Culture Making is now archived. Enjoy five years of reflections on culture worth celebrating.
For more about the book and Andy Crouch, please visit

Posts tagged david taylor

Jeremy Begbie, "The Future," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 182–183

Perhaps the most striking thing of all about the vision of the new heaven and earth at the end of Revelation is that it is indeed new. This is worth probing and pondering carefully. It is new in the sense we have already spoken about: the created world is not returned to its beginning but (like the risen body of Christ) elevated to a fresh level. But it is surely “new” in another sense also—it is ever new. In the world to come, nothing ever becomes old, and since it is hard to imagine this as a static state of perfection (if time and movement, as part of God’s creation, are taken up in the new heaven and earth), we must surely speak of endless and surprising novelty as belonging to the new creation. We dare to envisage the Holy Spirit weaving limitless, unpredictable improvisations out of the “givens” of creation, doubtless to the delight of us all.

What needs subverting here is the common assumption that there are only two possible basic shapes to our lives—order and disorder. Order is considered good and fruitful—disorder evil and damaging. If our house is immaculate, we are complimented; if it looks like bedlam, we apologize. But are order and disorder the only options? What about laughter? It is not order (predictably patterned) but nor is it disorder (destructive). It is an example of what Daniel Hardy and David Ford call “non-order,” or the “jazz-factor.” . . .

[One] of the reasons artists and pastors need each other is to learn and relearn together that the richest fruit comes from the interplay between order and non-order, between the given chords and the improvised riff, between the faithful bass of God’s grace and the novel whirls of the Spirit. The question for pastors, then, is: Are you prepared to allow artists room to provoke the church to venture into risky arenas of novelty—a fresh “take” on a parable, a hitherto unexplored zone of culture? The question for artists is: Are you prepared to get to know the “bass lines” of artistic tradition, and, more fundamentally, the bass lines that God uses to hold his church in the faith?

Joshua Banner, "The Practitioner," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 126, 142

[My relationships with artists] have been messy and, at times, unpleasant. I’ve struggled with patience, expected too much, pushed too far, and overstretched my own small spool of energies. But the use of a gentle, consistent hand is, despite my stumbling, effective. Why? Because the arts are made by people for people—each as intricate and organic as the corn my grandfather raised. In this very human endeavor, I have to continually remind myself that the arts are not buttons we push to enhance a sermon. They’re not levers we switch to intensify an evangelistic tactic. Art has to do with people we love, and this love bears witness to Christ. . . .

As farmer-pastors, we are lovers. We tenderly work the soil of our culture by identifying artistic gifts with discernment (pastoring). Then our joyful response to discovering the artists is to push their gifts outward in order to share their creativity with others (promoting). Finally, we prune the gifts and coach the artists to mature so that their fruit will be sustainable and long lasting (producing). . . .

How can the gospel find a vibrant witness through the arts to transform our neighborhoods and cities? We must begin with a renewal of our churches before we have anything to offer the culture outside the church. And we begin this renewal not by asking what the arts can do for the church, to vary on John F. Kennedy’s dictum, but how the church can serve the arts. As patient, careful stewards, we, as pastors and leaders, can nourish the soil of our culture by the way we love artists intentionally—loving not only their artwork, but who they are as persons in the process.

Barbara Nicolosi, "The Artist," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 114-115

In my experience, artistic talent shows up early. I’m very leery of forty-eight-year-olds who come to me and say, “I think I’m going to become a writer.” I always want to say to them, “And I think I’m going to have an IQ of 237.” It’s not about deciding what talent you have. You either have it, or you don’t.

I was in my seven-year-old nephew’s second-grade class around Christmastime. Looking up on the wall, it was immediately obvious to me which of the little blokes had talent because some of the things on the wall looked like blobs and some looked like reindeer. Not only that, but some kids had put the reindeer in a setting with foreground, while others had them frolicking in the snow. That is, some of the kids were already playing with composition.

I asked my little nephew and his two best friends, Matt and Allen, “Who is the best artist in your class?” And they replied with one refrain: “Joey. Joey can draw.”

Don’t you wish we could do that in the church? Simply accept the self-evident truth that this kid can draw, and that one can sing, and that one is good at dancing? There is something beautiful in the way kids accept the divine economy, which doles out graces and talent so arbitrarily. It’s dreadfully uncivil of God to make us grownups so uncomfortable by giving some kids artistic talents and others none at all.

So, if you want to be a patron of the arts, go into the second grade of your local grammar school, find out whoever produced the coolest reindeer, and then patronize that kid.

Lauren Winner, "The Art Patron," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 74–75

The Jewish communities of my childhood taught me, among other things, about art. Specifically, Judaism taught me the principle of hiddur mitzvah. This is the idea that one does not just do the commandments, one “beautifies” them. The roots of this commandment may be found in Exodus 15:2, which may be translated something like: “This is my God and I will beautify him with praises.” In a passage of the Talmud (Masechet Shabbat 133b), the rabbis muse over this verse: What exactly does it mean to “beautify” God? How does one “beautify God with praises”? The rabbis have an answer: “Adorn yourself before him by a truly elegant fulfillment of the religious duties, for example a beautiful tabernacle, a beautiful palm branch, a beautiful ram’s horn, beautiful show fringes, a beautiful scroll or the Torah, written in fine ink, with a fine reed, by a skilled penman, wrapped with beautiful silks.”

In other words, when you fulfill the commandment to blow a shofar, a ram’s horn, during the liturgies for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, don’t blow just any old ram’s horn—beautify the commandment by using a beautiful shofar. And when you build and take your meals in a sukkah, a hut, during the festival of Sukkot, do not just throw up a shack whose dimensions happen to meet your requirements, but build a beautiful tabernacle in which to take your holiday meals. . . . This is the theological sensibility that prompted those seventeenth- and eighteenth-century eastern European Jews to craft intricate marriage contracts, turning simple legal documents into objects of art. Those papercutters knew that a man pledging to treat his soon-to-be wife fairly and honorably was more than just the faithful discharging of a commandment. It was an opportunity to “adorn”—glorify—God.

Andy Crouch, "The Gospel," from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), p. 33

“Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” (Gen. 3:9). This garden, this original gift of culture, is not just a utilitarian source of nourishment. It is not just a vegetable garden, populated with a healthful array of plants that will provide the Creator’s RDA of nutrients to the dutiful fruit- and vegetable-eating human gardener. It is also a place of beauty. The trees of the garden are not just good for something. They are good simply in the beholding. They are beautiful.

But even more striking than the description of the vegetation is the least remarked-upon part of the whole story in Genesis 2. “The name of the first [river] is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there” (v. 12).

Why does the author indulge in this metallurgical excursion—with its digression within an excursion, “And the gold of that land is good”? Is this a treasure map for future readers? What is the point of this list of precious natural resources? Note that these are not primarily useful minerals or substances. The text does not say that the land of Havilah has good iron, granite, and bauxite. These are substances whose only real value is in their beauty. God has located the garden in a place where the natural explorations of its human cultivators will bring them into contact with substances that will invite the creation of beauty.

I owe to Makoto Fujimura the further observation that these substances are hidden. They are not like the low-hanging fruit of the garden’s trees. They are latent—lying below the surface of the very good world. Only by exploration and excavation will they be discovered. Only by experimentation and craftsmanship will their possibilities be disclosed. God has placed primordial humanity in a world that will only reach its full potential for beauty when it is cultivated, explored—where more goodness waits to be unearthed. The world is even better than it appears. The gold of that land is good.

from W. David O. Taylor, ed., For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts (Baker, 2010), pp. 21–22

As a working pastor I found my tradition ambivalent, if not actively resistant, to the artistic life—to the imagination, the emotions, the senses, the material realm, and beauty. . . . If I were a gardener, I would say that my tradition offered me thin soil with little hope for a flourishing of the arts. At worst, it taught me to view the arts as ultimately expendable, a luxury far from the center of biblical Christianity. . . .

This book aims to redress this deficiency. It aims to inspire the church, in its life and mission, with an expansive vision for the arts. By “the arts” I mean at least music, dance, drama, poetry and other literary arts, visual arts, film, and architecture. This book seeks to show how the many parts of the landscape of church and art can hold together. . . .

For whom is this book written? It is written for pastors and artists along with lay leaders working in the context of the church. This book is for pastors who gather in cathedrals or in junior high cafeterias, for artists in the urban core or, as the case may be, out in the cornfields. It aims to inform our ecclesiology as Protestant Christians, regardless of our material or missional particulars.

My hope is that this book will also be of benefit to educators and seminary students, to critical observers of Christianity and the arts, and to all those who seek a common vocabulary to advance the discussion of the church’s mission of artmaking.

by Andy Crouch for Culture Making

Truly, the coolest and jaw-droppingest thing that has happened to me this spring was getting these photos from Austin’s redoubtable David Taylor, who was hanging around SXSW last month (in his smooth, I-live-in-Austin-so-of-course-I-hang-out-at-SXSW way) when he ran across Justin Girdler, a local filmmaker and director based at Gateway Church.

At Austin’s Transforming Culture Symposium last year, I gave a talk about the importance of the arts and artists in the Christian community. I observed that artists are professionally committed to two perfectly unuseful and absolutely essential things: play and pain. Art is, in a deep sense, play—in the sense that musicians “play”—an exploration of the beauty, fruitfulness, and wonder of the world. Yet art also inevitably brings us into pain, confronting the mystery of our suffering and brokenness. In fact, I suggested, we need artists who are willing to do both at once, neither to play without pain (escapist entertainment) or inflict pain without play (which ends up as masochism and cynicism).

As readers of Culture Making know, you can never predict what new culture will be created in response to your own creativity. So here’s what Justin created . . . and somehow it’s appropriate that a tattoo embodies, so very literally, play and pain itself. May all authors live to see their words taken so seriously!

tattoo intertwining words play and pain

picture of Justin Girdler
Photos by David Taylor used by permission of the photographer and the tattoo-ee.

"David Taylor - In His Own Words," by The Austin Stone, 6 March 2009