Beauty and the Beholder:
A Christian View of Aesthetics and Art

  1. Does God care about beauty, and should we?

    1. God's concern for beauty. Psalm 27:4, Genesis 1:31, Genesis 2:9

    2. Our nature. Gen. 1:27

    3. Psalm 16:11

    4. 1 Timothy 4:1-5, 6:17

  2. Is beauty purely subjective?

    1. What is the standard for beauty?

    2. Why do we disagree over what is beautiful?

    3. The modern art world implicitly affirms objective standards.

    4. Can we legitimately judge art?

  3. What constitutes good art?

    (Art = any endeavor designed to produce something beautiful music, painting, dance, film, poetry, literature usually as an expression of human experience)

    1. As discerning Christians, we must distinguish between form and content.

    2. All art has a message.

    3. Art can be true or false at various levels.
      1. As an expression of what humans value.
      2. As an expression of genuine human experience and reality.
      3. As an expression of general perspective or truthful insights.
      4. As an expression of a world view.

    4. We must neither reject nor accept all realistic portrayals of evil in art. How does the Bible portray evil?
      1. The Bible itself portrays evil, sometimes in graphic ways, but ultimately with a redemptive purpose in view. Gen. 38:9, 2 Sam. 20:10-12
      2. The Bible never condones the evil it depicts.
      3. The Bible does not dwell primarily on depravity, as though that's all there is to life.
      4. The Bible does not use sordid details that would tend to stir up our sinful imaginations.

    5. Moral art vs. immoral art.

  4. How can we reflect God's image in our approach to art and beauty?

    1. Art as a calling.

    2. Prepare yourself.

    3. Beauty in everyday life.

    4. Give God the glory for all beauty you observe and enjoy.

  5. What is Christian art?

    1. Christian art pursues excellence both in form and in content.

    2. There is no Christian form, but Christians should choose the appropriate form for the message and should follow cultural conventions for what is excellent technique with a given form.

    3. The message does not have to be about an exclusively Christian theme. God is the God of all creation and is interested in all of it.

    4. We can speak of art being inclusively Christian (consistent with Christian principles) or exclusively Christian (consistent with Christian principles and inconsistent with all other worldviews).

    5. An artist cannot tell all the truth about the Christian world view in one work, but his overall body of work will tend to be redemptive in its message. (Some of David's Psalms express despair with no resolution. Ps. 38)


The Liberated Imagination: Thinking Christianly About the Arts, by Leland Ryken, Harold Shaw Publishing, 1989, 283 pp. This is the best reference I know of for dealing in-depth with a biblical view of the arts. This is definitely the place to start your reading on this subject. I also highly recommend all of Ryken's other books, most of which deal with various aspects of a biblical world view. (The AU library has several.)
Availability: CPC library

Addicted to Mediocrity: 20th Century Christians and the Arts, by Franky Schaeffer, Crossway, 1981, 127 pp. The son of Francis Schaeffer takes evangelicals to the woodshed for abandoning our biblical and historic heritage of contributing to the arts and substituting instead a cheap imitation that is nothing more than baptized mediocrity. Schaeffer writes with a cutting wit, but he is generally on target. Be aware that Schaeffer in recent years has left his evangelical roots for Eastern Orthodoxy, seemingly allowing his love for art obscure his love for the gospel. However, this book is completely sound and helpful, not to mention fun to read.
Availability: CPC library

Writings of Francis Schaeffer. Most of Schaeffer's writings analyze the direction of our culture on the basis of ideas reflected in contemporary art. See especially Escape from Reason and How Shall We Then Live? Be prepared to put on your thinking cap!
Availability: AU Library

"Faithful Aesthetic Acts," by Roy Atwood, Credenda/Agenda, vol. 8, no. 2.

"Essential Media," by Wes Callihan, Credenda/Agenda, vol. 6, no. 4.

"Men Hate Poetry," by Douglas Jones, Credenda/Agenda, vol. 9, no. 4.

"Art as Covenant Naming," by Douglas Wilson, Credenda/Agenda, vol. 9, no. 1.