“In our increasingly secular society the most important action of the prophet, and the artist, may be to simply remind his community of their relationship with God.”
Among those who write or blog on the topic of theology and the arts; the idea of artist as prophet comes up fairly regularly. This seems to point to a larger issue concerning vocation. Given his (or her) unique gifts, what is the role of the artist?
One who speaks for God
We tend to think of a prophet as one who predicts the future, but that is not at all the ancient understanding of the word. The word “prophet” means speaker, or one who speaks. In Christian use, a prophet is one who has a special connection to God and speaks on God’s behalf.
By virtue of our Baptism we are invested in the threefold office of Christ, priest, prophet, and king. The degree to which we fulfill each of these offices will depend on our individual gifts and calling. We are all called to be prophets, as well as priests and kings, to the degree our gifts allow us.
Like every Christian, an artist may fill all of these roles as well as several others. An artist may act at various times as a teacher, a storyteller, even as priests and kings when the role of priest and king are properly understood. But how does an artist serve as a prophet? How does an artist speak for God?
Artist as prophet
A speaker must have a listener. The prophet serves his community by speaking or interpreting the Word of God to God’s people, even if the people or community disregard the words or actions of the prophet. In our increasingly secular society the most important action of the prophet may be to simply remind his community of their relationship with God.
The view that artists are apart from society and must be left on his own to create according to his personal whim, even if it is unintelligible to all but the artist himself, is a very modern idea. For most of human history, at least the history we have documented, the artist served his community, usually in connection with the religious beliefs of that community.
All artists, of every type, act as a prophet when he or she creates work that participates in the role of the prophet, reminding us of our relationship to God and of our status (Read More)