Goals and Dreams · Writing

The Pursuit of the Arts–Is It Worth Undertaking?

Inspired by “Why the Arts Are a Valid Career Path for Christians” by Grace at True and Pure. I also gained much instruction and lines of argument from Art and the Bible by Francis Shaeffer.

Some people seem to be attracted to the wrong things. By this, I am not talking of disobedience or sin, but rather the stereotypes forced on people who dream of doing something deemed “unsustainable” by the rest of the world. The painter hiding behind his easel at the corner of the room. The ballerina practicing yet another grand jeté in the empty gym. The writer stuck in front of her computer or notebook, who cannot stop thinking about euphonic syntax or drowning in an obsession with all things Hamlet. The people most enchanted by the mystical realms of creativity.

Somehow it’s hard to think how or why those people could ever choose to translate their passions into a career, much less a college education. As a hobby, yes, it might work. But careers, you know, are built on money, and if your passions cannot get a career that will almost immediately guarantee a high salary, then you must be mistaken in what you love.

However, what if the mistake lies not in our dreams, but in laziness? What if the arts, though perhaps not as “sustainable,” actually do have worth? That belief, my friends, would be something wonderful to behold—especially for Christ-followers.

The arts point others to the abstract, intangible side of things.

If there is one noticeable trend in the high-salary occupations—doctors, scientists, mathematicians—it’s that they are almost always rooted in the material. The arts, though, whether in the forms of writing or painting or fashion designing or dancing or singing or any like thing, are centered upon the immaterial. All successful artists are successful because they are able to understand and touch the mysteries of the human soul. Inspiration, deliberation, conviction—those things are all immaterial, yet they are all essential to good art. To ignore either art or the sciences would be to ignore half of man’s being.

This is not to say that the arts are better than the sciences or vice versa. What I do mean is that the arts were made to complement the sciences. Generally speaking, the sciences seem to depend heavily on the material with a bit of the immaterial sprinkled in. The arts seem to depend heavily on the immaterial with a bit of the material sprinkled in. As such, when they are matched together in importance in the public consciousness, they reach, as Francis Schaeffer wrote in his Art and the Bible, “the whole man.”

Working in the arts compels you to work hard.

If all dreams are attainable, some are more so than others. STEM jobs may not be easy to get, but they are in relation to a job in the arts. The arts give its more serious devotees no choice but to find a way to make their work unique, to stand out from the rest, to gain numerous rejections yet still stand strong, if they wish to make a sufficient living from what they love best. If someone truly loves the arts but cannot imagine earning less money than his friends, it’s easy to fall back to something less enjoyable but more economically rewarding. Yet when someone does so, he is not working hard in using the passions God has given him. Instead, he is probably wishing he practiced patience and determination, unsatisfied with his work even though it’s bringing him lots of money. In other words, he will be dissatisfied because he is more talented at something else than whatever job he has. Giving up, then, is not an option.

Pursuing the arts invites you to trust God.

If you feel passionate enough about the arts to pursue them in college or in the workforce, it will be hard to stand up under the criticism of others. Sometimes well-intentioned people try to point your passions elsewhere so you can be more confident about your future. That seems alright at first, yet it also neglects a key principle: no job will place the future in your own hands. Some jobs may get more of a salary than others, but so much more goes into a job than the paycheck you get out of it. I once heard renowned financial adviser Dave Ramsey say that you cannot be good at a job if you do not enjoy it, and the same is true for the arts.

If the future does not lie in your hands—though you do play a part in it—and it does not lie in the hands of anyone else, it lies in the hands of God. Because the arts are so undervalued, the Christian artist’s pursuit of his dreams force him to trust God more deeply. He will be content with having less certainty of the future because he knows that any bit of certainly concerning such a thing is a mere illusion.

Whether we speak of music or dance, drama or poetry, the arts are far from inessential. All good art, more than anything else, helps others enjoy beauty and inspires others to search for the truth. And though beauty and truth are rendered “useless” and “imaginary” in our culture, with the bold emergence of those who know the beautiful truth of God’s love and salvation, of His creation of the world, and of the joy He takes in creating, I believe art can once again reign as something equally important to all the more tangible, concrete fields God has created for humanity to roam and explore.

“They are the books, the arts, the academes, that show, contain, and nourish all the world.” ~Love’s Labor’s Lost

“[P]laying [in this case meaning “acting,” but it also applies to all art], whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold, as ‘there, the mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.” ~Prince Hamlet

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.” ~Isaiah 64:8, NASB


~Sarah Merly

July 21, 2018

Isaiah 53