Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer

Hi all, I received a request a few days ago about a good Christian book on the arts. This one came to mind - but really, there are dozens of them. The author was a friend of my Dad's so I may be a little biased. They were room-mates in Virginia, before WW2. I found some letters from him and dad in an old box of war letters.

"The lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts," writes Francis Schaeffer. "A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God." Many Christians, wary of creating graven images, have steered clear of artistic creativity. But the Bible offers a robust affirmation of the arts. The human impulse to create reflects our being created in the image of a creator God. Art and the Bible has been a foundational work for generations of Christians in the arts. In this book's classic essays, Francis Schaeffer first examines the scriptural record of the use of various art forms, and then establishes a Christian perspective on art. With clarity and vigor, Schaeffer explains why "the Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars."


What is the place of art in the Christian life? Is art — especially the fine arts of painting and music — simply a way to bring in worldliness through the back door? We know that poetry may be used to praise God in, say, the psalms and maybe even in modern hymns. But what about sculpture or drama? Do these have any place in the Christian life? Shouldn’t a Christian focus his gaze steadily on “religious things” alone and forget about art and culture?

The Lordship of Christ

As evangelical Christians we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very' small area of reality. We have misun­ derstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole of man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives and for our culture.

The lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no platonic areas in Christian­ ity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and the soul. God made the body as well as the soul and redemption is for the whole man. Evangelicals have been legitimately criticized for often being so tremendously interested in seeing souls get saved and go to heaven that they have not cared much about the whole man.

The Bible, however, makes four things very clear: (1) God made the whole man, (2) in Christ the whole man is redeemed, (3) Christ is the Lord of the whole man now and the Lord of the whole Christian life, and (4) in the future as Christ comes back, the body will be raised from the dead and the whole man will have a whole redemption. It is within this framework that we are to understand the place of art in the Christian life. Therefore, let us consider more fully what it means to be a whole man whose whole life is under the lordship of Christ.

The conception of the wholeness of man and the lordship of man over creation comes early in Scripture. In Genesis 1:26-27, we read, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. And God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” From the very beginning, therefore, man and woman, being created in the image of God (both of them!), were given dominion (lordship) over the whole of the created earth. They were the ones who bore the image of God and, bearing that image, they were to be in charge, to tend the garden, to keep it and preserve it before their own Lord. Of course, that dominion was spoiled by the historic, space-time Fall, and therefore it is no longer possible to maintain that domin­ ion in a perfect fashion.

Yet, when a man comes under the blood of Christ, his whole capacity as man is refashioned. His soul is saved, yes, but so are his mind and body. As Christians we are to look to Christ day by day, for Christ will produce his fruit through us. True spirituality means the lordship of Christ over the total man.

There have been periods in the past when Christians understood this better than we have in the last few decades. A few years ago when I started to work out a Christian epistemology and a Christian concept of culture, many people considered what I was doing suspect. They felt that because I was interested in intellectual answers I must not be biblical. But this attitude represents a real poverty. It fails to understand that if Christianity is really true, then it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just “dogmatically” true or “doctrinally” true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life.


That's plenty enough to get us thinking, no? 

Oh, this is not a large book at all - more like a large pamphlet. Still a great place to get started with this important subject. Just remember, that when you pick up your drum sticks or paint brushes - God is very interested in what you are doing. Because you are made in his image - therefore a creative being.

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Replies (2)
  • This is great. I love the expression that Jesus is Lord over our whole life, that the whole man is redeemed. I admit that I have often struggled with the concept of "spiritual vs natural." It is spiritual vs carnal, but that is dealing with the sinful nature.

    Many are concerned with entertainment in the church, and I understand that concern. However, when we realize that the prophets were often "dramatists" in the way they communicated the Word of the Lord, we can appreciate their eloquence and artistry as they served Him.

    Then there is Bezaleel in Exodus 31:2, who was one of the first people of whom God said He "filled with the Spirit of God." His gift was to work with gold, silver, wood, precious stones to create what might be called "works of art," that were used in worship.

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    • The 'whole' man...

      ...whole can refer to as complete, it appears in this case, whole is applied to as to the 'entire man', Spirit, Soul, and Body..

      Jesus, our pattern, was 'whole' in being 'one' with the Father... the 'perfect' man, in the 'body' that was preparefor Him.

      John stated that those 'not born of the will of the flesh, but of God' as having power to become the sons of God.

      Solomon had art galore, but we recall him as a man whose heart was turned from God by his 'appreciation' for women.

      The disciples admired the temple in its glory, Jesus referred to its being destroyed, today it is a footnote in history.
      The Apostle Paul stated we are buried with Christ, not hypothetically, or positionally, but in God's perception literally. Self preservation, self motivation, self-pleasing, self rule are are aspects of a man unacquainted with the 'Lord' Jesus Christ. This presented issues to the early church, and to every believer since the resurrection.

      Today, there are teachings that we are under 'grace' and no one can be expected to be perfect. This appeals to the entire man'. This in essence is saying that God requested the impossible of 99 year old Abram, and the holiness God requires is impossible. Let God be true, let everyman be a liar. 

      'In Christ' is a reference the Apostle Paul used over 160 times, in Romans 8 he explains, 'you are not in the flesh, but in the spirit, if Christ abides in you'. The separation of natural, spiritual is made in this chapter by walking in the spirit, the Holy Spirit just as Jesus offered Himself up by the 'spirit of Holiness'... Along this line, Jesus stated if you abide in me, i will abide in you. It is on 'us' to bring every thought into obedience and abide in Him.. 

      In another place, God gives the Holy Spirit to those that obey Him.. and another, we cannot call Jesus Lord, BUT by the Holy Spirit.

      Discipleship has been replaced with the 'i am ok, you are okay' mentality of going along to get along'.. 

      One last note, without faith, it is impossible to please God, and the Father was always with Jesus, as Jesus did only those things that pleased Him.

      The 'whole' man, is one who has the fire of the Holy Spirit on the living sacrifice, God's word a light to his feet, again, fire on the oil in the lamp, (not just knowledge Jesus called that darkness), Lastly, Gods word is the authority. 

      Intellect, creativeness, art, that is based in reasoning, not scripture, is indeed suspect. 

      God bless..


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