In this brief post I wish to expound three basic points in the philosophy of art that have been greatly perverted in our day: the definition of art, the motive for art, and the goal of art.
What is Art?
Some dictionaries define art as “the products of human creativity”, others define it as “the means by which a community develops for itself a medium for self-expression and interpretation”, and many other ones define it similar to these two. The first definition is extremely vague—if the definition of art is as broad as a “product of human creativity” then almost everything could be considered as “art”; everything from Advanced Technology, to the post I now write, to throwing up on a canvas.
The second definition is not much better: if “art” is merely “a medium for self-expression and interpretation”, then it would be plausible to say that for a mad man to scribble on a piece of paper is “art” because he’s expressing himself.
The secularists cannot define art because they seek to change what art is supposed to be. The so-called “artist”, Picasso said,
“Art is not the application of a canon of beauty but what the instinct and the brain can conceive beyond any canon (or rule).”
Picasso had an antinomian (anti-law) world-view, and thus, did not like to conform his work and art to God’s Law; he believed that man is the definer of right and wrong. Picasso often referred to the brain, or what he thinks, to be the final authority for his actions instead of the Scriptures.
In opposition to the secularists’ definitions, visual art, as we Christians ought to define it, is a tool by which we may reflect upon God’s creation and attributes through images. “All things were created by Him and for Him,” including art.
Most of what is considered today as “art” therefore, is not art, but is the fruit of deluded and depraved minds that seek to destroy any remembrance of God from the world.
The Motive for Art
The motive for art has probably been the most butchered out of all of its aspects. Most people today think that the sole purpose of art is “self expression”; but we should ask the question “Is such a motive founded by Scripture?”
I Corinthians 10:31 states,
“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”
This passage does not give an exception for art, but it says whatsoever we do our motive ought to be soli Deo gloria (to the glory of God alone). A question may arise: “Is there no room for self-expression?” The question is, “What is the motive for expressing yourself?” If anyone’s motive is any less than glorifying God, that man has a sinful and an anthropocentric motive. When the motive of art is anthropocentric (man-centered) instead of Theo-centric (God-centered) art degrades to be more and more twisted and more and more nonsensical and you end up coming up with some twisted thing that does not even resemble true art.
The Goal of Art
What should be the goal of our Art? Should our goal be to make people feel good? Or is it to let the world know how you’re feeling today? What should the aim of art be? To make people feel good about themselves isn’t even necessarily even a good thing; what if the person is under the wrath of God, and should actually feel really bad about himself and thus flee to Christ for refuge? And who on earth will care how you feel when you’ve been buried six feet deep for a thousand years?
Without an eternal goal—i.e., a goal that is Christ-ward, for His Kingdom, the conversion of sinners, and the edification of the saints—art is useless. You might as well twiddle your thumbs.
II Corinthians 10:5 says that we are to,
“Cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
– Evan Murch