Art is all around us! From the gallery walls of museums to the posts and shares on social media, art of all sorts is being displayed every single day. A work of art can evoke strong emotions--awe, joy, perhaps confusion. But what does the Bible have to say about art? How should we as Christians engage with and think about artistic creation and artistic expression?
We’ll take a look at several passages and Bible verses to unpack this topic and to understand art and artistic expression from a Godly perspective.
Art From a Biblical Perspective
The first mention of God glorifying art in the holy Bible comes from Exodus 31:1-11. It says:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the holy Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver, and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in carving wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent—the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand—and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.
In this passage from Exodus, God instructs Moses and the Israelites on how to construct the Tabernacle. There are two major takeaways from this: God likes art and He is the source of it. The instructions for the Tabernacle--God's dwelling place and the portable tent that served as the house of worship among the Israelites--go beyond functionality and structural integrity. God is interested in the multi faceted beauty of the Tabernacle. Like a patron, He commissions artists and craftspeople to adorn the tent and its furnishings ornately. But also, we are told the very abilities and artistic talents of Bezalel and Oholiab are directly from God. God enables these artists to create art through the indwelling of His holy Spirit.
In 1 Kings 7, we see a similar situation play out as Solomon builds the Temple. Bible Verses 13 and 14 tell us,
"King Solomon sent to Tyre and brought Huram, whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was from Tyre and a skilled craftsman in bronze. Huram was filled with wisdom, with intelligence, with knowledge to do all kinds of bronze work. He came to King Solomon and did all the work assigned to him."
Yet again, we see an artist, like Bezalel son of Uri, whom God has enabled and inspired to create a beautiful decoration for the Temple. Work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones and carving wood come together to create the interior of the Temple, a place fit for the Lord our God.
We can see then that God is the ultimate artist--not only through His enabling of humans to create God glorifying art for His glory, but also through His own creation. God's hand creates beauty; we can see the fruits of His artistry way back in Genesis 1 in the way he designs the entire universe. The beauty of nature is a work of art created by the Lord. We, as humans, are also a testament to the art of God. The Bible tells us that God created humanity in His image. How remarkable to be a work of art created by the Father!
There are multiple places in the Bible that refer to God in artistic terms. Isaiah 64:8 says, “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Here again, we see humanity framed as a work of art, created by and reliant upon the Potter, and intended to glorify Him.
When we are creating god glorifying art, we follow the example set for us by God, and living into the gifts, skills, and talents He has given us through His Spirit. The aesthetic creation of art is an act of worship in which creators point back to the Ultimate Creator.
Art Draws Us Closer to God
Art does not provide a means of worship only to the artist. Rather, when we view, reflect upon, or enjoy the beauty of art, we have an opportunity to give God's glory and to draw closer to Him. For example, a beautifully made Bible displays the God-given talents of skilled designers, artists, and photographers--they are created as an act of worship and they invite us into that worship every time we read them. A wonderful piece of music resonates with our souls. We can hear the talents and skill of the musician as they celebrate God and it inspires us to glorify God. Beauty is a gift from God and something to be celebrated.
As Christians, it is important to understand the right order of art and creativity. When we are properly oriented, art is created out of the gifts God gives us and is a means of giving worship and glory to Him. But if we seek to make art for our own glory, over and above the Lord, we have gotten off track. The God's word tells us that God will not put it in an artist’s heart to make things that will lead others astray (Mark 9:42). The Spirit of god will not lead a person to create art that contradicts His nature. While there are some who get the order wrong, who use their skill to pervert God’s glory, not honor it, Isaiah 40:19 tells us that these works of art are idols. The skilled craftsmanship and ornamentation are attempting to lead us to worship someone or something other than God. Instead, the artist’s goal should be to lift people's souls toward heaven and to reflect the multi-faceted beauty of God’s holiness, power, and grace.
The Bible demonstrates to us that beauty comes from God. God dwells in beauty and His holiness is beautiful. As Psalm 50:2 puts it, "From Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth."
Art is valued and inspired by God as a means of reflecting and glorifying the wonder of God. It is an invitation to draw closer to the Divine and to worship the Lord. God created humanity in His image; all of creation serves as a testament to God as an artist. Likewise, the Lord equips and inspires us to create beautiful works of art for God's glory.
A visually beautiful Bible, such as the collection from Alabaster, is a physical reminder of the beauty that characterizes a life dedicated to pursuing Jesus. We hope our artistic designs and imagery deepen your experience with our Father God.