In this pithy review, Rev. Mary Gardner offers a compelling review of acclaimed artist and Christian thinker Makoto Fujimura’s newest book, “Art + Faith: A Theology of Making.” You can get your own copy of Mako’s wonderful book HERE.
If you think you are not an artist, think again: Mako Fujimura’s new book Art and Faith: A Theology of Making helpfully connects “art” to every human being’s act of making. “We are all artists in this sense,” he writes.
For those not familiar with him, Mako is an immensely talented painter, gifted communicator, and a prophetic voice to the Christian church in the West. His new book offers a winsome apologetic for “wasting time with God.” Endorsed by theologian NT Wright and filmmaker Martin Scorsese, it is written for artists, theologians, and indeed all those seeking the path of beauty, truth, and goodness.
In one sense, Art and Faith continues the themes of his 2014 book, Culture Care, in which he used themes of beauty, art-making, and generosity to argue against a culture hyper-focused on efficiency and utilitarian pragmatism. Here, Mako goes deeper with some of these themes and presents “the central thesis of this book: that God, the Artist, ‘wastes’ time with us to listen to our hearts and to be fully present in our suffering.” What a timely word in a pandemic where our movements and actions are often limited. In connection with this, Mako advocates for the primacy of listening to God and to others. He also affirms that our art-making matters to God.
Mako grounds many of his ideas and arguments from Jesus’ friendship with Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, bringing a fresh perspective to a familiar story. He helpfully engages with NT Wright’s theology of New Creation and the work of compassion and mercy towards justice, the work of creating beauty, and the act of evangelism to proclaim this Good News to all of creation.
For me, one of the most hopeful and comforting ideas is a concept in Japanese painting called Nihonga, which Mako describes as “the process of creating an organic, hands-on, and communal approach to knowing.” Working with N.T. Wright’s theology of New Creation, Mako writes, “The body of Christ provides the Christian ecosystem for teaching the New Creation, and this can happen if the church once again becomes a place of making, the heart of beauty in the world, and a witness to mercy.” Read this book and put into practice your art-making and see if you are not also transformed in the process.
The book ends with a captivating liturgy, a Benediction for makers which is also a prayer. May we, in his words, “steward well what God has given us and accept God’s invitation to sanctify our imagination and creativity, even as we labor hard on this side of eternity.”
Makoto Fujimura: Art + Faith: A Theology of Making, Yale University Press 2020