14 December 2008

Art as doxology

One of the things I occasionally miss about being a Roman Catholic is all the art which is part of that history. Protestants in general, and evangelicals in particular, have not been known for their contributions to the arts. And such meager contributions as there have been amount to every more sophisticated (and mediocre) religious tracts. One gets the idea that art, if it’s not somehow “evangelistic,” is a waste of time.

Can there be such a thing, for Christians, as art for art’s sake? Well, perhaps not for art’s sake, but for God’s sake.

The ancients were afraid that if they went to the end of the earth, they would fall off and be consumed by dragons. But once we understand that Christianity is true to what is there, including true to the ultimate environment—the infinite, personal God who is really there—then our minds are freed. We can pursue any question and be sure that we will not fall off the end of the earth. Such an attitude will give our Christianity a strength that it often does not seem to have at the present time.

[T]he Lordship of Christ…involves the total culture—including the area of creativity. [E]vangelical Christianity has been weak at this point. About all that we have produced is a very romantic Sunday school art. We do not seem to understand that the arts too are supposed to be under the Lordship of Christ.

[…]

The arts and the sciences do have a place in the Christian life—they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ should include an interest in the arts. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God—not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be a doxology in itself. – Francis Schaeffer, Art and the Bible, Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer, Vol. 2, 377, emphasis mine.
I’m glad I discovered Schaeffer within the first several years of leaving the Roman Catholic church. Protestantism had been like dry toast. Schaeffer showed me where the butter and jam were hid.

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James Frank SolĂ­s
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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