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Re: The Christian and the Aesthetics

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  • forisraelssake
    ... good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed perspective if possible. I ve found Wolterstorff s book, Art in Action: Toward a Christian
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 26, 2004
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      --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Benjamin Hart
      <benhartmail@y...> wrote:
      > Please forgive me if this is off-topic, but I am looking for some
      good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed perspective
      if possible. I've found Wolterstorff's book, Art in Action: Toward a
      Christian Aesthetic interesting so far, but if there are any more out
      there, please let me know. Thanks.
      >
      > -Ben
      >

      Hi Ben, I have a sort of list here that might be able to start you
      off. Hope this helps.

      1) Wencelius, Léon. L'esthétique de Calvin. [French.] -- BX9418 W38
      1937 [428 p.] [Heh I am able to read this, but I think this was also
      translated into English at one point]

      2) Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910. What is art? (N70 T72 1960a)
      [written in his fanatical pietistic Christian years]

      3) Carroll, Noël (Noël E.) Philosophy of art : a contemporary
      introduction / BH39 C376 1999 [Routledge contemporary introductions to
      philosophy] [273 p.] [I always liked the books in this series]

      4) Becker, Gary Stanley, 1930- Accounting for tastes / HF5415.32 B43
      1996 [268 p.] [Rational choice explanations for aesthetic tastes by a
      Chicago-school economics professor]

      5) Stuff by Michael Joseph Oakeshott (1901- ) [conservative moral
      philosopher and aesthetician]

      6) Other stuff at the call number BH39 (assuming the library you are
      using uses the LOC cataloging system).


      --Chris
    • timmopussycat
      ... good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed perspective if possible. I ve found Wolterstorff s book, Art in Action: Toward a Christian
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 27, 2004
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        --- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Benjamin Hart
        <benhartmail@y...> wrote:
        > Please forgive me if this is off-topic, but I am looking for some
        good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed
        perspective if possible. I've found Wolterstorff's book, Art in
        Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic interesting so far, but if there
        are any more out there, please let me know. Thanks.
        >
        > -Ben

        Tim comments:

        Try Art Needs No Justification by Hans Rookmaker and the
        bibliographies of Francis Schaeffer's books. I put the reference to
        Schaeffer deliberately: although he writes from a Reformed
        perspective on the arts, I find him too simplistic when he deals with
        music which is my field.

        Tim
      • jbsny2004
        - Ben Check this out from the Trinity Foundation. Jim Art and the Gospel Gordon H. Clark In the United States, both within and without the churches,
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 29, 2004
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          -
          Ben
          Check this out from the Trinity Foundation.
          Jim
          Art and the Gospel

          Gordon H. Clark

          In the United States, both within and without the churches,
          Christianity has many enemies. There are the scientific and not-so-
          scientific atheists who have tremendous influence in public
          education. There are the murderous abortionists, and criminals of all
          types. But none of these is the subject of this article. Within the
          churches, neo-orthodoxy, more neo than orthodox, reduces the Bible to
          the level of Aesop's fables. Also within the churches is another
          group, some of whom have been influenced by Dooyeweerd and
          Rookmacher, some whose background is too diverse to trace, who wish
          to substitute art for the Gospel. Perhaps they are not technically
          existentialists, but they dislike intellect and truth just as much.
          The exact views of these people vary considerably. Some see further
          into the implications than others. Since this diversity makes it
          awkward to speak of the group as a whole, the present article will
          select one particular member. The selection is defensible because the
          gentleman, Leland Ryken, has edited and written a preface for an
          anthology entitled The Christian Imagination (Baker Book House,
          1981). Consider now this quotation from the Preface:

          The imagination is what enables us to produce and enjoy the arts....
          The imagination is one way we know the truth. For truth, including
          religious truth, is not solely the province of the reason or
          intellect. For example, one can experience the truth about God and
          salvation while listening to Handel's Messiah. But how? Not primarily
          through reason, but through the senses (hearing), emotions, and the
          combination of mind, senses, and emotions that I call the imagination.

          A pastor friend of mine ... first knew that Jesus rose from the
          grave ... not during the sermon, but with the sound of the trumpets
          that concluded the service [one Easter morning]... Not surely with
          the intellect, but with the senses ... Truth, I repeat, does not come
          to us solely through the reason and intellect.

          Consider the way truth comes to us in the Bible. If you asked an
          adult Sunday School class what topics are covered in the Old
          Testament Psalms, the list would look something like this: God,
          providence, guilt, ... Such a list leans decidedly toward the
          abstract.... But consider an equally valid list of topics ... dogs,
          honey, grass, thunder, ... It touches our emotions far more vividly
          than the first list does. In the Bible truth does not address only
          the rational intellect.... Handel's Messiah is as important to us as
          a Christmas sermon.

          Because the ideas expressed in these paragraphs attract the adherence
          of many who profess Christianity, they should be scrutinized with
          care. One good thing can be said: The author tries to define his term
          imagination: It is what enables us to enjoy the arts. Later he more
          explicitly defines it as the combination of mind, senses, and
          emotions. That no major philosopher had ever used the term in that
          sense is irrelevant, for every author has the right to define his
          terms as he pleases. He must, however, adhere to his own definition,
          and the definition must be suitable to the development of the
          subject. Yet, though the stated definition includes mind, the general
          tenor of the passage is inimical to mind. Furthermore, if imagination
          is the complex of all these factors, including the mind, what can the
          author mean by saying that the imagination is one way to know the
          truth. What other way could there be? The definition as given
          includes one's entire consciousness. It fails to distinguish
          imagination from any other conscious action. Without using one's
          mind, senses, or emotions, what truths could possibly be learned, and
          what would the learning process be? The definition is so all-
          inclusive that it is utterly useless indistinguishing between any two
          methods of learning. Because of this vacuity, because the author
          obviously wants to find at least two ways to truth—one without the
          intellect, and because of the next-to-last sentence in the quotation,
          it seems that the author wishes to learn some things through the
          emotions alone.

          One must ask whether or not even the enjoyment of the arts depends
          more on the mind than on the emotions. Critics of painting examine
          the brushwork, they evaluate the relation between light and dark
          areas (e.g. Rembrandt's drawing of the beggar, his daughter, her baby
          son, and the householder), and they analyze the composition.
          Composition requires careful thought on the part of both artist and
          critic. Such analyses are intellectual, not emotional; and I can
          hardly imagine that Rembrandt's drawing arouses much emotion in
          anyone. If the biographer of Leonardo da Vinci had his facts right,
          it would seem that this prince of painters was completely non-
          emotional; or if not completely, his emotion was one of continuing
          anger. Then too, Milton Nahm's book on The Aesthetic Response sharply
          distinguishes it from emotion.

          However, aesthetics is neither the main difficulty with the quoted
          passage nor of much importance to Christianity. A more, a much more
          serious difficulty is the author's view of truth. Maybe he has no
          view of truth, at least no clear view; but he certainly seems to be
          talking about two kinds of truth. He says, "Religious truth is not
          solely the province of reason." Presumably the truths of physics and
          zoology are truths of reason. Even this is doubtful, for he says that
          truth—presumably all truth, and therefore religious truths as well,
          but also the laws of physics—is not solely intellectual. I doubt that
          many physicists would agree, and it would be interesting to see how
          Ryken would answer their disclaimer. Our trouble here is to discover
          what he means by truth. Statements, propositions, predicates attached
          to subjects are true (or false). But how could a nocturne or one of
          Rodin's sculptures be true? The sculpture might resemble its model,
          and the proposition "the sculpture resembles its model" would be a
          truth; but how could a bronze or marble statute be a truth? Only
          propositions can be true. If I merely pronounce a word—cat, college,
          collage—it is neither true nor false: it does not say anything. But
          if I say "the cat is black" or "the collage is abominable," I speak
          the truth (or falsehood as the case may be). But cat, all by itself
          and without previous context, is neither true nor false. Note that
          the Psalms, which the author tries to use as a support, do not simply
          say dogs, honey, grass, and thunder: they say that the grass withers,
          the honey is sweet, and so on, all of which are propositions. And if
          the words grass and thunder touch one's emotions "far more vividly"
          than the words God and guilt there is something radically wrong with
          that person's emotions. Better to have no emotions at all. Emotions
          are hard to control; they are not only distressing to the one who has
          them, they are also disconcerting to his friends.

          If the author's peculiar aesthetics is relatively unimportant, and if
          his undefined view of truth is a more serious flaw, the implications
          of such a defective view of truth are disastrous for the preaching of
          the Gospel.

          It is undoubtedly true that "one can experience the truth about God
          and salvation while listening to Handel's Messiah." The reason is
          that The Messiah gives the words of Scripture. Of course, one can
          have the experience of boredom, or a bright idea on investment
          policy, or a decision as to which restaurant one will take his girl
          friend afterward while listening to The Messiah. But if one has
          thoughts of God and salvation while and because of the oratorio, they
          come by reason of the Scriptural words. The music adds little or
          nothing. In fact, the reason why many people do not have thoughts
          about God while listening, is that the music distracts them.

          The use of the word while is a propaganda device: Literally the
          sentence is true, but the writer means something else. Fortunately,
          after inducing a favorable response on the part of the reader by the
          word while, he actually says what he means, twice. First, a pastor
          first believed Jesus rose from the dead, not during a sermon which
          told him so, but with (of course with is ambiguous too) the sound of
          the concluding fanfare. At any rate, the pastor did not believe in
          the resurrection with his mind or intellect: He sensed it. One might
          grant that he sensed the noise of the trumpets; but how can anyone
          today sense Christ's resurrection? This is utter nonsense, and the
          final line of the quotation show anti-Christian the whole viewpoint
          is.

          He says, "Handel's Messiah is as important to us as a Christmas
          sermon." Naturally, if the Christmas sermon in a liberal church
          centers on Santa Claus, and not on the incarnation of the Second
          Person of the Trinity, Handel's music might be as important, the
          equal importance being about zero. But of course the writer means
          that the music is as important as the words. If this were so, there
          would be no necessity to preach the Gospel and ask people to believe
          the good news.

          But art is no substitute for Gospel information. In Clowes Hall at
          Butler University in Indianapolis there hangs a gigantic tapestry
          which depicts the miraculous draft of fishes. It is supposed to be a
          great work of art. Now, on one occasion, I accompanied a group of
          Japanese professors through the place, and one of them asked
          me, "What is the story?" No amount of art appreciation could give him
          the information the Bible gives. That Christ was God and that he
          worked miracles during his incarnation is understood only through the
          intellectual understanding of words. Nor would a blast of trumpets
          help.

          If the writer's views were true, the work of missionaries would be
          enormously easier. They would not have to learn a difficult language.
          They could just put on a recording of Handel and conversions would
          follow. Why didn't Paul think of that? Don't preach the Gospel, don't
          give information, just play some music! Poor Paul; he said, Faith
          cometh by hearing the word of God. No tapestry, no sculpture, no
          fanfare. But it is Paul who defines what Christianity is. Anything
          else is something else.






          -- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Benjamin Hart
          <benhartmail@y...> wrote:
          > Please forgive me if this is off-topic, but I am looking for some
          good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed
          perspective if possible. I've found Wolterstorff's book, Art in
          Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic interesting so far, but if there
          are any more out there, please let me know. Thanks.
          >
          > -Ben
          >
          >
          > ---------------------------------
          > Do you Yahoo!?
          > All your favorites on one personal page – Try My Yahoo!
        • jbsny2004
          - And this one... Christian Aesthetics Gordon H. Clark In the last few years the ostensibly evangelical community in this country has developed a rather lively
          Message 4 of 5 , Dec 29, 2004
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            -
            And this one...
            Christian Aesthetics

            Gordon H. Clark

            In the last few years the ostensibly evangelical community in this
            country has developed a rather lively interest in art. Christianity
            Today, Christian Scholar's Review, the Association for the
            Advancement of Christian Scholarship, and others give evidence of
            such an interest by having published several books and articles on
            the subject. The present piece aims to survey these views and point
            to a few conclusions.

            First of all, some of the problems secular authors on aesthetics must
            face require identification. Evangelical authors face additional
            difficulties when they try to relate art to Christianity. The first
            group of problems includes the elusive definition of beauty.
            Unfortunately this is so elusive that modern writers usually make no
            attempt to define it. In any case, a work of art need not be
            beautiful. The ugly can also be artistic. Discarding the concept of
            beauty, however, only increases the need of a definition of art. What
            is the common element in all works of art, beautiful or ugly, that
            causes us so to classify them? Presumably the definition is to be
            found in the purpose of art. If a chronometer is defined by the
            purpose of measuring time, art must be that which fulfills a
            particular function. Would anyone hold that art has no purpose,
            fulfills no function at all?

            If this purpose can be stated, a step will have been taken toward the
            solution of another problem. Nearly everybody acknowledges a
            hierarchy of arts. They are not all on a dead level. People ask, and
            often answer quickly, whether or not the ballet is a better, a
            higher, a more perfect form of art than sculpture or architecture.
            Musicians are almost universally convinced that music outranks
            painting. But poets vote for poetry. An author on aesthetics must not
            only judge who is right, but must state the criteria for his
            hierarchy. No doubt many writers only dimly recognize their criteria;
            they may even inconsistently use incompatible criteria; but nearly
            everyone ranks the arts in some order or other. Presumably this has
            to be done by first determining the purpose of art and then
            determining which art best fulfills this purpose. In fact, within a
            single art, such as painting, one work, the Sistine Madonna, can be
            judged better or worse than another, Rembrandt's Night Watch, for
            example, on this same basis of fulfilling the purpose of painting.

            If the purpose of art in general and of painting or poetry in
            particular is not merely a display of technique, if the content plays
            some role in the judgment, the ground is laid for
            distinguishing "great" art from trivial or even evil art. If a
            painting has the new moon in the east when day is dying in the west,
            does not this astronomical monstrosity, no matter how perfect the
            composition and technique, detract from its value? Can a poem talk
            nonsense and be a great poem, or, at least, can it be as great as a
            poem equal in other respects and which also speaks sensibly?

            These are some of the problems that secular aesthetics cannot avoid.
            Nor can Christian authors avoid them. But in addition the latter must
            ask other questions, all of which can be condensed in the question
            whether the Scriptures imply a theory of aesthetics. Certainly an
            evangelical, whose formal princip1e is Sola Scriptura, cannot study
            any part of philosophy without considering Scriptural teaching.

            It is not necessary here to discuss secular and Biblical aesthetics
            separately. The latter faces all the problems of the former. Hence
            the present procedure can well begin with criticism of the sort of
            article that has been appearing in recent ostensibly evangelical
            publications.

            These articles, so it seems to me, are usually defective in one or
            more of three points: First, they exhibit the pervasive ambiguity and
            meaninglessness of almost all literature on aesthetics; second, even
            when the first objection is not so obviously the case they either
            depend on or suggest invalid arguments; and third, they are with
            virtual unanimity deficient in supporting their contentions by
            Scriptural norms.

            First, in the last few years a gadfly has been lampooning the
            pedantic nonsense that emanates from New York's Metropolitan Museum.
            Theodore L, Shaw and Stuart Publications have produced Hypocrisy
            About Art, Precious Rubbish, and other titles which are not all
            hypocrisy and rubbish. The Met comes out as pontifically stupid.

            If anyone thinks that this gadfly should be ignored, do not more
            serious volumes on aesthetics testify to the unintelligibility of the
            subject? For example, can anyone deny that there is confusion and
            meaninglessness in The Art of Painting (chapter four and Appendix I)
            where Albert Barnes discusses the subject of form? Can the work of
            Elie Faure, Venturi, or John Dewey be adjudged more intelligible? Or,
            on music, note the pitiful attempts to define classical and romantic
            in Grove's five volume Dictionary of Music. There are, to be sure,
            better attempts than Grove's. The Oxford Companion to Music (revised
            edition, 1963) says that the term classical distinguishes music –
            largely the music written between 1600 and 1800 – which is
            characterized by a more or less consciously accepted formalism in
            which elements of proportion and of beauty as such [!] are emphasized
            from "romantic" music in which the main purpose is the expression of
            emotions, or even the representation in tone of ideas that usually
            receive, not a musical, but rather a literary or pictorial expression.

            Although this is a relatively good statement for books on aesthetics,
            one notices not only that its term beauty as such remains
            unexplained, but also the meaning or mode of emotional expression is
            left vague. Then too, if proportion can be so defined as to exclude
            it from romanticism, form presents worse difficulties. Does not
            Beethoven show form? Nor, and this is surely important, is there any
            explanation of how or whether literary ideas can be expressed in
            tone. Inasmuch as one or two professors of philosophy claim for art a
            cognitive function not duplicated elsewhere, the point needs serious
            documentation.

            Hardly any book on aesthetics defines its terms carefully. Even
            Plato, when he tried to define Beauty in Greater Hippias, failed.
            Historical information, e.g., the formulation of the laws of
            perspective or the development from plainsong to counterpoint, has a
            proper share of interest and importance – it is also intelligible;
            but there is a dearth of definition. It seems that even the better
            books do not know the meaning of the words they use, while the
            sentimental gushings of "art appreciation" are utterly vacuous.

            Now, if Plato himself, who so stressed definition and
            intelligibility, could do so little on beauty, one cannot be
            surprised that writers of lesser genius do worse. Yet the failures
            may be instructive. If most of the books on aesthetics are largely
            unintelligible, it may not be because the authors are otherwise
            stupid, but because art itself is defective in intelligibility.

            For example, there is no good objection against classifying art as a
            form of expression. So far as it goes, this is a good statement of
            the purpose of art. But it does not go very far at all. One should
            not go so far as to define art as the expression of emotion, for by
            the previous remarks this would imply that classical art is not art.
            The trouble here is to make precise what content art can express. Few
            writers do so. On one occasion when the present writer had been
            examining Rembrandt's pen sketches in Amsterdam, an art connoisseur
            remarked that they "said so much." What they said, he did not say.
            Similarly music is called expressive. True, it can, like an
            ejaculation, express joy or sorrow, but not much else. It certainly
            cannot express Lincoln's Gettysburg Address or the Lord's Prayer. A
            choir director, a very good one too, exemplified the emptiness of
            musical jargon when he scolded his tenors and told them that the
            color of their tone should be more round. Apparently they had been
            singing red, rectangular notes and he wanted them to sing circular,
            green notes.

            When the Oxford Companion to Music defines romantic music as that
            which expresses literary or pictorial ideas, as if notes could
            express the cadmium vermilion flowers of an ocotilla and their
            difference from the light raw sienna sand out of which they grow, it
            says something so paradoxical that it ought to defend and explain its
            incredible suggestion by clear and extended argument.

            How can anyone decide whether Mozart's Sonata K 545 expresses the
            chugging of a locomotive up the east slope of the Rockies or the
            eruption of Old Faithful? If some aesthetic soul finds this example
            too facetious, would he in all seriousness explain why L'Apres Midi
            d'un Faune could not have been called La Soiree d'un Lapin? In a
            painting this distinction would be immediately obvious. But even a
            painting cannot express Lincoln's Gettysburg Address – and this
            Address is indeed a work of art.

            No claim is made here that music expresses nothing. The music favored
            by hairy left-wing hippies expresses the animistic savagery of the
            jungle. Rock cannot appropriately express worship of the God of
            Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Bach and Handel can. But even in these
            cases what music expresses, by itself without words, is very little.

            So much for the first point concerning the unintelligibility of most
            articles and books on aesthetics. Now, second, there is the matter of
            time invalidity of their arguments. A recent article bewailed the
            narrow evangelicalism of George Eliot's parents, and without much
            disguise suggested that this was the cause of her rebellious atheism.
            The conclusion is of course fallaciously drawn. Evangelicalism is
            indeed narrow – it prohibits adultery. But her desire for freedom
            from such morality is a more probable cause of her rejection of
            Christianity than a hard childhood and the death of her mother.

            Other articles have made other unfounded charges. The Puritans are
            constantly described as sour and dour. Ernest Boyd (Portraits Real
            and Imaginary, 109) was surely indulging in irresponsible imagination
            when he wrote, "Pleasure is the enemy, not evil, and so the joys of
            mind and body are under suspicion."

            As for pleasures of the mind Boyd must have been ignorant of the
            Puritan concern for education; while J. Truslow Adams and Harlan
            Updegraff unconscionably misrepresent the literacy index in
            Massachusetts. As for sensory pleasures, particularly the pleasures
            of art, those who condemn the Puritans not only fail to make
            allowances for the difficulties of mere survival in an untamed
            wilderness, but also ignore the exquisite proportions and design of
            their doorways and everyday domestic tools.

            Less reprehensible than these prejudicial fallacies are instances of
            trivialities, tautologies, and generalities that fail of constructive
            contribution. For example, H.H. Rookmaaker's article on "Art" in the
            Encyclopedia of Christianity does not say anything that can be
            branded false, but he achieves this desirable result by saying hardly
            anything pertinent. He states that aesthetic theory "concerns the
            nature of a Christian way of life." So does counting calories. It is
            wrong, he says, "to pose an antithesis between one's professional
            life and the enjoyment of art." Also the enjoyment of golf. Then
            again, he states that "There are many types of art" – as there are of
            engineering – "each fulfilling its own function." But what the
            function of music, or of all art is, he does not explain; except that
            it is all for the glory of God. But this no more explains art than it
            explains investing in the stock market. The article contains little
            if anything that distinguishes art from other facets of human
            activity.

            This second criticism has thus given examples of prejudice,
            falsehood, fallacy, and triviality.

            The third criticism was the widespread, though not universal, neglect
            of Scripture by allegedly evangelical writers. Here an attempt will
            be made to shift from adverse criticism to something of a more
            constructive nature.

            An evangelical theory of art, so far as art is amenable to meaningful
            statement, must be based on the teaching of the Bible. What is not
            based on Scripture, even if it should miraculously escape
            unintelligibility, could hardly be called an evangelical view. The
            fact that the Bible says so little about art, whereas its
            intellectually conceptual theology is voluminous, indicates that
            there is really very little to say. However, a Biblical student
            should try to collect that little. Such a summarization can be
            divided into materia1 on utensils and architecture (combining useful
            and fine art), painting and sculpture, then music, and finally
            literature. Naturally the following is not exhaustive.

            The construction of utensils and musical instruments seems to have
            originated among the rebellious and ungodly (Genesis 4:21-22). Later
            these forms of art were used in the worship of God (Exodus 25-28).
            Still later great artistic skill was expended on Solomon's Temple and
            palaces (I Kings, 5-7). From what is said, Solomon's Temple must have
            been an artistic triumph, surpassing even Hagia Sophia. Thus there is
            no Biblical prohibition against imposing architecture. That
            evangelicals today should build such expensive structures does not
            logically follow, but it would seem that some groups ought to pay
            more attention and avoid crudities in building.

            The Bible has virtually nothing to say about painting, and its
            references to sculpture link it to idolatry. Therefore the Reformed
            churches do not exhibit a statue of Peter for the faithful to kiss
            its big toe. Painting must also be included, for the wording of the
            commandment includes every sort of likeness. Outside the church
            property, however, Rodin's Thinker seems to be unobjectionable, and
            his repulsive shriveled old woman can teach a moral lesson to
            majorettes and homecoming queens.

            The Bible explicitly commands music, vocal and instrumental.
            Therefore some people must take time to learn composition, other
            people must achieve the skill to manufacture instruments, and all
            people no doubt should improve their voices – circular green notes
            instead of rectangular red. The requirement of vocal music emphasizes
            the fact that music is an accompaniment for words. By itself music is
            not very expressive. Note that hymnbooks sometimes use the same music
            for two or three hymns. If music had a definite meaning, one tune
            could not fit two hymns, nor even two stanzas of one hymn. But
            defective as music is in this respect, the Bible commands
            instrumental music.

            Music is the lowest form of art; literature is the highest. Musicians
            will raise their eyebrows and no doubt their voices against this
            proposition. But there is a reason for such a hierarchical
            arrangement. It depends on a presupposition relative to the nature of
            man and on an assumption concerning the purpose of art.

            The purpose of art is expression. Of course this short sentence
            raises many questions. By itself it is uninformative. One should
            specify what art can and cannot express. One should specify what art
            should and should not express. These questions cannot be answered
            without having some notion of the nature of man. Here it is
            presupposed that God created man as essentially a rational being. *
            This implies that man's most valuable expressions are rational and
            intellectual. Therefore, although man can express emotion, by
            screaming "Ouch," art becomes more human and valuable in proportion
            to its intellectual content. This does not deny that excellent
            technique may express triviality, evil, and insanity. It asserts,
            however, that what should be expressed is rational and intelligent.

            Therefore the highest form of art is literature because only words
            have the full and clearest range of expression. The cliche, "one
            picture is worth a thousand words," is basically false, though it may
            be true enough in a blueprint. But, as suggested above, how many
            pictures would be required to express the Lord's Prayer or the
            doctrine of justification by faith? In comparison with these the
            importance of painting and music pales.

            Of course art has a certain measure of importance. Embellishments of
            prose, and sometimes poetry, help to enforce the literary message.

            I say sometimes poetry because, although prose can also be nonsense,
            nonsense seems to be an occupational disease of poets. It was with
            pleasure that I read a letter to the editor in the Eutychus section
            of Christianity Today, which complained of the poems recently
            published. But what could be greater nonsense than the esteemed John
            Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn? Consider:


            " `Beauty is truth and truth beauty,' – that is all ye know on earth,
            and all ye need to know."


            Now, Keats' lines are not nonsense in the sense of being meaningless.
            They are nonsense in the sense of being ridiculously false. As a
            corrective to Keats and to the poetry of Christianity Today, permit
            me to offer a Kantian Ode on a Quartz Crystal.


            Electrified, vibrating crystal stone

            Thou foster child of science and slow time

            Thou geologic witness with a tone

            That tells a tale more rhythmic than our rhyme:

            When old age shall this generation waste

            Thou shalt remain and oscillating go;

            Thy message e'er repeating without haste –

            "Space is time and time is space" – that is all

            Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


            It is unfortunate that literary embellishment is in these two Odes
            used to inculcate falsehood. It should enforce truth. Crabbed
            language can express thought quite accurately, and even by its
            ugliness can sometimes jolt a person into understanding. Further, it
            is better to have unembellished truth than embellished falsehood.
            Nevertheless, artistic literature aids one's memory to make the
            comprehension of a doctrine a permanent acquisition.

            The designer of the Delaware River Bridge at Vine Street, Paul Cret,
            told his students, "Ornament construction, do not construct
            ornament." This is a good view of art, not only for a great
            architect, but particularly for a Christian. The principle of art for
            art's sake is pagan, suitable to its depraved exponent, Oscar Wilde.
            For a Christian, art is subordinate to a higher purpose, and only
            insofar as it serves that purpose is it justified.


            *For a long argument supporting this position, see my article in the
            Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society (Vol. XII, Part
            IV), "The Image of God in Man," and my book, The Biblical Doctrine of
            Man (The Trinity Foundation, 1984). A more materialistic or
            physicalistic view is found in "The Imago Dei and Christian
            Aesthetics" (J. E. T. S. Vol. XV, Part III), by William A. Dyrness,
            but it has precious little to do with aesthetics.





            -- In covenantedreformationclub@yahoogroups.com, Benjamin Hart
            <benhartmail@y...> wrote:
            > Please forgive me if this is off-topic, but I am looking for some
            good resources on aesthetics, particularly from a Reformed
            perspective if possible. I've found Wolterstorff's book, Art in
            Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic interesting so far, but if there
            are any more out there, please let me know. Thanks.
            >
            > -Ben
            >
            >
            > ---------------------------------
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