For many generations, the Church as a whole has largely rejected art as a meaningful and essential pursuit. It was not always this way. The Church was once a dominant force in the world of composing and painting, but no longer so. I believe that we have forgotten what art is for and have left the creation of art to the secular culture. Doing so has only caused a further separation of the Church from art, because art is now often held as a secular pursuit. But let me make it very clear: art is not a secular pursuit. Art is a spiritual pursuit. Art is a Christian pursuit.
Our ultimate purpose as people is to glorify God. This isn’t just singing in church on Sunday. We can (and are called to) bring glory to God in everything we do (1 Corinthians 6:20). If you think that creating art is outside of that, you’re wrong. Art is an excellent and worthy way to bring glory to God, and Christianity as a whole has forgotten that.
I want to offer three reasons why art is important to us as Christians and why we need Christian artists. First, art is creation and invention. When God made us “in his own image,” (Genesis 1:27) one of the abilities he gave us was to create. Now, we can’t create ex nihilo—out of nothing, but we can create using what God has created. In other words, we can’t make a painting out of nothing, but we can make paper out of the trees God has made and paint out of the oils and pigments God has created and then create a painting from that. Any kind of art both requires and mimics God’s creation. When we create, we are using an ability that we share in part with God, reflecting who he is. We bring him glory by using the gifts he has put in us, mimicking on a small scale his own creativity and artistry.
Second, art is concerned with communicating two things: truth and beauty. Art is always true and always beautiful. Truth and beauty are two of God’s attributes—he is both true and beautiful. All the truth and beauty we see comes from God. When God creates, he communicates his truth and beauty. When we create, rather than communicating our truth and beauty, we communicate his truth and beauty. The creation of the creation is honoring and glorifying to the Creator. The art of the art is honoring and glorifying to the Artist. We are God’s art. When we make art, we honor and glorify him. Art reflects God’s attributes—it shares his truth and beauty with the world!
Some of you may be thinking, “but not all art is good, right?” That’s true—there is bad art. Bad art is art that communicates truth and beauty poorly. But bad art is not the main problem. Bad art can be fixed by learning to communicate truth and beauty well, whatever the medium. The main problem is what I’ll call “evil art.” Evil art is art that distorts truth and beauty in an excellent, persuasive way. Evil art is convincing but wrong, the way Satan was convincing but wrong when he tempted Adam and Eve in the garden. Evil art deceives people—it points them away from God. It makes the wrong things seem beautiful and the wrong things seem true.
This brings me to my third point. Good art, true art, must fight evil art. I don’t mean fighting like karate or wrestling—I mean fighting by creating art! Good art can expose evil art for what it is and defeat it. You, as a Christian artist, must show truth and beauty and expose evil art for what it is—lies and ugliness! We need good artists who can respond to evil art on it’s own territory and defeat it. Otherwise, people will be led astray. The world of art is like a long conversation, stretching out from the creation of man until now. We need more good voices in that conversation, sharing truth and beauty and pointing people to God—because that is art’s purpose. That is everything’s purpose.
We need Christian artists in every art form. We need photographers, writers, filmmakers, painters, musicians, actors, composers, sculptors, playwrights, illustrators, songwriters, animators, dancers, and comedians to explore and reflect the attributes and character of God so that others—the viewers or listeners or participants—can see God more clearly and may be drawn to him and so that art that distorts or rejects God can be fought and defeated.
This doesn’t mean that every painting of a Christian painter must be of Jesus, or that every film of a Christian filmmaker must be a Bible story, or even contain Christian characters. You are not limited in these ways in good art. You are only called to display and reflect and explore God’s truth and beauty. The options for you are limitless, because God himself is limitless! If you want to create art, I encourage you not to look around at what other Christians are doing, but rather go to the Bible. Find the truth and beauty in God’s word that inspires you and thrills you and paint or write or compose music about that. Do you admire God’s strength? Explore ideas of strength in your art. Maybe that means comparing the infinite strength of God with the finite weakness of humans. Maybe what interests you most is the way that strength is shown in Jesus, when he allows himself to be beaten, tortured, and killed by weak humans who he could have destroyed with one word. Explore those things. Communicate them to your audience. Find out how you can share those things in a way people will understand and appreciate. Offer a different angle, a different view. Keep learning and trying and growing. Art to the glory of God is not a waste of time. Find your art form and start creating!