Month: March 2016

Identity: Technical Artists as Image Bearers

Identity: Technical Artists as Image Bearers

By Josiah Way
University of Birmingham UK

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We were given appetites, not to consume the world and forget it, but to taste its goodness and hunger to make it great. That is the inconsolable heartburn, the lifelong disquietude of having been made in the image of God. – Robert Farrar Capon [1]

Robert Farrar Capon summarizes well the internal fire held by the church technical artist: it is a hunger to make every worship service great, greater than the last. From where does that hunger come? It derives from a God-given purpose in life, being created imago Dei. “The Artist made us artists, … so that we might reflect the beauty of His character and the wonder of His story.”[2] When God created mankind in his image (Gen 1:26-27), he created them with a commanded purpose to be fruitful and take dominion over all the earth (Gen 1:28). Whereas other beings were created according to kind (Heb מִין/mîn), man was formed with a relational identity to God (Heb צֶ֫לֶם/bĕṣalmēnû). Eugene Merrill finds, “The purpose is to highlight humanity as the climax, the most significant, of all God’s created work. … To be like God is to be patterned after him but, at the same time, to be qualitatively inferior to him.”[3] Man was created thus to be God’s vice-regent within his creation. “Humankind is in the image of God but also serves as the image. Humans have resemblance to God, even if limited, but stand in God’s place in the administration of God’s creation.”[4] Psalm 8, expands:

What is man that you are mindful of him, 
and the son of man that you care for him? 
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor. 
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; 
you have put all things under his feet” (Ps 8:4-6).

David’s theme of thankfulness expressed in the psalm confirms God’s care “for humanity in general and endows us with great significance.”[5] In the same way, the “glory [and honor] bestowed exclusively upon humans is distinguished in the Old Testament as the attribute of the Lord God,” and although diminished through sin, “humanity’s future glory will be fully gained as adopted heirs through Christ his Son.”[6] Through Christ, our dominion over creation finds its fulfillment in obedience to Christ.

All New Testament examples of man as the ‘image’ (Gr εἰκών/eikōn) of God are found in four of the Pauline Epistles—Romans, First and Second Corinthians, and Colossians—with James offering a single parallel to man as the ‘likeness’ (Gr ὁμοίωσις/homoiōsis) of God. “The sparing use of terms in the NT for the concept of imago Dei ought not to suggest that it is unimportant to NT thought and to Christian theology, since NT authors would assume the foundational treatment of the idea in Genesis 1:26–27.”[7] Five of Paul’s seven examples express the call to sanctify ourselves, conforming to the image of Christ, from degree of glory to another, through the power of the Lord who himself is Holy Spirit (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 11:7; 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10). Yet, “it is Jesus, in the apostle’s theology, who is most preeminently the image of God.”[8] Paul describes Christ as both the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), which through him all things were created, and the light of the image of God (2 Cor 4:4) whom we serve in order to bring glory to God. “Paul thus raises the idea of the imago Dei to a higher dimension by identifying Christ as such, an exaltation argued also by the author of Hebrews on the basis of Psalm 8, itself a commentary on Genesis 1:26–28 (Heb 2:6–8).”[9] This distinction, however, ought not disrupt the classic monotheistic understanding of the Shema, that God is one, as some modern theologians like Jürgen Moltmann have attempted to separate the identities of God. Isaiah Nengean challenges Moltmann, citing that Christ, not a separate identity, “is the ideal image of God. This idea is helpful in delineating the Scriptural portrayal of humanity as the imago Dei,”[10] that God is one, but with various roles as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Even with modern challenges, the best NT understanding still is that held by the Reformers:

Reformed theology has traditionally held that mankind was created in the image of God, which was perfect in knowledge and righteousness, suffered irreparable destruction in the fall, and is delivered only through Christ’s death and resurrection, whereby the image is being progressively transformed in the believer (2 Cor 3:18) until its state of perfection at the resurrection (Rom 8:29; 1 Cor 15:49; Col 3:9–10). Thus the incarnate Son actualizes the perfection of the manhood which we have sinfully perverted.[11]

Consequently, the textual evidence confirms that the same image of God in whom mankind was created at Creation, is the same God who is Christ, and the same image—via the Holy Spirit—with which the Christian is indwelled in order to become conformed to the image of Christ.

As God’s agent in creation, Adam was provided specific instruction to work the land and keep it (Gen 2:15). Kenneth Mathews notes, “Work is a God-given assignment and not a cursed condition. It was sin that spoiled the pristine relationship between the man and his environment, making work a toilsome chore that became a requirement for mere existence (cf. 3:17–19, 23).”[12] In this way, technical artists may find strife in daily labors, yet it is not the work itself that is cursed, but the sin that has marred God’s children within the church. John Walton makes an interesting case regarding God’s command to work, finding that since “the pronominal suffix connected to each of the verbs is feminine, though the word for garden is masculine,” the broader sense of the words makes a better fit because they are “often connected to religious service deemed as worship or of priestly functionaries serving in the sanctuary precinct”[13] as found in other scriptural representations (cf. Ex 3:12; 4:23; 23:33; Num 3:7-10). Work defined man from the beginning, but more specifically, work that is performed in worship to God. The Westminster Larger Catechism of 1648 solidifies the definitive purpose of man’s ‘work’ in Question 1: “What is the chief and highest end of man?” Answer: “Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.”[14] Even though all have sinned and fallen short of that glory (Rom 3:23), the urge to glorify him though our work and deeds still exists. It is man’s purpose that is his identity, which for the Christian is an identity in working in accordance with the character and image of Christ. Therefore, for the technical artist, Miller concludes: “The art we are blessed to create is all ultimately intended to point to the Creator,”[15]

Technical artists employ craftsmanship in order to express their God-resembled identity. “Creativity is one way in which we reflect the image of God, … [and] as Christians, we understand that humans are capable of creating [through] technology only because God has gifted us with that ability.”[16] More than that, church technical artists harness craftsmanship in order to express their Christ-resembled identity indwelled with the Holy Spirit. Thus, a proper understanding of who and what he or she is as imago Dei—imago Trinitatis—necessitates proper action in life and craft. David Toledo confirms this, stating: “The fundamental meaning of the imago Dei is found in the person and nature of Christ.”[17] John Witvliet adds:

The doctrine of the Trinity serves as a grammar to organize how we describe both divine life and the relationship with God. … God is the One who receives our worship. … Jesus Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is the One who perfects our worship. … The Holy Spirit is the One who prompts our prayer in the first place. … We might call this pattern the Trinitarian grammar or logic of or address to God, the human-Godward aspect of worship.[18]

Specifically, then, we ought to look beyond the Book of Genesis and mankind’s existence as made in God’s image, and examine the New Testament picture of man as the image of Christ and of the Spirit, through the lens of Paul and James, with a specific warning about false images from John. Christian artists are not made simply in the image of God, but the image of the Triune God, justified by the Father and sanctified through the Holy Spirit, in order to be glorified with Christ.

Unveiled Glory, Unveiled Christians

Second Corinthians 3:1-4:6 compares and contrasts the New Covenant with the Old. Paul explains to the church at Corinth what it means to be a minister of the New Covenant by interpreting Exodus 34:29-35 in order to show “the Spirit has radically changed the people’s disposition before God. Consequently, the glory of God no longer needs to be veiled from those to whom he is sent, since its τέλος [telos: fulfillment/completion] is life, not death.”[19] Whereas neither Moses could directly see God’s glory without being hidden (Ex 33:18-23), nor the Israelites view the shone face of Moses, as Christians, the full glory of God is available and present. The veil has been lifted through the death and resurrection of Christ. Paul, then, states twice in 2 Cor 3:18 and 2 Cor 4:4 that the glory of God is revealed, leading believers to be further transformed into the image of Christ, who is the direct image of God the Father, through the power of the Holy Spirit:

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lordare being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. … The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Cor 3:18; 4:4)

Paul therefore further distinguishes the difference in being created in the image of God, as understood in Gen 1, and the ability to become conformed in the image of the living God, Christ, only available to those with whom the veil has been lifted. “The same ‘mirror’ imagery that has been consistently used by theologians to describe the imago Dei,” Toledo suggests is the same in 2 Cor 3:18, “meaning to ‘produce a reflection,’ … implying the process of continually looking into a mirror, [with] the result [being] the transformation of the believer into the eikōn of Christ.”[20]

Paul’s main purpose for using the “image-glory” motif of the veil is to assert that believers cannot encounter God—having been indwelled by the Spirit—and not be changed. David Garland notes: “Christ mirrors God for believers. God is no longer isolated on a faraway mountaintop but may be met in the heart of the believer who turns to the Lord.”[21] This applies equally to technical artists. God’s unveiled glory is the method God uses in order for artists to be conformed to the image of Christ. Jeremy Begbie finds that even though “artists often suspect theologians of cramping the arts in their zeal for doctrinal correctness, … if we want some clarity about the relation of the arts to the Holy Spirit of the Christian faith, it is wise to let the arts have proper space to operate theologically.”[22] As the Spirit of ‘freedom’ (2 Cor 3:17) moved the law from stones onto human hearts, it is now not Moses or the Law on stone tables that is veiled, but the gospel (2 Cor 4:3) for those who live according to the god of the world rather than the God of the universe. Assuming Begbie correct, the arts then occupy a special quality to unveil hidden truths, which when performed in the theological realm by those renewed in the image of Christ may offer possibilities that orthodox preaching cannot achieve.

For technical artists in the church, the glory of the Lord has been unveiled. In accordance with Paul’s argument, therefore, the artist in practice ought “not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:1), but “for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit [within us]” (2 Cor 3:18b). While Moses could not see the face of God (Ex 33:20), today’s technical artist is to share the face of Christ by revealing his image for those whom the gospel is veiled. Pope John Paul II confirmed the struggle of shining out of the darkness, noting that one role artist play is of priests for whom “the sacrifice is their own bodies, minds, and spirits as they take on the cross of the demands of art.”[23] Richard Viladesau adds, speaking of music, art does “more than convey a message about God: in its highest forms, it brings the hearer face to face with the reality of God’s presence-in-absence and absence-in-presence⁠.”[24] Those who behold the glory of the unveiled Lord can see God and live, no longer condemned to the Old Covenant, which has been cancelled through Christ—the veil made absent—conforming to the image of Christ. The church and tech department, in sum, “exists to be a living exhibit of the reality of the gospel⁠.”[25]

Unveiling the veiled is a fundamental job of a technical artist. “Drawing back the veil separating heaven and earth, to invite the congregation into the constant, cosmic worship of the Trinity by all creation,”[26] is the artist’s central purpose, writes Ron Rienstra. One problem with technology is the desire to control it, make it what we want it to be, however Paul expresses there is a given purpose to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:6). The arts are a specific vehicle for doing so, living out a sacrificial life of service, “for what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” (2 Cor 4:5). Speaking of music, David Cheetham finds the arts have “the advantage of being a sufficiently abstract medium to allow the non-propositional and subjective entry into the text—that is, it facilitates an experiential dimension which is not accompanied by a creedal or doctrinal commitment.”[27] Barbara Nicolosi confirms: “Artists genuinely perceive spiritual realities, and then they open up their mouths and speak in metaphor because they don’t know how else to get through to the rest of us who are so obtuse.”[28] As image bearers, technical artist possess a unique character consistent with God’s ability to unveil Truth to those who follow him. Steven Guthrie concludes, “As bearers of God’s image, … how much more clearly is God’s glory announced by those made according to his likeness?”[29] Artists are one uniquely powerful image of God’s glory in the world.

The Final Image: Glorification

Romans 8:28-29 is often referred to in times of trial to remind the believer that God has a plan: not all things are good, however they work together for good. Yet, to Paul, being made in the image of God means much more than just that. It is a look beyond the temporal to the eternal, the finished and completed work of Christ, glorified in his presence. For, “those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:30). The use of the aorist tense in ‘glorified’ grants that the glorification is assured, and not just a product of sanctification, as Rom 28-29 is often referred.[30] The same concept of certain glorification is present in 1 Cor 15:49 with the double use of ‘image,’ that man, having been born the image of ‘Adam of the dust’ will surely also bear the image of ‘Christ of heaven.’ “We know that God is at work for us in the circumstances of life (v28),” says Robert Mounce, “because we have been predestined to share the likeness of his Son.”[31] Ron Man adds: “Christ did not just open the way for us to the Father; He doesn’t just show us the way to the Father; He takes us with Him into the Father’s presence.”[32] It is recognition of this promised glorification that ought lead our practice within the body of Christ, for although we “groan inwardly, … we wait eagerly as adopted sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom 8:23). Speaking of our resurrected bodies, Wayne Grudem suggests:

Music certainly is prominent in the descriptions of heaven. … [We ought] imagine that both musical and artistic activities would be done to the glory of God. Perhaps people will work at the whole range of investigation and development of the creation by technological, creative, and inventive means, thus exhibiting the full extent of their excellent creation in the image of God.[33]

By nature, the practice of the technical artist is temporal: it is the here and now. It is present active engagement with the congregation. It is the perishable that cannot inherit the imperishable, yet useful for commanding the congregation to “not all fall asleep,” for “in the twinkling of an eye,” the last trumpet will sound (1 Cor 15:50-51). Witvliet suggests that “we need an ‘all of the above’ approach to Christ-centered worship”[34] that incorporates the whole gospel of Christ working in the now, yet pointing to promised end. “Believers now live between the two resurrections, Christ’s and their own,”[35] writes Scott Hafemann. Contemporary church artists live and work in a fallen world, “but which can be endured and overcome by the sure confidence that Christ’s resurrection experience and victory over death as the ‘last Adam’ will be shared by them because they are ‘in Christ.’”[36] Performed in this way, suggests Viladesau, is a “work of art that glorifies God, its maker… the supreme Artist,”[37] allowing “the human arts—intellectual and practical—both [to] show this mirroring and contribute to it on a conscious level, thus further glorifying God.[38] Indeed, as Morris finds: “It is God’s plan that his people become like his Son, not that they should muddle along in a modest respectability. We should be in no doubt as to the high standard that Paul sets for Christian people.”[39]

In a 2013 article, Brian Dodd, Director of New Ministry Relationships at Injoy Stewardship Solutions, listed fifteen real-life reasons why various volunteers within his church’s technical arts ministry have left. One reason he cited was that “there was simply no longer a sense of urgency related in his ministry.”[40] Analyzing this statement in terms of Paul’s idea of image of God, it can be suggested that the ministry itself failed to present the work with an eternal sense, that the fruit of the labor is itself urgent. Obedience to the gospel before the imminent trumpet sounds, “by the Spirit’s free activity, through engaging physical realities, we are made partakers of the risen and ascended Christ.”[41] Properly understood, the volunteer would be encouraged to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58). As “the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom 8:29), the believer is “the most important children, … the heir and the one singled out for special honor.”[42] Even though technical arts cannot usher in the final trumpet, it can lead others to a proper response in time. Dodd’s finding is no exception to the rule. Indeed, Witvliet asks: “Who knows how many people stay away from church, or avoid participation … because they have no idea how compelling and beautiful a Trinitarian vision of God really is.”[43] James Dunn sums up well Paul’s understanding of being made in the image of God, and the encouragement the church ought present to volunteers: “Whatever the continuing power of sin and death, the continuing weakness of the flesh, and the continuing hostility of this age, God’s triumph is sure. God’s purpose in Christ has already secured the victory.”[44]

Displaying a New Image, Putting off the Old

The next way Paul discusses the ‘image’ of God is in relationship to the new self and old self in Col 3:10. This passage is particularly important for the proper understanding of the way in which a Christian artist is to live his or her life, having been “renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” The pericope concludes in 3:16-17 with a specific command that believers be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Since this verse is the entire focus of Chapter 14, here I will concentrate specifically with the context of ‘image.’ Furthermore, James utilizes the concept of ‘likeness of God’ in the same way, in reference to the tongue, which we use to both “bless our Lord and Father, and … curse people” (3:9) made in God’s image. Where James is referring to a general sense of created in God’s image, his context is in taming the flesh, and living according to a new self in Christ. Interestingly, the two inclusive sentences, Col 3:9-10 and Jas 3:9, both speak of harm that comes out of the man through speech—lying and cursing, respectively—highlighting the contrast in the two ‘images’ of God, one living in the old sinful self, and one living in the new sanctified self. Toledo recognizes, then, for the artist, understanding worship and craft “as a metaphor for the imago Dei links worship and spiritual formation. As believers reflect the glory of Christ and celebrate his work of redemption,” the new self replacing the old self, “they are conformed to his image.”[45]

Even though both Paul and James are focused on putting off sinful habits and finding “knowledge” (Col 3:10) and “wisdom” (Jas 3:17) from the Creator above, Melick finds the use of old and new self “are historical, … [and] are never described as coexisting in anyone. One replaces the other. … A believer is a totally new person.”[46] This is an important distinction, because it expresses a complete change in identity, and change from one image of God to another, from made of old in Adam to made new in Christ. According to Kurt Richardson, “The human being was made for God, fashioned to know God and to reflect the attributes of God”[47] in a way consistent with attributes found in the new creation, the new image of the believer. Significantly, G. K. Beale points out that “the participles often translated ‘putting off’ and ‘putting on’ are not imperatives, which would be a very rare use of the participle, but rather are to be understood as adverbial of cause, providing the indicative basis for the imperative.”[48] This is important, because it expresses the status: the believer is the new self. Even though the process of sanctification exists, the state of the believer as a new image of God in Christ has already been completed.

Thus, for the artist, the relationship to spiritual growth and sin must be understood in this same light: “The believer will sin, but that is not attributed to the old self. Sin happens because of the imperfect process of growth in the new self.”[49] It is a process of gaining knowledge and wisdom through Christ. “Where ‘knowledge’ was at the heart of the fall,”[50] the wisdom sought by a Christian living in the new status “entails understanding, which entails the demonstration of a good life, which entails humble deeds, … [which] constantly engenders a cycle of increasing virtue that continues throughout a lifetime.”[51] Schultze, Chuang, and Redman, discuss how those in the church view technology; they “tend to use language that describes technology as neutral. The common metaphor used to talk about it is a tool: it has no moral value in and of itself, but is entirely about how its used.”[52] Yet, it is much more than just a tool. It has the power to express both sides of our nature, before and after Christ. It will resemble the character of the one who utilizes it.

If our intentions are good, then its application must be acceptable. … God has given us this tool for the advancement of the kingdom, the spreading of the Word, and so forth. … The practices around it and the purpose for using it are important too, which means we need to be more thoughtful about it.[53]

Williams and Banjo’s study of Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) listeners discovered this same conclusion. They found that the primary motivation for listening to CCM was “to connect with God, … because it served as a substitute to unproductive messages associated with secular music and it reinforces listeners’ beliefs. In so doing, listeners are able to maintain their faith and hence, their relationship with God.”[54] This demonstrates an acknowledgement—whether conscious or not—of possessing a new completed image that desires further sanctifying with that of the Creator.

Therefore, the primary motivation of the believer as Paul and James would argue, becomes clear: The core desire to put off old habits because of being made in a new image of Christ motivates the desires of the believer. It is this understanding that technical artists ought utilize in craft. Joan Huyser-Honig makes an interesting statement regarding the songwriting and the Trinity: “Theologically serious song writers are acknowledging Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in contemporary songs that unite head and heart.”[55] As artists “put to death… what is earthly in you” (Col 3:5) and seek “a harvest or righteousness” (Jas 3:18), that is found only in “being renewed in knowledge” (Col 3:10) that “bless[es] our Lord and Father” (Jas 3:9), then they resemble the image of Christ who is “the perfect image of God.”[56] Technical artists create identity by virtue of their practice. For example, when we hear the repeated bass E and F piano keys, slowing picking up speed, we automatically identify with the fear of an approaching shark, even while standing on dry ground. The movie Jaws, harnessed the art of music to create identity. In the same way, the Christian technical artist, having been renewed in the identity and image of Christ, ought to perform their craft in a way that leads the congregation toward recognition of their renewed image.

Christ’s Supremacy and the Order of Mankind

On the surface, Colossians 1:15 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 are unrelated, with Col 1:15-20 offering a hymn of praise to Christ inserted within the text’s opening[57] and 1 Cor 11:2-16 settling a debate about head coverings during worship. Yet, Paul’s use of ‘image’ in each verse specifically emphasizes the identity and supremacy of Christ, and is intended to “strengthen the reader’s [understanding] and correct the erroneous views of the false teachers.”[58] In Col 1:15, ‘image’ had two primary intentions; it served as a symbol to both represent and to manifest. Melick states:

The symbol was more than a symbol. The symbol brought with it the actual presence of the object [Christ]. … The point is that in Christ the invisible God became visible. He shared the same substance as God and made God’s character known in this earthly sphere of existence. The revelation of God in Christ is such that we can actually see him, even with all of our limitations.[59]

First Cor 11:7, the verse most difficult to understand for the modern church, needs to be understood in light of 1 Cor 15:49, where Paul suggests “Adam was created directly in the image of God and that the rest of us (from Eve on) are made in God’s image as we inherit it from Adam and our parents,”[60] and therefore, “Paul’s understanding that Gen 2 establishes a functional hierarchy reflected in the order in which the man and woman were created and in their respective purposes.”[61] Therefore, his use of ‘image’ in both of these Pauline pericopes is entirely relational; it is structural and authoritative: “The head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, … the head of Christ is God, … [and Christ] too is the head of the body, the church. … Whether thrones or dominions or rules or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (1 Cor 11:3; Col 1:18; 1:16).

Technical artists too serve in a relational association with the church and Christ. Begbie keenly writes, “In worship we are re-oriented to God.”[62] Artists serve the church, in order to intercede between Christ and the body, orienting the body to God. Brad Herring, managing editor of Technologies for Worship Magazine, states, “Our job as media ministry people is to support those called to preach, teach, and lead in worship. We have a huge role in ministry. We are the support staff that enable the anointed ones to see their calling to fruition.”[63] Consequently, the arts in the church find direct parallels within divine structure: Good art follows rules of form and purpose, just like we follow in the formal structure of God to man. Freedom to express and create is essential, which “includes the making of new things.”[64] For example, Begbie writes, the more we use the freedom found in layering the sound mix, the more we receive “a taste of gospel freedom⁠.”[65] When the notes and artistry come together they form a complete whole, telling a richer gospel-centric Trinitarian story. It happens, however, within constraints of tradition and culture, just as “women apparently were violating proper authority structures within the church,”[66] prompting Paul’s clarification in 1 Cor 11:7.

For the modern church technical artist, balance lies between the understanding of position and Scripture. As Begbie reminds, “Since this gospel of Christ is the heart of the message of Scripture, our standing before God depends on respecting the authority of Scripture as unique and superior to the church’s authority⁠.”[67] Therefore, the church needs to give room to technical artists to “improvise imaginatively—that is, to be so schooled in these texts and scriptural tradition that it can (out of habit, ideally) act in ways that are true to the texts yet engage with the world as it now is, responding in ever fresh and fruitful ways to whatever life throws at us.”[68] This proper understanding of position creates harmony within practice. In both passages, Paul concludes with an exhortation to understand one’s standing, that “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. … If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God” (Col 1:19; 1 Cor 11:16). Being reconciled by God as image bearers, artists are created with a specific purpose and locus. Nicolosi concurs, finding that when artists are allowed to work within the bounds of their calling, there is an “experience [of] harmony; we feel a sense of joy, because we are created to dwell in community. We were made by a Triune God whose nature is communitarian, and our destiny is to dwell with him one day in a perfect unity in which every being’s full perfection will be manifest.”[69]

Technical artists, however, often attempt to separate calling—God’s intentional plan for ones life—from vocation. At the 2015 LeadLab San Diego, the technical arts panelists all agreed a difference between the two exists, warning against “blurring the line”[70] for fear of burnout and frustration. However, Frank Burch Brown rightly finds, “Christians sometimes have trouble taking seriously the idea that artistry can become a high calling, a genuinely Christian vocation.”[71] Separating vocation, position, and calling, goes against Paul’s concept of ‘image’ of God within the God-ordered architecture of the world. It is “in Christ and through the church, God is re-creating humanity in his image.”[72] Guthrie continues, finding direct parallel between Christ himself and those unified within the body in his explanation of Col 1:15: “Paul’s metaphor for the church—the Body of Christ—suggests these same dimensions. As the Body of Christ, the unified community of believers in imago Christi, a living image of Jesus Christ, the One who is himself the image of the invisible God.”[73] Therefore, those placed in the Body of Christ, by Christ—the technical artists—are placed in God’s order for his specific purpose, to fulfill a calling that is ones vocation.

Warning against False Images: Image of the Beast

It should be noted that the eight references to the image/likeness of God by Paul and James are not at all the mentions in the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation, John likewise uses the word “eikōn” eight times, presenting the Antichrist as the “image [eikōn] of the beast” as found in Rev 13:14, 15; 14:9, 11; 15:2; 16:2; 19:20; and 20:4. The only positive use is 20:4, when those “who had not worshiped the beast or its ‘image’ and had not received its mark… came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” Since the Fall, Satan has corrupted God’s image, making sin attractive for us living between the two advents. Ultimately, judgment condemns those who worship the false image, while those who reject the beast, are specifically singled out to reign with Christ in the millennium. Therefore, even though we are image bearers of Christ, we live in a fallen world, susceptible to the corruption of sin and ‘false images.’ John Witvliet expresses the importance for artists to focus on “deepening our convictions about Christ-centered practice,” so to prevent the “subtle distortions that creep into our use of biblical language about God.”[74] This is important, because as Andy Crouch explains, ever since the fall mankind has attempted to “use the world for something more than it could ever be—to replace relationship with God, relationship with the only true source of wisdom, with a created thing. It is not enough for the world to be beautiful and good—we want it to be self-sufficient.”[75] It is self-image worship rather than God-image worship that caused the fall.

Technical artists work in an industry defined by entertainment and glorification. Both can be used for the good of the kingdom, or for distraction from God. Richard Taruskin writes about music and art in our fallen world: “The more we strive to get it right, the more we seem to distort it. The very bent that impels us toward authenticity prevents our ever achieving it. … Our musical [and artistic] difficulties are but the prelude to a moral quagmire.”[76] The same drive to perform the craft well is the same drive that turns it toward representing the wrong image. Schultze agrees: “Technology, then, is made up of devices, meanings, and uses, all of which we apply to God’s creation for various good and bad purposes.”[77] In a 2013 Church Production Magazine article, AVL technician Kyle Santen poses the question: “Why is it that our church services don’t quite reach the caliber of awards shows on television? The gear available to churches has improved dramatically over the past 20 years, so maybe the problem isn’t the equipment.”[78] I challenge, a change may happen when technical artists as imago Trinitatis become theologians who work in the realm of the technical arts, not artists who work in the realm of theology. Tim Keller summarizes well this mixing up of priorities felt weekly by technical artists:

The pressure can cause me to react wrongly when a service doesn’t come off the way I think it should. I’m a detail person, and occasionally I catch myself cringing when I feel a vocalist blew it or the microphone system goes haywire. That’s not good. It indicates an over-emphasis on aesthetics.[79]

Even though excellence is the goal, presenting the correct ‘image’ supersedes. Technical artists bear the image of the Trinitarian God, serving God because of the unique position granted to them, to serve his purposes. Summarizing this inherent internal motivation held by today’s technical artists, Barbara Nicolosi writes:

So why do we do it? Because we human beings are driven to it in a natural response to the cosmos. When we consider our lives and the world, our human nature kicks in and gets our hearts swelling, and we make things to express the resulting ineffable emotions. Every generation is called to do this: to respond to the cosmos of our Triune God with a lasting act of thanksgiving that will be a gift over which future generations can brood and be challenged and know they aren’t alone.[80]

In conclusion, “Technological innovation frequently leads to human idolatry of technology—a sense of the ‘awe and mystery’ of the ‘power’ of technology to improve (if not save) the world,”[81] Schultze reminds us. Technology focused on the wrong image worships technology itself and fails to “Worship God” (Rev 19:10; 22:9). Yet, technical artists ought not fear their art, but understanding that it is a gift given by God, when properly harnessed—according to the truths of Scripture—it becomes a reflection of them. Vanhoozer confirms, “The arts … are only reflections of reflections of truth.”[82] The arts are reflections of the understanding of the Truth held by the artist; therefore, proper theological understanding from the start is imperative. Daniel Chua adds, as “an integral part of what it is to be human, then [music and the technical arts] ought to reflect something of the image of God in which we are made.”[83] Understanding that, it is important that technical artists not conform technology to the image of the beasts of entertainment, popularity, cultural acceptance, pride, and idolatry. Unfortunately, Jonathan Blackmon’s studies discovered, “Most young people (and by extension their parents), do not believe in absolute truth or conform their lives to the teachings of Scripture because the true gospel is not being preached, taught, or sung even in evangelical churches.”[84] Satan’s greatest weapon since the Fall has been to distort the gospel, distort the Truth of who the Trinitarian God is and what he has done: “Did God actually say?” (Gen 3:1, emphasis mine). Therefore, technical artists have a responsibility to present their craft in knowledge of being created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, bearing witness to the ‘image’ as the eikōn and homoiōsis of God as presented by Paul and James, unveiled, glorified, sanctified, and ordered among creation with the authority to create and produce, useful for the Kingdom.



[1] Robert Farrar Capon, The Supper of the Lamb (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1989), 189.
[2] Stephen Miller, Worship Leaders: We Are Not Rock Stars (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2013), 109.
[3] E. H. Merrill, “Image of God,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, eds. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 443.
[4] Merrill, “Image of God,” 444.
[5] B. Seevers, “Remembrance,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, eds. Tremper Longman III and Peter Enns (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2008), 646.
[6] Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1996), 169-170.
[7] Merrill, “Image of God,” 445.
[8] Merrill, “Image of God,” 445.
[9] Merrill, “Image of God,” 445.
[10] Isaiah Nengean, “Imago Dei as the Imago Trinitatis: Jürgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of the Image of God,” in American University Studies 327 (New York, NY: Peter Lang AG, 2013), 126.
[11] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 165.
[12] Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, 209.
[13] J. H. Walton, “Eden, Garden Of,” Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, eds. T. Desmond Alexander and David W. Baker (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 205.
14] Westminster Assembly, Westminster Larger Catechism (Free Church of Scotland, 1648), Public Domain.
[15] Miller, Worship Leaders, 109.
[16] Gayle Ermer, “Responsible Engineering and Technology,” in Delight in Creation: Scientists Share Their Work with the Church, eds. Deborah Haarsma and Scott Hoezee (Grand Rapids, MI: Calvin Seminary, 2012), 132.
[17] David M. Toledo, “Why Worship Leaders Should Study Theology,” in The Artistic Theologian 2 (2013): 20.
[18] John D. Witvliet: “The Opening of Worship: Trinity,” in A More Profound Alleluia: Theology and Worship in Harmony, ed. Leanne Van Dyk (Grand Rapids, MI: W. B. Eerdmans, 2005), 3-4.
[19] David E. Garland, 2 Corinthians, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1999), 190.
[20] Toledo, “Why Worship Leaders Should Study Theology,” 21.
[21] Garland, 2 Corinthians, 199–200.
[22] Jeremy Begbie, “Holy Spirit at Work in the Arts: Learning from George Herbert,” Interpretation: A Journal of Bible and Theology 66, no. 1 (2012): 41.
[23] Barbara Nicolosi, “The Artist: What Exactly Is an Artist, and How Do We Shepherd Them?,” in For the Beauty of the Church, ed. W. David O. Taylor (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2010), 113.
[24] Richard Viladesau, Theology and the Arts: Encountering God through Music, Art, and Rhetoric (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 2000), 46.
[25] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 234.
[26] Ron Rienstra, “Audio Technology in Worship: Keeping the Central Things Central” Cross Accent 21, no. 3 (2013): 30.
[27] David Cheetham, “The Bible and Music,” Scriptural Bulletin 28, no. 2 (1998): 68.
[28] Nicolosi, “The Artist,” 118.
[29] Steven R. Guthrie, “The Wisdom of Song,” in Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology, eds. Jeremy Begbie and Steven R. Guthrie (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2011), 392.
[30] Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 333.
[31] Mounce, Romans, 188, emphasis mine.
[32] Ron Man, “Jesus, Our True Worship Leader,” The Artistic Theologian 2 (2013): 14.
[33] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Bible Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 20014), 1162.
[34] John Witvliet, “The Joy of Christ-Centered Trinitarian Worship,” in Worship Leader (2011).
[35] Hafemann, “Corinthians,” 167.
[36] Hafemann, “Corinthians,” 167.
[37] Richard Viladesau, “Aesthetics and Religion,” in The Oxford Handbook of Religion and the Arts, ed. Frank Burch Brown (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2014), 31.
[38] Viladesau, “Aesthetics and Religion,” 31.
[39] Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 333.
[40] Brian Dodd, “15 Reasons Why Good Church Volunteers Quit,” (Oct 27, 2013).
[41] Begbie, “Holy Spirit at Work in the Arts,” 49.
[42] Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, 333.
[43] John Witvliet, “The Trinitarian DNA of Christian Worship: Perennial Themes in Recent Theological Literature,” Colloquium Journal 2 (2005).
[44] James D. G. Dunn, “Romans, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 847.
[45] Toledo, “Why Worship Leaders Should Study Theology,” 20.
[46] Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 295.
[47] Kurt A. Richardson, James, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishers, 1997), 158.
[48] G. K. Beale, “Colossians,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2007), 865.
[49] Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 296.
[50] Beale, “Colossians,” 866.
[51] Richardson, James, 163.
[52] Quentin J. Schultze, D. J. Chuang, and Robb Redman, “Worship, Technology, and the Church: A Discussion with Quentin Schultze and DJ Chuang,” Cultural Encounters 8, no. 1 (2012): 103.
[53] Schultze, Chuang, and Redman, “Worship, Technology, and the Church,” 103-104.
[54] Kesha Morant Williams and Omotayo O. Banjo, “From Where We Stand: Exploring Christian Listeners’ Social Location and Christian Music Listening,” Journal of Media and Religion 12, no. 4 (2013): 206.
[55] Joan Huyser-Honig, “Contemporary Worship Music Matters,” Calvin Institute of Christian Worship (2005).
[56] Guthrie, “Wisdom of Song,” 394.
[57] Authorship of the hymn is unknown. Melick points out the changing flow and language separates the hymn from the remainder of the text. “The question is whether it was original with Paul” (p.213).  For the sake of my argument, authorship is not a concern, as the intent of Paul’s inclusion is to demonstrate the preeminence of Christ as the image of God.
[58] Peter T. O’Brien, “Colossians, Letter to the,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, eds. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 152.
[59] Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 215.
[60] Roy E. Ciampa and Brian S. Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, eds. G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007), 733.
[61] Ciampa and Rosner, “1 Corinthians,” 732.

[62] Jeremy Begbie, “Faithful Feelings: Music and Emotion in Worship,” in Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology, eds. Jeremy Begbie and Steven R. Guthrie (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2011), 335.
[63] Brad Herring, Sound, Lighting, and Video: A Resource for Worship (San Diego, CA: Focal Press, 2009), xix.
[64] Begbie, Resounding TruthChristian Wisdom in the World of Music (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 252.
[65] Begbie, Resounding Truth, 291.
[66] Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, 215.
[67] Begbie, Resounding Truth, 123.
[68] Begbie, Resounding Truth, 188.
[69] Nicolosi, “The Artist,” 107.
[70] LeadLab San Diego, hosted by Church Tech Leaders Network, Open Speaker Panel, 12 May 2015.
[71] Frank Burch Brown, Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste: Aesthetics in Religious Life (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), 253.
[72] Steven R. Guthrie, “Wisdom of Song,” in Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2011), 391.
[73] Guthrie, “Wisdom of Song,” 384.
[74] Witvliet, “The Joy of Christ-centered, Trinitarian Worship.”
[75] Andy Crouch, “The Gospel: How Is Art a Gift, a Calling, and an Obedience?” in For the Beauty of the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2010), 34.
[76] Richard Taruskin, “Text and Act,” in Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1995), 353.
[77] Schultze, High-Tech Worship, 43.
[78] Kyle Santen, “Bridging the Gap Between Performers and Tech Crew,” (2013).
[79] Timothy J. Keller, “What It Takes to Worship Well,” LEADERSHIP Journal 14, no. 4 (1994).
[80] Nicolosi, “The Artist,” 110.
[81] Quentin Schultze, “Questions about Worship and Technology: A Starting Point for Discussion,” Reformed Worship 65 (2002).
[82] Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Faith Speaking Understanding: Performing the Drama of Doctrine, (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014), 241.
[83] Daniel K. L. Chua, “Music as the Mouthpiece of Theology,” in Resonant Witness: Conversations between Music and Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2011), 160.
[84] Jonathan Blackmon, “Scripture, Shekinah, and Sacred Song: How God’s Word and God’s Presence Should Shape the Song of God’s People,” The Artistic Theologian 1 (2012): 26.

A Case of the Mondays

Early in my career, I was offered one piece of advice that I still rely on today: “If you want to have a successful week, always book up your Mondays first.” The concept is pretty simple; if you wait until Tuesday or Wednesday to book all your meetings, you are losing out opportunities to accomplish your goals. For those working a service industry where your time literally is money, by booking up your appointments on Monday, you have a greater opportunity to have the client come back again that week. Whereas, if they do not come in until Wednesday or Thursday, that may be the only opportunity to see them. Increased visits obviously creates more income, but also makes the client more “regular,” making visiting you a habit.

To this day, I schedule meetings and appointments on Mondays. And even when I worked in ministry full time, I couldn’t bring myself to take Mondays off. A successful Monday sets up a successful week. Therefore, I love my Monday mornings, and have noticed throughout my career that those who show up early on Monday were always the employees or colleagues who were the most willing to succeed along with you, and become your strongest support.

So don’t fear your Monday morning… Make the most of it! “GSD” (get stuff done) it!