WIC's love offering revisited...

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Worrying that we haven't actually read the brochure linked to in my brother David's post, here's the text of Christian Education and Publication's Love Offering appeal:


In order to engage culture for the sake of the gospel, Christians must be able to participate in the visual conversation swirling around them. The world needs artists who give testimony to the Word through visual media - communicating the wonder of God's creation, the real character of sin, and the glory of God's grace...

...and the church must raise up believers who can function as biblically-informed interpreters of visual culture.

Since 1955 Covenant College has been equipping young Christians to carry biblical truth into all walks of life. In an effort to meet the Church's need for biblically-grounded producers and consumers of art, the College has recently launched a visual arts program. Built around a core faculty of Christian artists who have given their lives to exploring the implications of the Christian faith for visual culture, the program nurtures the artistic gifts of Covenant art majors. At the same time, the program helps all Covenant students develop biblically-informed frameworks for understanding and interacting with the artistic production of believers and non-believers alike.

Please participate in this year's Love Gift, and aid us in providing the equipment and supplies that make it possible for the PCA's college to prepare young men and women to engage a field that needs the Truth as desperately as any.

The 2005 Love Gift will enable Covenant College's art program to acquire the following equipment and supplies:Computers & Graphic Design Software, Hand Tools, Metal/Woodworking Power Tools, Pottery Wheels & Kiln, Slide Sets & Scanner for Art History Courses, Studio Easels, Lithography & Intaglio Printing Press, Studio Tables & Chairs, Photo Lab Equipment."

There's good reason that reformed believers yesterday and today have had a certain diffidence toward the arts. Does anyone remember why, or has the "Evangelicals and (Roman) Catholics Together" crowd seized the initiative; and now, what we used to disagree over is to be viewed through the lens of rapprochement?

For the sake of argument, let's say art has a place--and even a place that's more significant than the position our reformed fathers disciplined it to in past centuries. It still doesn't follow that art can now sustain the burden of preaching the Gospel. The graphic arts may be able to testify to the truths evident in nature and creation, what used to be called "general revelation." But the appeals for the art department of Covenant College have gone beyond nature and creation to sin and redemption, claiming or implying that their artists' works will be vehicles for grace and the Gospel.

And so church women give money for easels and pottery wheels and a kiln.

So one potter will throw a pot that points to "the real character of sin," another a pot that points to "the glory of God's grace," and another a pot that is "more than simply a didactic moment of communicating the truth of Christ (words of a Covenant prof)."

Much of CE&P's sales job for Covenant College's art department is unobjectionable to me, but all this talk of their greater purposes--of communicating the Gospel in a way that's higher than the simple didactic medium of preaching, of getting across the real character of sin, of telling the world of the glory of God's grace--seems to me to be the kind of thing a traveling potion salesman might say to get Aunt Bea to buy his Extract of Happiness, Good Luck, and Freedom, if you will.

If CE&P wants my money for our denominational college's art department, get it honestly by saying that our denomination can't cover all its college's costs through tuition and so it needs patrons who will help to support it. And that the art department is a good place to focus my giving if I believe in Covenant and have extra money to give away.

But to go directly to Dorcas and Lydia, the older and younger women, and the widows of the church asking them to buy a kiln and easels and pottery wheels so the Gospel can be proclaimed (spread, distributed, communicated, pictured, imaged?) seems, at best, a stretch--and not exactly central to the work of the Church.

Surely the PCA's Christian Education and Publications Department and its division, Women in the Church, engage in many excellent works, but this one seems misconstrued and ought to lodge in the brains of those making the decisions for future Love Offerings of what sort of designations might be less than salutary.

And I do hope those reading our comments will be motivated to go back and read what the reformers had to say concerning the potency of visual imagery and the sort of work it should and SHOULDN'T be expected to do.