Christians and the Arts
by Doy Moyer
Worldviews and faith are expressed in many ways. We express them in the way that we work through our jobs, the way that we show ourselves as neighbors, and even in the way that we recreate. We are not afraid to show that we “serve the Lord Christ” (Colossians 3:24). The challenge for the Christian is to live in a culture that is hostile to the faith while at the same time demonstrating how important the faith is through the various avenues available to us. Scripture tells us how important this is in various passages that remind us that how we demonstrate our faith will point to God:
“Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that when they slander you as evildoers, they will observe your good works and will glorify God on the day He visits” (I Peter 2:12).
“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Christians ought to be active in the culture in order to try to make godly contributions and point people to Jesus Christ and His gospel. This can be done through a number of paths, but we want to emphasize here that this can be done through avenues like music, art, story-telling, and literature.
Francis Schaeffer pointed out, “We do not seem to understand that the arts too are supposed to be under the lordship of Christ” (Art and the Bible, p. 17). Whatever abilities we have and whatever we choose to do are all to be under Christ’s Lordship.
If you have talents in the arts, then, as a Christian, you should utilize them as pointers to the gospel of our Lord. Arts like these reflect God in His creative nature. Like God, we can create beauty and share our talents to demonstrate that human needs like love and hope are indicators of the God who offers these in abundance through Jesus Christ.
Good stories should point us to God. We see how often such great themes arise in stories and films, showing a universal longing for happiness, love, hope, justice, forgiveness, mercy, and so on. We often see in these stories the horrible effects of sin followed by the desire and opportunity for redemption. We should see these in the light of human needs and desires and then use them to point to the only One who ultimately can provide what we are seeking. The story of our culture is told in art, music, and stories, and we need to pick up on these and redeem them for the Lord.
Paul Gould pointed out, “Stories move the heart. Beauty awakens our longings, and the imagination paints pictures in our mind that help us see reality more clearly” (Cultural Apologetics, p. 97). He wrote that “beauty plays a key role in awakening and sustaining our longing for what is good, our longing to return home in our spiritual journey.” Further, “A key task of cultural apologetics is cultivating and creating beauty. We must learn to utilize art, the imagination, and our innate longing for beauty to draw others to the beauty of Jesus and the gospel” (p. 99).
When God had the tabernacle built, he called upon artists who could create beauty and exercise their skills for the Lord (see Exodus 35:25-26, 34-35). Many are skilled in various ways and are able to make, shape, create, and build in ways that demonstrate excellence. These talents can be used to point people to the Lord and as reflections of the beauty that He creates. Gould again writes:
“Artists curate beauty, aiding us in seeing reality as it is, painting the world in its proper light and helping us to see it as enchanted, mysterious, and sacred. Artists help us see and understand truth. In seeing and understanding truth, reality as it is, we enjoy it. In seeing and understanding and enjoying reality as it is, we are moved to worship God, who is the source of all things.” (p. 103)
Schaeffer also wrote,
“The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life—they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself” (p. 18).
Of course, we are not to make physical idols of God or idolize art itself. But we ought to use the beauty of these to point to God. Just as creation talks and shows forth God’s glory (Psalms 19), so His human creation can be creators whose arts and crafts also show forth God’s glory.
The next time you are moved by a piece of art, a good story, or beautiful music, stop and reflect upon how these point us back to God. Let yourself be moved by it, then see the reflection of God’s image in our longings. And if you have such talents, I pray that you use them fully to God’s glory.