm as well. For only when individuals are genuinely redeemed then can they become transforming agents of God to bringing redemption to the nations and transformation to their culture.

The belief that art has the potential to transform culture and society and that artists can serve as agents of transformation is a common conviction among the visionary-minded art institutions, both Christian and secular.[27] All types of art are recognized as means by which artists can create new possibilities in all realms of society and to enhance the quality of life of people in general. If this is the natural potential of art, then how great would be the possibility of global transformation with genuine redemption of artists (and their artistic means), guided by the Word and empowered by the Spirit of God!

In this modern era of globalization when all factors—people, culture, education, economy, technology, and communication—are truly interactive, integrative, and international—art can play a most critical role of bring creative and transformative elements in such a context of global matrix. From an eschatological perspective, as the world draws even closer to the historic finale in Christ, all things are likely to crescendo into a dramatic climax. It seems that art would certainly play a key role in birthing, cultivating, and maturing the new generations of people, ideas, paradigms, and events in the eschatological will of God. The creative art in tangent with authentic spirituality has the potential to bring forth trueformation, reformation, and transformation of both the church and the society.

Thus art is missional in nature. As both verbal and non-verbal in terms of language, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between the “word”-oriented modern generation and the “after-word” post-modern generation. As both aesthetical and mystical in nature, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between natural sensuality and spiritual ecstasy. As both specifically ethnic and broadly cross-cultural in mode, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between ethnic identity and international diversity.[28] As both creative and redemptive, theologically-speaking, art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between creative nature and redemptive grace. Ultimately, as both “human” nature and “divine” endowment—as implied by the concept of imago Dei—art can be instrumental in bridging the gap between the earthly ministry to humanity and the heavenly worship of God. Thus, art needs to be understood as God-ordained means of global mission in terms of evangelism of the unredeemed people and cultures, ministry to the multi-cultural body of Christ, and worship of God the Creator and Redeemer of all human and cultural types.


[1] SUNY Levin Institute, “What is Globalization” in Globalization 101 (The Levin Institute, The State University of New York, 2.
[2] Barbara Miller, Cultural Anthropology in a Globalizing World, 2nd ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008, 2010), 18. “Globalization, the process of intense global interconnectedness and movement of goods, information, and people, is a major force of contemporary cultural change. It has gained momentum through recent technological change, especially the boom in information and communication technologies.”
[3] Dal Yong Jin, “Hallyu 2.0: The New Korean Wave in the Creative Industry” in International Institute Journal (University of Michigan, Fall 2012), pp. 3-7, would further differentiate between Hallyu 1st generation (1995-2007) and Hallyu 2nd generation (2007-present). Jin, 3-4, comments: “Unlike Hallyu 1.0, emphasizing the export of local cultural goods to East Asia between the late 1990s and 2007, the growth of social media has uniquely influenced Korean creative industries, because a few media outlets, such as YouTube and SNSs, have become significant parts of the new Korean Wave (Hallyu 2.0). In fact, online gaming and K-Pop have become the two most significant cultural genres in the Korean creative industries and have initiated the growth of Hallyu 2.0 since late 2007, because K-Pop fans and online game users heavily access these social media to enjoy local popular culture. Hallyu 2.0 is the combination of social media, their practices, and the uses and affordances they provide, and this new stage has been made possible because Korea has advanced its digital technologies.”
[4]Yonhap News Agency, “President Park’s Inauguration Speech” in Yonhap (Feb. 25, 2013)(Online: http://english. EN201302250150031 5F.HTML). “Fellow Koreans! In the 21st century, culture is power. It is an era where an individual’s imagination becomes creative contents. Across the world, the ‘Korean Wave’ is welcomed with great affection that not only triggers happiness and joy but one that instills abiding pride in all Koreans.This is a result of a foundation created by the convergence of both tangible and intangible heritages of five thousand years of Korea’s cultural splendor as well as our spiritual ethos. The new administration will elevate the sanctity of our spiritual ethos so that they can permeate every facet of society and in so doing, enable all of our citizens to enjoy life enriched by culture. We will harness the innate value of culture in order to heal social conflicts and bridging cultural divides separating different regions, generations, and social strata. We will build a nation that becomes happier through culture, where culture becomes a fabric of daily life, and a welfare system that embodies cultural values. Creative activities across wide-ranging genres will be supported, while the contents industry which merges culture with advanced technology will be nurtured. In so doing, we will ignite the engine of a creative economy and create new jobs. Together with the Korean people we will foster a new cultural renaissance or a culture that transcends ethnicity and languages, overcomes ideologies and customs, contributes to the peaceful development of humanity, and is connected by the ability to share happiness.”
[5]Ralph D. Winter and Bruce A. Koch, “Advancing Strategies of Closure: Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge,” International Journal of Frontier Missions 19:4 (Winter 2002), 17.
[6]Michael J. Bauer, Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life God’s People (Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013), p. 234, affirms that art is indeed a language, and provides some solid rationales. “First, art has certain recognizable elemental properties: line, rhythm, color, texture, character, plot, rhythm, and so on. Second, there is a standard syntax that governs the relationship between these elemental properties. While “rules” of art change from time to time, it remains true that each new style has its own set of conventions that govern how works in that style are produced and how they arrange these various structural building blocks. Third, at least within a given culture, there is a storehouse of common, shared meanings that unite artist and the consumer of art and enable meaningful communication to occur. These shared meanings relate in part to artistic conventions and in part to metaphorical relationships, some of which are stock and well-worn and some of which are fresh and engage the imagination of the viewer, reader, or listener in new way.”
[7]R. G. Collingwood, The Principles of Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938), 273.Garry Hagberg, Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), p. 31, comments: “The belief that art is a language, or that it is in a deep sense analogous to language, is among the most pervasive of assumptions in the theory of art. …the notion that art and language are essentially alike in serving as physical expressions of pre-existent mental or imaginary objects.”
[8]Ronald Carter, Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk, 2nd ed. (NY: Routledge, 2016, original 2004), xxviixxviii. Carter comments: “In complex social media, a mid-ground between interactive audio messages, texts that are conventionally written, those which are written-as-if-speaking, body language and other visual anchors such as photographs and video clips may emerge, creating new relationships between language and its contexts of use, and new, unforeseen creative configurations, including new orthographic symbols and innovative punctuation. We can no longer assume that the definition of a ‘conversation’ is anything as simple as a face-to-face or even an audio-visual
encounter unfolding sequentially in real time. Multi-modal corporaare a step in the direction of a fuller breaking down of boundaries between text and context and, in the case of speaking, avoid the separation of speech and gesture.”
[9]Here, the concept of “after-word” derives from George Steiner, Real Presences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), pp. 93-94, who defines the present era as “Epilogue” (that is, “Epi-logos, meaning “After-word”) in which the bond between reality and its “sayability,” by which our self-perception and understanding had once been defined, has been severed (around 1870s-1930s) so that our words no longer “say” what they used to mean.
[10]Maeve Louise Heaney, Music as Theology: What Music Says about the Word (Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012), pp. 19-22. Heaney, 19-20, comments: “It is true that the transmission of the gospel is not a purely contemporary concern. Tradition, the passing on of our faith from one generation to the next, is an intrinsic part of Christian faith and doctrine, and has been from its birth—the difference is that today, the challenge is that of communicating the gospel to a generation that is in such a rapid process of change that gathering up the heritage of centuries of lived faith and tradition and passing it on seems ever more difficult. However little one has sought to work in the area of faith
transmission, one experiences the daily and double dilemma of feeling you have something to say that is not understood, and of hearing realities new to your ears, a way of seeing and perceiving things alien to your perception. … Furthermore, the issue is not only an external one, of communication from one generation to the next. The difficulty in contemporary western culture is not just that people don’t understand God, the Word of God; they don’t seem to understand themselves or the world either.”
[11]Heaney, Music as Theology, p. 244. Heaney comments:“Precisely because art has a seductive character, sensuous to the core, a discipline of seeing is essential in order for one to be illumined beyond the sensory embodiment. The discipline of seeing, learned by repeated seeing and essentially in no other way, forms the seductive into a discriminating sensuousness that is more than itself. Horizons are stretched, formed, and filtered, as creation’s images are regained in their sensuousness, in their seductive
aspects, precisely for their Creator. Why should we leave seduction only to the devil? The devil has the monopoly on seduction because the demonic requires no discipline of seeing. God’s seductive creation requires the appropriate discipline of seeing. The choice is not between innocent, uplifting objects, on the one hand, and sensuous, seductive art, on the other—as moralists like to describe it. The choice is in how one sees the sensuous, for art is sensuous by nature.”
[12]Rudolf Steiner, “The Arts and Their Mission,” Lecture 8 (8 lectures at Dornach, Switzerland, May 27-June 9, 1923), trans. Lisa D. Monges and Virginia Moore (New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1964) (Online: Steiner, in Lecture 4 (Online:, comments: “It is here that art enters. It forms a bridge across the abyss. That is why art must realize that its task is to carry the spiritual-divine life into the earthly; to fashion the latter in such a way that its forms, colors, words, tones, act as a revelation of the
world beyond. Whether art takes on an idealistic or realistic coloring is of no importance. What it needs is a relationship to the truly, not merely thought-out, spiritual. No artist could create in his medium if there were not alive in him impulses springing from the spiritual world. This fact points to the seriousness of art, standing alongside the seriousness of cognition and religious experience. It cannot be denied that our materialistically oriented civilization diverts us, in many ways, from the gravity of art. But any devoted study of true artistic creation reveals it as an earnest of man’s struggle to harmonize the spiritual-divine with the physical-earthly.”
[13]In this paper, I will primarily focus on the creative and redemptive nature of God, and the implications for art and mission. However, there is an important theology of art based on the Logos nature of Christ and the incarnate nature of Christ, as particularly expounded in John chapter 1. But I have delimited from addressing these theological themes in this paper, and choose to defer them to a future thesis. It will suffice, here, to simply note the following: According to Jn. 1:1-4, it is “through” the Logos (the divine Son of God) (1:2) that God the Father brings all things into creation. It is “in” the Logos (1:3) that the light and life source of all creation is to be found. Logos (in Greek philosophy) was the rational principle that governs and sustains the universe.The Son as the Logos signifies the mind and heart, wisdom and revelation of God. The Son as the Logos, in essence, represents the perfect expression/image of God (Col. 1:15-16; Heb.1:3). If the Logos articulates the aesthetic ways of God through his creative works, the Logos
ultimately demonstrates the artistry of God through his personal incarnation, according to Jn. 1:14 (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-7).The Incarnate Logos signifies the divine artistry of enfleshing the very divine essence. Basically, the incarnation placed a face on the abstract concept of the transcendent God. Essentially, the Logos through his
incarnation became the “human face of God. ”The incarnation is the most perfect and concrete expression of divine essence and reality. Incarnate Logos (in attitude, speech, action, lifestyle) most perfectly demonstrated artistic expressions of all dimensions. The Incarnate Logos in his entire human life (birth, childhood, adulthood, teaching,
ministry, suffering, death, resurrection) perfectly exemplified the whole artistic process. The Incarnate Logos in all his symbolic actions (baptism, communion, foot-washing, crucifixion) basically established a prophetic artistic tradition. The person of Logos then signifies the true artistic essence. The incarnation of the Logos signifies the ultimate artistic production.
[14]Sailhamer, John H., “Genesis,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis-Leviticus, Revised edition, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 55.
[15]Vivien Hibbert, Prophetic Worship: Releasing the Presence of God (Dallas, TX: Cuington Press, 1999), p. 257.
[16]These are among a lengthy list of prophetic dramas/mimes as identified in Daniel J. Kim, “Prophetic Authority: A Biblical Theology of Divine Commission” (Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2002), pp. 294-298. W. David Stacey,Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament (London: Epworth Press, 1990), presents a full-scale treatment of the topic of prophetic drama. Stacey, 60-62, distinguishes “prophetic drama” or “prophetic action” from all other dramatic actions in the life of Israel: (1) Prophetic drama partakes of the mysterious potency of prophecy in general. (2) Prophetic drama was usually performed at the specific command of the Lord.(3) Prophetic drama was an onceforall action.(4) Prophetic drama was deliberately contrived for one particular situation. (5) Prophetic drama was usually accompanied by an oracle or an explanation of its meaning.
[17]John Calvin, “Preface” in Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1557), vol.1, trans. James Anderson (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1849), xxxviii.
[18]This understanding that all aspects of human life and all realms of human culture are corrupted by sin is consistent with the doctrine known as “total depravity,” which was espoused by Augustine and Calvin. This doctrine basically advocates that all dimensions of human nature (intellect, emotion, will, body, etc.) have been affected and tainted by sin since the Fall (See especially John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559), ed. J. T. McNeill, trans. F. L. Battles (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960), 2.1.2-3, 9-10, 18-21, 26-27; 2.3.2, 5-6, 8, 10. Total depravity, however, does not mean that there is absolutely no goodness in humanity and that we are utterly sinful. Rather, the doctrine simply affirms that there is not a single aspect or realm that has not be corrupted by sin. Thus, we cannot in our natural fallen state come to God in our own strength or resource, nor can we do anything that is spiritually good which would please God. We are considered dead in our transgressions and sins (Eph. 2:1-2). We are enslaved to sin (Jn. 8:34). We are controlled by sinful nature, and thus we cannot possibly please God (Rom. 8:8). Basically all our righteous acts are like filthy rags before the sight of God (Isa. 64:6).
[19]Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (NY: Harper Perennial Publishing, 2001) (original 1951)
[20]Loren Cunningham, “Transcript of Interview of Loren Cunningham on Original 7 Mountains Vision” in 7 Cultural Mountains (Nov. 19, 2007) (Online:
[21]Robin M. Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 75-100.
[22]Jensen, The Substance of Things Seen, 97.
[23]Calvin Seerveld, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art (Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2002), 128.
[24]Hibbert, Prophetic Worship, 235.
[25]Ernest B. Gentile, Worship God: Exploring the Dynamics of Psalmic Worship (Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing, 2004),24.
[26]Judson Cornwall, Elements of Worship (South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc. 1985), 108.
[27]An example of Christian organization is OM Arts International (“Vision, Purpose, Values,” Online: whose vision statement is as follows: “The vision and purpose of OM Arts International is to engage, empower and equip artists for cross-cultural global ministry so that the Church can be better equipped to fulfill the Great Commission. We envision transformed artists, transforming lives and communities around the world.”(OM Arts International,) An example of secular art organization is the Chandler Center for the Arts(“Vision Statement,” Online: vision statement is as follows: “The Chandler Center for the Arts embodies the belief that the arts hold transformative potential. The Center elevates the social culture of our community, empowering citizens
to bridge borders through participation, intellectual exploration and leadership development of the arts.”
[28]Bauer, Arts Ministry, pp. 136-137, concurs that the arts have the potential to cross the cultural barriers and enhance community. He comments: “Outside the western world, the arts are often allied with Christianity. Worship in Africa practically demands dance. Latin America has a thriving visual arts culture. The Christian arts faced a difficult beginning in the non-Western world owing to the oppressive cultural evangelism of nineteenth-century missionaries. The situation is no less challenging today because of the ubiquity and hegemony of American popular culture. Nonetheless, much indigenous music, art, and dance has made its way into the worship lives of cultures throughout the world. From Korean Presbyterians to Argentinian Roman Catholics, there has been an upsurge in indigenous artistic activity during the past century. In the United States, non-Western artistic expression is rapidly becoming a more important part of the worship and cultural life of many mainline churches, including those churches that have little or no ethnic population.”

Bauer, Michael J. Arts Ministry: Nurturing the Creative Life God’s People. Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2013.
Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion (1559). Ed. J. T. McNeill. Trans. F. L. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1960.
Calvin, John. “Preface.” In Commentary on the Book of Psalms (1557). Vol. 1. Trans. James
Anderson. Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1849. xxxviii.
Carter, Ronald. Language and Creativity: The Art of Common Talk. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2016 (original 2004).
Chandler Center for Arts. “Vision Statement.” Online: about/mission-vision.
Collingwood, R. G. The Principles of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1938.
Cornwall, Judson. Elements of Worship. South Plainfield, NJ: Bridge Publishing, Inc. 1985.
Cunningham, Loren. “Transcript of Interview of Loren Cunningham on Original 7 Mountains Vision.” In 7 Cultural Mountains. Nov. 18, 2007. Online: http://www.7cultural mountains. org/apps/articles/default.asp?articleid=40087&columnid=4347.
Dillenberger, John. A Theology of Artistic Sensibilities: The Visual Arts and the Church. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1986.
Gentile, Ernest B. Worship God: Exploring the Dynamics of Psalmic Worship. Portland, OR: Bible Temple Publishing, 2004.
Hagberg, Garry. Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995.
Heaney, Maeve Louise. Music as Theology: What Music Says about the Word. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2012.
Hibbert, Vivien. Prophetic Worship: Releasing the Presence of God. Dallas, TX: Cuington Press, 1999.
Jensen, Robin M. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004.
Jin, Dal Yong, “Hallyu 2.0: The New Korean Wave in the Creative Industry.” In International Institute Journal. University of Michigan, Fall 2012. pp. 3-7.
Kim, Daniel J. “Prophetic Authority: A Biblical Theology of Divine Commission.”Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 2002.
Miller, Barbara. Cultural Anthropology in a Globalizing World. 2nd edition. Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008, 2010.
Niebuhr, Richard. Christ and Culture. New York: Harper Perennial Publishing, 2001 (original 1951).
OM Arts International.“Vision, Purpose, Values.” Online: vision.
Sailhamer, John H. “Genesis” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Genesis-Leviticus. Revised edition. Eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008. pp. 21-323.
Seerveld, Calvin. Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art. Carlisle, UK: Piquant, 2002.
Stacey, W. David. Prophetic Drama in the Old Testament. London: Epworth Press, 1990.
Steiner, George. Real Presences. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.
Steiner, Rudolf. “The Arts and Their Mission.” Lectures 4 and 8.(8 lectures delivered in Dornach, Switzerland, May 27-June 9, 1923). Trans. Lisa D. Monges and Virginia Moore. New York: Anthroposophic Press, 1964.
Online: Online:
SUNY Levin Institute. “What is Globalization.”In Globalization 101. The Levin Institute, The State University of New York, 2015. Online: http// what-is-globalization.
Winter, Ralph D. and Bruce A. Koch. “Advancing Strategies of Closure: Finishing the Task: The Unreached Peoples Challenge.” In International Journal of Frontier Missions 19:4 (Winter 2002)15-25.
Yonhap News Agency.“President Park’s Inauguration Speech.” In Yonhap. Feb. 25, 2013.Online:
*Dr. Daniel J. Kim presented this paper at the Plenary session of the AMA Manila 2016 Convention held from April 18-22, 2016.


Dr. Daniel J. Kim is Associate Professor of Spiritual Theology and Mission Theology at Asian Center for Theological Studies and Mission (ACTS) in Korea. At ACTS, he serves as Dean of International Graduate School and Director of Spiritual Theology Program in Korean Graduate School. He also serves as Pastor of English Ministry at Seoul Presbyterian Church. Moreover, he is the founder and director of Imago Christi Studio, a research and training institute for theology, spirituality, and creative arts. Born in Korea and educated in the U.S., Daniel received all his theological and missiological degrees (M.Div., Th.M., Ph.D.) from Fuller Theological Seminary. 

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