God and Art

What hath Heaven to do with a Sketchbook? Let’s talk about it today on Deeper Waters.

As readers of this blog probably know, my wife is an artist. I, on the other hand, could not draw a good stick man if my life depended on it. I have at times got out of a picture of her and tried to draw it only to throw it away in shame unable to believe I had ruined things that way. How is it that one cannot take a simple picture and just copy what they see? As it stands, at this point, I cannot.

Last night, I was listening some to N.T. Wright as he talked about the creation and how it points beyond itself and how this relates to art. I do not recall exactly what it is he said, but I do remember that the idea of God and art has been bouncing around in my mind since then. The idea of aesthetics as pointing to God has long been appealing to me.

Beauty is something amazing to us all. Do we really think about the purpose of beauty? As I pondered it, one purpose I saw of beauty was that beauty is to draw us in and to make us want more of what it is that we see. We can see this often in secular programming today with a girl wearing an outfit around a man she wants to attract with the line of “I bet you’d like to see more.”

Of course, most women also know they have this power over men.

My wife and I sometimes watch shows on HGTV together as this is something she enjoys and I can tolerate it alongside her. I have noticed that on one show where a couple or single person is given a choice of three houses and we have to see which one they will choose to live in, that the Princess and I have always said we’d like to live in the same house. What I had not considered until I started pondering on this was the important role that beauty played in all of this.

Of course, a house needs to be functional for someone to live there, but we seem to have a necessity that it be beautiful. We do not really want to live in a house that will be perceived as ugly.The beauty adds value to the house and gets us to want the house more. We feel as if we are being drawn into it and being asked to experience more and more of it. We lose ourselves in its beauty.

This is also the case with good books. There are such things as bad books. They are a drag to read. You literally have to force yourself through page after page. Then, there are good books. I used to listen to Harry Potter on audio and found myself in my car saying “I’ll turn it off after this sentence.” “Okay. After this sentence.” “I can wait a little bit.” The story was drawing me in. I wanted to hear more.

In suspense, I love the works of Mary Higgins Clark. When I read a book of hers, I want to know what happens and can spend every waking moment thinking about the characters in the story and wondering what will happen next.. Who is it that I think has done the crime? How will everything work out? The story has worked its magic. The spell is cast. I am drawn in.

As a married man now, this is definitely an important aspect of marriage. When we were growing up we wanted our Mommies and Daddies. At times, we say today that we want our friends. However, when a man says he wants his wife and when a wife says she wants her husband, there can be times they mean something completely different from any of those prior wants.

Do we want our parents for their beauty? Do we want our friends for their beauty? No. But when it comes to spouses, we do want that beauty. In fact, we want more of that beauty. When we are dating, we seek to make ourselves as appealing as possible. Before I drove out of state to meet my Princess, I would have a good haircut and pick out a good outfit and make sure I had showered well and took something for breath. I wanted to look my best.

Why? The idea is simple. I wanted her to want me and the way to do that is to present beauty. To be sure, if that beauty rests solely in the physical, then that is a problem. If anything, we were first drawn by the beauty of hearts which is something special about connecting over the net at times. You see the person’s heart first.

As it stands, my wife does get more beautiful to me every day and I find it very pleasing when I know she wants to be beautiful not for her sake, but for my sake. Marriage is not meant to be an end of dating as it is so often seen, but it is to be an extension of dating with still each person wanting to draw the other in.

In Smallville, in the first season in the episode “Nicodemus”, Jonathan Kent is in a coma and Martha Kent relates to Clark about how she first met him and based on how he acted she found herself thinking the strangest thing of “God. I hope he marries me.” She then said that she still says every day. “God. I hope he marries me.”

To love in holy matrimony is not just a one-time choice, but is rather a choice that is made every day. To wake up and love is a choice that must be made. I make it a choice that when I wake up, to be sure to kiss my wife first. At the end of a work day, she’s already asleep, so I make it a point to have it be first that I go and kiss her. If I wake her up, she has done a good job of hiding it.

When we speak of this beauty in marriage, we must also speak of it in sexual union. This is the ultimate case of the drawing in and it is no surprise that it is the female who draws in the male. It’s my contention that of all that God created, the human female is the most beautiful of all and thus was saved for last, and I think the females would actually agree with me that overall women are more beautiful than men.

The idea of sexuality is that in that case, beauty seems to take on a new life, and indeed, this is the form of beauty that does create new life. Beauty reproduces after itself when it is reduced to the bare minimum. When the man and woman lose themselves in the beauty of one another, they are able to create a beauty together that neither could create alone.

In this case, the man seeks to possess the woman. He wants that which is totally different from him and wants it for it. He doesn’t want her the same way he would want a friend or a family member, which would more often be based on some function alone, but he wants his wife for her beauty first and while that does lead to a function, that leading is based on beauty.

This whole drawing in is fascinating, but what does it have to do with God? God is the master artist. If truth-seeking is thinking God’s thoughts after Him, could it be the case that good artwork is imagining God’s imagination after Him? We cannot create new things. We can only take the ideas God has created already and find new ways of reshaping them. It is the same with colors. The only colors we make are those that are combinations of prior ones. We cannot create new primary colors.

In that case, the world is meant to draw us in and we are to remember that the world in the sense of sinful humanity and desires is not good, but in the sense of humans as persons created in the image of God, it is good. People do not always behave good. We certainly know that. People insofar as they are however are good. This is not moral good, but ontological good, the goodness of simply being. The existence of people is good.

Many of us have a problem with the environmental movement and with some aspects of it, I can certainly agree with that disagreement. I do think some go too far in that they worship nature. Nature is not the end. It is not the final reality. The pantheist and the atheist both make the same mistake there. However, while they go too far in that they practically worship nature, we go too far in that we are not even tempted to.

In our world of technology, we can get so caught up in it that we lose sight of the beauty out there. I know this is a fault of mine. I am so eager to get caught up in all of the information that even when caught out in nature somewhere, I can just be wanting to check my mail. This is a fault in me. It is not a fault in creation.

When my wife and I go out somewhere in nature, with her interest in it, I know that she sees a lot more than I do. I am too busy thinking about all those things that we have created often that I do not take the time to look and appreciate what it is that God has created.

When we look at the environmentalists, we need to realize that Christians should be on the forefront of the environmentalist movement. Our God created this world and He created it to be beautiful and we should seek to do what we can to preserve that beauty for everyone.

Good art will seek to take God’s beauty and put it in such a way to best exemplify it. It will want to draw us in and at the same time make us want to be better than before. A good story will also have good virtue in it. A good painting will grasp us in the wonder of the true artist.

There is also the beauty of God Himself, an aspect often overlooked. What have we said about seeing a beautiful object? (By seeing, please do not limit it to the sense of sight. The same happens for beautiful music, smells, touches, etc.) We have said that the beauty makes you want to want the object all the more. You want to know it. As in the case of the opposite sex, you want to possess the other.

What of God who is not only the source of beautiful things, but beauty Himself? If we say we want God, then we should find Him beautiful. If we do not find Him beautiful, we will not find that we want Him. If we otherwise find that we do not really want God, then we need to ask if we really find Him beautiful. If we do not, and to an extent we all do not, then we need to ask if we really want Him. If we do not want that which is beautiful, the fault does not lie in the object of desire, but in ourselves.

Do we find ourselves drawn into God and the things of God? Do we live our lives wanting to experience the beauty that He has created and the beauty of Himself, or do we find ourselves rejecting these? Keep in mind that the more we reject the beauty, the more we move to the place of the ugly, and the most ugly place of all is of course, Hell.

If we love God, we will find ourselves wanting to say that we want to know Him as He is better. I will freely admit that in my own mind for me, this is a shortcoming of mine as I can very easily get distracted. I often do not find myself thinking on the things of God, but at times when I do get fresh insights into what I believe, something I find excellent about listening to N.T. Wright, I do find that passion for God there and the desire to want to know better.

As in the case of any beauty, the more we go into God, the more we find. The more we study the Bible, we will not just find that we know more, but we will find that there is more that we do not know. For those who are artists, such as my wife, they are privileged. Thinkers like myself get to present God to the world in ideas. Artists get to show Him in images somehow. Not so much as in sketching a picture of God, which cannot be done, but in using their images to make the viewer want more beauty, which will ultimately mean more of the ultimate beauty, God Himself.

May we find Him more beautiful every day.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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2 Responses to “God and Art”

  1. J. P. Holding Says:

    Curiously, it seems that many forms of pictorial or crafting art have been designated as to “girly” for men to be engaged in. There’s a stereotype of people like that painter on PBS (forgot his name) who was always on about fluffy clouds and all that. A man can’t do a lot of art forms — pottery, painting, etc — without being seen by many as too feminine. And that’s also true of the culinary arts to some extent, unless you become a chef specializing in “manly” foods (like BBQ).

    One of the few exceptions on the pictorial art front — ironically enough for me — is cartooning. Men can do that and not be considered girly.

    On the other hand, a man can play just about any musical instrument larger than a flute and be considered “manly”. A flute though is girly. In dance, ballet is seen as too girly for a man, but breakdancing isn’t.

    Food for thought anyway.

  2. Really Recommended Posts 02/17/12 « J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" Says:

    [...] God and Art- Deeper Waters discusses the beauty of our world along with God. Fairly lengthy post, but it’s very interesting. I recommend it. [...]

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