"The artwork can be the doxology in itself."
Updated: Jun 27
Francis A. Schaeffer wrote a book entitled ‘Art and the Bible’ during the time of the Jesus movement in America. A moment in history in which there was an influx of new people coming to faith and as a result, a resurgence in the creative arts within the church. Schaeffer explores the presence of art in scripture and then goes on to explore different perspectives of what art is. As he concludes the book he goes on to explore what it means to be a Christian artist.
He is keen to clarify that the work of a Christian artist should not just be religious in its focus.
“Christian art is by no means always religious art, that is, art which deals with religious themes. Consider God the creator. Is God’s creation totally involved with religious subjects? What about the universe? The birds? The trees? The mountains? What about the bird’s song? And the sound of the wind in the trees? When God created out of nothing by his spoken word, he did not just create “religious” objects. And in the Bible, as we have seen, God commanded the artist, working within God’s own creation, to fashion statues of oxen and lions and carvings of almond blossoms for the tabernacle and the temple.”
He expounds on the idea that an artist who is a Christian should not just be motivated with producing art that is focused on the message of salvation.
“This whole notion is rooted in the realization that Christianity is not just involved with “salvation” but with the total man in the total world. The Christian message begins with the existence of God forever and then with creation. It does not begin with salvation. We must be thankful for salvation, but the Christian message is more than that.”
For Schaeffer, art should not just be used as a means of conveying the message of the gospel, but can be a means of expressing every facet of what it means to be alive.
“Christianity is the expression of the whole life of the whole person who is a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life. Art is not to be solely a vehicle for some sort of self-conscious evangelism.”
Put simply, we could summarize him as saying: good Christian art doesn’t have to preach. When we limit creative expression to just be an expression of the gospel message, we are placing limits on ourselves that God did not place on creative expressions within the scriptures. For Schaeffer, Christian art is about expressing the fullness of what it is to be within creation.
“The Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you. But as things of beauty to the praise of God. The artwork can be the doxology in itself.”
Our celebration of life is itself a form of worship to God. In scripture there are many examples of individuals under the authority and direction of the Lord, being inspired to create works of art for its own sake.
“See that you make them according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.”
In regard to God inspiring the detailed artwork in the tabernacle, one could argue that it is a foretaste of heaven. A practical and physical representation of the what is in heaven. Heaven being brought down to earth through the expression of the creative.
Schaeffer concludes by stating that every Christian gets to be included in the process of creativity.
“No work of art is is more important than the Christian’s own life. And every Christian is called upon to be an artist in this sense. He may have no gift of writing, no gift of composing or singing, but each man has the gift of creativity in terms of the way he lives his life. In this sense, the Christian’s life is to be an artwork. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.”