A Christian View of Art: Part 1

Dan Lenington on November 17, 2017

World painted

       In our adult Sunday Bible class, we are beginning a series on a Christian View of Art. Let’s begin by asking the question, what is art? Art is defined as “creative work or the making or doing of things that have form and beauty.” We should also ask the question, why do we enjoy creating new forms and expressions of beauty? Genesis 1:26-27 reminds us that we are created in the image of a creative God. God has made the most exquisite and complex designs in His creation, and we often simple copy his creativity. Another term we should consider is aesthetics. Aesthetics is the “theory of the fine arts and of people’s responses to them. This would include beauty and taste. Often people say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, is that the only criteria for identifying beauty? Is beauty only a matter of taste? Certainly, we all have unique taste, but can beauty be minimized to our own personal opinions or is there a higher standard for beauty that must be considered? Isaiah 5:20 warns of those who call evil good and good evil, those who put darkness for light and light for darkness, and those who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. We live in a relativistic and pluralistic culture, but that doesn’t change the nature of reality.  This leads us to another term to define. Attractiveness is “the quality which makes an object seem pleasing or satisfying in a certain way.” So what is the ultimate quality of beauty and art? 2 Chronicles 20:21 and Ps. 29:2 tell us that we must praise the beauty of holiness. Beauty is then defined biblically as the absence of sin. Anything that is sinful, praises sin, or makes sin look attractive is not truly beautiful.  

        Now let’s talk about the design of art which makes it enjoyable instead of simply being practical. Forms of art include visual art, audible art, and written art. In visual art, we could identify painting, sculpture, photography, architecture, cooking, and clothing. In audible art, we could identify music, singing, speeches, and even perhaps jokes! Written art includes poetry, stories, and essays. Let’s think about the features which make these forms of art appealing to us. Visual art can include variations of line, color, form, proportion, motion, and symmetry. The audible forms of art can include features such as rhyme, metre, alliteration, tone, pitch, force, and speed. Additional sensory features could include tastes, smells, and textures. God has provided these basic features and forms with which we may create new art. He wants us to be creative. However, we must remember that since the fall of man into sin, all or our creations can be tainted with sin. Romans 8:22-23 tells us that the “whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Even though man easily uses the arts for improper use, we can still create good works of art that communicate truth and praise holiness.

       Finally, Let us think about the direction of art. There are various philosophies about how art is to be considered. Some believe art is just there and cannot be evaluated and has no message. However, everyone has a worldview and will inevitably express it in their work. Some believe art is only for communicating a message. However, this view ignores the unique qualities that make art creative and enjoyable. Instead, we should try to make a good work of art and let our worldview come through. Now we can consider the purpose of art. Art is meant to be enjoyed as it symbolizes and communicates the experiences of humanity. However, many think that self expression is the final point of art. Proverbs 18:2 tells us that “a fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.” Creating a work of our merely for self expression does not rise to the necessary standard of good art that also communicates an understanding of truth. Ultimately, all art including our entire life should be appropriate as worship for the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31 says “whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Art is an incredible gift from God but it has a purpose, and we are accountable to use it according to that purpose.