The other day during a Bible study with a dear friend of mine, the topic of art and Christianity came up in conversation. We were discussing music, to be exact, and that, of course, got me thinking more closely about art within a Christian world view. I proposed to study this topic more closely and share some thoughts in a series of posts that will, hopefully, answer some of the many questions I’ve pondered in my walk with the Lord, while continuing to teach my children about beauty through picture studies and nature studies.
When I look at the faces of my children, I see how beautiful their countenance is, how perfectly summoned are the dimples of their cheeks, the furrows of their ears a maze of instrumentation, and the sweet tone of their little voices are a song in the midst of noise. I know this is exactly the way God wished to create them at this very season in their lives.
On the days when we venture out to observe nature, absorbing the splendor of God’s creation out of doors, I can’t help but witness what the Psalmist said:
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalms 19:1)
We respond to nature with awe and amazement, because it best explains to us the grandeur of the One who made all out of nothing, who made all things good and beautiful. We see the strength of trees towering over our little bodies below, and we see flowers colored in their rich vibrancy until they are plucked and destined to wither.
We can agree that the natural world is indeed beautiful. We escape our clamorous lives to nourish ourselves in the quiet aromas of living things outside, the peaceful chirp of birds and their calls to God’s rich order. He ordered it this way and we long to experience it.
When we see a beautiful work of art, we are also praising the one who created that work. Meandering canyons, raging rivers, and starry nights beg us to respond aesthetically. The Christian knows that the greatness of our God is infinite, that He is praiseworthy for who else can make what He makes? We appreciate beauty because He lives. The very first verse in the Bible declares that He is the creator of the heavens and the earth.
My children have a wonderful imagination. They can see things through their mind’s eye with a purity that only I can covet. They haven’t seen all the wickedness I have seen in my lifetime and their eyes are reservoirs containing what they view in their nature walks for the first time. Anna Comstock wrote in the Handbook of Nature Study:
Nature-study cultivates the child’s imagination, since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore; at the same time nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it. All things seem possible in nature; yet this seeming is always guarded by the eager quest of what is true. Perhaps half of the falsehood in the world is due to lack of power to detect the truth and to express it. Nature-study aids both in discernment and in expression of things as they are.
In the homeschool, as I’ve mentioned in the beginning of this post, we do picture studies of several artists. Last quarter, we studied Vincent van Gogh and this quarter we are studying Leonardo da Vinci. We looked at van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” “The Sower,” to name a few, and it was always a window for me to see exactly how my children look at art, and what they perceive it to be. To culminate the quarter, the children made renditions of “Rest from Work” and had a chance to experiment with collage and mixed media painting. It was wonderful. The process was painstaking at times (for mom to prep), but the results were delightful. I was thoroughly impressed, not because they accomplished something, but because they learned enough about the artist and his process in order to render their own after it all. I don’t think, despite the compliments, that they perceive themselves as artists, or as imaginative because art for them is just something other people do, it is nebulous, yet fun to experience because it doesn’t feel like work. It is a “rest from work.”
One thing I read about this subject as I studied it was that since we are made in God’s image, this must include the glorious concept that we, too, are creative. When God made man, he granted him rule over the earth that it may be subjected to him. Adam dressed and kept the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15), an invitation to share in the process of creation with the Heavenly Father.
This is why it is so innate in us to arrange anything, to create, to make, to design, to fulfill our purpose as it was given to mankind in Genesis. Mind you, this is not implying that we want to be masters of the universe (idolatry is another subject in and of itself), but rather that we are permitted by God to be creative, to express ourselves in a way that is very significant in God’s overall design.
God has given us a rich selection of beauty to behold. He gives freely at our disposal and equips us with the sense to smell, see, listen, and feel as a means to utilize our creativity and talents, our gifts and our knowledge of truth in the most comprehensive way possible. And what an honor to take part of this bountiful feast, as we are made in His image, and can enjoy art and creativity as He does.
In my next post, I will explore the battle field we find ourselves in as artists, in this fallen world…
But for now, what do you believe is aesthetically unique to the Christian artist and their worldview?