The Power of Art and the Christian Artist

Art has helped humans understand and appreciate their place in the world. It mirrors life perfectly, so much so that we ask ourselves: “does art imitate life or life art?”

Art also has a profoundly communicative function. Through it people communicate to one another their feelings, their most intimate and infinitely varied and poignant thoughts.

Dialectical Materialism (A. Spirkin)

The magic of art is in the subtlety of its message, wrapped up in the beautiful. It hits you when you stare at a remarkable painting, when you hear a pleasing melody, when you come upon an evocative poetry, when you watch a fascinating movie…

And, like a medicine capsule, you take in the message along with the aesthetic. While the embedded message can be potent, we also recognise the purpose of the aesthetic appeal.

Beauty isn’t just for appeal. It is also a universal language; an enduring one too. Thus, a good work of art—along with its message—transcends the generation of the artist, going on to influence future generations.

The metaphorical language of art, far from being alien to philosophy and other sciences, is an essential condition for every new step into the unknown.

Dialectical Materialism (A. Spirkin)

Upon careful reflection, however, we can separate the message from the aesthetic value. We can ask ourselves—putting aside the beauty for a moment—“what’s the message?” Because there’s always a message, right? Otherwise, a work of art is meaningless. And if it has no meaning, then it is not worth our attention; and it is, therefore, not artistic.

But a good work of art is captivating, not only for its beauty, but also for its meaning; and its message. It is only when we get the message that we can truly understand the impression it makes.

Then comes the realisation that art is not necessarily ‘good’ because it is appealing to the senses. Thus, not every good work of art is ‘good’.

To avoid any confusion, we probably need to distinguish between good and ‘good’ in this context. I use the former to describe prominent works of art that are widely appreciated and sensually appealing (what you’d call a masterpiece). And I use the latter as the opposite of evil; ‘good’ as opposed to ‘evil’.

For the Christian artist, this distinction is very important. Does your art glorify God? or does it glamourise sin and sinfulness?

Unlike the worldly artist, the Christian artist can’t allow himself the liberty to gratify all his sensuous and imaginal ideas. No matter how appealing it might seem or sound, if it doesn’t bear a good message, then it is better left unrealised.

We know that the desires of the flesh are contrary to the Spirit; the works therefrom we find listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Such are the characteristics of art when it inspired by a carnal mind.

Contrary to the flesh, however, we can manifest the desire of the Spirit through our art. We know the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5:22-23.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

If we have all the talent, but lack the Spirit of God, our work can become a stumbling block for believers and unbelievers alike. As an artist, you wield a mighty weapon, but you need the guidance of God to use it appropriately (Exodus 31:2-3).

Should a Christian artist portray nudity in his photography? Should she sing songs that encourage immorality? Should he write any book that doesn’t edify the believer? And if doesn’t edify, to what end does he write, or paint, or sing?

You know what’s in vogue today. You know what drives our generation crazy. An idea just dropped into you mind, and it will bring you all the recognition that you crave. But, does it edify? or does it encourage sinfulness?

For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:13

Despite the restraints we set against carnal inspiration, we know that we’re limitless in Christ. There’s no limit to the artistic freedom we have in God; no limit to the songs we can sing, no limit to the poems we can write, no limit to the movies we can produce, no limit to our creative talent. There’s no limit to the things we can do to glorify God and edify humankind.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! (Romans 11:33). Let your inspiration spring from God Himself.

And let all glory return to Him; whatever you do, do all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).

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