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Art that glorifies God

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#1 jfutral



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Posted 23 March 2007 - 09:59 AM

Maybe not just art, but with other things as well. I've heard more than one person talk about their idea of "acceptable art" as art that glorifies God. But when pressed I've not found anyone who can really explain what they mean by this. Sometimes I get rolled eyes like somehow the answer is obvious. What are your thoughts on what we mean when we say "glorify God" when referencing art, worship, or anything else for that matter. Is this phrase a bit borne of a legalistic attitude? Or is there some basis? And is this purley an interpretive matter?


#2 SDG


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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:28 AM

Here are some brief thoughts on this subject from this essay, adapted from my now-defunct FAQ, first written seven years ago, when I first started publishing movie reviews.
God created us for play and amusement just as he created us for work, prayer, and community. In particular he created us for art and culture: to create and look at images; to fashion stories and music and dance, and to perform and enjoy them; to explore imaginative scenarios of good and evil, of conflict and resolution.

It is in our nature to engage in and to enjoy these things, as it is the nature of stars to shine and plants to grow. And, just as the sun glorifies God by shining and plants by growing, so we please and glorify him when we participate in wholesome aesthetic activities and amusements. In fact, because man has free will, he pleases God in a special way when he freely participates in the goods proper to his nature. If he does so with a will to glorify God, it can even be meritorious.

#3 mrmando


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Posted 24 March 2007 - 03:00 PM

I would say glorifying God is the default position of art. Creative expression is part of God's design for us, so we glorify him by engaging in it. It's possible, of course, to create art that doesn't glorify God, but you have to be almost deliberately irresponsible in order to do so. And beyond that there are categories of expression that use the tools and processes of art for nonartistic purposes: propaganda, pornography, advertising, and other forms of exploitation. I have a hard time believing that things in this category glorify God, as a rule.

#4 Plot Device

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 07:12 AM

When speaking of art, most people automatically imagine paintings and sculptures. But for the sake of presenting a simplified argument, I want to focus upon just one medium: written words, in the form of poetry, prose, speeches, journalism, or scripts. (And one wonders if perhaps some of the more specialized forms of non-fiction writing --such as cook books and how-to manuals-- might also qualify. Consider CS Lewis' essay on "Christian Cookery.")

Words are the PRIMARY medium through which God chose to reveal himself to mankind, first via the Ten Comandments, then the Bible itself. He does reveal himself in other ways, such as through nature and relationships, but words are the foremost avenue of his self-revelation.

Sticking with one working definition here of art: "truth expressed through beauty," we need to find examples of words that are both truthful and beautiful.

Words certainly can be truthful and beautiful, and thus would qualify as art. But when words are deceptive and ugly, according to the definition, they cannot then be called art. So what do we then call them? Propoganda? Libel? Pornography?

And let's examine what happens when words become a disturbing hybrid of those two extremes:

"Truthful and ugly." If not art? What? Is not the truth sometimes ugly?

"Deceptive and beautiful." If not art? What? Deviating for just a moment from words and looking at film, shall we deny the film "Birth of a Nation" --a film regarded as one of America's National Treasures--the honor of being called art? It's certainly beautiful and yet (quite tragically) very deceptive, even repugnantly so.

Edited by Plot Device, 25 March 2007 - 07:26 AM.

#5 draper



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Posted 25 March 2007 - 11:00 AM

I really like the answers already offered.

I think I see your meaning when speaking about the written word, however........

God spoke, appeared in visions and dreams , appeared as angels and as as men, clouds and columns of fire. There were rules and laws in use before The Law was codified on tablets.

Gods displeasure was manifest as, silence, exile, flood, fire, confusion. We also see death and the plagues as God manifests his anger. His abundance rained down as bread.

I would consider Jesus a primary revelation of Gods self to humanity.

I don't mean to be argumentative here, nor do I mean to hijack the thread. I expect that Art, in many ways, is a reflection of humanities encounters with God.

If God is truth, I would expect Art which is honest to glorify God.

This allows for some paradox. A profound moment in Art appreciation for me is the song Gloria as rendered by Patti Smith. In the intro she rejects Jesus sacrifice, claiming her sin as her own. It is a conundrum because she confesses her sin and Christs power to forgive but refuses to release her sin to forgiveness. It remains for me one of the most powerful human statements I have ever heard.

I have no idea if God flinched in the face of her defiance or if God felt glorified. I found it remarkably affirming in my faith and I believe that glorifies God.

Edited by mumbleypeg, 25 March 2007 - 11:02 AM.

#6 jfutral



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Posted 27 March 2007 - 04:14 PM

All great responses. Thanks much. You have given me much to think about, which is what I have been doing as opposed to responding. There still seems to be something, not ambiguous but certainly indescribable in trying to pin point what this idea might look like or be represented as. Maybe I'm not certain I am in a position to understand what it means to glorify God, much less through art. I recall scripture that talks about god being glorified, but I don't recall any saint saying that what they were doing was bringing glory to God. Maybe this is something only God can identify. Not certain.


#7 Plot Device

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 06:07 PM

The only scripture that comes to my mind as far as giving glory to God is from Revelations: "Thous art worthy, oh Lord, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou hast created all things, and it was for they pleasure that they are and have their being."

The very heavy-handed sermon I heard preached around this passage stated that we have no other excuse to exist except to bring God glory. An if we fail to bring him glory, then we are not only violating the very purpose of our existence, we are also worthy to be destroyed.

Now, this sermon never defined what it actually means to bring God glory. It only leant a full-tilt fire'n'brimstone imperative to the undertaking.

#8 Chashab



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Posted 29 March 2007 - 08:35 AM

Two thoughts:

1) One can argue, I believe, that intent or motivation is what glorifies God in art.

2) One can also argue, it seems, that in a broad sense all creative acts (though not necessarily the end product) glorify God in that the act harkens back to His image.

#9 musictheatrelover



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Posted 07 April 2007 - 09:15 AM

The very definition of the word "glorify" insinuates to reflect back, to ascribe honor, to acknowledge Him as to His being, attributes, and acts. (from Vines Expository Dictionary). I passionately believe that the arts whether it be through words, music, painting, sculpture, dance, theatre, etc. can display or reflect an aspect of God's infinite nature. He is the ELOHIM, the creator of everything. Recently as I was preparing for opening night in our youth theatre I was thinking about this. What we try to create through costuming, light design, sets, movement, dance etc is but a shadow of the infinite reality of what God has done all around us. I walked out the back of the theatre and looked at the glory of Spring with it's costuming, lights, movement, fragrance and man.....it was WORSHIP! I think God loves it when we tap into this part of being created in His image....the desire to create and to mimic Him, to walk in His dust in a sense, brings Him pleasure. What is it John Piper says...."God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." To do this thing...the arts....is the greatest privilege, like the finite holding hands with the infinite and tapping into this Part of His Heart.