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Issue 02

Editorial: Art is hard

Dave Beldman

Art is hard.” That is the message my family and I encountered graffitied on a bridge while on a walk recently in the beautiful Dundas Valley of Hamilton, Ontario. I am not an artist, but the words spoke to me. To a certain extent, we are all artists, honing some kind of craft, whether scholarship, music, accounting, construction, farming, home making and so on. I seem to be in good company in thinking this, because Herman Bavinck once wrote, “In human beings themselves, there are not two or three capabilities that work apart from each other; the works that we produce have this in common: they are the revelation of our ability and to that extent are all ‘art’” (Essays on Religion, Science, and Society, 254). The very best products of our craft, our “art,” may seem at first glance effortless but in reality often entail hard work and gruelling effort (Malcom Gladwell popularized the idea that it takes 10,000 hours to reach elite levels in a given area or practice).

Take the first issue of The Big Picture for example. From the design to the contents it all seems so elegant and effortless such that it might be easy to miss the fact that the sixty-six pages of the magazine represent countless hours of downright hard work (not least on editing and design, but also the years of study, work and experience that inform the products of our authors and artists). This begs the question: Why do it? Why put in this kind of effort into a magazine that features everything from medicine to music, film to finances, preaching to poetry, spirituality to sports, education to economics, math to motorcycles (and much more)? Answer: At The Kirby Laing Centre we have a sense of the big picture of the gospel. We want to celebrate that and hope the magazine will inspire you the readers to glimpse this vast perspective on life and encourage you to reimagine the nooks and crannies of life and the creation as places where Christ plays.

In this issue of The Big Picture we have articles featuring the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) and the British pastor-theologian John Stott (1921-2011). The reason is because this year marks 100 years since the death of Bavinck and since the birth of Stott. Bavinck’s theological work is powerful and as relevant today as it was in the context in which he was writing it. He also wrote thoughtfully on a myriad of topics like science, evolution, social relationships, economics, psychology, education, aesthetics and politics. Why did he do it — why did a theologian put all this effort into areas that don’t seem very theological? Answer: He had a sense of the big picture of the gospel.

Similarly, John Stott was convinced that Scripture and the Christian faith does and indeed must speak into the issues of our day. He published many theological works and a host of biblical commentaries. He advocated a “double-listening” approach to reading the Bible. As we listen intently to Scripture while at the same time listening attentively to our culture, we put ourselves in the best position to allow Scripture to come to bear on the issues of our day. For Stott, all of life was to be lived for Christ and he had a truly global vision. Why did he do it—why did he work so tirelessly in his ministry to disciple Christians for holistic service to Christ? Answer: He had a sense of the big picture of the gospel. 

Art is hard. We hope you enjoy this second edition of The Big Picture. (Be on the lookout for lovable critters like chickens called Hildegard, Gertrude and Meaghan, and a wonderful rabbit named Beau). We hope all the hard work our contributors put into the articles, poetry, art (like the real kind!) will inform, stimulate and inspire you. We hope it deepens and maybe even expands your sense of the big picture of the gospel and how you might live more fully into that.