Art & Theology: The Struggle To Create Imagery Without Heresy

By Quincy Koll –

As someone who finds a vocation in both art and theology, I often desire to combine the two. While traveling during my sophomore year of college, I met an artist who devoted his art to depictions of the Gospel. When his work is viewed critically and questions are asked, the Gospel can be shared in a personal and meaningful way. I was inspired by this and tried to take on theological concepts in my own work. I was commissioned to create an illustration for my university’s theme verse for the 2014-2015 school year. Rather than a specific verse to work with, I was given the whole text of Colossians chapter three with a focus on our renewal in Christ.

So as I started reading and reflecting on this passage, different aspects stood out to me that could work for visual illustration. I struggled to settle on one because they all fell short of the depth that Scripture contains. A classic example of this is attempting to visually depiction the Trinity. The concept of the Trinity is nearly impossible to depict visually because it is both separate but together, but that isn’t the only problem.

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I like the image above because this illustration shows the unity well while also being connected to show that the unity outshines the complexity and beauty of the three.

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In comparison, this illustration functions like a flow chart and effectively shows that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God. But in showing that they’re separate, the unity is lost. Even if you attribute each section to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, more issues arise. By placing the Father and the Son above the Holy Spirit, it makes them visually superior. It’s true in any layout of the Trinity.

The trouble for any theologian who appreciates art is accepting that all of these efforts will fall short. And once we recognize that there will never be a one-to-one correlation, we can appreciate the beauty and complexity that theological art and illustrations have.

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