Mark Meynell wrote for the The Rabbit Room in “Three Aspirations for the Arts”:
Assuming that artists are to be visionary prophets, what might that look like? I think it means pursuing at least three separate (though not mutually exclusive) goals.
- Truth: Exposing the False, Reflecting the Real
- Beauty: Exposing the Idolatrous, Reflecting the Wondrous
- Hope: Exposing the Baseless, Reflecting the Future
Art that aspires to truth is informed by Scripture, the basis for personal and cultural renewal. It depicts sin’s consequences and is relevant to human needs. This aspiration to truth is the New Testament pursuit of faith, the faith that comes from hearing and heeding the truth of God’s word.
Art that aspires to beauty points away from the worship of created things and toward the wonders of the Creator. This aspiration to beauty is the New Testament pursuit of love, which spurns love of other things that are put in place of God and spurs on a love and service for others because of God.
Art that aspires to hope portrays a liberating vision that overcomes cynicism and despair. The aspiration to hope is also a main pursuit of the New Testament, alongside faith and love. We are confronted in the New Testament with how a vision of resurrection affects the way we live now.
Meynell acknowledged the place of hope even if he was unsure of what it looked like. “Our art… should surely reflect that hope, in some shape or form. I’ve no idea how — that’s your job!” And, “Surely one of our most urgent questions, and one of our society’s most pressing needs, is for us to find a vocabulary of hope.” This is normal. Scholar N.T. Wright was surprised by hope. We could even say that everyone at some point will be surprised by hope’s significance, if the apostles’ repetition in the New Testament is an indication.
Hope is the least clear goal of the three because it’s the least fulfilled, by definition. The danger comes when it’s also the least pursued. We’ll miss the prophetic warnings and blessings of those who’ve gone before us, which are a part of what helps us press on. And we’ll fail to give vision to the hopeless, to be prophetic.
The effort of artists to find a vocabulary of hope is a part of its fulfillment. Such effort itself renews us. It helps us to work out our salvation in cooperation with God, to heed his warnings and hold firmly to his promises. And the effect of the artist in this pursuit is noticeable, like a shining star, true and beautiful, in a crooked and perverted world (Php. 2:12–16). Therefore, in addition to truth and beauty, it’s vital for prophetic artists to reflect hope, even as — especially as — we are working it out.
These three aspirations echo the “faith, hope and love” pattern of the apostles’ teaching and are a noble calling for the artist.