Bavinck on the Gift of Art

Art…is a wonderful gift from God. Just as the Lord Himself is not truth and holiness alone but also glory, and one who spreads the beauty of His name abroad over all His works, so it is He, too, who by His Spirit equips the artists with wisdom and understanding and knowledge in all manner of workmanship (Ex 31:3 and 35:21). Art is therefore in the first place an evidence of man’s ability to do and to make. This ability is spiritual in character and it gives expression to his deep longings, his high ideals, and his insatiable craving for harmony. Besides, art in all its works and ways conjures up an ideal world before us, in which the discords of our existence on earth are purged in a gratifying harmony. Thus a beauty is disclosed which in this fallen world had been obscured by the wise but it is discovered to the simple eye of an artist. And because art thus paints for us a picture of an other and higher reality, it is a comfort in our life, it lifts the soul up out of consternation, and fills our hearts with hope and joy.

But, though it is much that art can accomplish, it is only in the imagination that we can enjoy the beauty which art discloses. Art cannot close the gulf between the ideal and the real. It cannot make the yonder of its vision the here of our present world. It shows us the glory of Canaan from a distance, but does not usher us into the better country nor make us citizens of it. Art is much, but it is not everything.


– Herman Bavinck, The Wonderful Works of God, p. 5

That gap that Bavinck touches on reminds me of Lewis’ comments about the “inconsolable secret” of The Weight of Glory, the longing to be “welcomed into beauty”, the desire to “mingle with the splendors” that we all experience, that we will find satisfied in being welcomed in by God.

Among the Sierra Nevada, Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902)

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