The first mention of art in the Bible is in Exodus 31. God is instructing Moses to create a tent for the ark of the covenant, and God mentions several artisans whom He has chosen to create “artistic designs” to beautify the tent. God says, “In the hearts of all who are skillful I have put skill.” We learn two things about God’s view of art in this passage: He likes it, and He is the source of it. He wants man to create beautiful things, and their skill in doing so is from Him.
Later, in 1 Kings 6, we see Solomon creating a temple for the Lord. In verse 4, “artistic frames” were made for the house. This reinforces the fact that God does desire beauty and likes to be surrounded by it. If Solomon did not think that God was glorified by beauty, he would never have taken the trouble to create “artistic” window frames. Again, in Song of Solomon, the beauty of the bride is compared to “the work of the hands of an artist” (7:1). God is the creator; He is the artist whose hands create beauty. It follows that any beauty we create is glorifying to God, our creator.
That said, it is important to define beauty. Art that is created to shock or horrify, or to glorify or elicit sin (violence, lust, greed) cannot be called “beautiful.” It is still “art” but not art that glorifies God. Using Exodus 31:3 as a guide, art that glorifies God should exhibit “skill, ability, and . . . craftsmanship” (BSB). Art that models God’s handiwork will be creative, intelligent, and well-crafted. It will have value.
God will not put in an artist’s heart to make things that will elicit sinful responses in others (Mark 9:42). He will not lead a person to create that which contradicts His nature. Artisans who create idols may be skillful (Isaiah 40:19), but they’re using their skill to pervert God’s glory, not honor it. This doesn’t mean that all art has to be like the Sistine Chapel, however, or that it can only depict biblical subjects like Jesus on the cross or the disciples in a boat. God dwells in “the perfection of beauty” (Psalm 50:2), and His holiness is beautiful (1 Chronicles 16:29 and Psalm 29:2). In creating God-glorifying art, the artist’s goal should be to lift the soul of man toward heaven and to illumine in new ways the multi-faceted beauty of God’s holiness, power, and grace.
There are literally millions of ways artists can depict God’s glory. Their creativity and the skill that God has placed in the artists’ hearts, heads, and hands will guide them to create art that will help us transcend the ugliness and pollution of this world. Whatever their medium—paint, pencil, textiles, marble, metal, drama, music, etc.—artists share a common mission and are a special and valuable part of God’s kingdom.