Are you a Christian artist, or an artist who is a Christian? It?s a debate in the Church. Some people feel pretty strongly about one side of the debate or the other. Regardless, God?s providence works through everything?especially art.
I have learned that God wants art to flourish?even art for art’s sake.
Robert Shaw, renowned choral conductor, stated how the early Church saved the arts in the medieval world, and that in the future the arts might very well save the Church.?It?s a statement that bears great weight when deep down we know the art we create won’t change the world in its own right. For that matter, even choosing the perfect worship set, brilliantly designing an illustration, or shooting a film won’t completely transform the world. And as artists we can get so wrapped up in our work that it might seem that’s the case, even when it is not.[quote]God wants art to flourish?even art for art’s sake.[/quote]
As a result, some artists become bullies, which is the absolute opposite of what they were trying to do. If we want to change the world we cannot act in this way, because we might actually end up turning away people who we initially hoped to reach. In the end what we do is important, but it?s not the end of the world.[quote]Some artists become bullies, which is the absolute opposite of what they were trying to do.[/quote]
Why We Create
It doesn?t matter who you ask, everyone can agree that every culture has created some form of art and it?s an integral part of who we are. Fortunately, the Bible gives us some insight into why art and creativity are intertwined into our very fabric. As it is written in Genesis, God the original creator of the universe created us in his own divine image, so that we to will be able to create and reflect (Genesis 1:1-27).
We have been created to create and God wants his work to continue to flourish on Earth through us. I think we can all recognize someone could become obsessed with their own creation and that it could be considered worship. But suggesting that art for art’s sake is somehow sinful or idolatrous in its own right is a sad example of legalism.
Beauty does not need to not be logical. Most artists feel that they need to have some sort of freedom to throw away any sort of moral meaning in their work, but in reality this is not really a freedom because art is actually a physical form of philosophy. And philosophy is a form of art. Due to this fact, art always has to carry a moral component. God?s gift of his only son made it abundantly clear that true beauty itself could be a moral message (John 3:16).[quote]Art always has to carry a moral component.[/quote]
Gift of Aesthetic Creation
I love the story of Bezalel and how it proves that art can illustrate the importance and depth of God’s incredible provenance. Growing up during a period of bondage in Egypt, Bezalel learned his trade from a nation that prided itself in the arts. While it might have been a terrible time for the Israelites, God used it to prepare his servant for the future by calling Bezalel to build a magnificent Tabernacle and all the furnishings (Exodus 31:1-10).?This tent and all it contained was vital in teaching the Israelites about God. But in order to complete this task Bezalel had to make it so beautiful and inspiring. Otherwise no one would have recognized the importance that the temple carried with it.
God knew then, just as much as today, that when people view a work of art they are often overcome with an emotion. It creates a connection that brings healing; reveals fugitive truths, a vast range of emotion, and stirs our souls. The experience can teach people far more than words can.[quote]Art has purpose. It reveals new ways to see the familiar, and unearths the extraordinary in the ordinary.[/quote]
Art has purpose. It reveals new ways to see the familiar, and unearths the extraordinary in the ordinary. And just like anything it can be used for the glorification of God by keeping our mind on him.
Putting it into Perspective
While the Book of Genesis might not use scientific terminology to explain the formation of the universe, it does however have much to say about God’s role as an artist. We as artists are in a manner continuing that legacy of creation that was implanted when God decided to make us in his image. We are not mirrors, we are bearers of his image. And as his creations we are called to be fruitful, to use our gifts and talents that he has gifted us with, to expand his word and kingdom, and bring order and beauty to creation. Our very existence is the mark of God?s presence and action.[quote]Our very existence is the mark of God?s presence and action.[/quote]
As artists we are passionate about the ?niceness? of our delivery. We want our art to make an impact, to be flawless, and to be eternal. We find ourselves constantly in ?aesthetic arrest? in a perfectionistic culture and weighed down by the fact we need to create spectacular things for God like Bezalel.
The reality is becoming obsessed with things like perfection is not ideal. Artists should realize that we do not need to die on each proverbial mountain. We need to be passionate about our work, drawings, music, words, and images. But when we create just for ourselves and feel that we can change the world directly through our own art, we let perfectionism run free. I am not saying that I am any different. It is something that happens to everyone who creates, regardless of what they create. Though, when that happens we start to hurt our art and by extension God, as he is the source of creativity to begin with.
When Robert Shaw suggested that art could save the church, he was referring to art that was made with God in mind. Of course God wants all art to flourish, but artists who keep their eyes on him and remember his message when acting as a creator, will save the church. Remember who it is, from which all creativity stems.