Friday, March 22, 2013

Does all art need a purpose?

Thought of the day. Does all art need a purpose?

When God created the world, He said it was good. Not all that He made seems to have had a definitive purpose. With the exception of the heavenly bodies, which it says He created "for signs and for seasons, and for days and years... to give light upon the earth" (Gen 1:14-15, ESV), the only real commentary that is given on each facet of His creation is... "and it was good".

This brings up a question. Cannot art exist for the sole purpose of being good? A fruit nourishes us, the wind cools us, a river refreshes us... but do the vivid colors of fruits, flowers and sunsets serve any purpose other than to simply display beauty? Why did God create the flashy peacock, the odd giraffe, the grotesque anglerfish, and the magnificent blue whale? Does every creature serve a "purpose" like the stars do and vegetables do? Does it not seem that many aspects of creation exist simply to display His creativity, His majesty, and His personality... or to just be beautiful and be good? As Stasi Eldredge wrote,

"Nature is not primarily functional. It is primarily beautiful." - Captivating

When God made man, He made us "in His image." That means we reflect Him, and bring glory to Him by reflecting Him. We all reflect His image in different ways. Man and woman, young and old, artist and mathematician... each of us, in our own unique ways, reflect different aspects of His vast person. It is part of our purpose. By simply reflecting Him, we are fulfilling part of our purpose in existing.

This is where the artist comes in. Artists reflect the creative aspect of God's image. It is why the need to create and to make beautiful things is so deeply rooted in our hearts. 

Some people may wonder where the value is in a beautiful painting of flowers or a field or a completely imagined scene out of an artist's head. Does it serve any purpose? Is it worth spending the effort to create, the time to enjoy, or the funds to support? I would say yes, it is absolutely worth all those things and far more. Art is not something to belittle.

When artists create, we are directly reflecting God's image, and we are bringing Him glory.

It is part of our purpose as artists. It doesn't matter what we are creating, and whether or not that creation may seem "useless" in the eyes of others. By simply creating, we are reflecting the God who created the universe. Creativity is not to be ignored. There is no small value in the "mere" pursuit of beauty and goodness. God wanted us to pursue these things.

But let's take this a step further. And this is where I may start stepping on some toes.

You see, art is not just limited to paintings and drawings.

What about music? Writing? Storytelling? Filmmaking? We all know that media is the most powerful influencer on our culture right now. (I wrote a previous blog post on this.) This seems to place an obligation on Christians in the media world to create content that furthers God's kingdom and shines a light in the culture to combat all the darkness. While I fully acknowledge the immensely powerful position we have as media-makers, and whole-heartedly identify with all attempts to use that power for God's glory and for cultural reformation, I have to step back and say... is that all we are required to do?

I want to make movies that impacts culture. I want to tell stories that moves hearts and even, I pray, changes lives for Christ. But I've come to wonder, are we fully obligated to incorporate this kind of purpose into every single work of media art we create?

You see, media is art.

Is it a "waste" to write a song about our grandmother, or a poem about how much we love spring? Is it a "waste" to tell a story that never uses the name of Jesus, or a film that never shares the gospel or is, truly, hardly more than clean "entertainment"? Does the powerful potential of media obligate us to the restrictive purposes many Christians apply to it?

I'm not saying we should use this as an excuse... if God wants us to tell a story or write a song with a definitive purpose for His kingdom, we shouldn't use this reasoning as a cop-out from that calling.

But my question is, does God always require us to make art with such evident "purposes"?

Or are we not already reflecting His image, bringing Him glory, and fulfilling part of our purpose by simply making beauty... and making it good?

What do you think?