What Should Christian Art Do?

On January 28, 2011 the BBC News Magazine published A Point of View article entitled “Why are museums so uninspiring?” by Alain de Botton. In his article, de Botton argues that museum art should do what religious art was meant to do – train us to be better people.

While I agree with de Botton’s supportive claims that Christian art should “call forth appropriate emotional responses” and that Christian art is a medium “to inspire you to faith,” I disagree with his basic argument. I’m not saying that, the Holy Spirit’s work through Christian art won’t motivate you to be a more godly person, I’m just proposing that the ultimate aim of Christian art should not be to make us sweeter, kinder, or more generous and thoughtful people.

Instead the ultimate purpose of Christian art should be to provide us with a portal through which we can see something of God’s beauty and worthiness. Christian art, like God’s own art (Ps 19:1; Ps. 8:1, Rom. 1:20), should be part of the kindle that helps to set our hearts on fire with a consuming love and wonder of God’s magnificent beauty.

Is my view, that Christian art should be a gate through which we can see God’s beauty, at odds with de Botton’s premise that art should function as a means to produce a godly character? No. Seeing God, trusting him, and loving him will produce godly change, but godly change must flow from seeing God’s glory – not from seeing art.