Artisan’s work is a window to the soul, author says
Working at a craft reflects the crafter’s spirituality and worldview, Craig G. Bartholomew told students and faculty at Southwestern Seminary’s first Land Center luncheon of the semester, Jan. 25. Bartholomew is director of the Kirby Laing Centre for Christian Ethics at Tyndale House, Cambridge, England, and an author whose work reflects on modern thought and the complexities of our time. In his most recent book, Beyond the Modern Age, with Bob Goudzwaard, he explores the challenges to spirituality of modern society.
During the luncheon, Bartholomew addressed what he calls “the theology of craft—why people are drawn to craftsmanship, and what it reveals about their view of God.” Working at a craft, he said, fosters a sense of one’s self and abilities and provides a spiritual interlude in modern life.
Art is usually seen as a product of emotion and creativity that comes from within, whereas crafting is seen as skilled work, where there is an application of technique that people learn through practice. But Bartholomew sees craftsmanship as an activity that “transforms benign intent into a beautiful, functional object. Crafting involves the heart, the head and the hand.”
A piece produced by a craftsman “reflects the earthly nature of our spiritual appetites,” he said, “so that a piece of furniture reflects its maker’s view of life.” To look at the things people produce or the items with which they surround themselves in their homes “is to be aware of the view of reality that [they] embody.”
People studying to be pastors ought to look with interest at activities “that indicate that one is in touch with the depths of life, not just the glossy surface,” Bartholomew said. “You, as a pastor, do an incredible disservice if you aren’t aware of the worldview of those you bring to your pastoring.”
“The whole of life is a response to God,” Bartholomew continued. “It’s taken me years to realize that all that we are and all that we have comes from God. An appreciation of the materiality of the world is an appreciation of creation.”
Modern Western culture, he said, generates wide-scale entitlement (“I haven’t read any of the books for this class—where’s my A?”) Practicing a craft, he said, hones the skills of independent thought and introspection.
“An education is not memorizing the beliefs of your profs,” he said. “It is learning the truth for yourself.”
“A place needs to be found where craft and virtue can embrace,” Bartholomew concluded. “Christians believe that that is Jesus Christ. The more deeply we delve into the life of Christ, the more we will see God.”