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Divine Design: An Exploration of Beauty & Purpose

Fibonacci Shell, God in Nature, Beauty and God, God and CreativityThere is an age-old debate within the creative community that has to do with the source of an artist’s inspiration and purpose of their creative expression. You’ve probably heard it described as form vs function, method vs message, or  aesthetics vs utilitarianism. Over the years I have found that creative people are split almost evenly when it comes to their source of inspiration, that is whether they begin from a place of beauty and awe or function and utilitarian purpose. For those who begin with aesthetics in mind, it can be the simplicity of a color, a sound, a bird flying overhead, the rustling of a nearby creek or a perfect ocean sunset that causes inspiration to rise within them. For others who start from a place of purpose or functionality, many times their inspiration comes from a desire to solve a problem, address an issue of social importance, or communicate a message about which they are passionate. Regardless of the source of inspiration, I suggest to you that both are rooted deeply in the divine design of our Father. Without their collaborative integration in our artwork, we settle for mediocrity rather than pressing into excellence.  We choose the lump of coal rather than mining the diamond within. Mediocrity does not impress, but “a man’s gift makes a way for him.”

The creative nature of God is almost always manifested as purpose wrapped in beauty, something useful presented in a way that is both beautiful and yet full of intention. He is the Beautiful One who is always working, loving, serving and reigning. Even Jesus, sent by the Father to the earth, is the picture of redemptive purpose wrapped in a beautiful vessel that humanity could understand, interact with and receive from. Our Father is the Purposeful Designer of all life’s detail, the One whose perfect design is characterized by simple elegance. The detail of His creative expression alone is the standard by which all beauty is measured.

Beauty & Truth in Nature

Take for example the Fibonacci Sequence, which has been called nature’s numbering system. In the seeming randomness of the natural world, there emerges an orderly and systematic design that is the foundation of all living things, from how flower petals grow and pine cones spiral to the proportions of the human body. The ingenious design of the Fibonacci Sequence and related principles like the Golden Ratio is the basis for our classical and modern understanding of proportion, design, balance and ultimately beauty. When you study the ramifications of this natural sequence throughout all creation you begin to understand that it is the order, or some might say the utilitarian purpose of God’s design which creates beauty, rather than some ethereal random act of chance.

Consider an oak tree, large and robust in color, texture and form. Rich with sap, thick with fibers pressed together after years of collaborative growth this tree stands. Roots that reach as far down as the branches reach up with leaves that change with the colors of each season. In all its glory it is the picture of majesty and beauty. Yet the aesthetic is not just vain artistry but rather a vessel, the embodiment of purpose. This tree so mighty and strong serves its environment by generating oxygen, tilling the soil, providing raw materials for craftsmen, being a habitat for animals and so much more.  It stands as a testament to functional beauty.

It is God’s command of the details and design, coupled with His life-giving Spirit that produce beauty and life within creation. This does not negate the importance or validity of what  some may see as beauty alone. Surely there are examples of things simply created for their aesthetic beauty that draw the heart to dream, but even then, there is purpose attached to the beauty. It is the order and design of God in creation that provides the skeleton on which beauty is formed.

Balancing Beauty & Purpose

For artists in the Kingdom of God, our challenge is to walk in this balanced approach to creative expression, incorporating both beauty and purpose, so as to fully engage all that the Father has made available for us through His Spirit. I call it being filled and skilled (see Exodus 31). It is in this co-laboring relationship with God through our own artistic development, whatever that may be including music, design, drama, painting, sculpture, et al, and our pursuit of His Presence that the fullness of Christ can be expressed in and through our work. Otherwise we run the great risk of living the life of a frustrated creative, never reaching our full potential in God, either creating vain empty vessels or settling for mediocrity and thinking it is the creative fruit of the Spirit.

Through a lack of understanding, a desire for the easy road or genuine spiritual warfare, many artists have been dragged to one extreme or another, believing either their pursuit of skill is not really Spirit-led or conversely that absolute perfection is God’s requirement for their creativity. This is the place of frustration and emptiness that many artists and much of the modern-day Church find itself. In reality, it is skill and purpose that releases artistic freedom. True creativity thrives within the mastery of detail.

Beauty & Purpose Embodied in Christ

God Himself through Christ remains as the perfect portrait of what it means to be completely Spirit filled and fully skilled in expressing creativity. In the first chapter of Genesis, God portrayed Himself to humanity as a Creator. He not only introduced Himself as Creator but continued to demonstrate His nature, will and desire for humanity in a myriad of creative modes throughout Scripture. The Father then sent Christ, the True Word wrapped in the creative yet purposeful package of humanity to redeem and transform the World. What better picture can we have of creative expression that embodies beauty and purpose?

In the Bible, this Creative Father of ours seemed to always wrap His Truth within story, song, beautiful crafted objects, architecture and the rich imagery of parables and prophetic pictures. These were not just fluffy metaphors He employed to tickle our ears.  Rather, He specifically designed creativity to be the supernatural mode of communication that bypasses the intellect and penetrates the Spirit. In that context, creative expression becomes the arrow on which God shoots His fiery love into the hearts of man. It is the purposeful packaging of His presence designed to spark transformation.

This notion of Truth or divine purpose wrapped in beauty finds little place in the Church and in the lives of many creative Christ-followers today. The intellectual approach to God & theology that most of us have grown up with has created by default a great divide between beauty and Truth, the creative community and the Church. Truth and beauty were never created to exist apart from each other. Unfortunately, many now believe that beauty and Truth have no relation, no need to coexist in the Kingdom. It is on the rails of this skewed thinking that much of God’s beauty and creativity has been stripped away from the Truth of the Kingdom.

Beauty & Purpose in Scripture

If the Bible is the Word of God (which I believe it is), then the entire Bible is the Word of God. To be clear, I mean to say that the creativity that wraps the Gospel of the Kingdom throughout God’s Word is crucial to understanding and applying the Truth it communicates. When the Truth of God is isolated and conveniently removed from God’s creative story like easy-to-digest sound bites, the very life Truth was sent to communicate is uprooted. In the absence of the creative Beauty and Life of God, what remains is a myriad of religious rules and hoops, much like the Law that ruled Israel before Christ, that requires what we could never give instead of the grace-filled invitation to love wrapped in supernatural creativity that God intended. It is the creative nature of God that brings Truth to life.  It is the supernatural aesthetic that enables the Truth of God to come alive and penetrate the heart of man. Beauty propels Truth into humanity and Truth brings purpose to beauty. This is the demonstration of the Kingdom that the world so longs to experience.

In Conclusion

The joy of our calling is that we, as artists who are both filled and skilled, have the opportunity to co-labor in the development of creative expression that is beautiful, purposeful and ultimately reveals the true nature of our God in the earth. It is this revelation through our creativity that releases the Glory of God in the earth. We are never more skilled than when we are flowing with His divine presence in the disciplines of our chosen craft, moving with the Father in the Spirit through the Son by which all things live and move and have their being. Conversely, we are never more filled than when we are operating in and employing the divine principles of design, purpose and Truth used by God in nature and given to us to release His Presence in the earth. Finally, we are never more like God than when we are creating beauty and releasing purpose through it, worshipping Him through our creative expression in Spirit and in Truth.  These are the worshippers for which the Father is searching.

Matt Tommey is the Founder / Executive Director of The Worship Studio and a professional basketry artist. He is also a musician and author of the book “Unlocking the Heart of the Artist: Fulfilling Your Creative Calling as an Artist in the Kingdom”.  You can see Matt’s basketry work at and purchase his book here.