The ideas of God-based art portraying holy eroticism and the need for its beauty are interesting. Is there some spiritually-sound consensus of what such art would look like?…in literature, painting, poetry, photography, movies, music, etc? Is it to excite, or promote a more Godly picture of sexuality and its purpose, or even offer a how-to couched in an artistic framework? Why would someone consume such art? Pornography is easy: biology drives it. What drives the appetite for spiritual erotic art, or is part of the purpose of such art to create a more God-centered appetite for the beauty of sex since the very word “erotic” speaks directly to the physical.
As a novelist, I’m thinking this presents interesting possibilities for opening the mind and heart of readers to consider sexuality in a spiritual context. In a romance novel, for instance, how do the romantically involved characters handle their sexuality in a more spiritual and realistic way than the Christian’s usual admonition to “avoid temptation and just don’t do it outside of marriage”. Obviously, romantically involved people are very much aware of each other’s sexuality. Using the literary art form to acknowledge that fact and show characters learning to honestly appreciate, enjoy and grow sexually toward each other before “completing” that growth within marriage would make an interesting, beneficial and perhaps beautiful work. Just thinking aloud.
Thanks for the article. -Gene
Thank you for your comments. You pose some excellent questions.
Unfortunately, there is not a general consensus on what art portraying holy eroticism would look like. Much like our reactions to discussions of politics and religion, there will always be disagreements on how this art should be conveyed, and if it should be conveyed at all. However, I believe Peck (1998) offers a thoughtful reflection on a Christian view of sex in art and would be a good starting point for artists to consider. He states,
“The difference between erotic art and pornography, and the distinctive qualities of a Christian view of sex in art lie in the following: (1) in the extent to which the dominant effect is to induce sexual arousal; (2) in the focus on the relationship involved rather than sexual gratification; (3) the degree to which it is redemptive and rescues our sexual life from improper exposure and from the idea that sex is an activity with no meaning beyond the physical experience.”
The display of good art is what would drive the appetite for spiritual erotic art. Those same elements that make the works of Beethoven, Michelangelo, and Shakespeare appealing works of art still today is what would be needed in presenting holy erotic art. The transcendent Beauty of the art would be its own motivation and justification. It would be engaging because it creatively reveals the truth and goodness of God in beautiful ways to be enjoyed and celebrated.
I love the ideal of using your novels to open the minds and hearts of readers to consider sexuality in a spiritual context. To use this as an example, the motivation to read the novel would come primarily from the fact that it is simply a good story, meeting the standards of excellence for the literary art form. And the eroticism present would be an equally compelling and meaningful aspect of the story, one that ideally touches the soul and not just stimulates the body.
Yes, an erotic storyline would likely prompt sexual arousal, and this is as it should be. Something is missing if it doesn’t get our motor going a little bit. However, with Peck (1998), this would not be the dominant objective of the storyline. Likewise, a story can be instructive and provide “how-to’s,” but this also is not a story’s primary function. While remaining grounded in Truth, a good story shapes the imagination without needing any explicit teachings or how-to’s attached to it.
I wish you the best in your writing. Thanks again for your comments and questions.
Here are a few sources that stimulated my thinking:
Clark, M. (2004, January). A Christian perspective on nudity in art. Classis, 11 (1).
Peck, J. S. (1998). A Christian view of sex in art: An address by John Stuart Peck. CSFC Journal, 1-9.
Peck, J (2002). Erotic, but not pornographic. Christian Reflection (The Center for Christian Ethics at Baylor University), 70-76.
Schaeffer, F. (1985). Addicted to mediocrity: 20th century Christians and the arts. Crossway Books.
Editor’s Note: See original post “Pornography and the Mutually Consenting Couple“