What is Christian Art?

What passes for Christian art today is narrowly defined in its expression. It is art that is mostly representational, overly sentimental and trite. It states the obvious and leaves nothing to the imagination.

It attempts to define in very concrete terms what can only be spiritually discerned.

The Bible has deliberately left out a physical description of Jesus. We do not know if He was tall or short, light or dark skinned, blue, green or brown-eyed. Did He have straight or crooked teeth...?

If it were vitally important to our faith would the Holy Spirit not have included a description in the written record?

Physical descriptions of Jesus occur in Isaiah and Revelation. What is detailed in Isaiah is simply too ghastly to describe literally and fit the sentimental model. It is a graphic description of His appearance on the cross. As for the description in Revelation, every symbolic detail has been depicted so literally, as to be horrific! You’ve surely seen the images of Jesus with fiery eyes, the sword coming out of his mouth…

The contemporary Christian art market is also saturated with all sorts of depictions of angels, from chubby babies with wings, to saccharine, winged women. How many of us have actually seen angels to be qualified to depict them in our work?

I am not opposed to attempting to depict angels at all. After all, we have been blessed with ample God-given imaginations. I am however, passionately opposed to the trite, uniformity of much that passes for Christian art today.

Why not seek God for a sharp contemporary voice in art? To do that we need to approach the subject with fresh eyes. It is important that we engage in a discussion of why create at all. The author of Ecclesiastes tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. That would imply that the quest for originality and creativity is nothing more than vanity.

So, of what possible use is this wonderful gift of art?

My Cup Runneth Over
Polymer Clay
Sara Joseph

My Cup Runneth Over, Polymer Clay Sculpture, Sara Joseph

Here are some thought to ponder:

• We create because we must. There is an inner compulsion that urges us on. It is insistent and cannot be ignored.

•We create because we understand ourselves better when we explore the language of art.

• We create out of sheer delight in the world around us.

• We create when no other response is adequate. We engage in the nonverbal language of art when there is no other way to express our emotions - whether joy, confusion, anger or even dismay.

• We create fully aware that we are not creators, merely commentators.

• We create because we have a mandate to be witnesses to the good news entrusted to us.

But most importantly, I believe that as Christian artists, we create because in the artistic process we draw closer to God.

In coming to know Him, we make Him known to others – inadvertently, almost despite ourselves.

Those, my friends, are some of my reasons for pursuing the goal of creating the very best art that I can as a Christian artist. Regardless of how my art is labeled, I am equally passionate about living transparently and unashamedly as a Christian, both of which are undoubtedly lifelong pursuits.

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