Francis Schaeffer on Art

schaeffer

On Sunday night our pastor, Ray Evans, talked about how Christians engage with art. He cited Shaeffer’s work Art and the Bible in which Schaeffer helpfully outlines the ways Christians should view and evaluate art. Here’s a few quotes, the last one being especially helpful I think:

“How should an artist begin to do his work as an artist? I would insist that he begin his work as an artist by setting out to make a work of art.”

“We are not being true to the artist as a man if we consider his art work junk simply because we differ with his outlook on life. Christian schools, Christian parents, and Christian pastors often have turned off young people at just this point. Because the schools, the pastors, and the parents did not make a distinction between technical excellence and content, the whole of much great art has been rejected with scorn and ridicule. Instead, if the artist’s technical excellence is high, he is to be praised for this, even if we differ with his world view. Man must be treated fairly as man.”

“I am afraid that as evangelicals, we think that a work of art only has value if we reduce it to a tract.”

“As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life we feel is more important. Despite our constant talk about the lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the lordship of Christ over the whole man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture.”

“What kind of judgment does one apply, then, to a work of art? I believe that there are four basic standards: (1) technical excellence, (2) validity, (3) intellectual content, the world view which comes through and (4) the integration of content and vehicle.”

I think this last quote is particularly helpful. In essence Schaeffer is saying you can appreciate a work for it’s technical excellence, while disagreeing with the worldview portrayed. Similarly, just because the worldview is right, it may still be poor art under criteria 1, 2, and 4. If Schaeffer is right (and I think he is) then beauty, art, aesthetics matter at every level, and evangelicals in particular need to recognise the lordship of Christ over these areas and begin to engage at a much deeper level.

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