“Christian Art”

What is Christian Art? I consider myself a Christian and and Artist and have lately been wondering about the philosophy of Art. Looking at the Technocrati back links for my wife’s blog I found and interesting entry titled Christian Art on a new addition to my blog roll, intellectuelle.

I’m kind of coming in on the tail end of the conversation, but that won’t stop me for adding my thoughts, ill-formed though they are.

I’ll start with my definition of Art – with a capital A. Art is an act of creation in a medium. It could also be a product of that act.

Christian is an adjective for things having to do with Christ.

It is my belief God is the great artist, molding and guiding the world in the medium we call reality. He also knits us together in our mother’s wombs and molds and guides out lives. There is a great metaphoric picture in Romans 9:21 of God creating with patience lives that for noble and common purposes.

I also believe when the Bible says all humans were created in his image, the primary way we are in his image is our ability to create. Animals don’t make art. They don’t seek beauty. Only man does.

So all art is to some extent the product of the godness in all humans. But like all things it can be pure or it can be twisted. We live in a fallen world, where lies and distortion infuse everything and everyone.

As an aside lets look at angels and demons. In the Judeo/Christian system, angels and demons are the same thing in essence. They have the same abilities and qualities. But one is fallen and completely twisted, and one is pure to its essence, to what God created it to be.

Art can have technical quality and be evil art. Art can be pure and have poor quality. I think the biggest frustration with Christian art is its low quality. And I said in a previous post, why is it when the words “and crafts” is added to art it becomes cheesy?

Not all art is God’s art. Though it is a practice of his likeness, it doesn’t make it his Truth. Not all art is True. I once wrote an essay titled “Fiction Is Not True”. Should find that and post it. The point of it was everyone knows that the facts of a work of fiction are made up, but most people believe the world-view or theme of a work is true. That’s why people read great fiction. It shows them something of the human condition they don’t see normally. But many times even that isn’t True with a capital T.

So the question comes back to what is Christian Art? Is it art by Christians? Or is it art about Christ?

Part of that word usage is what you are trying to say. If you are referring to art created by Christians, it is fine to call it Christian art. If you are referring to art about Christ, it is fine to refer to it as Christian art.

Personally I’d use the term to refer to art about Christ, whether it was created by Christians or not. And I believe non-Christians can create Christian art. And Christians can create non-Christian art.

For example, a Christian singer might higher the best guitar player in Nashville to record guitar tracks on their new album. That guitar player might not be a Christian, but the songs he helps to make of the highest quality are Christian art.

Example of the other way. I think the Goth Swimsuit Calendar is art, but I don’t think it is Christian art. It really has nothing to do with Christ or telling his story. I don’t think it is anti-christ, though I’m sure there are Christians who would think so. But it really leaves Jesus out of the picture.

Now if you really want to have an interesting discussion, start with the question, “What is beauty?”

5 thoughts on ““Christian Art””

  1. “I also believe when the Bible says all humans were created in his image, the primary way we are in his image is our ability to create. Animals don’t make art. They don’t seek beauty. Only man does.”

    Just to be contrarian:

    http://www.koko.org/world/art_still.html

    More than a few of these works are impressionistic and easily identifiable as art, at least to me. Some are simply splashes of color, but no less artistic than the early paintings of a child who doesn’t have the fine motor skills or training to be more “realistic.” The still-lifes and action paintings in particular indicate an intelligence able to abstract concepts and interpret them in a different mode.

    I’ve always found the “in his image” concept to be an interesting one. The degree to which you take this literally may become a breaking point for many religions in the future. What happens if/when we find another intelligence in the universe? Is this lifeform not allowed into heaven?

    I’ve read a few sci-fi stories that explored this area – one of my favorites involved a violent schism in the Catholic church as one side tried to expand the definition of “in his image” to include the new extraterrestrial race while the other couldn’t come to grips with letting some bug-eyed monster into heaven.

  2. Interesting. My first thought was do they know what they are doing, and do the have an appreciation for it. Would the other ape prefer one image over another? Would they want to keep it around and hang it on a tree for future viewing.

    But given my very wide defintion of art, it would fit. Of course I could create a machine that would produce works in a meduim that would have artistic merit.

    Food for thought.

    On the aliens in his image thought. I’ve actually had this discussion with other Christians. One contended it was proof there would be no aliens. I’m not really of that opinion.

    But I’ve decided I’ll decide when we find these aliens and talk to them. It is possible God could create intellegence and them not be in his image. Would they create art? In interesting question, but not really an answerable one except by observation.

  3. Like many others, I was initially skeptical of the true level of awareness and intelligence exhibited by Koko and Michael. I’ve seen a few documentaries over the years, however, and found myself profoundly affected.

    Both apes have demonstrated appreciation for various types of art and have definite likes and dislikes. It’s their emotional depth, however, that has really made me look more closely at what we call “humanity.” One episode in particular was deeply moving – I was watching a Discovery Channel documentary on the pair and Michael told the story of his capture as an infant, including seeing his family killed – it was a profound moment and changed the way I thought about the project quite a bit.

    Koko exhibits emotions ranging from happiness and sadness (which you might think of as “basic”) to what I think of as more complex emotions such as embarrasment. What’s more, Koko has used compound words to describe things for which she doesn’t yet have a vocabulary. (I remember “finger-bracelet” for ring on one show).

    It is, of course, possible that Koko and Michael are anomolies, but given displays of intelligence, logic, and emotion in other species (dolphins and chimps, for example), I have a slightly broader interpretation of “in his image” than many. And ultimately, it was a human who wrote those words. Even if we say it was through divine inspiration (which is how most people reconcile that the Bible (or any other major text) is the word of God despite being written by Man, the concepts still have to pass through human filters, both the author’s and the reader’s.

    Then of course, there’s the problem with tranlsation from the original texts… but that’s probably a different post. 🙂

  4. That’s very interesting. I haven’t seen any of these programs you are talking about.

    You are right that a discussion of Biblical inspiration and study is beyond the scope of a comment, but let me tell you how I look at this issue and the Bible.

    The image passage, or at least the main one, is Genesis 1:27.

    “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

    Looking at this passage it seems to clearly say that something is special about the way God created man and that something special makes him different from animals, since there was no mention of this image when refering to the creation of animals.

    So I have to figure out what that difference is. If I say it is the ability to create art and I find that apes can create art, then that image is isn’t the creation of art. But it would be IMHO changing the text to say that animals were created in the image of God.

    As an intersting side note the next instance of refering to man as being in God’s image is Genesis 9. And it is there the Bible says God will hold even animals accountable for the killing of men because they were created in His images.

    So the image isn’t about being held accountable, because even the animals are going to be held accountable for somethings. What that accountability is isn’t specified.

  5. I believe that Christian Art is art that glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. It can have a scriptural, biblical theme, or simply be an artistic rendition of how the artist pictures Jesus in his mind’s eye. Check out my Christian art website, http://www.lordsart.com and let me know what you think. Thanks, and God bless you 🙂

Comments are closed.