Christian art makes me sad sometimes. I love that there are people working to express themselves (and often their faith) through music, poetry, novels, movies, design… But when I see even good ideas fall apart due to poor execution, I have to wonder if we really understand what it means to be creative.
Francis Schaeffer’s book, Art and the Bible, is extremely helpful on this point. There, he reminds us of two key realities about Christians and creativity.
The first is that Christians need to remember why art and creativity have value: we are creative because we bear the image of our Creator. Schaeffer wrote:
As a Christian we know why a work of art has value. Why? First, because a work of art is a work of creativity, and creativity has value because God is the Creator.… Second, an art work has value as a creation because man is made in the image of God, and therefore man not only can love and think and feel emotion but also has the capacity to create. Being in the image of the Creator, we are called upon to have creativity.… All people are to some degree creative. Creativity is intrinsic to our mannishness.1
Art and creativity have value because of who we are as image bearers of God—because God is creative, so are we. Thus, if God does something, and models it for us to do, we should treat it as valuable. Our best efforts should be expended. We should eschew cheap knock-offs. Creative efforts deserve the best we can give them because God is worthy of our best.
Second, although art and creativity have value, our fallen nature means that not every creative effort is going to be great art—nor is all art glorifying to God. Schaeffer again wrote,
Not every creation is great art. Nor is all that man makes good either intellectually or morally. So, while creativity is a good thing in itself, it does not mean that everything that comes out of man’s creativity is good. For while man was made in the image of God, he is fallen. Furthermore, since men have various gifts and talents, everyone cannot create everything equally well.
Creativity is good—”creativity as creativity is a good thing as such,” wrote Schaeffer. We don’t have to make explicitly Christian books, movies, music or whatever. In fact, sometimes that can be just as sinful as writings a 50 Shades type book—if what we’re doing is little more than producing cheap knock-offs of whatever the culture at large is doing, or assuming creativity for creativity’s sake is honoring in itself. Creativity is a good gift, as Schaeffer wrote. And because of who we are and who God is, we ought to pursue it to the fullest. But because we bear his image, we have a responsibility to reflect him in our creative efforts. Let’s be careful to never neglect that.