I just finished reading Francis Schaeffer’s Art and the Bible. It is a short but potent read, dealing with how a Christian should view art and even create it. He provides eleven perspectives for which a believer can evaluate works of art. I am going to share the first seven along with accompanying helpful quotes from those sections. I believe these apply almost directly to the purpose of this website, which is engaging the art (specifically films) of our culture through a Christian perspective. Enjoy.
In what follows I wish to develop a Christian perspective on art in general. How should we as creators and enjoyers of beauty comprehend and evaluate it? There are, I believe, at least eleven distinct perspectives from which a Christian can consider and evaluate works of art. These perspectives do not exhaust the various aspects of art. The field of aesthetics is too rich for that. But they do cover a significant portion of what should be a Christian’s understanding in this area.
THE ART WORK AS AN ART WORK
1. The first is the most important: A work of art has a value in itself.
[Art] is something to be enjoyed. The Bible says that the art work in the tabernacle and the temple was for beauty.
As a Christian we know why a work of art has value. Why?
- First, because a work of art is a work of creativity, and creativity has value because God is the Creator.
- Second, an art work has value as a creation because man is made in the image of God, and therefore man not only can love and think and feel emotion but also has the capacity to create.
ART FORMS ADD STRENGTH TO THE WORLD VIEW
2. Art forms add strength to the world view which shows through, no matter what the world view is or whether the world view is true or false.
[T]he effect of any proposition, whether true or false, can be heightened if it is expressed in poetry or in artistic prose rather than in bald, formulaic statement.
NORMAL DEFINITIONS, NORMAL SYNTAX
3. In all forms of writing, both poetry and prose, it makes a tremendous difference whether there is a continuity or a discontinuity with the normal definitions of words in normal syntax.
The common symbolic vocabulary that belongs to all men (the artists and the viewers) is the world around us, namely God’s world. That symbolic vocabulary in the representational arts stands parallel to normal grammar and normal syntax in the literary arts. When, therefore, there is no attempt on the part of an artist to use this symbolic vocabulary at all, then communication is impossible here too. There is then no way for anyone to know what the artist is saying. My point is not that making this sort of art is immoral or anti-Christian but rather that a dimension is lost.
ART AND THE SACRED
4. The fact that something is a work of art does not make it sacred.
As Christians, we must see that just because an artist-even a great artist-portrays a world view in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that world view Art may heighten the impact of the world view, in fact we can count on this, but it does not make something true. The truth of a world view presented by an artist must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness.
FOUR STANDARDS OF JUDGMENT
5. What kind of judgment does one apply, then, to a work of art? I believe that there are four basic standards:
- Technical excellence
- Intellectual content, the world view which comes through
- The integration of content and vehicle
ART CAN BE USED FOR ANY TYPE OF MESSAGE
6. Art forms can be used for any type of message from pure fantasy to detailed history.
Just because something takes the form of a work of art does not mean that it cannot be factual.
7. Styles of art form change and there is nothing wrong with this.
Many Christians, especially those unused to viewing the arts and thinking about them, reject contemporary painting and contemporary poetry not because of their world view but simply because they feel threatened by a new art form.
[C]hange is one difference between life and death. There is no living language which does not undergo constant change.
Francis A. Schaeffer. Art and the Bible. Kindle Edition.