Christianity’s Contributions: Cultural artifacts (Part 1)

This final series of blogs on Christianity’s contributions examines the artifacts that Christians developed in various areas that shaped culture.  The definition of an artifact is an object made by a human being, typically an item of cultural or historical interest.  In these blogs we’ll examine art, music, literature, holidays, and words.  Let’s begin with art and music.

The Christian influence on art is immense.  Whereas the Greeks loved nature, especially human nature, the Christians loved the supernatural, especially Christ.  But it wasn’t just the subject matter of Jesus and biblical events that made the Christian contribution to art noteworthy.  It was the act of creating art that was seen as a noble effort itself.  Art as an activity could serve different purposes: to honor God, to show truth, and to make the soul grow with a sense of beauty.   The subject matter was important, as was the effort of the artist and the message he hoped to convey.

Music that the Church developed also had another impact on culture.  It was an integral part of Early Church life, as the Bible and historical records show.  Christians were to “Speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19; see also 1 Corinthians 14:26 and Colossians 3:16).  Pliny the Younger records Christians singing “songs to Christ as to a god” in worship on a fixed day (Sunday) before dawn (111 AD).  Clement of Alexandria (150-215 AD) says Christians sang at meals and before going to bed in their homes.

Eventually, developments in music that are now common originated in service to God and to His glory.  Musical features such as hymns, operas, motets, madrigals, anthems, oratorios, symphonies, cantatas, and concertos had their origin in the Church.  But music and art were not the only fields in which the Church developed artifacts.  Literature and words were impacted immensely as well.  More on that in the next blog.

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June 10, 2016

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