Book Review: ‘Art and Faith: A Theology of Making’ by Makoto Fujimura

One of the most formative moments early in my artistic journey was hearing Andrew Peterson’s song “Let There Be Light.” I was in my late teens at the time, just beginning to grapple with the musical gifts that would eventually lead me to a career in composition. But as Peterson crooned the lyrics, “When your spirit is hovering over the deep / In the image of God just look into that darkness and speak,” I remember the lightbulb illuminating in my mind: My creativity is an act of faith.

That singular notion has stayed with me throughout my life, fueling my creative work and giving me a sense of purpose. And I can think of numerous musicians, authors, poets, artists, and theologians who have similarly encouraged me along the way.

Fine artist Makoto Fujimura is undoubtedly such a figure. While his stunning work has captivated countless people around the world, the way he has lived out his vocation far exceeds the bounds of his artistry. Throughout his public life, he has promoted the interaction of art, culture, and faith through founding the International Arts Movement, establishing his own Fujimura Institute, and, more recently, serving as the director of the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary. He has also come alongside many other artists, advocating for them and supporting their efforts, as he did for me in writing the foreword to my first book.

In each of these pursuits, Fujimura has sought to promote a vision of what it means to create and how acts of creativity relate to our faith. Now, in his engaging book Art and Faith, Fujimura gathers the many themes from each corner of his vibrant career into a single volume that persuasively articulates a “theology of making” (to quote the book’s subtitle) while communicating that vision in a contemplative style that itself radiates the very creativity he advocates throughout the book.

Abundance and exuberance
Art and Faith builds on Fujimura’s previous writing, especially the approach to cultural engagement he outlines in his 2017 book Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life. In this latest book he expands that vision, considering the meaning of God as creator and portraying the act of creation as an artistic overflowing of God’s abundant love. Fujimura suggests that this might reorient our vision of “making” itself, showing it to be crucial for understanding who God is and how we are to live out our Christian vocations. “God’s design in Eden, even before the Fall,” he writes, “was to sing Creation into being and invite God’s creatures to sing with God, to co-create into the Creation.”

For Fujimura, embracing this invitation to “sing” and create with God requires reassessing certain entrenched habits of thought. He observes how the development of industry over several centuries has inclined Christians to favor utility over creativity. In contrast, Fujimura points out that God’s creative act models a radically different rationale: “The Theology of Making assumes that God created out of abundance and exuberance, and the universe (and we) exist because God loves to create.”

We can recover this sense of God’s extravagance, Fujimura suggests, by thinking of our faith lives through the lens of “creating” rather than “fixing,” since our ultimate hope is one of “New Creation” rather than mere “restoration” of the world as it is. The foreword for Art and Faith comes from Anglican theologian N. T. Wright, and it is no surprise to find Wright’s theology referenced often throughout the book. Fujimura’s approach neatly dovetails with Wright’s vision of a creation destined for re-creation. Fujimura takes up that redemptive anticipation and reads it through the lens of making, showing how our acts of creativity attest to God’s heart in creation and his intent for the new creation to come.

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Source: Christianity Today