Can Artists Project the Goodness of God through Art?

[S]teve Kasyanenko from EightM recently interviewed me about how artists can project the goodness of God through art. On EightM, Stephen interviews Christian businessmen and women, actors, musicians, educators, artists, athletes and entertainers from around the world. As one of my goals here on Art, Life & Faith is to help artists pursue their creative calling, EightM is eager to help you find your destiny, call and purpose in life. EightM offers compelling video interviews and stories to teach you how to achieve greatness to radically influence and change the world around you.

In this two-minute excerpt, Stephen and I had a great conversation. We talked about a number of key issues regarding the role of art in the Church and in our culture. Here’s a few questions we explored…

Click this link to watch the entire conversation. By joining EightM,
The Grove Center for the Arts & Media will receive 50% of every membership sold.

In a World Immersed in the Arts & Media, where is the Church?

Drenched in a constant, almost oppressive stream of non-stop information, how can the Church get a better grasp of it’s role in bringing the Beauty, Truth and Justice of God through the arts & media?

Is Art Just for the Purpose of Evangelism?

Must we attach a bible verse to our art to justify its existence? Does art need any justification other than for what God intended it for? What might wildflowers or a beautiful blue sky teach us about the role of art?

As the physical creation projects the goodness of God, how does art play a similar role?

What is the Purpose of Beauty, Truth and Justice?

What is the role of Beauty in relationship to Truth and Justice? How might we as Christians lead deeper lives with a robust understanding of Beauty, Truth and Justice?

How can we see the arts–music, film, visual art, dance, photography, architecture, etc.–as expressions of the goodness of God?

These are important questions for every Christian to explore. As artists, we must take our calling, our role, and our gifts seriously to make a creative contribution to this world. May the fruit of our work be truly redemptive, bringing God’s Beauty, Truth and Justice to this lost and broken world.

Questions: What are some of the possible many roles of art in the Church? What are practical ways we can educate other Christians about balancing Beauty, Truth, & Justice in the Church and society?

I’d love your comments and questions:

I’d also like to invite you to check out my new book, Create: Transforming Stories of Art, Life & Faith. It’s filled with incredible essays, artwork and video from 21 artists from across the country. Purchase your copy today and receive a free copy of my book, The Longing: Embracing the Deepest Truth of Who You Are.Your purchase supports The Grove Center for the Arts & Media by providing retreat scholarships for artists.


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, snarky or off-topic.

  • Joyfull1953

    I don’t feel I have to add a Bible verse to my paintings, but I want them in my paintings, they are a part of my painting. I do mostly portraits and I want a verse in the painting to speak my heart. Portraits can express just so much of my heart but when I incorporate a Bible verse in to my painting it is not just sticking it on, it is an integral part of the painting itself.

  • Joey O’Connor

    Hi Joyful,

    You bring up a good point and that is the intention of the artist with the work itself. My comment was addressed to those with a limited perspective of using the arts for the utilitarian purpose of evangelism. My desire is for all Christian’s to widen their view of how all the arts are gifts from God as we are to reflect His imaginative, creative nature. We are image-bearers…

    An artist certainly has the freedom to include a verse if it is integral to the purpose of the painting and the artist’s intent, as you so clearly stated. Whether there is a verse or not, the questions for any art form are (to name a few), “It is a story well told? Is it truthful? Is it excellent? Does it provoke deeper wonder or awe in the viewer or listener? Does its excellence bring God glory?”

    At all costs, artists who are Christians should avoid the sappy, saccharine or sentimental because Christ was none of these things.

    Thanks for your thoughts Joyful…best wishes to you in your life and work.

  • Shweta Kanhai

    Thanks Joey! and God bless you for each word you wrote here…Im blessed!…it has spoken to me so clearly.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Hi Shweta,

      I’m so glad you were blessed and inspired by the interview. Keep pursuing God and your art in India! I look forward to your future thoughts and comments.

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  • techne

    and as to whether art’s role is an evangelistic one, hans rookmaaker addressed that well in numerous books, including art needs no justification and modern art and the death of a culture.

    • Joey O’Connor

      Thanks for sharing Rookmaaker’s thoughts and resources. Art needs no justification, but at times, depending on the viewer or context, it does need explanation or clarification because art is education, transmitting viewpoints, values, worldviews…at bare minimum, art should not be propaganda…that’s what advertising is for…

      • techne

        actually – to be somewhat contrary – i think art is inherently propaganda. the word’s roots are as follows:

        1718, “committee of cardinals in charge of Catholic missionary work,” short for Congregatio de Propaganda Fide “congregation for propagating the faith,” a committee of cardinals established 1622 by Gregory XV to supervise foreign missions. The word is properly the ablative fem. gerundive of Latin propagare (see propagation). Hence, “any movement to propagate some practice or ideology” (1790). Modern political sense dates from World War I, not originally pejorative. Meaning “material or information propagated to advance a cause, etc.” is from 1929.

        the fact is that art is, and should be, about communicating something i.e. propagating a view or opinion or idea or position etc.

        i maintain that any art object/ cultural production has to be experienced on its own terms. we simply cannot be around to explain everything we create. the responsibility is both on us as creatives to do a better job of making art that communicates its content well and on the public to be better educated and conversant with an art form’s ‘language’. you, the artist, are responsible to decide how complex or demanding, or how simple and accessible, you want to make your work.

  • techne

    I had made a comment referencing elaine scarry but it hasn’t shown up yet…any idea why?

    • Joey O’Connor

      I recently changed my wordpress theme, but that shouldn’t have caused your comment not to appear…not sure, but my apologies nonetheless.

  • techne

    regarding the relationship of Beauty and Justice (both of which are about order, really), elaine scarry has some interesting thoughts on the matter in On Beauty and Being Just: