Art, life, incarnation, restoration

A few years back I began reading a compilation edited by Jeremy Begbie titled Beholding the Glory. I haven’t finished all (or even most) of the essays, but one thing from one of them I did read really stuck with me, a most simple point that had yet to be brought to my attentive attention despite growing up in the church.

That point is this: God affirmed the worth of creation, though fallen and out of His favor, by sending Jesus to Earth in human form. How wonderfully plain and straightforward.

Not long after I read that essay I picked up a book by Randy Alcorn titled Heaven. This theologically rich but down to Earth look at what the Bible says about Heaven further affirmed the value of a physical Creation. This may come as a surprise to a lot of Evangelicals. A large part of Alcorn’s Scriptural exploration debunks common and perpetuated myths about the afterlife such as getting your wings, playing harps on clouds and the oft-despised, never-ending high-in-the-sky church service.

“Ladder of Divine Ascent,” 12th century icon.

Alcorn suggests — based on a myriad of Scripture — that the New Jerusalem will be right here, on the same dirt you and I trip over today. Further, he points to the possibility that art we make in the here and now will be on the “New Earth.” In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, in The Last Battle, the followers of Aslan step through a door into Aslan’s country. The children see, on the other side of the door, their home, while Narnia behind them — on the other side of the threshold resting on the same ground — is swallowed up in darkness. They see their city, their countryside, their own houses. Alcorn points to Lewis’ illustration as the best way to describe, with such brevity, what he understands about the New Heaven and the New Earth from the Bible. Thus, if we subscribe to Alcorn’s understanding, though this fallen world will be necessarily purified, restored, aspects and objects of our lives here and now will carry over into the new world, the New Jerusalem.

There’s much too much in this book to go into any further here, suffice it to say that it made sense to me, was backed up by the Bible I believe in and shows the value that God places on His Creation, despite its fallen state. As an artist, this is an incredible point of view. It is a burgeoning hope in the face of political corruption, greed, famine and so much sorrow that we see on a day to day basis. God knows about this tyranny, deception, disregard and pride so symptomatic of man’s fall from grace.

Incarnation: And yet, He still saw fit to tread this dirt.

Restoration: And still, He plans to restore this soil on His return.

As a tactile artist, as someone who is innately driven to create physical objects, palpable environments, these observations mean the world.

Adding: Anglican bishop NT Wright was interviewed by Steven Colbert this week, where the bishop says again what Alcorn wrote in his book. Via ThinkChristian.

About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

3 Responses to Art, life, incarnation, restoration

  1. Tim J. says:

    Fascinating subject. I don’t know that we could really say what heaven will be like.

    Your post makes one wonder how much of our experience of heaven will be a matter of an expanded perception. You get the feeling at times that heaven is all around us, but in a veiled way.

    If you just imagine what this present world would be like minus sin, death and evil, and WITH the constant awareness of the presence of God… you wonder how anyone could want more than what we have right here. As C.S. Lewis put it, “God likes matter. He invented it.”

    He also, I think, said something (maybe in The Great Divorce) about those in heaven finding that earth was a part of heaven all along, like a kind of porch or foyer.

  2. TAE says:

    As C.S. Lewis put it, “God likes matter. He invented it.”

    Fabulously succinct observation, one that we don’t think about often enough.

  3. Pingback: Intentional Observation: Aroma of the prairie « The Aesthetic Elevator

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