Art + Faith, A Theology of Making

Makoto Fujimura is an artist. But, for him, art is not…artsy. The man makes. In his book, Art + Faith, A Theology of Making (Yale University Press, 2020), Fujimura invites readers into his enchanted, but real as a ripsaw, view of truth. 

The book issues a clear call to live far above the sopping, stinky air of the lowlands. Although a Christian, and a very thoughtful one, Fujimura is not rigid or religious. Lighthearted and winsome, he writes more as a universalist, seeing the largeness of God’s heart and plan for the whole earth. 

Faith + Art begins with a bang: the root of most Christian thinking goes deep into the soil of the Industrial Revolution, not the Bible. We see life in functional terms. We’re “git er done” creatures; we fix things. And people. Now! Forget waiting for seeds to break the surface.

He writes, “Ever since the Industrial Revolution, how we view the world, how we educate, and how we value ourselves have been all about purposeful efficiency. But such bottom-line utilitarian pragmatism has caused a split in how we view creativity and making.”         

A Theology of Making

When we make, we give our all—spirit, soul, and body—to God. He works through us. Fujimura is quick to remind the artistic impulse, “God does not need us.” He doesn’t even need His creation.

Because of our design and destiny, we make. And what we make announces redemption and newness within our Father’s world. We don’t hope for a miracle; we are one! We live in the unfolding of The Miracle every day of our lives. What we make proclaims that signature of God’s magnificent kindness. In Wendell Berry’s fine phrase, we are born with the high call to “practice resurrection.”  

But our life crisis points reveal our pathetic attempts to be God. That’s why we develop checklists and formulas to measure ourselves (and others). We need a code—rules, dammit! We want to prove irrefutably that we paid the price and achieved something worthy of praise. Sadly, we failed to see we just needed to walk with God, enjoy Him, and let Him work through us. 

But we can’t; every person in history was and is profoundly damaged. Even Paul, the most prolific Bible author, wrote “I do not understand my own actions…I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…I know that nothing good dwells in me…Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[1]  

That’s where Fujimura rises into the wide-open spaces of God’s grace and generosity. He writes, “Christ came not to ‘fix’ us, not just to restore, but to make us a new creation…the resurrected Christ still bears the wounds of the crucifixion. Through these sacred wounds, a new world is born.”

A Kintsugi World 

My favorite part of the book is when Fujimura takes readers into the ancient Japanese art of Kintsugi, repairing broken pottery with lacquer fused with gold. That new creation often becomes even more beautiful and valuable than the original, unbroken piece. That is what Fujimura calls “Kintsugi Theology: Mending That Leads to the New.”  

From that, he lays out what he sees as God’s purpose in the earth. “God does not just mend, repair, and restore; God renews and generates…bringing beauty into a scarcity mindset environment…We need to be sowing seeds of beauty and tilling the hardened soils of culture…before the long, hard winter sets in.”

As a writer, Fujimura soars as a deer runs, bounding back and forth over the fences that separate daring from convention, risk from safety, and the regions beyond from the known world. 

For me, his message came down to—bad stuff happens. Always has; always will. With or without me. Earth is a dangerous neighborhood. So, I have a choice. I can use my voice to fight what I cannot change, or I can reveal the Father’s incomprehensible love and majesty. 

[1] Lines from Romans 7:15-24 taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, ENGLISH STANDARD VERSION ® Copyright© 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.Used by permission.

4 thoughts on “Art + Faith, A Theology of Making”

  1. “We don’t hope for a miracle; we are one!” Right on! And created in His image, our “making” brings glory to our Maker. This, I believe, when done well with the right motives, is the ultimate form of worship.

  2. Mike Mikeworth

    For the past 4 weeks I have been doing a survey study on Ecclesiastes which resonates with much of how you describe Fujimura’s book. The “chasing after the wind”, trying to bring order to the tohu vavohu (chaos), the “evil” of seeing the immature boy-king having authority while being focused on partying, the poor wise man who saved a city but was easily forgotten, the wicked prospering while the righteous are dismissed, on and on the vanities go. Yet, the theme of applying one’s strength to what “one’s hand finds to do” seems to echo our calling to be makers as imagers of OUR MAKER. Thank you, Ed.

  3. With such a persuasive and articulate review, who could resist purchasing a copy of this book? Not me! It just found its electronic way into my computer. Thank you, Ed! Such an intriguing look into faith. And without your review, I would have no clue!

  4. Mary A Weakley

    My favorite image, too, is the broken pottery fused with gold to become even more beautiful. Would that my journey to spirituality be cast in that image. Thank you, Ed, for sharing.

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