What is Art?
I’m pleased to present another guest post from my sister, Amy. Previously, she wrote an excellent article on the importance of art in a Biblical worldview. Today she continues the discussion by bringing a definition of art. Be sure to check out her blog at www.artofthislife.wordpress.com.
Several months back, I took some time to answer a significant question: is art important? From the Word of God, the conclusion was a resounding YES. But while art may be important, one crucial question remains unanswered. What is art after all?
Art has multiple aspects which make it appear at first glance to be a difficult field to define. Add to that the twisted definitions of our culture, and art now indicates a wide array of things to our society—ranging from the fine arts of the masters to things so deluded we would be ashamed even to see them. Thankfully, as the Bible affirms to us that art is important, it also guides us to a clear understanding of what art actually is.
Art is Creative
It is important to remember that we create art because we are formed in the image of God. Knowing that we create because God is Creator, we can learn what art is by looking closely at God’s creation. There is hardly a simpler yet more meaningful and descriptive summary of God’s creativity than found in Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Think of it, the goodness of God overflowing in creativity, filling an empty void of darkness and suspending in its place a universe of wonder and perfection!
Art is Good
In bold contradiction to our culture, as Christians we must assert clearly that the vile, the evil, and the shameful are not art. Instead, Paul provides us with several descriptive adjectives in Philippians 4:8 which heighten our understanding of good art: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” It is this purity, this honorable excellence, this goodness that is essential to art.
Art is Communicative
Still there is more to be learned from God’s creation: not only was it good as an outflowing of His character, but it clearly communicates the message of God in its existence.
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4 ESV)
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 ESV)
What is creation communicating? The invisible attributes and glorious handiwork of God. And so we see that art is communicative. It has a purpose higher and outside of itself with a truthful message clearly intended and conveyed.
Art is Skillful
Finally, art is skillful. We find the Bible overflowing with depictions of many art forms, and all of them are skillful. There are the musicians’ songs with instruments and dancing, beautiful poetry depicting the reality of life and God’s mercy, and the exquisite beauty of the house of God.
“The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Juda, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft.” (Exodus 31:1-5 ESV)
It was with ability, intelligence, knowledge, and craftsmanship that God intended artistic work to be done. There was nothing haphazard or ignorant about the workmanship. Indeed, that would have been shameful. Since our creative intuition is inborn in us by God Himself, it is obvious that skill is important. Nothing ought to challenge us to perfect our artistic skill and ability more than this knowledge. Should we treat with disregard the gift of imitating God in creativity?
These four components – creativity, goodness, communication, and skill – allow us to see clearly through a confused culture to a solid understanding of art. What is art? Art is a skillful communication that presents truth purely and creatively.