a concise theology of art


Art moves. Art has the innate ability to captivate your thoughts and stir your emotions. Art encompasses all of your life and the world in which you live. You cannot step outside your home or inside your home without taking in some kind of artistic expression. What is art? What is good art? What is the origin of art?

creativity and beauty is in the eye of the Beholder

Have you ever thought about art being a biblical concept? Have you thought about art origins being God—the first artist? And His Creation and created beings reflect His creativeness? God is an artistic God. He has created a wonder of colorful marvel. From the tiny microbe to the massive mountain ranges to the myriads of stars that glitter the night sky, God is a masterfully skilled artisan. Creativity and beauty reflects your Creator. Art in the Bible can be any creative medium to express God’s character: music, songs, poetry, prose, dance, fashion, sculpting, architecture, interior design, graphic design, drawing, carpentry, even teaching and preaching.

I would define art simple as creating beauty for God’s glory. Man has the ability to create and be creative because he mimics his Creator. The Creator has given His creation the ability to create. Creating for the glory of God is art at its chief and highest purpose.

Francis Schaeffer, the apologist and cultural critic, says art is a reflection of God. He believed that Christian art had a minor theme–the abnormality of the revolting world—and a major theme—the meaningfulness and purposefulness of life. By this definition an artist doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christian in order to produce “Christian art.”

twisted creativity and beauty

“GOD was pleased to make man, and GOD made man with creative capacities. Apart from GOD, man would not be, nor would man have any artistic, creative ability. Therefore, to engage in any artistic expression of man as being apart from GOD, is to both dishonor GOD, the Author of man and artistic expression, and to deny ourselves the full pleasures that GOD has intended for our enjoyment in art; culminating in our enjoyment in Him, through JESUS CHRIST.” – Artist’s Creed

God defines artistic beauty and creativity, but man has perverted and distorted art through sinful intentions and expressions. Any art that does not adhere to biblical guidelines is not for the glory of God. Here are four examples of sinful art.

First, graffiti without permission is lawless. Law considers defacing public property with graffiti vandalism. Now I have seen a lot of graffiti that makes an ugly wall beautiful, but without adhering to the law it is still sinful. Get permission before you paint graffiti.

Second, pornography is not biblical art. There are numerous rationalizations for nakedness being a genuine art form. Yes, man once walked naked in the Garden of Eden, but since the fall of mankind nakedness was synonymous with shamefulness. God, as the first fashion designer, made man clothing to cover their nakedness and shame. What is beautiful about nakedness according to the Bible is sexual intimacy in the context of committed marriage. For more on this check out a great article called, “Art, Nakedness and Redemption”.

Third, blaspheming God in art is more than irreverent it’s unregenerate. Can artists go too far? Absolutely, creating blasphemous or ironic religious imagery crosses biblical standards. In the Law of God given to Moses it says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” [Exodus 20:4-5] Then Leviticus 26:1, goes on to say, ”You shall not make idols for yourselves or erect an image or pillar, and you shall not set up a figured stone in your land to bow down to it, for I am the Lord your God.” What is being forbidden is not the creation of all representational art, but what is forbidden is the worship and praise of graven images. When God commanding Moses to create the tabernacle and decorate it with imagery it included representations of “anything that is in heaven” [i.e. cherubim] and of that which is “in the earth beneath” [i.e. flowers and pomegranates). If God were prohibiting the creation of all representational art He would order Moses to disobey his command.

Fourth, artists do not create the rules. The underlying assumption in modern art is that artists are allowed to “create their own rules.” It is a common standard in Western culture that the artist, as an individual creative genius, stands apart from or outside of culture. In other words, the artist has taken the role once reserved for the prophet. However, according to the Scripture we are not autonomous individuals, but persons bound in community. God’s Word is not a private message given to us as individuals to interpret as we choose. It is a guiding text that is given to the church in order that we may live, work, and breathe as the beautiful Bride of Christ. The artist is in the same position as teachers and preachers, who are held to a higher standard because they are entrusted with communicating the truth.

Sin has a tendency of distorting really good things that God intends for His glory. All art must have a biblical standard and framework. This does not mean all art must have be pictures of Jesus or clouds with rainbows, but art must reflect the redemptive purpose of Christ and the creative glory of God [Romans 11:36]. All people should be encouraged to create art that is creative, beautiful, displaying truth. Just as all truth is God’s truth, all beauty is God’s beauty.

“The artist is called and gifted by God—who loves all kinds of art; who maintains high aesthetic standards for goodness, truth, and beauty; and whose glory is art’s highest goal. We accept these principles because they are biblical, and also because they are true to God’s character. What we believe about art is based on what we believe about God. Art is what it is because God is who He is.” – Philip Ryken

creating beauty for the glory of God

Since, a child I have loved art. I learned a lot about art from watching my dad paint and carve wood. My favorite classes in school were art, not because it was an easy A. Even now, I enjoy drawing in my idea book, make a hobby out of writing, dabble in graphic design, and marvel at architecture and nature when I travel. I love to dance, and am moved when I hear my wife sing or play the guitar. Art moves me.

For all eternity, we will be awed by the creative genius’ God has displayed in His creation. I still think the best is yet to come. God will reveal to us the beauty and creativity of the heavens, which captivates our imaginations. God has wired us to enjoy creativity and beauty.

BOOKS ON ART FOR GOD’S GLORY:

ARTICLES ON ART FOR GOD’S GLORY:

SERMONS ON ART FOR GOD’S GLORY

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