4 Ways that God Loves Art

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“What is this world? What is it for? It is art. It is the best of all possible art, a finite picture of the Infinite.”
― N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

I have to admit that even as a lover and creator of art, I often wonder why it matters. In the face of all the more “significant” things I could be doing, why should I take the time to take a photograph, play a song, or write an essay or blog post? I could be out doing, you know, important stuff.  Why do the arts matter? Why do we humans care about the arts even in times of tragedy and war? We love these things because we are made in the image of our Creator, and he loves art and beauty.

1. God loves beautiful art: the Creation

How do I know that God loves beautiful things? I know from the first chapter of the Bible, in which God creates a massive amount of beautiful stuff simply because he can. From all eternity past, God as Trinity was completely sufficient and satisfied in himself. He didn’t need to create, he chose to create, and he made his creation beautiful–bountifully, unnecessarily beautiful. Think of the story of humanity, of all the things contained in the Bible. God could have accomplished all of those things by building a much smaller, more practical universe. Yet, he chose to create all the beautiful vastness of the night sky–innumerable billions of completely gratuitous stars and galaxies. There are so many intricate and vast pieces of creation that no one sees except God himself, and that fact tells me that God loves beautiful things.

2. God loves to be worshiped with beautiful art: the Tabernacle

The second book of the Bible, Exodus, shows God’s love for art in worship through the descriptions of the tabernacle. If you haven’t read through them in detail, I would encourage you to do so. They show clearly that God is not just concerned with function in worship–he is intimately concerned that the articles used to worship him be beautiful, even to the length of empowering the craftsman who makes them:

The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 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)

God’s concern for the beauty in worship does not stop with the tabernacle. You can see it throughout the Bible, culminating in the overwhelming descriptions of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:

And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:2 ESV)

3. God loves beautiful literature: the Bible

Did you know that a large portion of the Bible is poetry? Though Psalms is the first book that comes to mind when people think of biblical poetry, most of the prophetic and wisdom literature of the Old Testament are poetic as well. Also, several of Paul’s letters in the New Testament contain poetry, most famously the “Christ hymn” of Phillipians 2. The ISV translation of the passage attempts to render the poetry of the original into English:

In God’s own form existed he,
and shared with God equality,
deemed nothing needed grasping.
Instead, poured out in emptiness,
a servant’s form did he possess,
a mortal man becoming.
In human form he chose to be,
and lived in all humility,
death on a cross obeying.
Now lifted up by God to heaven,
a name above all others given,
this matchless name possessing.
And so, when Jesus’ name is called,
the knees of everyone should fall,
wherever they’re residing.
Then every tongue in one accord,
will say that Jesus the Messiah is Lord,
while God the Father praising. (Philippians 2:6-11 ISV)

The literary art of the Bible shows both that God cares for artful communication and that interpreters of the Bible must have an appreciation for art in order to fully understand its message.

4. God loves a beautiful story: the Gospel

1 Peter 1:20 says of Jesus that as the Lamb sacrificed for sin, “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world” (ESV). Without delving into the complicated debate over divine foreknowledge, this fact means something very significant: in creation, the gospel was Plan A. God knew when he created that people would fall and that Christ would have to sacrifice himself to redeem a broken humanity and a broken creation. Why would he create a world that he knew could go wrong? While many people have offered explanations for God’s reasoning, I tend to think that God created a world with the potential to fall because nothing would show his glory, love, and power better than a well-told story with living characters able to make their own decisions. The story written by God on the world he has made is the gospel, the good news of Christ come to save a fallen humanity. Christians are the bearers of this true story written by God, and he has given them the responsibility to tell that story to the world. Beauty, art, and literature matter to God because the Great Commission he has given his people is to tell a story to the world–the story written before the foundation of the world and graven on the universe by the actions of God throughout history. The story of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Tragedy isn’t an easy thing to kill… Tragedy must be destroyed by someone willing to be swallowed by it, willing to be broken, torn out of the flesh, but able to return to it. Someone must be able to shatter the tragic from within and exit into comedy, able to rip a hole so wide that a train of souls, a parade, could follow after, banging drums and throwing candy as they strolled into the sun.”
― N.D. Wilson, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl

Caleb is the General Editor of SLAM and a senior at the College at Southeastern. He enjoys photography, music, a good bit of writing, and a hot cup of coffee. He hopes to use the arts to glorify God and to engage the culture for the sake of the Kingdom.

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