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In Paul Marshall's book, Heaven is not my Home, various subjects pertaining to the relevant issues of Christian life are broadly discussed. In one section, Marshall writes briefly about the area of imagination and the arts. The rough framework for his discussion of this topic is that of biblical creation, fall, and redemption. Due to the author's lack of expertise in the area of professional and fine art, Marshall chose to discuss art forms that are closer to daily life, including mainly clothing and fashion. He also briefly discussed food and speech within this setting. This essay will give a summary of Marshall's position on how Christians should be involved in imagination and the arts, and also my personal insight regarding this topic.
Paul Marshall first presents the imagination and arts in connection with creation. From his standpoint, God himself is the master artist, creating the world a both functional and beautiful thing. Images he linked to this included that of the sky being a gallery to the world, God's rainbow after the Flood, sunrises, and sunsets. Evidence of God's artwork can be seen throughout all of creation. God has also created unlimited resources with which we can make our own art. Pigments, shells, glass, plants, the list goes on. Humans, being made in God's own image, have been blessed with an imagination and creative tendencies. According to Marshall, we are all called to be artists, to imagine and create.
The fall of man, however, has resulted in some changes in human imagination and arts. Man has a choice to glorify himself, other gods, or God through the arts. Directly after the fall, Adam and Eve created clothing for themselves in attempt to cover their sins. In the desert, while Moses was on Mount Sinai, the Israelites created a golden calf to worship. In modern times, clothing can either glorify God and aid a person in status and financial success, or can become an obsession, taking the place of God as an idol. Exuberant amounts of money and time can be spent on clothing and fashion that should really be spent in more productive and edifying ways. Due to the fall of man, imagination and the arts have become a form of glorification of man.
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Marshall spends most of his time discussing ways individuals can avoid this temptation to keep the imagination and arts focused on man and his worldly pursuits. He suggests that Christians should redeem this gift from God by taking hold of their God-given talent to imagine and create. The author gives Biblical examples of the correct way to handle this issue. The godly woman of Proverbs 31 and various other biblical artists and tailors were used to illustrate Marshall's point. Art, expressed through fashion is seen throughout the Bible. He moves on to present redemption of fashion through creating a Christian form of couture. The emphasis of the section about imagination and the arts is on the role of Christian in redeeming the arts. A Christian, according to Marshall, should realize his calling to create and imagine, and in everyday, ordinary ways enhance the world around them. He believes Christians should dress well, make interesting foods, and use tasteful and aesthetic speech. However, the author warns against spending too much money on clothing and food, because such actions could lead to idol worship. Not only that, with poverty a leading world issue for many today, spending excessive amounts of money on trivial things would be a poor witness. Marshall's basic view is that Christians should pursue a balance between two extremes, complete inactivity and obsession with the arts.
While I find it hard to disagree with most of Paul Marshall's ideas and overall reasoning, there are a few points which he made that I disagree with. Marshall daringly chose to discuss a topic for which he says, "I lack the knowledge or the skill to say much about [ those whose lives center around the arts, professional artists]" (p.155, 156). However, with such a broad topic as the imagination and the arts, he attempted to focus in on elements of this area of life by choosing everyday items such as clothing, food, and language as his concentration. He completely brushed over those aspects of the arts including the fine arts, photography, literature, painting, music, and even film and television. These areas affect the daily lives of every average working class American.
Another discrepancy I found was his generalizations about how we are all called to be artists, to create and think imaginatively. Some people have difficulty being creative; they are not gifted in this area, and could actually do more harm than good in attempt to fulfill their calling, as Marshall would say, to be imaginative and creative. I am sure the author's point was not that everyone should begin writing novels and making pottery, but rather, that everyone should, in their own way seek to glorify God in a creative and personal way. However, his point could easily be misinterpreted.
Although I found that it was a stretch to talk about food, fashion, and speech as examples of imagination and the arts, I found that Marshall did an excellent job of making some valid points on such a broad topic as imagination and the arts. I would have liked the topic to have been discussed on a deeper level than Marshall chose to. Discussion of the arts that involve media and literature may have been more relevant to the topic chosen, due to the fact that they have a greater influence on the individual than clothing and food. Despite my difficulty with this, Marshall's over-arching point that everyone should be creative is difficult to disagree with. It inspires the reader, allowing even the most mundane tasks to look more interesting.