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A Christian View of the Arts – Part III

Questions to Help Evaluate Artistic Expressions:

    1. What message does the author seem to want to convey? What is the feeling or atmosphere created by the work? How would you describe what the composer is trying to communicate to his audience?
    2. What is the apparent moral stance of the work in question? Are good and evil truly represented, or are they blurred or even reversed? Is man represented as good, evil or both?
    3. What is the apparent worldview of the author? Is God in the universe? What does the work say about God? Is the artist suggesting that life is meaningless and random? Is he saying anything untrue about God?
    4. Is there any truth in it? Is it an accurate representation of the facts? How does it correspond with the Bible? What must be rejected as untrue?
    5. With what is this associated? What kind of people produce and/or enjoy this art?  Do mature Christians usually use this?
    6. How is this art usually used? What do people do when enjoying this form? Do mature Christian people participate in this art form? Are Christians generally agreed that this expression is suitable for Christians to enjoy, or do they normally avoid it?
    7. Can one enjoy this “to the glory of God”? Is it edifying or corrupting? Will participation be detrimental to one’s spiritual life? Does it desensitize the user to sin? Does it promote worldly values? Can you participate with a good conscience?
    8. Has it displayed any permanence, yet? The best art displays a timelessness and permanence that perseveres over time.  People still revere great artists long since dead because their art has value. It’s an expression of true beauty that never goes out of style. Today’s commercial art (e.g., pop music, TV, movies, novels, etc.) is short-lived and few people mourn its loss as it passes off the charts and fades into oblivion. That’s the nature of “pop” culture—temporary, commercial, trivial, shallow, throw-away. Such junk should have no attraction for Christians.

What about Preference?

Each individual responds to art differently. There is a subjective aspect of beauty— a combination of influences affects why we have certain preferences.  We don’t deny that individual responses will vary. Nevertheless, when we call something beautiful, we are in some ways calling for universal recognition of its beauty, not just a statement of preference. Christians within the same culture, with the same affections would agree on a spectrum of art, with preferences allowed within a certain band of the spectrum.  God is the ultimate standard in beauty, and art that conforms most closely to God’s nature is the best and loveliest. Granted, this quality may be hard to judge, but judge it we must.

 

  – David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa

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