Is Artistic Expression Biblical?

By Will Dole

I am becoming increasingly embittered towards evangelical Christianity. I admit, this is, in part, because it is easier to blame others for my problems than to “man up” and deal with them myself. However, I do have some major questions regarding how “evangelical Christians”—particularly in the United States—arrive at some of our beliefs. How often do we assume things are Biblical without taking the time to question whether what we are doing, saying or thinking really is sound? How often have we honestly examined our lives and beliefs in front of an open Bible, praying that God would reveal and remove thinking and actions that dishonor Him? Many of us have never even thought of doing this, let alone attempted it. How would our Christianity change if we closely imitated the Berean Jews of Acts chapter 17?
One area of current Christian thinking that might be impacted by a thorough review of Scripture is how we view art. Be it in the form of poetry, music, painting, drawing, sculpting or many other forms of expression, art is something rarely discussed in “conservative” circles. And from the scant references to art from the pulpit, one might conclude that anything relating to artistic expression is worldly, and therefore, evil. This avoidance led me to a somewhat jaded perception of artistic expression, squelching the desire for any artistic expression of my own or any appreciation of the works of others. It seemed to me that if so many Bible teachers I listened to had nothing to say about it, it must not be important. Being a creative person, this has always bothered me. How could the God of the universe, the Creator of art, Creator of the artist, and truly the most magnificent Artist of all, have nothing to say about art? Worse yet, how could He be opposed to artistic expression?
I did not understand how tragically wrong I was until a couple years ago. It was then that God started to grab my attention in many areas, but one that seemed to slip in the back door was this idea of godly artistic expression. Over time, God has taught me more about art.
Art originates from the Artist Himself. As stated previously, God is the Creator of art. In his book The God Who Smokes, Timothy Stoner puts it this way, “When God sets out to paint a picture, He flings billions of stars into the deep blue canopy of space. When God sets out to write, He inspires and collects sixty-six manuscripts into a cohesive narrative of story, poetry, history and instruction. When God decides to sculpt, He brings man out of the dust. When God sets out to direct a movie, He takes man and woman, fills the earth with His image bearers, allows them the freedom to disobey Him and wreck the planet, and then sends His Son as a perfect, obedient man to give His life away to save those who will submit their lives to Him.” That is a magnificent artist. God is the one who paints the sunset, forms the mountains and fashions these impossibly intricate bodies that we inhabit. His art is truly divine.
All too often, we assume that because a medium is used by the world, it is therefore evil. One example of this is rap music. Prior to my teen years, I honestly cannot recall hearing one positive word about this genre of music from any self-declared Christian. But one day, I heard some music by Lecrae and Trip Lee—for rap fans, I highly recommend them. I discovered two men passionately pursuing Jesus and seeking to communicate the Gospel through rap music. This left me flabbergasted. How could this supposedly sinful genre of music be used to the praise and glory of Christ?
A partial answer to this is the fact that God intends for us to use virtually any medium to communicate His truth. The fact that Jesus quite often used the parable—a culturally relevant form of teaching in His day—to communicate the truth of His message is an example of this. God is not bound by our preconceived notion of how the message ought to be packaged. God works outside of the box!
We should be careful to note that art is not intended to be an expression of only ourselves. Industries of expression are largely self-centered and ego driven. This is perhaps where certain Christians recoil from creative artists.
Of course, the message we express should be glorifying to God. In Psalm 19:1-4, David tells us what message God Himself has expressed through His creation, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words, no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
God’s ultimate goal for our lives is that we delight in Him and express that delight and satisfaction in whatever way He has gifted us, including artistic expression. God does not call us to a stiff religion. He calls us into a loving relationship where we use the gifts He has given us for the edification of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and most importantly, for glorifying Him who created us. Praise be His name!

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