Review: Art and the Bible
I feel pretty confident when I say this, that Art and the Bible by Francis Shaeffer, if you are a Christian, is probably the greatest book you’ve never read. If you are one of the many Christians who could care less about art, this book will challenge your perspective. And if you are one of the beloved few Christians who does care about the arts, this book will make your spirits soar. It will be like water in a barren wasteland, like a ray of glimmering light, like strawberries on the tundra.
The book starts out with an overview on what the bible has to say about art. For many, this will be where the surprises come. For the bible has a surprising amount to say on the subject. Here is an excerpt that touches upon just one of the many points he brings up:
Christians . . . ought not to be threatened by fantasy and imagination. Great painting is not ‘photographic’: think of the Old Testament art commanded by God. There were blue pomegranates on the robes of the priest who went into the Holy of Holies. In nature there are no blue pomegranates. Christian artists do not need to be threatened by fantasy and imagination, for they have a basis for knowing the difference between them and the real world out there. The Christian is the really free person-he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.
A time for every purpose under heaven
Shaeffer stresses that art needs to have a biblical foundation, but that Christians, of all people should be those who want to express in beautiful forms the truth and goodness of their Creator. At the same time he warns against giving art too much importance, of worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.
Perhaps the part I found most profound was his discussion of worldview (Shaeffer’s specialty) as it pertains to art, particularly Christian art. This was mind rattling. Essentially he proposes that the Christian worldview can be broken into two themes, a major and a minor. In brief, the minor relates to the lostness of man in his humanity while the major relates to the hope of God in His divinity.
I plan on publishing an article on these ideas soon (and when I do I’ll put a link to it). But for now, understand that great art must encompass both concepts. And when we get them out of balance art becomes either hollow and empty (over emphasizing the minor, or seems disconnected and wishful (over emphasizing the major).
A few brief samples
I wish I could show you my copy. There is hardly a page where I didn’t underline something. Here are just a few to whet your appetite:
To worship art is wrong, but to make art is not.
Beauty has a place in the worship of God.
Even for the great artist, the most crucial work of art is his life.
The Christian should use these arts to the glory of God, not just as tracts, mind you, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An artwork can be a doxology in itself.
That last quote is probably worth the price of the book itself. But there are dozens more.
I loved this book. (can you tell?) My only regret is that I did not read it sooner. Thank you Dr. Shaeffer. This is one for the ages.