Art and beauty have a place in church

(Photo: Unsplash)

By Elizabeth Prata

I love church. I love the music, hymns & songs connecting me to my ancestors in the faith, all the way back. I love the sermons, God’s word expositionally preached is thrilling and fascinating every moment the preacher speaks truth to his flock. I love the people, singing praises to the Lord and singing His attributes to each other. Communion is an especially sweet time with the Lord. Just the thought that I can pray to Him asking for forgiveness of sins, and He will forgive them, is humbling. Dipping the bread into the wine is an act that Jesus performed as His last supper, when He instituted the ritual. My arm picking up the bread and dipping it feels like a long line holding me to time past, and in between, and the now with a oneness with all the other believers who have done the same thing.

I was not raised in a Christian home and I came to faith at age 43 never having entered a church. And yet I love the ecclesiastical forms we are so quickly letting go of, the pews, baptismal pool, pulpit, stained glass, church buildings, steeples, and the bell.

The Christian Pundit did a wonderful series years ago on Ecclesiastical Architecture and it was informative and fascinating. Why do we have pews? How do the design decision our forbears made connect theology and beauty and function? What message do they communicate about our view of God? Here is the list of 8 parts in the series.

Ecclesiastical Architecture (1) Intro
Ecclesiastical Architecture (2) The Pulpit
Ecclesiastical Architecture (3) Sacraments
Ecclesiastical Architecture (4) Baptism
Ecclesiastical Architecture (5) Music
Ecclesiastical Architecture (6) Lighting
Ecclesiastical Architecture (7) Pews
Ecclesiastical Architecture (8) Conclusion

Along that same vein, a course offered at Ligonier Connect called has piqued my interest. I am always intrigued by beauty. Part 1 of my coming to the Lord was through seeing His creation. Having been taught evolution, I understood (with my blinded mind) the function of evolution, but no one could ever answer why the world is so beautiful, too. I wrote about that issue in 2009, in an essay titled Consider Beauty.

Still interested in the issue, last week I linked to a good article exploring the issue of beauty at Answers In Genesis. I’d introduced the piece by saying-

Here, Prof. Stuart Burgess muses on the witness of nature in its design, particularly, beauty. Evolution might be explained to the irrational mind through function. But it didn’t have to be beautiful, too. Beauty—The Undeniable Witness

Then along came the Recovering the Beauty of the Arts class and after reading the synopsis below I was all-in.

Universal standards on what makes something beautiful seem to be a thing of the past. Even among Christians, for whom there is a longstanding tradition of appreciation for and commitment to the arts, there is confusion and disagreement.
In this course, Dr. Sproul explores ancient and biblical definitions of beauty, the cultural significance of dominant art forms and the messages they communicate, and the place of artistic expression in Christian worship. The end result is a careful guide to recovering a healthy, biblical view of what is good, true, and beautiful.

Meanwhile I happened to have my camera in church and I snapped a few photos.

And don’t dismiss the beautiful in your ecclesiastical choices. Every decision you make, even decisions not to have art or beautiful forms inside your church, is a design decision which communicates something that you believe about God. Theology and beauty are connected. The very first people endowed with the Holy Spirit in the Bible were artisans, creating a beautiful tabernacle for the Lord.