This module provides a biblically-grounded approach to thinking clearly about the arts. Art informs culture and is shaped by it. It represents an outlet for creative and imaginative expression. As such, art-forms are a physical manifestation of inner creative impulses. From prehistoric cave paintings to modern day film and music, art serves as a vessel for ‘cultural’ truths, for codifying meaning, and embodying and enjoying our multi-dimensional experience of reality. Art is both personal and relational. Major constituents of the arts include (i) literature – poetry, novels and short stories, (ii) performing arts – among them music, dance, and theatre, (iii) media arts like photography and cinematography, and (iv) visual arts – including drawing, painting, ceramics, and sculpting.
God is the ultimate fountainhead of all beauty in creation. Art is indeed universal because all human beings have the capacity for imagination and creativity, which is one aspect of being created in the image of God. But the church has often had an ambivalent relationship to the world of the arts. At times in the past, there has been outright dismissal and condemnation of the arts using verses like “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image…” (Exodus 20:6). Truth came to be acceptable only if it was written, propositional and rational. The role of the imagination to share important truths about God and the world was denied its rightful place. This is unfortunate because the Bible has a positive view of the physical world of reality, and oftentimes it is only through the arts (poetry and music) that we can grasp the profound mystery of the incarnation of God through his Son Jesus. This explains why some of the greatest works of art in the world, from painting to music, have been produced by Christians. Think about Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper painting or George Handel’s Messiah. For these artists it was their faith in Christ that inspired them to produce these great works of art. Art also has a prophetic role in speaking truth to power. This was the reason why, after Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, many artists and musicians were dismissed from teaching positions, and museum curators not sympathetic to the National Socialism were also dismissed. Art was subversive and it had to be controlled. Therefore, it is important to recognize that God is the source of all truth, all goodness and all beauty in the arts, Christian or otherwise. Because art appeals to the imagination of people, artists can challenge injustice in unique ways and good art can play a transformative role in bringing about a more just social order.
The four lessons of the arts module will provide you with a basic understanding of the arts, as well as understanding how to affirm what is good in art, and how God has used artists to reveal truth and beauty in the most unexpected and profound ways.
Lesson – 1: Introduction
A biblical understanding of the arts.
Lesson – 2: Installation & Sculpture
The place of art installation and sculpture.
Lesson – 3: Painting & Music
Understanding the place of painting and music.
Lesson – 4: Literature
Thinking biblically about literature
To begin with, watch the introductory video with Liviu Mocan explaining some of the broad themes and issues you will learn about in the arts module.
Lesson 1: Introduction to the Arts
Finding God Through Art (Video 4:48 min)
Theology through the arts (Video 12:38 min)
Why should we care about the arts? (Short article)
New Insights Through Art (Short article)
The Bible and Christian Imagination (Long essay)
Art, Philosophy and our View of Reality (Long essay)
Art Matters for God's Sake (Long video)
- Finding God Through Art (Video 4:48 min)
- Theology through the arts (Video 12:38 min)
- Why should we care about the arts? (Short article)
- New Insights Through Art (Short article)
- The Bible and Christian Imagination (Long essay)
- Art, Philosophy and our View of Reality (Long essay)
- Art Matters for God's Sake (Long video)