U2’s lead singer, Bono, is not necessarily someone who I would look to as a perfect theologian; however, I wouldn’t hesitate to classify him as two things: a Christian & an artist. I thoroughly enjoy his band’s music and have personally been to three U2 concerts (including once practically first row on the floor!). Not to mention, I think Bono has taken a good stance for his Christian faith on a number of occasions (ex: here & here, etc.)
Recently, Bono did an interview which made me think about Art & Apologetics in a new way. In the interview he said: “Art, even if it’s done for the most flippant reasons, is revelatory. . . Going back to cave paintings, people make marks to describe how they feel. So we’re finding out, through art, how people feel. . . I think all art is prophetic. . . The creation screams God’s name, so you don’t have to stick a sign on every tree. . . I want to hear the song about the breakdown in your marriage, I want to hear songs of justice, I want to hear rage at injustice, I want to hear a song so good that it makes people want to do something about the subject.”
Art as an Apologetic
Whether it is a song, poem, painting, carving, etc. someone is creating something that is beautiful and meaningful to them. Other people are able to partake in that and feel a sense of awe and beauty as well. The fact that we feel beauty at all goes against the very nature of a worldview that says that we are just made up of cells and neurons.
You cannot scientifically prove the feeling of beauty or why we find some things beautiful and others not so beautiful. Yet, art still evokes emotions in us that we don’t fully understand. You may hear a good song and feel a special connection when you hear it. But what is a song other than a bunch of sound waves hitting your ear? Why does hitting a bunch of strings, percussion, and making sounds with the voice provoke these emotions in us?
Bono makes a point to say that we are so quick to label some things as “Christian” and others as not. For example, 2017 marks the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree album released by U2. This album does not explicitly claim to be a Christian album in the way many people would want to label “Christian” music today; however, one cannot deny that there are definitively “Christian” themes laden throughout. Read the lyrics of these songs and you will see cries for justice, mercy, honesty, truth, and something beyond ourselves. Just because they don’t label themselves as “Christian” songs doesn’t mean that these aren’t themes which are near to the heart of God. Sometimes an artist writes a song that is real, honest, and pours out their very heart & soul rather than just trying to write a “top 40 hit.”
Os Guinness gives an example of this from John Coltrane when he says: “After one utterly extraordinary rendition of “A Love Supreme,” Coltrane stepped off the stage, put down his saxophone, and said simply “Nunc dimittis.” … Coltrane felt he could never play the piece more perfectly. If his whole life had been lived for that passionate thirty-two minute jazz prayer, it would have been worth it. He was ready to go.” Someone else clarified that “Nunc dimittis is Latin for “Now dismiss.” These are the opening words of the Vulgate translation of the Song of Simeon, Luke 2:29–32. Simeon says he is ready to die because he has seen what he was waiting for, the promised Messiah.” For Coltrane, his art was his worship.
“Creation Screams God’s Name”
Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
Psalm 66:4 “All the earth worships you and sings praises to you; they sing praises to your name.”
Luke 19:40 “He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”
Creation leaves us wanting two things:
Firstly, wanting to know the Great Artist. Why settle for the painting of the sunset over the ocean when we long to see the real thing? In the same way, why settle for the sunset itself when we can have the Great Artist who made that beautiful sunset and the whole universe?
I love to travel and have seen some beautiful natural scenery, as well as beautiful art created by human hands. As I’ve stood in the old architecturally beautiful cathedrals, museums, seashores, mountain ranges, and views from an airplane, I have been in awe of creation (both God and man’s). Humanity longs for the most beautiful place we could ever go to (Heaven) and to be with the greatest Artist/Creator there has ever been. Who could create a piece of art better than God Himself?
Secondly, wanting to sing a new song. I’ve always loved music. People love to sing along to a good song, but the fact that we love music & art only leaves us longing to be singing an even greater song for eternity. “And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”” (Revelation 5:13). “He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:3).
Bono was right about art. Art is beautiful and God is even more beautiful than anything we can create. The fact that beauty exists shows that we are longing for something even more beautiful. God has created the Heavens & the earth. He is the Great Artist that we long to be singing praises to for eternity. Art is an apologetic argument for God’s existence and the need for Him in our lives.
– Tyson Bradley