This article is part of our Made to Create article series. Read the other articles in the series here:
- “Made to Create” by Ashlee Gadd
- “Making Music for God’s Glory” by Caroline Cobb
- “Order from Chaos” by Abbey Wedgeworth
- "A Liturgy for Your Words" by Kate Lab
- "A Welcoming Home" by Rachael Milner
Made to Create: Opening Our Eyes to Art
What makes “Christian art” Christian? Does it need a cross or a verse reference? A quick Google search of “Christian art” brings up thousands of results we’re familiar with, mostly portraits of Jesus and paintings of the crucifixion. But Christian art can be more than a literal painting of Jesus. Good art—whether we’re creating it or beholding it—has the power to draw us near to God.
God’s Creation as Art
If we think of God as a visual artist, then all of creation is his artwork. He designed snowflakes and butterflies and sunsets! He didn’t make them colorless or simple. Rather, he made them with abundant detail and beauty. I remember standing in front of Lake Louise in Banff for the first time and taking in every inch of the picture-perfect view. The lake was the tealest teal I’d ever seen. The mountains soared into the sky and made me feel smaller than ever. God’s creation is full of visual richness and artistry.
God made us visual beings so that we can enjoy his visible handiwork. Creation reflects who he is—his magnificence, his creativity, his beauty, his grandeur—and he wants us to see it. In the same way, beautiful art made by humans also has the power to point us to God. Good art reminds us that God is the ultimate Creator and original artist. Good art is a chance to give glory to him.
Art as a Means of Worship
I doodled in my sermon notebook for years before I realized I enjoyed the art of hand-lettering and calligraphy. This hobby became my full-time career when I started a Christian stationery brand. I named my business Selah Paper because it reminded me of my journey in calligraphy. Selah is a Hebrew word found in the Old Testament, mostly in the Psalms. Some scholars say selah is written as a musical direction for instrumentals, while others believe it’s an instruction for the reader to pause and reflect on what has been said or read.1
Writing in calligraphy is slow. You can’t scribble like you would with a ballpoint pen. Each stroke requires precision and steadiness, and this slowness helps me meditate on the words I’m writing. It allows me to savor God’s Word and marvel at the truth. Calligraphy is an essential part of my spiritual growth and an unexpected means for me to enjoy God. In my work with Selah Paper, I desire for people to see God’s Word in a new and refreshing way. It doesn’t always have to be a Bible verse! With my calligraphy and painting, I hope to display gospel truths that help people see how glorious and beautiful Jesus is.
Commissioned by God to Create Art
When God made us in his image, he made us to be mini-creators. He gave us hands and eyes and imaginations so that we too can express ourselves through art. When we exercise our creativity, we are doing something in his likeness.
When God commands Moses and the Israelites to build his tabernacle, he equips them to create something beautiful:
"The LORD said to Moses, 'See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft'" (Ex. 31:1–5).
God’s spirit fills a man named Bezalel. God provides him with the skill, instruction, and inspiration to create his tabernacle exactly as he commands. In obedience, Bezalel leads a team of artisans and craftsmen to build the tabernacle. The cutting of wood and engraving of stone becomes an act of worship to God as they dedicate their works to him. Like Bezalel, we’re called to steward our artistic abilities that God has given us to honor and glorify him.
The tabernacle passage in Exodus also shows us that God values beautiful things. Even the priest’s garments are created with symbolic beauty:
"And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty.… On its hem you shall make pomegranates of blue and purple and scarlet yarns, around its hem, with bells of gold between them, a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, around the hem of the robe" (Ex. 28:2, 33–34).
Blue, purple, and scarlet yarns. Pomegranates. Golden bells! These specific details aren’t there to add function to the garments but to add glory and beauty. Isn’t that wonderful? Whether he creates it or commissions us to, God values making things beautiful.
Creators, Not Consumers
Worshiping God with our whole being includes using our creativity too. Unfortunately, creating art feels like hard work sometimes. It’s much easier to consume than create; scrolling on a phone is easier than sitting down with a blank canvas. But, as Christians, we have an amazing opportunity to be creators and not just consumers. We can create art that shapes our culture through the lens of the gospel.
Whether or not you consider yourself artsy, art is for everyone. Try approaching art with the same delight and wonder as a child with a crayon. You don’t need a degree in fine art to draw or paint. Embrace the process of creating (all the messy, exciting, therapeutic, and surprising parts!) rather than the final piece itself. Take a drop-in pottery class. Learn calligraphy online. Attend a paint night! When we create, we are exercising our God-given abilities to create for his glory and our delight.
Meet the Author
Sarah Shin is a calligrapher who turned her hobby into a full-time job. In a season of grief, she found immense comfort and hope through Scripture and wanted to share it with others. Sarah quit her corporate job to start Selah Paper and designed her shop’s first products—sympathy cards—with hopes of encouraging and ultimately pointing people to Christ through her products. Sarah lives in Canada where she and her husband spend most of their time trying to make their baby daughter laugh. Say hi at instagram.com/bysarahkim or www.selahpaper.com.