The unique relationship between Christianity and art

makoto-fujimuraMakoto Fujimura is a celebrated Japanese-American artist and a Christian. His work is on display around the world, and he’s recently been commissioned to create an illustrated manuscript for the 400th Anniversary of the King James Bible.

He recently gave an interview in which he talked at length about the relationship between his faith and his art. Here’s a quote that jumped out at me, particularly given the various discussions we’ve had here about Christianity and art:

What aesthetic elements or themes — if any — do you consider uniquely Christian?

MF: I suppose only ones that have the experiential knowledge of God’s grace in salvation can be thankful for that, and let their art speak of that thankfulness. We see works like “Amazing Grace” as an example of such a uniquely Christian work. But, when we speak of “uniquely Christian,” that assumes we know for sure who belongs in the Christian category and who does not. Jesus’ parable on the wheat and tares from Matthew 13 makes it clear that we do not know for sure. Only God knows our eternal destiny. So what is “uniquely Christian” may not be something we have the discernment for.

All human beings are created to be creative, and yet we twist the good gifts of God and turn them into idols (to worship ourselves). So the question is, what art truly glorifies God. But then even if there is to be such an art (pure art that glorifies God), the uses of such an art may turn into idolatrous error, such as Moses’ bronze snake (a uniquely Christological art indeed) being used in King Hezekiah’s time as an object of idol worship. So this is a hard question to answer.

In some sense, though, I believe, because of Common Grace, that all art is uniquely Christian, in that we cannot have art apart from the conviction of material reality and the reality of communication. Art is at least spiritually neutral to have the potential of being used, or misused (I also argue in my recent Refractions that the main function of the arts is not to be “used” at all, but that’s for another conversation). But material reality has significance, and potency, because of the Gospel of incarnation, the fact that God became a man. God pours his Spirit in all people: from our cave days to our fog of post-modern time, art is full of signifiers that point to the Reality of God.

(Hat tip to Joe Carter at First Things.) See also an older interview with Fujimura at

It’s an insightful question and answer. It’s common for Christians to wonder how they might use a particular artistic medium to give voice to their faith; or to try to define a Christian approach to their art. Do you think Christians bring something utterly unique to art—and are there artistic activities that are uniquely Christian?

To ask it another way, are there types of art, or approaches to art, that a non-Christian simply cannot express?

Share your thoughts!

3 Responses to “The unique relationship between Christianity and art”

  • I must say I wholehearedly admire those that have the talent to produce works of art that especially magnify the Lord. Not being very artistically inclined ( I do not even trust my tracing ability) however, I do not possess the elements so esteemed by artistic minds. I feel however,unequivocally,that the Lord does work through Christian artists in profound ways. In His creation in each of those He talented, He placed His breath of inspiration and touch of anointing so that its effects would reach the many that glimpse, yes, at the very heart of God. When one yields their talents to the Lord He takes what limited human capacities they have and makes it into something even greater. His delight is to get glory and use vessels of honor that are surrendered to His will and His way. I have seen the limits of my human capacity even at my fleshes strongest points and it cannot compare to the Lord’s enabling wisdom and power given when all is surrendered to Him. His power is made perfect in our weakness and we all have weakness even at our seemingly strongest facets.

    Non Christians hence lack the true scope of revelation that is afforded to the believer. There are many nice looking pieces of art that the non-christian can produce but does it lack in all it could be? I believe it definitely does. We will never know however the true capacity of the nice looking art produced by an unbeliever; nor will we ever know the other talents produced by some of the esteemed “greats” in our day and what could have came out of them with God as the focus of their lives. All this gets me thinking about surrendering all I am and all I have to Him for He makes the difference.

  • Praise God for His creation, and creating us as creators. All the praise and glory to Jesus Christ our LORD! Amen!

  • jimac says:

    I believe it’s not so much that as a christian one paints better, but rather, as a christian one sees better. A true believer sees God in all things regardless of the hand that delivered it.