Colin Harbinson

The Arts & Cultural Restoration Booklet/OHP's

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Notes for presentation with booklet & graphics
Copyrighted by Colin Harbinson

God’s Original Intention

God, the “Original Artist,” created the Cosmos. It had order, design, intelligence and purpose. Into His world, God placed the man and the woman created in His image. They had the ability to think, feel and be creative. God delighted in His “artistry” and had a special love relationship with these two made in His likeness. He spoke of His original intention, when He blessed them and said,

Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it and rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds in the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth (Gen 1:28).

In giving this Mandate, the Creator gave sanction to:

  • Human sexuality, family and social organization
    (be fruitful and multiply)

  • Exploration, environmental adaptation and economic development
    (fill the earth)

  • Scientific exploration, knowledge, learning and creativity (subdue)

  • Government, social justice and law (rule over)

We see God again expressing His intention for human beings to be cultural beings in Genesis 2:15, where it says:

And the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate and keep it.

The end result of cultivation is the development of culture. To “keep” or “steward” Creation is also emphasized here as a responsibility of the culture developer.

God’s original intention is for human beings to reflect truth and beauty in their cultural development and expressions. This is shown here by brightly colored images that embrace all areas of human reality.


God’s Original Intention Distorted

God intended for human beings, in relationship with their Creator and living in obedience to His word, to develop cultural expressions that would reflect truth and beauty, while exercising His loving rulership in the earth.

Instead, rebellion, self-will and idolatry marked human response to the Creator and, as a result, cultural expressions began to reflect the distortions of those that shaped them.

Idolatry is an exchange (Romans 1:23, 25).
...they exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image…
                                                   they exchanged the truth of God for a lie.

Idolatry takes place when truth is exchanged for a lie. Lies are the root of all distortion. God's original intention is distorted when lies inform our personal lives and our cultural expressions.

The distortion that results when “truth is exchanged for a lie.”
is demonstrated by gray tones that represent the absence of truth and beauty.



Culture has been described as “man's footprint on God's Creation.” It has been variously described as a design for living (Kuzbetak), the integrated system of learned patterns of behavior, ideas, and products characteristic of a society (Heibert), and the total process of human activity and the total result of such activity (Niebuhr). It includes language, ideas, beliefs, values, customs, rituals, aesthetic expressions and social organization.

At the centre of culture is its worldview. The fact that all cultural expressions grow out of the religious belief system of a people group has lead one writer to comment that culture is religion made visible (Bavinck).

Culture is also closely bound up with language and is expressed in proverbs, myths, folk tales, and various art forms and symbols (The Willowbank Report). This is why the arts play such a vital role in the cultural restoration process (refer to pages 10 & 11).

All cultures reflect something of God's original intention, despite sinful distortions. This is the result of God's grace and sovereignty and the fact that fallen human beings still reflect aspects of the image of God in which they were created.

Aspects of God's original intention (color)
and the distortions of His intention (gray tones) are both seen,
in varying degrees, as impacting every area of human reality.


Culture - Spiritual Dynamics

This model shows spiritual dynamics that are identifiable in every culture, though in differing proportions. It can be applied to an individual, as well as a people group or nation. “Spheres” or “domains” of life (arts, business, education, etc.) can also be examined through this paradigm.

Natural aspects of culture reflect the unique amoral creative expressions of diverse people made in the image of God. They include such things as the way food is prepared, the color of clothing, or unique architectural forms.

Redemptive aspects of a culture are present whenever there is understanding or demonstration of biblical truth, whether people realise it or not. Redemptive stories, myths, and analogies can also contain truth, or point toward it.

Demonic expressions of culture are those that have been affected by direct interaction with evil spirits or the result of such involvement. Demonic powers can hold individuals or whole people groups in physical or spiritual bondage.

Distorted cultural expressions no longer reflect God’s original intention for His Creation. When human beings develop cultural forms shaped by sin and rebellion, the truth of God is exchanged for a lie.

There are similarities between the “natural” and the “redemptive.” Both represent God's intention and should be celebrated and affirmed. However the “redemptive” represents truth that has a moral basis, whereas the “natural” reflects the unique amoral cultural responses that flow from the image of God in every person.


Cultural Restoration

Cultural redemption involves a process of celebration, affirmation, opposition and restoration. These responses are the means by which individuals and nations can be brought back into harmony with God’s intention for them.

Celebrate the Natural
Cultural uniqueness is a direct result of the creativity that comes from being made in God’s image. It is a gift to be appreciated, enjoyed, and celebrated!

Affirm the Redemptive
Truth is sometimes found in the most unlikely places. But, whenever we find it, we must affirm it and call it forth. By affirmation we draw attention to truth and declare it to be good. It is part of the stewardship responsibility given by God in the Cultural Mandate (Gen. 2:15).

Oppose the Demonic
As believers, we are called upon to put on the whole armour of God and stand against demonic powers. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses (II Cor. 10:4). When strongholds are pulled down, bondages are broken, and people are set free to respond to truth.

Restore the Distorted
God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself (II Cor. 5:19). God’s ministry is a ministry of reconciliation. Reconciliation means ‘to bring into harmony’. God’s plan is to bring every area of life back into harmony with His original intention.

When the distortions are dealt with in any area of life, that area of life can begin to be restored back to God’s original intention.


The Arts and Cultural Restoration

Art can Celebrate
Art is a universal and joyful way to celebrate natural expressions of our God-sanctioned cultural uniqueness. Art celebrates!

Art can Reinforce
Art can reinforce cultural identity by communicating the spirit and traditions of a people. The arts are, therefore, able to affirm the redemptive values and stories of a culture in an incarnational way.

Art can Challenge
Because of its prophetic nature, art can also challenge the meaning, purpose and values of a culture. Art can be spiritual warfare. The arts oppose demonic expressions by exposing their nature and influence.


Art is an Exchange

Ideas shape our values. Our values inform our behavior. Unless distorted ideas and values change, there can be no genuine restoration in an individual or culture. Works of art provide a “meeting place” for artist and audience to “dialogue.” Ideas can be exchanged through the power of the imagination. This exchange of ideas opens the possibility for new understanding and revelation to be received. Art informed by a biblical worldview can shed light on every area of human thought and experience.

The ability of the arts to celebrate, reinforce, challenge, and exchange does not, in itself, guarantee positive outcomes. Without a biblical worldview, harmful values can be celebrated, destructive life affirming truths can be challenged, and great ideas can be replaced by mediocre thinking.

Because culture is never static,
the role of the artist is not only to reinvest old myths and
symbols with new meaning,
but to create new symbols that will have redemptive
intent and meaning for a culture.


The Nature of Art

To understand how the arts can celebrate, reinforce, challenge and exchange ideas, is to understand the nature of art.

Art involves the imagination—it vicariously offers the possibility of sharing new experiences through the power of the imagination.

Art enables revelation—it has the ability to make the familiar appear unfamiliar, so that it can be revisited with fresh eyes.

Art is prophetic—it can identify and “critique” present experience and envision a new reality.

Art contains meaning—it always implicitly embodies values. Values give a community its sense of meaning and purpose.

Art offers an experience—by engaging the emotions as well as the intellect. It can, therefore, bypass our consciously held value system.

Art deals with universal truths—by expressing what is common to humanity in every age and in every people group.


God’s Original Intention Restored

We have come full circle. God’s original intention for His Creation has been fully restored. We see here the complete restoration of the Kingdom “yet to come.” All of history is moving toward this moment.

God’s rule and reign will come in all of its fullness when Christ returns, yet Jesus declared that the Kingdom had already come. God has begun the process of restoring all aspects of His fallen Creation.

His restoration is cosmic in scope. God was in Christ, reconciling the world
(Gr. Kosmos) to Himself. (II Cor. 5:19). There is no area of culture or any aspect of human reality that is outside of God’s reconciliation plan.

God is bringing all things into harmony with His original intention (Col. 1:20). He called us to the same ministry when He commissioned us to be ministers of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:18).

The word we deliver to individuals, spheres of work and to societal structures is “be reconciled to God”—be brought back into harmony with His original intention (II Cor 5:20).

The Gospel of the Kingdom transcends culture. But its transforming power and purpose must be worked out within each unique cultural framework. God’s restoration plan includes the “healing of the nations.”


The above material cannot be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Colin Harbinson.
A fully illustrated color booklet on these concepts can be ordered, along with a Powerpoint Presentation. Please click on orders icon to obtain your copy.

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