Art and the Millennium

My only qualification to write about art is that I live in the downtown Arts District of Dallas, in The Arts Apartments, where I can see Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Moody Performance Hall, Winspear Opera House, Wyly Theater, and my office building, One Arts Plaza, from which down Flora Street I can also see the Meyerson Symphony, the Nasher Sculpture Museum, and the Dallas Museum of Art. I walk through the Arts District and Klyde Warren Park five times a week in the early morning, and pass a number of fine dining restaurants.

When I sit in my reclining chair to write, I see the huge iron Pegasus sculpture, the mascot of the arts magnet high school, where students and visitors regularly gather for photos. Beyond the Arts District, I  see the Dallas Federal Reserve Building, the new PWC tower, Chase and  Comerica Towers, and several other banks and businesses. Next door is Dallas's oldest law firm, Thompson & Knight, where I work as a computer business analyst and consultant. It is an interesting mix of cultures and human endeavors, to say the least.

I know we are in this area for a reason, not just because it is near my office. As I pass the empty buildings in my morning walks, I find myself praying that God would somehow redeem the activities and fruit of the various institutions and businesses. The artists, performers, businessmen, and lawyers are world-class talent, striving to be successful in the world's eyes. I often wonder how much of their (our) efforts are going to count for eternity.

We have a spirit-filled friend who lives nearby and is very active in the arts. He is a graphic artist, animator, and painting instructor who serves God with his talents. We recently commissioned him to do an oil of something in the Arts District, perhaps the fountains at One Arts Plaza where we love to dine outside. He agreed, but came back with something entirely unexpected. He plans to do our fountains later, but he couldn't get the image out of his mind. The title is "What We Have Known," and it was inspired by the lyrics of a quirky musician on the West Coast.

What we have known oil.JPG
What we have known title.jpg

I immediately identified with the somber, haunting, and prophetic images in his oil painting and the lyrics. It's a picture of knowledge that has been discarded in the midst of doing life. A baby shoe hints at an innocent beginning, but insects and spiders have taken up residence in the forgotten heap of books. Scattered acorns and a butterfly symbolize transformation that can somehow come from the apparently willful neglect of "what we have known."

I'm sure the poignant lyrics refer to the cycle of war and destruction that a corrupt civilization brings upon itself, never learning from past folly. My spirit-filled artist friend, however, captures the worldly cry of despair but also points to the hope of a redemptive future. That is the nature of a godly artist, at once empathetic with the carnality and sinfulness of man, but seeing through that to the future God intends for His creation.

A parallel interpretation of my friend's oil could be that the discarded books represent godly instruction that has been ignored by the world, but that will bear fruit and a new beginning. This, of course,  happens ultimately as the judgment of the earth by fire ushers in Christ's reign in the Millennium. But it can also happen now, in each person's heart, through the fire of the Holy Spirit, as we reawaken to "what we have known."

What does this have to do with "Art and the Millennium," you say, other than the use of those words? I asked earlier how much of our day-to-day efforts are going to count for eternity. As I am in the middle of writing my next book, now provisionally titled "The Present and Millennial Kingdom of God," this question is burning in my heart. Since I am not an artist, I can probably look more objectively at art as an example of man's endeavors and think about it's enduring value from a heavenly perspective. To put it more directly and practically, what works of art will survive the fire of judgment prior to the Millennium?

Bet you never thought of it that way. But you will when you read my upcoming book. Seriously, for now, let's assume that the artist's heart will determine what is of eternal value, not necessarily the specific works. A good example is David's psalms. Many of them are filled with his complaints and despair that cry out, "God, where are you in the midst of my pain?" It was exactly this honesty and depth of passion that God loved about David. I believe He loves this in all of His children whom He has called to be artists.

Of course, David recognized God as his savior and absolutely trusted in His love and provision. What about ungodly artists who nevertheless cry out of that same passion for justice and redemption, even if they do not know, or choose not to recognize, Christ as the answer? Is it possible that their story and even their works will somehow survive into the Millennium, or into eternity?

I hope to develop this thought in my next book, but for now I will leave you with three questions to ponder. Who are we to judge the actions of others who have a passion for what they see as wrongs to be righted or good to be done? What if those desires are part of God's design for their lives to spur them to look to Him for the ultimate answer? And what if their artistic expressions help us find Him in unexpected places?

Clay WattsComment