Scotty Smith, Founding Pastor of Christ Community Church in Nashville, TN, recently shared a picture of a painting, by Nashville artist David Arms, that hanging in Christ Community’s worship center. It is a symbolic representation of what Thomas Boston called Human Nature in its Fourfold State.
Under the figure of a tree before the fall, after the fall, in light of the Gospel, and in glory, the painting captures the essence of what God is doing in redemptive history. Scotty has written an explanation of the symbolism of the painting. He writes:
God’s Story comes to us as a redemptive drama in four parts.
Creation—when everything was as God meant it to be.
Fall—the tragic intrusion of sin and death, resulting in the pervasive brokenness of all people and
everything God has made.
Redemption—God’s astonishing promise to redeem his fallen image-bearers and creation through
the grace-full work of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Consummation—the magnificent fulfillment of God’s plan to gather and cherish a people forever,
and to live with them in a more-than-restored world, called “the new heaven and new earth.”
Each panel of the painting presents one of the four interrelated parts of God’s Story, and each is replete with well chosen symbols. First you notice that a tree is the predominant image in each panel; each tree is tagged with an identifying word: life, loss, love, and again, life. Why was a tree chosen as the best symbol to tell God’s Story? When God first created mankind, he placed Adam and Eve in a garden paradise, called Eden. In the middle of the Garden was the tree of life, a clear statement and celebration of the fact that God is so very good and generous. It is from God that we receive life and it is from him that all blessings flow. However, the tree of life wasn’t placed in the center of the Garden just as a reminder of the goodness of God, but also of the “godness” of God. God is God, and we are not! The tree of life calls us to great gratitude and great humility.
You can read the complete explanation of the painting here.