It’s not often that I use my blog to commend a fellow Christian Case Maker, but I had the pleasure of participating in the Smart Faith Conference last weekend with Doug Powell (playfully seen here posing for the crime scene outline prior to my talk). Doug is an artist who is using his God-given gifts to make a case for Christ. He’s a renaissance man; a gifted musician and artist with a Masters Degree in Apologetics from Biola University. Doug has contributed important resources to the Christian community. He’s written several books, and joined me as a contributor to the Apologetics Study Bible for Students. But Doug’s true brilliance is perhaps best demonstrated in a series of apps he’s designed for the iPad. When I first saw Resurrection iWitness last year, I was blown away. As a guy with a design degree myself, I thought, “Why didn’t I think of that!?!” Doug created a visually stunning, interactive, historically thorough examination of the Resurrection that not only makes the case, but provides a memorable resource to help Christians defend the Resurrection using the minimal facts approach popularized by Gary Habermas and Mike Licona in the Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. It’s hard to describe the visual and experiential nature of Doug’s work, but he’s created a video that helps. Doug’s series of apps are affordable, important resources for those who want to examine or make a case for the truth of the Christian worldview:
“Explore the historical evidence for what happened to Jesus after his death using only the minimal facts accepted by the vast majority of scholars.”
“Using paintings and vintage photos of the Holy Land, Jesus iWitness captures the reality of the events, places, and people in the life of Christ.”
New Testament iWitness
“New Testament iWitness is an interactive presentation of the history and formation of the canon that lets you do the investigation.”
iWitness Biblical Archaeology
“iWitness Biblical Archaeology takes you to the digs and lets you experience many of the most important finds.”
iWitness World Religions
“iWitness World Religions explains the origins of the most popular and influential religions, lists the different branches of it, and shows how they answer the most important questions we all have about life, meaning, and purpose.”
As I watched and listened to Doug’s Smart Faith presentation on Biblical Archeology, I thought about the relationship that artists have historically had with the Church. So much of our experience as Christians has been both shaped by (and reflected in) art and music; it’s easy to take the role of art for granted. Philip G. Ryken recently wrote an insightful article, How to Discourage Artists in the Church, that has served to remind me of how we, as Christians, ought to embrace, engage and create art as a reflection of God’s reality and our Christian identity. Here are some of my “take-aways” from Ryken’s article:
The arts need to be engaged as more than decoration or entertainment; they need to be treated seriously as a “window into reality.”
We need to raise the bar on our aesthetic standards and demand more from ourselves as an artistic community.
Artists need to be appreciated for more than their artistic skills and seen as whole people. Their work is valuable worthy of praise and monetary compensation.
We need to encourage art that “raises questions” as well as art that “provides answers.”
Christian artists need to be given the freedom to create without overly restrictive limitations.
We must learn to validate all forms of Christian art, including art that doesn’t directly present the Gospel.
Christian artists need to be allowed to express all aspects of the Christian experience, including the pain and difficulties of the Christian life.
Ryken does an excellent job of describing the role and challenge of artists in the Church, and Doug Powell has probably experienced much of what Ryken has described. As a community, we readily understand the value of a Case Maker with a background in ancient languages, Biblical texts, rules of evidence or ancient history, but what are we supposed to do with a Case Maker who’s also an artist? What should we expect from him or her? Do our preconceived ideas place too many limits on the role of artists in the Church? Doug Powell can help us step outside our expectations as he continues to use his gifts to surprise, educate and equip his Christian brothers and sisters.