“She never looked nice.She looked like art, and art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed tomake you feel something.” Rainbow Rowell wrote this line in her now famousbook, Eleanor and Park, as a statement about physical appearance, andhow society often places importance on the wrong elements of life. However,this quote can be looked at in a different fashion, and can reveal a deep truth:Art is not merely for casual viewing pleasure or simple entertainment. The roleart plays in every person’s life, specifically Christians, carries significantweight.
The arts include all that is beautiful and creative in this world, beit literature of any type, music, paintings, architecture or architecture.While many Christians attempt to escape the significance and burden artcarries, it is wrong to do so. Christians should value art and place as muchimportance on it as the other tasks that are so highly valued in society today.God created and gifted humans with beauty as well as art, and both of thosework hand-in-hand to display His truth ina richer, fuller sense. C.S.Lewis delivered his speech “Learning in War-Time” to students studying atOxford University in the fall of 1939, at the beginning of the Second WorldWar. He lays out a compelling argument to those present as to why they shouldcontinue in their various studies even though many, possibly includingthemselves, believe the war should take priority in their lives.
Throughoutthis speech, Lewis also begins to reveal why the arts should matter toChristians as a whole, whether they are on the brink of war or simply livingtheir normal lives. Lewisbegins by discussing how the war itself is not a valid reason to push aside thearts and learning, since every day society faces the reality that it could betheir last here on earth. He uses the analogy of “fiddling while Romeburns” and points out that the real problem is not the city being on fire (i.e.the war) “but that a person fiddles on the brink of hell”. Lewis then pointsout that if society used something like a war to delay studying, appreciatingart and beauty, and seeking knowledge, these things would never happen. Hediscusses how the role of Christian is to continue “doing most of the samethings one had been doing before” but doing them all for the glory of the Lord,not themselves. This is also a call to place greater value on wholesome art,because as Lewis points out, “you are not, in fact, going to read nothing,”stop thinking, or cease all interaction with all forms of art in life.
Paulreminds readers in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, doeverything in the name of the Lord Jesus” (TheHoly Bible, Col. 3:17). Christians must do everything in their daily livesfor the glory of God, and there is no way in life to avoid knowledge, art, andthat which is beautiful.
Lewis’ speech is the startingpoint for the argument as to why Christians should pursue the arts, whether itis creating them or simply appreciating and using them. The Bible is very clearin its instructions to pursue that which is good and glorifies the Lord. As Paulsays in his letter to the Philippians, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble,whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.” (Phil.
4:8). For those who do not create their own art on a daily basis, this is anexplicit instruction to appreciate and value whatever is created by others. Thewriter of Ecclesiastes gives a similar instruction to his readers when he says,”There is nothing better than for a person to enjoy their lot” (Ecc. 3:22).
Both of these authors gave clear instructions to appreciate that which isbeautiful in this world, whether the reader created it or not, for beautydeserves appreciation. These instructions should be followed closely by Christians,because as 2 Timothy 3:16 states, “All Scripture is breathed out by God andprofitable”, which shows that all of the authors of the Bible were divinelyinspired, and should be given the respect that God’s Word deserves. Art isbeautiful, so these instructions can be correctly interpreted to mean thatChristians should both create and appreciate art. AsChristians, we should know that art is important to the Lord because He notonly gave us the ability to appreciate and create it, He gave us art inthe first place.
The primary way this is seen is the Bible. To begin, the Bibleitself is work of literature. As Leland Ryken argues, “Literary conventions arepresent in the Bible from start to finish” because “its most customary way ofexpressing truth is…the story, the poem, the vision – all of them literaryforms” (The Christian Imagination, 25).Ryken helps to prove a central point: The gospel, which is the cornerstone ofChristian faith, was given to us by God in the form of an art – literature. IfGod had not wanted Christians to appreciate and value art, He would not havepresented His Word in the form of an art. Ina similar fashion, God has given explicit instructions for believers to create beautyas a means of bringing glory to His name. In Art and the Bible, FrancisSchaeffer discusses how the Lord gave Moses specific commandments regarding thebuilding of the Temple and the Tabernacle in Exodus.
The Lord gives specificarchitectural instructions, as well as aesthetic instructions, such as coveringthe temple “in precious stones for beauty” (quoted in Schaeffer, 26). Schaeffer is quick topoint out that “God simply wanted beauty in the temple” because “God is interestedin beauty” (Schaeffer, 26). Christians are reminded of the beauty of allcreation in Ecclesiastes chapter 3: “He has made everything beautiful in itstime.” If God did not want His people to value and appreciate the arts, Hewould not have been so insistent upon creating that which is beautiful.
The reason that beauty isso important is because beauty leads Christians closer to the Lord, and is away He reveals Himself through His creation. Leland Ryken defines beauty as”something inherent in creation” that “is… visible in the fingerprints of theCreator on the natural world, in the wilderness, and in human beings whoreflect the Creator’s beauty” (TheChristian Imagination, 82). Frank Burch Brown quotes Augustine, who saw”beauty…as having its acme and source in the being of God.
” (Brown, 104).Augustine continues by explaining that “the highest beauty, absolute beauty, istruly divine and therefore does deserve loving for its own sake.” (Brown, 104).God is the one who gives Christians beauty, and it is something that He loves.
During creation, He repeatedly created things and saw that they were good (Gen.1:1-31), with this goodness coming from their beauty. Through His creation,Christians can see the beauty He intentionally made, which reveals Him to us ina deeper sense. Themain reason the arts are so important is because they are beautiful, and theway beauty and art collaborate is a substantial way Christians can draw closerto the Lord. Frank Burch Brown discusses how beauty leads to the Lord in hisbook, Good Taste, Bad Taste, & Christian Taste. Hecites the thirteenth chapter of the Wisdom of Solomon in saying “from thegreatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception oftheir Creator” (quoted in Brown, 100), and he agrees with Augustine’s beliefthat “beautiful objects…come from that beauty which is higher than souls; afterthat beauty my soul sighs day and night” (quoted in Brown, 102).
Similarly,Leland Ryken discusses in his book The Liberated Imagination howimpactful it is to interact with the arts: “the reward of contact with the artsis heightened awareness… of God.” (TheLiberated Imagination, 31). Both of these authors, as well as the authorsthey cite, all clearly state that the arts help us make a closer connection toGod. He uses what we perceive in art to shape our understanding of Him in aricher and fuller way. The more Christians study the art that God has revealedto us and enabled us to create, the closer we will draw to Him. FrancisSchaeffer once said, “Every Christian is called upon to be an artist…the Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty inthe midst of a lost and despairing world”.
(Schaeffer, 94). Schaefferreinforces the belief held by many theologians and believers of all types: Thearts are important, and Christians should take care to appreciate beautifulart. There will be no way for anyone to escape the arts in their daily life, soChristians should take care to value good art, rather than filling theirthoughts and days with art that holds no real benefit. The beauty of art thatis seen all around is a gift from God because He has a great appreciation forthat which is beautiful. Through beauty and art, the Christian is able to drawcloser to the Lord and develop a stronger relationship with Him, which shouldbe the ultimate goal of the Christian life. It pleases the Lord when His peoplevalue what He has made, and it pleases Him when they use the skills He hasgiven them for His glory. The arts should be a central part of the Christianlife, so that Christians can develop a better relationship with the Lord eachand every day.