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Art Flows Out of the Artist - Art and the Glory of God

Video from Bishop Robert Barron

"In this behind-the-scenes commentary captured at Andalusia farm (Milledgeville, GA) during the recent "Pivotal Players" filming trip, Bishop Barron draws insights from Flannery O'Connor, Thomas Merton, and Jacques Maritain in musing on the principles that should govern artistic creation." from video introduction

A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his mind is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

One of the blessings of my recent retirement has been a return to daily art, sketching, painting etc.! God gifted me with that ability as he has many people. One of my previous occupations was a public school art teacher K-5. God gifts every human with something they can do exceedingly well and enjoy, often we juts have to figure it out.

Do what your good at is some wisdom I learned many years ago. I am not good at mechanical things, very dysfunctional in fact. My younger brother is very gifted with his hands as a mechanic and all around tinkerer, something I lack. Don’t every think you lack skill our talent in something looks for it and enjoy what God has given you.

We find art in God’s Holy Word as he wants us to use the gifts, he gave us to glorify him. Exodus 31 is the first mention of art in the Bible as God is instructs Moses to create a tent for the Ark of the Covenant, which in itself was a great work of art designed by God himself. God is the ultimate artist and designer, look at creation around you and look at you! God names several artisans whom He has chosen to create “artistic designs” to beautify and adorn the tent. God says, “In the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill.” Two things about God’s view of art are stated in this passage: God likes art, and He is the source of it. He desires mankind to create beautiful things, and their skill in doing so is from Him and nowhere else.

This great artistic display is further seen as the temples are constructed in Jerusalem. As we look across history, we see that God’s grace is displayed in the many ingenious and beautiful architecture found in many Pagan cultures. The Egyptians, The Romans, The Assyrians to name but a few. And the many paintings, sculptures and more from across the span of humanities existence.

It is important to define beauty because Art, ultimately being from God should not be created to shock, horrify, glorify/elicit sin (violence, lust, greed) which then cannot and should not be called “beautiful.” It is still “art” but not art that glorifies God in any way. Art can be evil and sinful like anything our depraved hearts can create. Art that ultimately glorifies God must have the same two properties or guidelines as the designs created in Exodus 31. It must first of all be “artistic”; that is to say, it must be creative and well executed and well crafted. It must have worth and value. Second, it should be something (anything) of which the artist can honestly say, “God put it in my heart and mind to make this for his glory.”

God will not put sin in an artist’s heart to make things that will bring about sin in others.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42

God will not lead a person to create anything that contradicts His Holy nature. Artisans who create idols and other sinful depictions may be talented but they’re using their talents to pervert God’s glory, not honor it. Now we need to understand for all of you perfectionists out there this doesn’t mean that all art has to be like one of the master’s or that it should only depict biblical subjects like Jesus or the disciples. God dwells in “the perfection of beauty”- “Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,” Psalm 50:2. Artists and writers can write and illustrate many things as along as they are done to God’s glory, to His holiness is beautiful (1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 29:2).

In creating art that glorifies God, the artist’s goal should among other things be to lift the soul of man towards heaven and to illumine and exhibit in new and wonderful ways the multi-faceted beauty of God’s holiness, power, and grace.

What are you waiting for? Don’t be held back by feelings of not being good enough, get out your art pad, your pencil, your paint or your wrench or your carving tools, whatever and enjoy the gifts God has given you!!

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