In this episode of TGC Q&A, Josh Byers and Quina Aragon address the question, “How do the arts help us learn and grasp Scripture?” They address:
- The arts as a means of communication (:28)
- Hesitation around engaging the arts (1:57)
- God and visual communication (2:11)
- Emotion, the arts, and memory (2:45)
- The Psalms and emotional experience (4:12)
- Imago Dei (4:57)
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The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Quina Aragon: How can the arts help people learn, understand and retain scripture?
Josh Byers: I guess I see the arts as, there are another vehicle for communication. Scripture being in a textual form, in a word-based, that’ll never go away. And I think one of the things it’s important understand is that, when we talk about creativity and visuals and arts and things like that, it’s not that we’re trying to replace scripture or replace the words themselves, but we’re trying to supplement them and present them in a way that helps people understand them better.
So when I think about the arts in terms of how it relates to scripture, it helps us connect, I think, with them in a lot of different ways. So for example, visuals. I think the main advantage that visuals have is speed, where they allow us to grasp a concept immediately and so quickly. And that plays into the idea of being able to retain what’s being learned.
My daughter just took her driving test and, you can pray for us. And when she was studying for this test, she mastered the visual part of that so much quicker than the written or the verbal form of it. And I think it’s the same thing with scripture. When we can pair visuals and images and those types of artistic pursuits with scripture, it helps us retain them so much quicker.
Quina Aragon: Yeah. I wonder if some people’s hesitation around the arts is because of God communicating himself through words and us being almost afraid sometimes in the church to engage in the arts.
Josh Byers: I think we’ve seen God though when… And I can totally see what you’re saying, but I don’t think when people say that, God has communicated himself visually, I mean, that’s how he revealed himself to us. In the garden of Eden with the tree knowledge of good and evil, what was the purpose of that? It was to give Adam and Eve a way to tell God that I love you. Every time they walk past that tree, this visual symbol, they were saying, “I love you. I trust you. I believe what you said.” And throughout scripture, God gives these little visual cues to relate to him.
One of the things I think people maybe struggle with sometimes though is, the emotion of the arts. But I mean, I know you don’t believe that and I don’t believe that either, but I mean, I think emotion plays a big part.
Quina Aragon: Yeah. And I think that’s the beauty of the art is that it engages our senses so that we can emotionally connect. Well, how can we read these stories and not feel what Naomi’s feeling when her husband and everybody dies? We need to be able to feel that. And the arts can kind of, like you said, be a vehicle, not just to communicator but to allow us to even almost embody a text or embody a character’s experience and as well as memorize, summarize. The scripture’s memorization, for example, the ones that I’ve memorized, the bigger chunks of scripture through repetition, yes I had it for a season, but it’s the ones that I said to melody, it’s the ones that I can sing. Those are the ones that I can recall right now.
Josh Byers: Why do we teach children songs about scripture? Because it helps them memorize it so much quicker.
Quina Aragon: And we see that in Deuteronomy 32, right? I mean, God told Moses, “Write down this song so that you guys can pass it on generationally, that your kids will sing it in the promised land and to not just instruct them, but to confront their commitment to Yahweh once they’re in the promised land.” So even God there was employing the arts in a sense so that people can take in his word and retain it and memorize it and be confronted and challenged by it.
Josh Byers: All throughout the book of Psalms, this book where we are experiencing the heart of God, who God is, and how is that being communicated? How is it being revealed? Through song, through repetition, through lyrical structure, where there’s a creativity that’s behind that. And then with the emotions, people have… When they have an emotion behind something, that’s when they have an experience. And it’s so often that it’s the experiences that change us, that change our minds, that make us see new things. And a lot of times those are driven by a change of emotion or an emotion that comes over us that’s precipitated then by some sort of artistic pursuit.
Quina Aragon: Yeah. So it seems like this kind of conversation around the arts and creativity needs to be framed in the Imago Dei. In the image us being image bearers of our creative God.
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