My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

26 January 2006

More on Christ & The Arts

Here are some quotes I've shamelessly stolen, or nobly culled - depending on your view of quotes. Some I like, others I'm more wishy-washy about. Tell me what you think:

The church as a body has never made up her mind about the Arts, and it is hardly too much to say that she has never tried. Dorothy Sayers

Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences. Francis Bacon

The invention of the arts, and other things which serve the common use and convenience of life, is a gift of God by no means to be despised, and a faculty worthy of commendation. John Calvin

A conversation with eternity. That’s what true entertainment is. William Edgar

It’s been a catastrophe for the church that we have abandoned high culture. One generation’s high culture has a way of becoming the next generation’s pop culture. Greg Wolfe

One of the great hindrances to the development of biblically informed mainstream art has been the perception that Christians should make “Christian art” and that “Christian art” is always explicitly religious. Understood in this way, “Christian art” is not distinguished by a regenerated outlook on the whole of life but by a narrow focus on Bible stories, saints, martyrs and the individual’s relationship with God. Steve Turner

Christianity has a major and a minor theme. The minor is that men are lost and can never attain perfection in this life. The major dominant theme is that there is a purpose to life because God is there and man is made in his image...Real Christian art should show both the minor and major themes. Francis Schaeffer

There is not a single inch of the whole terrain of our human existence over which Christ does not exclaim, “Mine!” Abraham Kuyper

The function of the arts is to heighten our awareness and perception of life by making us vicariously live it...There can be no doubt that the arts are one of the chief means by which the human race grapples with and interprets reality. Leland Ryken


Jeff Kessler said...


I'm not an expert on the arts...unless you're talking Country Music, and then I can hold my own.:) However, to answer your question: I didn't care much for Bacon's quote. Didn't like the way he seperated arts and sciences from faith and religion...seemed he was saying that faith has nothing to do w/art or science.

I thought Calvin was a dour old man. He has some quotes about wine and now one showing appreciation of the arts...he might have been more fun to have over for dinner than I thought. I'm sure he would have even liked Johnny Cash, Wayon Jennings, etc.

Jeff K

Natalie said...

Amen on the Steve Turner quote. Can we say that the Great Commission and Cultural Mandate ought to inform one another's understanding & practice? I've often struggled with the relationship between these two, and the dangers of living as if only one or the other exists.

David said...

hey Jared, could you suggest some good books about music tied in with Christianity, I'm doing a paper on it and needs some resources.

Nathan Stockwell said...

Since you asked for comments on the quotes I'll give you mine on Sir Francis Bacon's quote. I don't know much on his view of the arts although his thoughts on science are very troublesome and since he links it with art his views maybe similar.

Bacon, rightly, opposed building science on Greek philosophies, but also rejected the Bible itself as a basis of scientific knowledge. Don't get me wrong, the Bible is not a scientific textbook but it does speak about areas that clearly today would be 'earmarked' as science.

He went on to encourage the now popular 'two books' of God view which allows for the Bible to be judge over matters of faith and science to be judge over the physical world. Bacon wrote that he believed in a recent literal 6-day creation, but he also thought God had nothing to say in either Genesis or the book of Job about science.

All of this is to say, that Sir Bacon’s grouping of the arts with science in contrast to religion and faith might indicate that he viewed the arts ‘separate but equal’ in authority – or in some other way - to God’s Word.

Both Steve Turner’s quote and Francis Schaeffer’s quotes are awesome in terms of what art done and consumed by Christians should be. It’s too bad that mainstream Christianity has encouraged a sub-culture that cuts itself off from the world. What do you, or anybody, else think we can do on a local level to encourage a better view of the arts both within and outside of the Church?

JBlogger said...

The problem with these quotations is that none of them give a sense of what Christian art is or can be.

Steve Turner's call for a "regenerated outlook" and Schaeffer's distinction between major and minor themes only obscures the underlying problems. In a pluralistic society, who has the power to constitute Christian art? Is Christianity only a "value added" to the category of art? Assuming Schaeffer has got it right about the need for particular "themes," how do we know when these themes are present in sufficient quantity and character to transform art into Christian art?

For example, are the Wachowski Brothers' Matrix movies Christian films, because it's possible to identify a Christ figure and the theme of salvation? Did the atheist Mozart create Christian music?

It seems like Schaeffer's insistance upon (presumably) identifiable themes in "real" Christian art does more harm than good, assuming the goal is a kind of cultural impact or capital. At least one of reasons for the cultural ineffectiveness of many Christian artists is an unwillingness to take structural and epistemological risks that might endanger the clarity of the message. In other words, one doesn't want to use too many metaphors or stray too far into abstraction or people might miss the evangelistic message. It's almost as though we feel that, if the art gets too complex or obscure, God might not be able to find his way out.

The first questions, for Christian artists and art lovers, are not answered in these quotations. What is the purpose of art? Who is art for? And, is there a purpose for adding the adjective "Christian" to an artwork that is not driven by a desire to market this art to Christians?

noneuclidean said...

I don't think Scheaffer would call for "identifiable" themes. If he did, I would agree with you jon. The only "identifiable" element he would have suggested that art should have would be communication. There always must be a level of communication, identifiable meanings/themes, otherwise art becomes narcissistic and empty. Again, I might be putting words into his mouth, but I think that he would say that any Christian artist who is truly walking with God and who loves and empathizes with their neighbor, will not help but create art that speaks on some level to both man's fall and the value that God gives to life. I can't even think of any secular art that doesn't speak to both of these themes!

Kurt said...

Some of my favorite Bacon quotes:

"Knowledge is power." (ref. Prov 24:5)

"Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man."

"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested."

"Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business."

"The remedy is worse than the disease."

Kurt said...

A couple more Bacon quotes:

"Truth can never be reached by just listening to the voice of an authority."

"But when I searched, I found no work so meritorious as the discovery and development of the arts and inventions that tend to civilise the life of man."

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