Viewing entries tagged

Stupid about Art

The following quote comes from Philip Graham Ryken's masterful commentary on the book of Exodus in the Preach the Word commentary series.  It is concerning Exodus 31:1-11.

There are many reasons why some churches have a negative view of the arts.  Art trades in images, and images easily lend themselves to idolatry - especially when objects of art are brought into the church for religious worship.  At various times in church history, such as during the iconoclastic movement of the eight century or the Protestant Reformation in Europe, church leaders have tried to smash this form of idolatry by taking statues and other works of art out of the church and destroying them.  They were not opposed to the use of art, only its abuse.  However, some Christians failed to understand the difference, and there was a lingering suspicion about the visual arts.

More recently, many Christians have objected to art on the grounds that it is dominated by an anti-Christian view of the world.  During the last century art has suffered a tragic loss of beauty.  So much modern and postmodern art has been attracted instead to absurdity and ugliness.  Anyone who doubts this should attend the senior exhibition at nearly any art school in America.  So much contemporary art is the art of alienation, which if it is true at all, is only true about the disorder of a world damaged by our depravity.  As a general rule, such art does not point us to the redemptive possibilities of a world that, although fallen, has been visited by God and is destined for His glory.

Yet even Christians who dismiss art continue to produce it.  This is inescapable.  Every time we build a sanctuary, arrange furniture in a room, or produce a brochure, we are making artistic decisions.  The question is not whether we will be artists, but whether we will aspire high aesthetic standards.  All too often Christians settle for something that is functional but not beautiful.  Sometimes what we produce can only be described as kitsch - tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes.  The average Christian bookstore is full of the stuff, as the real artists will tell us, if only we will listen.

Ultimately this kind of art undermines our message.  Art has the power to shape culture.  What is happening in the arts today is prophetic of what will happen in our culture tomorrow.  So when Christians abandon the artistic community, the church loses a significant opportunity to speak the gospel into our culture.  What we need to recover - or possibly discover for the first time - is a full Biblical understanding of the arts - not for art's sake, but for God's sake.  Then we will be able to produce good art that testifies to the truth about God and His world.  This is important not just for artists, but for everyone made in God's image and redeemed by His grace.