Why Christians Should Create

4 reasons Christians should push the bounds of art.

I was recently having a conversation on Facebook with a friend who was quite frustrated. His frustration stemmed from how Christians seem to stifle certain forms of art or put certain art into categories, calling them either "Christian" or "Secular."

This has been an ongoing conversation among Christians. Prominent Christian artists such as Jon Foreman have spoken into the debate about "Christian songs." Foreman said, "What is more Christ-like: feeding the poor, making furniture, cleaning bathrooms, or painting a sunset? There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds."

It seems Foreman only touched the tip of the iceberg. There is a deep rift that has been slowly growing for decades, possibly even centuries, in Christian thought, and it's bled into the modern creative Christian culture. Because of this divide, this “Christian” label we slap on art, we often think art made by Christians has to look or sound a certain way.

To those of us trying to live out our beliefs, art can seem dangerous because the art of our culture preaches the beliefs of the culture, and many of these beliefs run counter to the Christian values we hold. But our goal should not be to avoid “secular” art and media, or merely take art as it's given to us and try to fix it, but to create our own art that is unique, meaningful and paradigm-shifting.

Far from sticking to the conventional standards of “Christian” art, Christian artists should be willing to take risks, to express their deep-seated beliefs and convictions in their own ways. For Christians, art is taking part of the material world and making it sacred with our expression of love and devotion to God. The aesthetic isn't what makes it Christian, the artist's purpose does.

Art can not only express our beliefs in Jesus Christ, but breathe life into the world in the process. There are several ways art is linked to our beliefs, which show us, in part why Christians should create:

It's Innate

Art is inherently manifesting ideas and concepts into pictures and words that we are at a loss to describe plainly.


We first need to understand our beliefs. Are they just a category of our lives? Are they something we put on the bottom shelf, to take out only on Sundays? I think most Christians would say “No,” and I think most artists would say we have convictions that motivate our art and cause us to create in a certain direction, whether these convictions are religious or not.

Our art usually ends up as an expression of what we perceive as the main conviction in our lives. As Christians, this doesn’t limit our subject matter because the Gospel applies to every part of life. And, at times, this means our art may not be censored because it's coming from an unfiltered part of our being. David certainly didn't censor his thoughts in the Psalms, and the author of Song of Songs didn't either.

It's Incarnational

Art is inherently manifesting ideas and concepts into pictures and words that we are at a loss to describe plainly. Similarly, when God came down and became a man, He put the unfathomable, indescribable God into a human image. He had a face and a form.

Art is how we express our unfathomable reality in words or pictures or sounds. When a painter paints a sunrise, the artist is putting forth his or her interpretation of the emotions and unspoken words of that sunrise. The author of a book is projecting part of his or herself into the characters and settings, sometimes expressing his or herself in ways that surprise even the author.

It's Inspired

Art comes from the deepest part of any human. When an artist works, they know it's something they have to let out.

Art comes from the deepest part of any human. When an artist works, they know it's something they have to let out. It is an idea that cannot be contained but must be expressed.

We, as Christians, ultimately see the entire universe filled with God, so our art comes from that same gut feeling that drives us to express the beauty and majesty of what we see around us and in is. It can be controversial and brazen to many, but it is an expression of the truth we have found deep within our souls.

It's Iconoclastic

I appreciate and love the iconographic tradition of the Church. I love how I can look at pictures that are hundreds of years old and see my faith with different eyes.

You Might Also Like

But sometimes, we can start to value the aesthetic of an artform over its greater meaning. We latch on to a specific genre or structure that appeals to us or that we’ve seen traditionally in the church we grew up in and then put that above all other forms. This often happens within Christianity. It’s easy to demonize certain expressions of art we’re unfamiliar with and say they’re inherently ungodly. Take, for example, the new, growing movement in Christian hip-hop. There was even a recent NCFIC forum debate where the Godliness of Christian hip-hop was scrutinized. Now, this may seem silly to many, but there are many people who hold certain forms of art as more or less pleasing to God and that may be because the aesthetic is newer and seems less secure.

But sticking to the accepted forms of art is unnatural for how art operates. Art is supposed to take us to new places and break down walls in our perceptions. That doesn’t mean we should abandon old artforms. There is a lot of value in rediscovering the art of the past, the art that has stood the test of time. But we shouldn’t fear the new, either.

These are just a few of the reasons Christians should create. And, whether they label their art as “Christian” or not, artists need the support of the Christian community, not its derision when they dare to shift our paradigm regarding the aesthetics of art. If the core conviction and meaning is something we share, we shouldn’t reject or decry art that doesn’t appeal to our aesthetic tastes. After all, the art may appeal to someone else who’s searching for art in an avenue that they're familiar with and ends up discovering art from a Christian artist willing to take a risk that speaks to their soul and leads to an encounter with a living God.

An earlier form of this article appeared in 2014.

Top Comments

J.H. Ackman

7

J.H. Ackman replied to Markus Hagedorn's comment

Interesting. Yet why do we choose to discuss music, theatre, movies and books repeatedly? They too are expressions of something deep worthy of discussion. The visual arts are no different. My point from earlier is that the visual arts are not really being discussed at all. Why is it that in each issue there are sections devoted to music, movies and books and not the visual arts? Why not a section on the visual arts? Album reviews, book reviews...why not exhibition reviews? If you want Christians to dig into the world and create excellent, meaningful work then show the readers examples of great visual art. Discuss and look at the work of artists that are making an impact in the world. As an artist and an art teacher myself, my students and I discuss art all of the time. We don't just simply look at it and walk away. That is simply selling visual art short if we were to do that. I have to disagree with you Markus I believe the arts need to be talked about, discussed and chewed on more than ever.

Rick Giovanetto

1

Rick Giovanetto commented…

Zach, some 30 years a leader in my church criticized Pat Boone's appearance on the Tonight Show because he did not share the plan of salvation and sang "April Love." Living the Christian life entails every emotion, every relationship, every attitude. No matter the genre, art created by believers should express the heart of God and should encompass everything common to humans, but having a Bible verse stamped on it should not be a requirement. Christian artists need to permeate every artistic outlet and speak to the heart and soul of people,

20 Comments

Rick Giovanetto

1

Rick Giovanetto commented…

Zach, some 30 years a leader in my church criticized Pat Boone's appearance on the Tonight Show because he did not share the plan of salvation and sang "April Love." Living the Christian life entails every emotion, every relationship, every attitude. No matter the genre, art created by believers should express the heart of God and should encompass everything common to humans, but having a Bible verse stamped on it should not be a requirement. Christian artists need to permeate every artistic outlet and speak to the heart and soul of people,

Ty Johnson

5

Ty Johnson commented…

username: tlj3r_mtsu_s14

I'm very thankful that an article such as this is on such a public forum that is available to millions across the globe. For multiple years now, I've shared much of the same convictions as the writer. Christian art should not be limited to a few long-in-the-tooth aesthetics. There is absolutely nothing wrong with honoring the art of the past, which was made by our spiritual predecessors. However, if I understand him correctly, I agree with the author that Christians should be creating art that is fearless in venturing into new aesthetics without sacrificing the purpose of bringing the audience into an encounter with the living God.

I believe that Christians should be at the forefront of creating art that is literally awe-inspiring. I think Christians cower from creating such art because perhaps so many of us miss the fact that it's okay to be pioneers of art on earth, because as a Christian- a born-again child of God, we have the spirit of God dwelling inside of us. This is the God who so masterfully created the heavens and the earth, and the more we create art as undiluted worship to our God, the more we make ourselves fully available as conduits of The Holy Spirit for God to reveal more of Himself to the lives of billions across the world.

Art communicates in such a way that casual conversation or ferocious debate just simply cannot. For a Christian, art is more than just creative expression, it is worship, and it is full immersion into the awe-inspiring and living God Himself, Yahweh. To be brought into a state of total of awe of God for both the artist and the audience of God- the most profound artist of all-time. Who was, is, and always will be.

Sine

20

Sine commented…

Preach. Tired of this art/Christian art seperation. Read a book by Steve Turner about this very topic entitled Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts. Great read.

Robert

13

Robert commented…

Wow. Just read the "NCFIC forum debate" over Christian hip-hop. The "arguments" against? Full of nonsense.

David John Eden

1

David John Eden commented…

Excellent article. Vital topic. Heaven's heartbeat. My lifelong pursuit.
As a creative disciple of Jesus for 4 decades, He's taught me that He longs first to make ME His song & His art. And then create thru me. So, I may create worship or witness music or art. Or I may make romantic or political works. I may preach sermons or clean toilets. But tho they may appear sacred or secular, holy or mundane, they should all be done prayerfully, excellently, joyfully, fearfully(?) dependent on His Spirit! Lord- sing, paint, compute, cook, clean, plumb, preach thru me!
"Let Your Kingdom will be done on earth (& in me) as in Heaven."
"Whatever your hand finds to do: do it w/all your heart as to the Lord."

(Another great book on this: "Every Good Endeavor" by Tim Keller.)

Please log in or register to comment

Log In