Christian Art and Aesthetics

Does “good” art have to be beautiful? Here is an interesting video about the need for real life to be reflected in the realm of Christian arts in terms of music and visual art.

The video below accompanied an article on the Gospel Coalition Website and brings up some interesting issues regarding how Christian arts are and should be changing. Some feel the tone is pompous, and I feel that their complaint is a bit unfounded. Judge for yourself.

I do have a few thoughts after watching:

I do have to disagree with their opinion that too much Christian music is happily fake and too much like the unrealistically beautiful Thomas Kinkade paintings. Maybe I listen to a different grouping of music than they do but I tell you, a lot of what I hear is brokenness in music right now. The CCM artists are getting very real. Just listen to Blessings by Laura Story. There are hundreds of songs (maybe thousands) that also give the impression that the writer has come through a difficult time of life, and they’re not afraid to sing about it. Take “Down Here’s” newest album, or half of the songs from Jeremy Camp’s Unplugged album that share brokenness and pain are where we learn about God more, become stronger and more solid in belief in Him.

This song has been so powerful in my life. Jeremy Camp’s wife died of cancer after 4 months of marriage. He can still write a song about being in the greatest pain of life yet still believing in what God has promised.

I also say we need balance. They are saying there’s not enough real life. Well, for those who are going through the trenches, yes we need to hear the songs like Blessings, but we also desperately need the songs that give real hope. The songs that take our focus off our situation and bring us to the bigger picture of Who we serve, what He is like, and what our long term future holds. It’s necessary for daily survival. We need the songs that Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman are writing because we need relief from our situation. Not just fluffy happiness, but real relief that points us to our Creator and is a genuine comfort.

Yes, there needs to be a recognition that we are destitute and life isn’t perfect. Right now life is so painful I can’t take in all the facets in one glance and the days that I try to, my tears fall all day long and my body hurts. . .BUT I have a Savior and He is walking with me, helping me through, and I have His promises to lean on when I’m so distraught that my hands shake. There’s a difference between celebrating the truth of God in my life and putting on a fake front that everything is okay.

I’m saying that we need both, and in the music industry of CCM, we certainly have both.

As for Thomas Kinkade? As an artist, I agree with their perception of the artist’s opinion of him. But as a Christian? Maybe people’s lives are so difficult they need the warm glow for some relief. Again, balance.

Yes, the Psalms are full of David simply crying out to God in distress, but you can pretty much count on David in the last few verses to remind himself Who God is, and why he can be joyful even though the tears are flowing.

2 thoughts on “Christian Art and Aesthetics

  1. *copied from Facebook*

    I might be a little late to throw my hat into the ring here, but I’ll try. As an artist myself, I’ve struggled with this subject for years, but I think we’ve just over-complicated things. Christians are too caught up with being right. They want to make good art, but they’d rather cover the bases of theology first. They want to make things that inspire, but they’re too concerned with having and providing all the answers. I don’t know how to make my art meaningful or “deep” anymore. I don’t know what that means and I’m tired of trying to impose depth and meaning on my art to feel worthy. Maybe I’m just too young and immature, but I feel like a lot of that stuff is forced and phony, even if well-intentioned. I feel like if you have something valuable to say in your art and the ability to say it, it will come out naturally. I would never draw a picture of some mountains and then go “but how will people know…….oh wait” and then slap a Bible verse on it. Now I just make art that makes me happy and hopefully brings some kind of joy to others. It’s often influenced by secular art that I’ve been inspired by. I feel like a burden has been lifted and I have fun with it now. Artists need to be honest and open about everything.

    I’d also like to touch on that last bit a little more. A while back, Rob Bell wrote a book with some big questions and people rained down on him before he could even explain himself. I haven’t even had the chance to read it, but I was being told before it was even released what it was about, what he was trying to communicate, and what exactly I should think about it. If I read it, I’m sure I would find something to disagree with, but that kind of brings me to my point. Is this how Christians engage each other about art? By promptly excommunicating whoever you disagree with? I can remember feeling curious about the whole thing because I had felt a little excitement and interest in a Christian work for the first time in forever. I had questions of my own. And while I’m tackling all these issues and finally thinking about things that matter, people in the church and in positions of authority are trying to snuff those thoughts out of my head and trying to make Mr. Bell disappear. As an artist, and as someone who has questions about a lot of things, that’s really discouraging for me. Nobody I knew took that book release as an opportunity to hash out a touchy subject with honesty. Isn’t that something art should do though? Why would I want to ask any of my questions in that kind of environment? I felt afraid to be open, even as I was being affected by a work of art I hadn’t even read. l would rather be honest with my art and not afraid of being wrong than to cater to a certain subculture so I can feel accepted.


  2. This is comment is from the facebook thread, so I reference other people’s comments. Sorry for added confusion.

    I don’t always view myself as eloquent and good with words – but here goes 🙂 I agree with Ashley but also have to add my own thoughts. I can appreciate many different types/genres of music. Many times the type of music I listen to is de…pendent on my mood. Sometimes I need to fast, loud, energetic music, sometimes I need the quieter praise music, sometimes I need the quieter “whoa is me, I’m a wretch music”. I will often choose music based on the tasks I need to accomplish but ultimately it has nothing to do with what *I* need or what I think I need. It all has to do with God’s glorification. Will God be please or glorified by what I am filling my mind with and my response to those things? And naturally, that goes well beyond music to art and really to any and all forms of entertainment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s