A Unique Voice | Spring 2018
Posted by Anna Yearwood on March 20, 2018
Topic: News Magazine
WHEN I MOVED to Oxford to attend the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA), I had no intention of pursuing a career in the arts. I have always loved art but thought it would remain a private pastime. This changed when, about halfway through my year studying at OCCA, I found myself desperate for some kind of artistic outlet. Unable to concentrate on any of my coursework, I took some brown packaging paper from the recycling bin and taped it all over the walls of my dorm room and started sketching. After somewhat transforming my drab room with its horrid green carpet into a more creative space, I found I could concentrate on my essays again and pressed on. This was a turning point for me. By the end of the year, I knew pursuing a path in the arts was not only a necessity for me but something I felt the Lord was calling me to.
As a global organization, RZIM is multicultural. Discussions in one culture do not exist in the same way in another. Subjects often have to be continually “translated” into whatever context a speaker is engaging. This is not necessarily the case with the arts. What I find fascinating is how people experience and relate to images before we engage with words or complex ideas. This is why, when engaging in apologetics, I intuitively rely on the arts to communicate. No matter the setting, I always use an artistic illustration (whether from art history, my own arts practice, or from art theory) to explain the gospel or answer an apologetics question.
The universal impact of art on the human search for truth became all the more apparent through my research in the arts and numerous gallery visits in various countries. The language of the contemporary art world crosses cultural and linguistic divides. In communicating the truth and relevance of the Christian faith, a knowledge and engagement with this method of communication is of profound importance.
This is particularly relevant to my generation. As millennials, we have been dubbed the anxious generation. We live in an age of constant visual bombardment and unending opinions that leave us overstimulated and on edge. We are constantly scrolling through our social media newsfeeds, looking at images and watching videos, having minimal contact with others or with physical reality. We long for authentic connection but our continual use of social media betrays us. I would argue that we are not only looking for intellectual arguments but for comfort, authenticity, and stability. We want to be heard and we want to hear others—we want to connect. In this sense, the intellectual arguments for belief become secondary to our desire for connection.
Art is about connection and communication. If our primary call is to communicate the gospel, then we need to ensure we are doing that to the best of our ability, including through the arts, in all forms of communication available to us.
There is a unique opportunity for Christians to re-engage with the arts, not as a separate unincorporated group, but as an unashamed unique voice. As RZIM continues to be a voice of intellect, integrity, and truth, the arts cannot be seen as a second thought. •••
Anna Yearwood is OCCA’s Artist in Residence.