Francis Schaeffer has very helpful comments to make about how Christians should consider the Arts. We have found that he has shaped our thinking positively over the years and it’s been helpful to us as we’ve raised 5 children who each have differing but very intentional directions in the various expressions of the arts (drama, music, design, fine arts)

A frustration we’ve had however, is that Christians generally, seem to think little about the arts, if at all. It is either nice and we like it, or ‘out there’ or ‘off’ and we don’t. The thought seems to be that Christians should be involved if it has an evangelistic agenda; but what else would you want to do with it?

But this isn’t very helpful to the person who writes poetry just because it wells up within them. Is this a waste of time? Or the actor who just wants to do it because that happens to be what drives him. Isn’t this indulgent and ‘glory seeking’. Is there value in painting when it may never hang in a museum? Or designing books full of boats which will never be built? Should Christian boys and girls be discouraged from attending secular performing arts schools like NIDA?

I haven’t got much to say on this topic today but it is one which our family has mulled over for years and years. Occasionally we’ll find a useful resource to help sharpen us a little further. That’s why I was glad to find this post a while back on the Sovereign Grace Blog. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for Art for God’s Sake, recommended as further reading at the bottom of the blog post.

Here’s a quote from the post (written by CJ Mahaney):

Artistic talent originates in God and for this reason the church has esteemed artistic expression throughout the centuries. French Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote, “all the arts emanate from God, and therefore ought to be accounted divine inventions.” [1]

But this appreciation for art and its divine source does not contradict the church’s need to evaluate the value and limitations of art.

A century ago, Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (1854-1921) wrote the following concern.

Art cannot close the gap between the ideal and reality. Indeed, for a moment it lifts us above reality and induces us to live in the realm of ideals. But this happens only in the imagination. Reality itself does not change on account of it. Though art gives us distant glimpses of the realm of glory, it does not induct us into that realm and make us citizens of it. Art does not atone for our guilt, or wipe away our tears, or comfort us in life and death. …Granted, the two are connected. From the very beginning religion and art went hand in hand. [2]

How do we as twenty-first century Christians evaluate and critique the value of the arts? What relationship do the gospel and the arts share? What role and service do the arts play in the church?