Kingdom of God vs. Art
aymon de albatrus
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any image of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exo 20:4)
Human effort to imitate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature.
Any human ‘creation’ that contains an idea other than an utilitarian purpose.
Art is anything that people add to their ‘output’, which is not functionally necessary and is other than the default properties of that output.
The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects ‘unfamiliar’, to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object; the object is not important. (Shklovsky, "Art as Technique")
In other words, art presents things in a new, unfamiliar light by way of formal manipulation, this is what is artful about art.
Example: The default leg of a chair may be a long rectangular square. If its maker tapers the ends for no other reason than personal aesthetic preference, that tapering is art. If he tapers it for a functional (mechanical) reason it is part of 'engineering design' and not art. If he makes the leg round as on a lathe it may or may not be an artistic decision, it depends on:
If for looks, then it is artistic,
If to make it less likely to splinter or cause stubbed toe injuries, etc. it is engineering design.
In essence, Art is entirely a human endeavour unnecessary for the practicalities of life, but done solely for personal ‘aesthetic’ reasons perceived as pleasant to the human eye and for human consumption alone. It has no place in the worship of God, indeed it is an offence to Him, for whatever reason humans do art, it is an imitation of things He has created, and a bad one at that which pretends to equals (or even surpass) His creation, thus offending Him. It can be said that when man tries to emulate, supplement, alter, or counteract the work of nature (God’s creation) it is like him defecating in a pot, lifting it up and saying to God: "look at what I have done for you".
At this point we need to differentiate between Music and Art. Art is the making of statues, paintings, images, photographs and such like, whilst music is the making of sounds using different instruments apropos or the human voice. The fundamental difference is that the works of Art are physical and made just the once, whilst Music has to be generated every time and it is not physical but sound vibrations, when the players stop, the music is gone. Also, music is a generation of sound waves based on a combination of mathematics not pieces of physical materials. Moreover art, as the making of statues, paintings and images is a physical attempt to kind of copy and worship oneself, or others or nature or even a perceived God. Scripture clearly forbids the worship of any created things or its reproduction thereof and allows ONLY worship of God and that in the prescribed way, not by physical means, but clearly: "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship Him in spirit and in truth." (Joh 4:24)
It is interesting to note that the Bible does not report art (statues, images etc.) in Heaven but it does give accounts of Music being played there on Harps (no drums): "8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints. 9 And they sung a new song, saying, You are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;" (Rev 5:8-9) (Rev 14:2,3; 15:2,3)
Should then true Christians be involved in physical Art?
Of course everyone has its own views on Art, but in general terms the vast majority of people, including Christians, are very favourable to physical art, judging by what they have hanging on their home walls. So to make a stance against any form of physical art, whether to worship God or just ornamental, it is VERY unpopular indeed. Well that is the standard of things, as exemplified by Jesus and His disciples of all times, rejection, ridicule and ostracism is the norm, for it touches the very essence of the natural inner core in man and extremely sensitive.
One thing is for sure, according to the witness of Scripture, in the Kingdom of God, there will be no pictures hanging on the walls, nor statues in the garden, nor any of such evil things.
Physical art can be divided in three categories:
Art for religious purposes to worship it or the person portrayed by it, or
Art for the sake of art to exalt man or the person or the thing portrayed,
Art as a miserable reproduction of things God has created or glorification of man made things.
The second commandment clearly forbids the making, the displaying and the worshipping of any product of art: "You shall not make to you any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth." (Exo 20:4)
This is because art takes away the glory which is due ONLY to God to give it to the man made Statue/Image itself of the person represented other than God. For example take the many images of "Christ". NO ONE as given an actual description of the physical aspect of Jesus and so EVERY one of His purported images are just an invented and false opinion of the various artists. The Lord did hard physical labour outdoors, with Joseph in Nazareth, until He was about 30 years old. Back then, the building trade involved very strenuous physical work with heavy stone and lumber, without any sort of power tools or mechanical digging equipment that are in use today. Unlike the many religious pictures that portray Jesus as a pale, skinny, blue eyed effeminate man with long blond/reddish hair and wearing a flowing white or pink robe (all of which may well be far closer to what Satan looks like), Christ most likely did not look at all anything like that. His appearance would definitely have been that of a tanned, muscular, physically fit young Jew dressed in durable and practical clothing, which made Him indistinguishable from the "blue-collar" Fishermen who were with Him when He was arrested. The prophet Isaiah confirms His ordinary appearance. However, most religious artists portray Christ with long flowing hair with perfect European features, when in fact he would have looked more like the Jewish man that He was, perhaps even with a big nose.
Did Jesus have long Hair? The apostle Paul (on the road to Damascus) actually saw Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1). Paul, a trustworthy man who wrote a large part of the New Testament, knew exactly what The Lord looked like. In 1 Corinthians 11:14, Paul wrote, "If a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him." It's quite unthinkable that Paul would have made such a statement if Jesus Christ had long hair. How could anything about The Lord be called disgraceful?
So these artists are wickedly representing Jesus Christ The Man/God untruthfully thus bringing dishonour to Him doubly: firstly because the representation of Him is not true but totally false and secondly the worship due to Him and Him alone, is distracted or even given to these idols.
Imagine, if when someone wanted to talk to you, they made themselves a hollow, lifeless plaster doll, that they said represented you, brought it into your presence and instead of talking to you directly, they talked to the lifeless plaster doll, as if it were you, all the while ignoring the real you who was right there with them. Would you think someone who did that was very foolish? Would you be offended by someone who "sees you" as a plaster dummy or a bit of paint on a canvas? And if, after your telling them that you don't like them doing that, and emphatically telling them not to do it, they kept doing it anyway, would you become angry with them? By His own words, it makes God very angry too. You aren't a dummy and God isn't a dummy either. The same holds true for using statues or images to worship or pray (or even to hang around) to Jesus or the dead saints of the past (just as it's wrong to worship or pray to the living saints of the present).
God is to be prayed to or worshiped ONLY IN THE SPIRIT AND IN TRUTH, and displaying fake pictures of Him in not acceptable and an offence to Him. Regarding all of the saints of the past they were merely people the same as anyone today, and all of the dead saints of the past cannot hear anything, or do anything, for anyone because they are dead as dodos. My strong advice to anyone that has any such religious statues or pictures, or even art pieces as his personal possession, is to destroy them immediately for they are useless and may even be cause of stumbling, yours or others! Once in the home of a catholic friend I saw a porcelain statue of Mary in pieces put back together with glue, I said to her: "See this idol of yours, it could not even protect itself, toss it away." She did not say anything but kept on in keeping the idol and presumably still praying to it. If this is not idolatry, what is?
Secondly, art exalts for the sake of art how man sees things his way, not God’s. These are all distorted visions of reality; otherwise it would not be art, as per the definitions above. In other words they are all lies. We may even say that art in effect even breaks the 9th commandment: "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour." (Exo 20:16) in that what the artist proposes to people (his neighbour) is a lie and not reality.
The Puritans, perhaps the people that came the closest to a pure Biblical worship and practical living had no picture or graven images or statue hanging in their churches, but just white walls, nor had they any such useless things in their homes. The only thing that was prominent was the pulpit from where the Word of God was preached.
We also should not use any artefacts, OF ANY KIND, in our churches to worship our marvellous Lord, only ourselves, in Spirit an Truth, no pretend lies or cover up or fanciful displays.
Thirdly, art glorifies man and his abilities, rather than bringing glory to God alone: "Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1Co 10:31) "For who makes you to differ from another? and what have you that you did not receive? now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?" (1Co 4:7)
And the glory that art brings to man is really a miserable one at that, for man’s reproductions and inventions are very pathetic things when compared to the excellence of the original creation of God. Of course these pretentious and false reproductions do indeed offend God, for He is the truth, whilst art is false: "Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me." (Joh 14:6)
Nevertheless carnal man is fond to quote (misquote) that Scriptural passage referred to by Jesus that man does not only need food, but also pleasure and amusement, but the reference says: "But answering, He said, It has been written: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word going out of the mouth of God." Deuteronomy 8:3" (Mat 4:4) Clearly here there is nothing that concerns the need of art and amusements, but rather of "every words of God". More lies.
Of course someone may well holler: "But it was God that gave mankind the ability to make art, why give it then?" It is not that difficult to figure that out by anyone that thinks Godwards. It is similar to the concept of sexual relation, God did give the sexual apparatus to humans not to abuse it but to be used according to His direction, viz. to procreate and to cement the relation between husband and wife so that they may become "one flesh" (Mat 19:6; 1Co 6:16) and also made the process pleasurable, BUT promiscuity and/or incorrect use of sex is not acceptable to Him.
Similarly, God has given "artistic" abilities to man NOT to misuse them according to his fanciful whims, but to ensure that when making useful and practical things required by bettering life on this earth, these may be in syntony with the beauty of His creation. After all it is His Garden. As defined above, Art is entirely a human endeavour unnecessary for the practicalities of life, but done solely for personal ‘aesthetic’ reasons perceived as pleasant to the human eye and for human consumption alone and therefore it is at odds with the reason God gave it to mankind and consequently not acceptable to Him.
As far as Music is concerned we do not consider it as the same as making useless physical things, as art is defined here, and on the main it is legit, however like the good things God give us, human have the tendency to mar them in many ways and music too can be, and it is, misused even for evil, as we see the type of "music" played today, even in the churches.
In conclusion, as we have seen, art (the making of statues, pictures, etc) is the pursuit of useless things having no bearing on practical life, it serves no other purpose but to exalt the inflated ego of mankind and, indeed, it has the potential to lead men into idolatry as we see plenty example all around us. If men were to channel all the energies and vanity and resources they pour into art in thing more useful, the world would be a better place and many more practical things would be around to alleviate the suffering of many poor people in this valley of tears.
Definitely, art is man’s miserly pursuit to exalt himself to the highest, even above God, if he could.