Why Should Christians Create? And Can We Create Beauty For Its Own Sake?

Ever since I was a kid I’ve loved art and music. 

When I was little my aunt said she loved how I sang all the time. In grade school my teachers let me spend hang out in the library drawing. My parents got me my first oil painting lesson when I was 12. And when I was 14 the Beatles invaded America and of course I had to get a guitar and join a band. In college I majored in art ed and got a Masters in painting.

But when Jesus saved me in my early 20s, I began to wonder if art was a waste of time. Shouldn’t I spend my time evangelizing or praying or doing something spiritual instead of dabbing oil paint on a canvas? And if everything’s eventually going to burn, why create things? Or if I do paint a painting does it have to be a Christian theme, a modern equivalent of “The Last Supper”? Can a Christian create something beautiful for its own sake? Here are two reasons we should create:

GOD HAS GIVEN US DOMINION OVER THE EARTH

Then 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 livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them. GE 1.26-27

To “have dominion over” the earth includes taking the raw material of the world and making stuff out of it. To take ore and wood and stone from the earth and create cars and airplanes and paintings and movies and computers and guitars and sock monkeys.

“When we talk about dominion, it’s helpful to think of it this way: As God’s image bearers in creation, we were intended to act as His representatives. We were designed, in a very real way, to show the world what God is like. So when God gave us the command to rule over the earth, the expectation was to do so in a way that reflected His character.” –The Gospel Project

When we create something as God’s representatives we show the world what God is like – someone who creates delightful things.

WHEN WE CREATE, WE ACT AS THOSE MADE IN THE IMAGE OF THE CREATOR

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. GE 1.27

God has made us in his image, and he is infinitely creative.

He could have made the world in black and white. He could have created one kind of food. Instead he made luna moths and mimosa trees and jungles and deserts and garden spiders and red-winged blackbirds and ring-necked snakes. God didn’t make a strictly utilitarian world. He decorated it with weeping willows and tiger lilies.

Hubble has detected 100 billion galaxies. There are approximately 20,000 species of butterflies in the world, 35,000+ kinds of spiders and 9,956 species of birds. There are over 4,675 lizard species, including iguanas, chameleons, geckos, Gila monsters, monitors, and skinks, according to the SanDiego Zoo. The latest estimate is that there are about 400,000 flowering plant species. 2,500 varieties of apples are grown in the United States and 7,500 varieties of apples are grown throughout the world. Talk about creative!

God not only created variety, but beauty. “Come with me to the Alps and look at the snow-covered mountains. There can be no question. God is interested in beauty.” –Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible

God’s directions to build the Tabernacle included the creation of beauty, not simply functional things:

“You shall make a lampstand of pure gold. The lampstand shall be made of hammered work: its base, its stem, its cups, its calyxes, and its flowers shall be of one piece with it. And there shall be six branches going out of its sides, three branches of the lampstand out of one side of it and three branches of the lampstand out of the other side of it; three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on one branch, and three cups made like almond blossoms, each with calyx and flower, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. EX 25.31-33

The lampstand was beautiful! Like blossoming almond branches.

Look at God’s design for the priests’ robe:

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 28.33-34

Pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarns – there are red and purple pomegranates but no such thing as blue ones. God told Moses to make multi-colored pomegranates for the hem of the robe and between each one a golden bell.

Look how Solomon decorated the temple:

He adorned the house with settings of precious stones. The gold was gold of Parvaim. So he lined the house with gold—its beams, its thresholds, its walls, and its doors—and he carved cherubim on the walls. 2 Chron 3.6-7

Precious, beautiful gemstones set in gold covered the house. And Solomon had cherubim carved on the walls. Purely decorative. Beauty for its own sake. And to that he added 2 decorative pillars:

In front of the house he made two pillars thirty-five cubits high, with a capital of five cubits on the top of each. He made chains like a necklacej and put them on the tops of the pillars, and he made a hundred pomegranates and put them on the chains. 2 Ch 3.15-16

Francis Schaeffer says: “Here are two free-standing columns. They supported no architectural weight and had no utilitarian engineering significance.”

Beautiful gems set in gold, 2 pillars draped with gold chains like necklaces, each one adorned with a hundred pomegranates. Scarlet, purple and blue pomegranates on the high priests hem with golden bells tinkling between each one.

God creates so we should create. God commanded us to create – to take dominion. And when we create it need serve no utilitarian purpose. It can just be beautiful. It can just look nice to look at. Or listen to. Or taste. And it certainly can involve pomegranates.

Note from Stephen: If you’re passionate about creating, I’d love to have you join me in the Write Your Book course.

Mark Altrogge

I’m a pastor at Saving Grace Church in Indiana, PA. I’m married to Kristi, have 5 kids, and a growing number of grandkids. I enjoy songwriting, oil painting and coffee, not necessarily in that order.