The world is desperate for beauty
Arts and Entertainment
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.”
“One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I see: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”
Everything that God has made is beautiful! Nothing in the universe is without color, form, and design. He turns ashes into beauty. He is the “Song of Songs,” the “Potter,” the Lord of beauty. He is beautiful. The arts reveal the creator through music, words, color, design, balance, movement, harmony, rhythm. David said that the stars sing the glory of the Lord and there are physicists today who think it is completely possible that the planets do vibrate in perfect harmonic chords. On the seventh day of creation, God rested. We should not think of this rest in terms of tiredness because God does not suffer fatigue. We should think of this rest as taking time to contemplate the beauty of creation, a savoring of the goodness of all that He has made. God’s attributes revealed in the arts are beauty, rest, and celebration. God’s purpose for this domain is to renew and restore us and give us joy from our labor.
Am I A Christian Artist Or An Artist Who Is Christian?
Christian artists today have a terrible conflict in understanding the purpose of their gift. If their work does not talk about Jesus directly, does it still have value? Can they work on productions with non-Christians? When some see a magnificent building, painting, play or hear a wonderful performance, they are tempted to ask, “Was it produced, created and performed by Christians?” as though that would validate the beauty. But beauty, in and of itself, is an attribute of God. Putting a Jesus sticker on it does not make it more beautiful. Preaching may be beautiful, but beauty does not necessarily preach an additional message. We may have art and beauty in the church, but art does not have to relate directly to ecclesiastical expression in order to reveal God.
Anything, including forms of music, notes, or instruments can be used for good or evil. There is no such thing as demonic notes, rhythms, or instruments. Satan does not own these any more than he owns the moon or mushrooms or color. All these things are an extension of God’s creation. Anything that God has made may be used to worship Satan, but it can also be used to reveal God. We tend to think of old music as godly music; anything really new is suspect, if not evil. Of course, this has more to do with personal taste than God. We happily listen to the beautiful Lutheran hymns, content that this music reveals spiritual virtue. What most of us don’t know is that Luther put Christian words to the beer garden favorites of the day. I wonder how the German Christians of his day responded to those popular songs being used in church?
Scripture Reveals Three Themes In Music
In the study of the arts and music in scripture, three kinds of musical themes are recorded. Worship, of course, national or political music, and love songs. One love song gets an entire book in the Song of Solomon. Today, worship, hymns, praise and psalms are all important, but we have lost the importance of celebrating human love and love of nation. If you look at the national anthems around the world you will find that the vast majority of them, written before 1970, mention God and His blessing. Until the last century, it was understood that God is involved in the political life of a nation. In the last century, some nations have sought to remove these references to God. Is that because of the secularization of the country or the church’s loss of the understanding of God in the political arena? Where are the love songs? Our airwaves are crammed with a message of love that is demeaning or lewd at best. But today, when a musician who is Christian writes and performs a beautiful celebration of human love, we accuse him of being “secular” or not loyal to his faith and not presenting Jesus. Scripture celebrates all these themes of music and uses them to reveal God.
If we define opera as a story put to music, then Moses gives us a very early, if not the first, opera in Deuteronomy 32. It is amazing to think that this national, political leader so understood the importance of music in the life of a nation that, at the end of his life, he would compose a work containing important principles for the people to remember. Moses recited the words of this song from beginning to end in the hearing of the whole assembly of Israel.1
The Disciplines Of The Arts
Like science, God rules the arts by laws that govern each discipline; laws of aesthetics, harmony, rhythm, dissonance, color, form, design, positive and negative space. Whether dance, sculpture, painting, writing, or composing, every artist and performer understands that there are principles upon which their discipline is built. Mastering those fundamentals is foundational to their skill. Genius, then, is making those same fundamentals disappear in artistic expression. Unredeemed people create beautiful things because they are created in the image of God. They just do not realize the source of their talent or discipline or their love of beauty. They do not know the gift-giver, but their gift still celebrates God. They are unaware of whom to be grateful to. Whether or not they know God does not make their creation more or less beautiful. Nor do Jew s lyrics make it more beautiful. Beauty has intrinsic value as an extension of God’s character and nature.
So much of what is called Christian music and art today is mediocre at best. Perhaps this is because we think the only thing that matters is whether it talks about God. It is important to present the message of Christ. However, it is not only absurd, it is dangerous to think that the only thing important about a surgeon is his love of God, that his technical skill in surgery is unimportant. The heart of the individual and the discipline of a craft are two different things and Jesus is Lord of them both. As one who believes in the Creator God, you and I are to value skill as well as right standing with God. We are to celebrate beauty for beauty’s sake because He is the Lord of Beauty, the Creator of all skill, and we are to seek the artist’s right relationship to Christ, the creator of his gift.2
There are no tribes, nations, or cultures without art, music, and sport. Beauty, song, and celebration are all pre-human. They were expressed in God before we existed and they still reveal Him. We don’t have to justify the love of sport or art by turning it into an opportunity to talk to the person next to us in the stands about God. We may or may not find that appropriate. It’s okay to enjoy talent and God-given gifting for their innate value. It is worship of the Creator, the gift-giver and a celebration of who He is!
Themes to consider when studying and coloring the subject of the arts and entertainment in scripture: music, design, sport, dance, culture, dress, poetry, literature, crafts, color, sculpture, and beauty.
The domain of arts and entertainment reveals: Song of Songs, the Potter
The primary attribute of God revealed in arts and entertainment: Beauty
God governs this domain through: The laws of aesthetics of each discipline
The color I used: Rose
WORKING VOCATIONAL MISSION STATEMENT:
To provide rest, relaxation and restoration of the soul through beauty and joy.
A NOTE TO ALL BELIEVERS:
One of my students said that he saw how all the domains related to his personal life in one way or another. But not the arts. What did art and beauty have to do with him? He was not a musician or painter or anything like that. I found this a tragic confession. I responded, “The question you need to ask yourself is, ‘Where is the beauty in my life?’” Immediately he teared up. The question touched a deep chord. His life was full of service, duty, devotion, and work… but there was no celebration, beauty, and joy.
This is not uncommon in or out of Christian circles. The world is desperate for beauty. We are so often surrounded by the mundane, thoughtless, chaotic, and ugly. One of the things I love about living in Switzerland is the celebration of beauty in the form of flower boxes on the windows. No matter how humble the farmhouse, every spring color explodes in all the window boxes. This custom serves no practical purpose. These plants can’t be eaten. They are just pretty. There is such a need for this understanding of beauty in all of our lives and the life of our communities. Where is the beauty in your life?
My parents were poor and moved from their family homes during the depression to find work in the north of the United States. I was their first child born in a home with an indoor toilet. But from my earliest memory music filled our house. My mother listened to opera on the radio as she washed our hair in the kitchen sink on Saturdays. We never talked about it; there were no music lectures. But it was important to her to have beauty in her very modest home. This is one of the great treasures left to me… the celebration of God in music in my life. We need beauty.
A NOTE TO ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT PROFESSIONALS:
Whether you are gifted in body, ear or eye, your gift is a celebration of God and a part of the call of God on your life. We have been created by God to need and to celebrate beauty and joy. You are part of God’s answer to that world of need. Everything God has made, whether we look at it macroscopically or microscopically, is beautiful and it was all created with sound. So, whether you are celebrating the use of your gift in the work of the church to minister to Christians or to minister to the many who do not go to church, you are ministering Christ. Whether you work with other Christians or non-Christians you are His testimony through your life and skill. You don’t have to justify your gift by doing religious material or by kneeling in prayer when you do well, although you may do both. Your gift is justified because it is part of God’s nature and character in you. It is part of who He is and how He has made you and the gift itself reveals God. The world needs your gift and the celebration of beauty and joy it brings. Do not hold back! Let’s begin the new renaissance.
1. Deuteronomy 32:44
2. Exodus 31