Should Art Matter to Christians?

By James Losey

Should art be important to Christians? What place should art have in the Christian life? Is painting, music, film, television, literature and poetry a way of slowly bringing sin into the Christian life? Should Christians only focus on “religious things” and forget about art? 

As Christians we tend to overlook art and push it the very end of the line. Doing so we neglect God given creativity. We as Christians believe Christ is Lord over all things and has dominion over all things. We sometimes narrow Christ’s dominion to just a few things instead of all things. In order to fully understand the purpose of art for Christians we first have to ask ourselves, what does it mean for Christ to be Lord over all of creation? 

“ ‘Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creepy thing that creeps on the earth” – Genesis 1:26 (NASB) 

In the beginning God created male and female in His image and gave them dominion over all creation. Christianity as a whole involves all of humankind, not just spirit and body but intellect and creativeness. Art does have a place in the church and in the Christian life. We see magnificent facets of creativity and art throughout scripture.

1. Poetry 

Poetry and wisdom literature are found all throughout scripture. You will not find more beautiful forms of wordsmithing than in the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon. All of it is a testament to the glory, wisdom and beauty of God. 

2. Music 

There are numerous Bible verses throughout scripture that promote beautiful music with various instruments. The Bible calls us to use every musical instrument to create beautiful sounding music for the praise of God. 

“Praise Him with trumpet sound; Praise Him with harp and lyre. Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe. Praise Him with resounding loud cymbals; Praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” – Psalm 150 (NASB)

3. Art and Architecture

There is one thing that God doesn’t lack in and that is good taste in craftsmanship. Whenever God commanded something to be built He demanded skillful workman who crafted beautiful art.

“Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen and blue and purple and scarlet material; you shall make them with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman.”- Exodus 26:1 (NASB) 

4. Storytelling 

Jesus was the best at the art of storytelling. Parables were a common form of teaching in Judaism. Jesus used parables as a means of illustrating truths about the Kingdom of God. His parables were easy to remember and used symbols and analogies that would be familiar to the people such as salt, bread, sheep, roadside mugging, seeds, and hidden treasure. Though His stories seemed simple on the top layer, they were deep in subtext and required thinking and further explanation from Jesus. Jesus only explained the meaning of parables to His disciples and often left those who rejected Him to ponder over its true meaning. 

‘And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?”Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”- Matthew 13:10-13 (NASB)

Just like in Bible times we engage in different forms of art on a daily basis. We read books, listen to music, watch movies, TV shows and we admire architecture. As Christians engaging a culture full of art, our lives should reflect God’s glory and creativity. Creativity has importance because God is the creator and we are made in the image of the creator and we are called to bare His image. It’s also important to remember that not every creation of man is great art. Creativity is good but not everything that comes from man is good because we are corrupted by sin. With this in mind art is a window to the creators worldview. Art can be used for any type of message whether it is fantasy or history. Just because it is fantasy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value in its worldview or subtext. We see great value in fantasy in the writings of Christians such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. It’s also important to note that just because an artist creates something beautiful it doesn’t mean it portrays a Biblical worldview we should accept as truth. Truth in art should be judged by what scripture says, so that we are able to discern a worldview rather than be pulled into its lies.

In conclusion Christians should make beautiful art that relates to the culture. That is as long as it stands within the truth of scripture and still reflects a Christian worldview without compromise. Christian creativity should be a thing of beauty in a lost and dying world that points to the true creator of beauty. As Francis Schaeffer writes in Art and the Bible, “The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the Stars.”