Art & the Bible by Francis August Schaeffer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I have been hearing about Francis Schaeffer for the last 25 years as one of the leading theologians to come out of the Jesus Movement of the early 70s. I eventually got around to reading him. The book is a collection of two essays on art and the Bible and what is meant by ‘Christian art’. The first essay ‘Art in the Bible’ was very disappointing. But perhaps this is because I am not the target readership. It appears to be aimed at the sort of evangelical Christian who needs a Biblical mandate to do anything from riding a bike to shopping at Asda. Do we really need to have ‘proof texts’ to allow us to create art and use it in a Christian context? Apparently so, and Schaeffer has done a good job of searching the scriptures to find them. However, I remind myself that if people like Schaeffer had not gone about stating what the majority of Christians today consider to be ‘obvious’ Protestantism and the Evangelical movement might still be imaginatively impoverished. Some would say it still is, but thanks to Schaeffer perhaps not as much as it was. The second essay ‘Some Perspectives on Art’ is a lot better. It gives a framework in which art can be appreciated and judged from the perspective of the world view of the artist. He also challenges the other Evangelical preconception that the only art forms that are permissible in a church environment are the Hebrew / Jewish ones we see in the Bible. So in the 80s instead of doing the old grapevine to ‘How good and how pleasant it is’ we could, if the beat allowed it, have done the quick step or the pogo ;)There is some good stuff in this second essay for anyone interested in faith and the arts, but please be aware that it was written to Christians 40 odd years ago who needed ‘permission’ to do what we do quite naturally now. I also disagree with his emphasis on propositional art – ie ‘art with a message’. Although he says that artists are free to create art with or without a conscious message or have ‘religious’ content, his theory that an artist cannot operate independently of her world view dilutes this. I am now reading Steve Turner’s ‘Imagine’ written 28 years after Art and the Bible. Turner is a student of Schaeffer’s and I am very interested to see how his teaching has impacted the thinking of the next generation.