Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
techne

art and faith questions

Recommended Posts

jfutral wrote:

: Unless you are dictating the details of how the work should be created and look (in which

: case I'm not sure why you would commission the work from an artist as opposed to

: some generic factory) I don't know that this is totally avoidable . . .

Well, obviously, some iconographers have names that we can attach to specific icons, e.g. the icons of Andrei Rublev. There is personal skill and even personal expression, of a sort, there. But it is still very much in service to something bigger and higher than the artist. In a case like that, the Church does not "support the arts", so much as the artist supports the Church.

: But in my encounters with protestant evangelicals, it is more often the reformers that

: seem to have a more holistic or accepting (?) view of the arts, well maybe from a more

: theological position. Can there be a reason for this?

I haven't a clue what you mean by this. Doesn't Robert Johnston argue in Reel Spirituality that Calvinists in particular -- and perhaps other Reformers as well -- have generally REJECTED the arts, especially the visual arts, due to their rejection of Catholic iconography, which was based on their interpretation of the (semi-)commandment to not make graven images, etc., etc.?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

yes. in a huge nutshell re: the arts -

luther - yes (including visual art, though he did privilege music)

calvin - no (scriptural text and that's pretty much it)

o, and the whole icon thing is pretty much against 'individual/ personal expression' as i understand it. it's about communicating the details and symbols of the [holy] icon, which is, of course, more important than the artist.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jfutral wrote:

: But in my encounters with protestant evangelicals, it is more often the reformers that

: seem to have a more holistic or accepting (?) view of the arts, well maybe from a more

: theological position. Can there be a reason for this?

I haven't a clue what you mean by this. Doesn't Robert Johnston argue in Reel Spirituality that Calvinists in particular -- and perhaps other Reformers as well -- have generally REJECTED the arts, especially the visual arts, due to their rejection of Catholic iconography, which was based on their interpretation of the (semi-)commandment to not make graven images, etc., etc.?

But "Reformers" isn't some monolithic category. I think Reformed theology leaves plenty of room for the arts, and certainly some of the more contemporary Reformed thinkers have explored the subject at great length. I'd recommend Art Needs No Justification by Hans Rookmaaker, Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer, and Art and the Theological Imagination by Leland Ryken. On a more anecdotal level, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a bastion of Reformed thought, features a popular music series that ought to be the envy of every university in the country. They bring in more, and more interesting, musical talent every year than the Ohio State University, which has fifteen times the number of students as Calvin, and I assume a correspondingly larger budget.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
yes. in a huge nutshell re: the arts -

luther - yes (including visual art, though he did privilege music)

calvin - no (scriptural text and that's pretty much it)

o, and the whole icon thing is pretty much against 'individual/ personal expression' as i understand it. it's about communicating the details and symbols of the [holy] icon, which is, of course, more important than the artist.

Actually, I'm reading as we speak an article in Creative Spirit by Colin Harbinson speaking to Calvin's actual view on the arts, which is often misinterpreted, apparently. I haven't finished the article yet but so far you can basically synopsisize the article by saying: Calvin didn't want the arts in corporate worship or corporate worship spaces, but outside of the church the arts (so long as they glorify God) were perfectly acceptable.

This isn't really a correct Biblical theology either, but it's different than now most people think of him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I also don't think all Protestants should be written off as anti-arts - that would be inaccurate. But I do think there are certain strains in American Protestantism that don't see the arts as vital - or maybe even necessary. My thought about this at this point is ???, because I really don't think it's possible to make an accurate blanket statement about this.

True, although we speak in generalizations as necessary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Andy Whitman wrote:

: But "Reformers" isn't some monolithic category.

Of course it isn't. But the operative phrase here is "more often".

: I'd recommend Art Needs No Justification by Hans Rookmaaker . . .

The very title, of course, indicates that Rookmaaker is writing for an audience that feels -- at least intuitively, at least because they were brought up that way, at least because it's the attitude they see all around them -- that art DOES need justification.

: On a more anecdotal level, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a bastion of Reformed thought . . .

Which has, itself, gone under some "reform" in its approach to the arts in the last few decades. At least that's what I think Calvin almunus and movie director Paul Schrader has said :) though I don't have a quote handy right now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Andy Whitman wrote:

: But "Reformers" isn't some monolithic category.

Of course it isn't. But the operative phrase here is "more often".

: I'd recommend Art Needs No Justification by Hans Rookmaaker . . .

The very title, of course, indicates that Rookmaaker is writing for an audience that feels -- at least intuitively, at least because they were brought up that way, at least because it's the attitude they see all around them -- that art DOES need justification.

: On a more anecdotal level, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and a bastion of Reformed thought . . .

Which has, itself, gone under some "reform" in its approach to the arts in the last few decades. At least that's what I think Calvin almunus and movie director Paul Schrader has said :) though I don't have a quote handy right now.

Well, Paul Shrader is a talented screenwriter, but I don't think I would consider him as a definitive authority on Calvinism or Calvin College. He has a fairly hefty ax to grind against Christianity in general and Calvinism in particular, as is evident in almost every one of his films.

And this isn't really directed to anything you wrote, Peter, but is more of a general reaction to what I see in this thread. I confess that I find myself perplexed by the whole lowbrow Protestant vs. enlightened Catholic/Orthodox/Episcopalian view of the arts that is often set forth as indisputable fact. I just don't see it. It may have been true at one time, and certainly the books I mentioned were intended to counter a dismissive view of the arts that probably once characterized Protestantism. Yeah, yeah, I know, on one side of this debate we have Michelangelo and Bernini and Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy, and on the other side we have Carmen and Jesus Over the UN posters. But we also now have Marilynne Robinson and John Updike and Sufjan Stevens, artists of the highest order who are operating from a distinctly Protestant perspective. In other words, I don't think the assumed dichotomy is true now, and I don't think it's been true for a long time. We're now more than a generation removed from Francis Schaeffer and Hans Rookmaaker, and there is some evidence that their message stuck with the now balding, aging hippies who first heard it, and their children who have taken the pretty ball and run with it..

As has been previously mentioned in this thread, many of the po-mo churches take a very high view of the arts, and art is an integral part of the worship service. The Cornerstone Music and Arts Festival (among others) attracts tens of thousands of (mostly) Protestants every year, who groove to their favorite bands and listen to lots of lectures about, you guessed it, the value of art. On a local, personal level, I am surrounded by church members and friends who have recording contracts, who display their paintings and sculptures in art galleries, who sponsor poetry slams, who own concert venues, and who write for national publications. And they are Protestants, and yes, even Calvinists, one and all.

Are there still more Protestants who don't give a rip about art than those who care about it passionately? Probably, but I'm not convinced that theology has much to do with it, and my guess is that there are also more Catholics, Orthodox, and Episcopalians who don't give a rip about art than those who do. The solution, as always, is to look for and hang out with the people who do. But I'm not convinced that you'll find them more easily if you also look for candles and incense in the sanctuary.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Andy Whitman wrote:

: But "Reformers" isn't some monolithic category.

Of course it isn't. But the operative phrase here is "more often".

Well, for me the key phrase was "in my encounters" and to clarify any supposed dichotomy that someone might infer in my question, I certainly did not make an distinction between protestant views=low art and Catholic/Orthodox views=high art. My mother-in-law, who is Catholic, has a very strong kitschy side.

What made me ask the question is, I posed my recent thoughts on art to a self-professed Arminian pastor who seemed to believe that my view of art is more likely shared in reformed cirlces than others. And this is something I have found in my travels and conversations. By no means do I consider my experiences exhaustive, but I do know my friend is _very_ well traveled, and to find him reflect my experience just made me ask why this _might_ be so.

It may have more to do with cultural/social influences than theology, which is fine with me, I was just curious. But I certainly have had more contending to do in, say, more charismatic churches than reformed churches. Maybe it is a low church/high church sort of thing. I have not heard things like "Christians should not watch 'R' rated movies" in reformed circles. But I have elsewhere. Now certainly it is not hard to find exceptions within more IC circles, but I have found this to be a more likely generalization than not.

I say IC, because I do think the EC was supposed to be different, though some paradoxes exist there, too. For instances, I have found it far more likely to find artists with thoughts on art in circles like, say here on A&F, than on more EC centered circles, such as maybe theooze. So while the arts may be stated as important to the EC, I have found it more difficult to have conversations about art with EC folks than IC folks. And I do enjoy these conversations! And the questions they bring up, especially about art and faith. :-)

Again, key phrase being "in my encounters". YMMV.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Well, obviously, some iconographers have names that we can attach to specific icons, e.g. the icons of Andrei Rublev. There is personal skill and even personal expression, of a sort, there. But it is still very much in service to something bigger and higher than the artist. In a case like that, the Church does not "support the arts", so much as the artist supports the Church.

Rothko had some very interesting opinions about this whole idea of the church prescribing to artists what the created should be or how it should look, etc. But maybe some other time. I certainly don't want to make more of commissioning iconographs than is there. But any time someone thinks something is important enough to utilize the services of an artist, even if more for their craftsmenship than their expressive abilities, I am all for it! Art was about craftsmenship long before it was about expression, from what I can tell.

I mean, for instance, the Levites were chosen as the musicians because they were skilled, not because they were expressive. To me this shows an appreciation and respect for art/creativity that one would want skilled craftsmen invovled, and I don't want to see that part of the equation diminished. From that perspective, I do find the use of artists for iconographs as more reciprocal in support/encouragement/respect for the arts than not.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

jfutral wrote:

: Art was about craftsmenship long before it was about expression, from what I can tell.

: I mean, for instance, the Levites were chosen as the musicians because they were skilled, not because they were expressive.

Exactly!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jfutral wrote:

: Art was about craftsmenship long before it was about expression, from what I can tell.

: I mean, for instance, the Levites were chosen as the musicians because they were skilled, not because they were expressive.

Exactly!

I agree as well, and the above thought was pretty much what led me to create this new topic. I know there's more to it that what's in that topic, but my line of thinking was pretty much the same.

Edited by Chashab

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sorry, don't mean to de-rail the thread or anything. But the assumption that the Church ought to be a "patron" of art seems ... odd ... to me.

Who else is going to provide them the financial security necessary for them to get on with their work? I have seen far too many excellent Christian artists have to lock up the studio because they don't have any patrons.

I haven't a clue what you mean by this. Doesn't Robert Johnston argue in Reel Spirituality that Calvinists in particular -- and perhaps other Reformers as well -- have generally REJECTED the arts, especially the visual arts, due to their rejection of Catholic iconography, which was based on their interpretation of the (semi-)commandment to not make graven images, etc., etc.?

That is somewhat revisionist in scope, the whole iconoclastic (read: anti-beauty) Reformer straw man has been batted about enough in pop-level evangelical literature on the arts. It fails to factor in the rich tradition in the Dutch Reformation that did attempt to retain a theology of beauty, and continued to all the way until Schaeffer and Rookmaker did their thing. It is a much different theology of art because it lacks the sacramental aspects of its Catholic counterpart, but this makes it no less robust, provocative, or practical. In this particular aspect, "Reformed" is not nearly as monolithic as one would think. Johnston is usually problematic in the way he generalizes about such matters, often importing straw men into his understanding of the history of Christian interaction with the arts, and this is a typical case.

The problem with the Reformed = no concept of beauty vs. Catholic = real concept of beauty is that it assumes an iconographic approach to art is the only approach to Christian art.

There was a time when I followed Schaeffer's - and Rookmaaker's - line on the visual (and other) arts completely. But that was a while ago. I think both of them hit on some important things, but also, that both missed (or misunderstood) many things that they were observing.

Indeed, it only took a few visits to various museums to find myself disagreeing with both while still an undergrad. I will always be sorely indebted to both for enabling me think Christianly about art, but they are both off on many important particulars. I like their approach and their desire to listen before responding, but as you say, I don't buy the whole "death of culture/escape from reason" metanarrative of art history. An unfortunate side effect of their work is that many casual readers of their generations tended to come away from these books thinking: modern art is bad.

Are there still more Protestants who don't give a rip about art than those who care about it passionately? Probably, but I'm not convinced that theology has much to do with it, and my guess is that there are also more Catholics, Orthodox, and Episcopalians who don't give a rip about art than those who do. The solution, as always, is to look for and hang out with the people who do. But I'm not convinced that you'll find them more easily if you also look for candles and incense in the sanctuary.

This is a good post, Andy. That emperor wears no clothes even though it still dominates Emergent and post-liberal critique of Evangelicalism. Right next to all the church history and theology that contradicts such flawed reasoning are the countless practicing Protestant (even Evangelical...gasp!) artists out there. What a sad disservice a lot of the revisionism in the Emergent Church has done to Protestant (and in particular Evangelical) Christian artists.

jfutral wrote:

: Art was about craftsmenship long before it was about expression, from what I can tell.

: I mean, for instance, the Levites were chosen as the musicians because they were skilled, not because they were expressive.

Exactly!

What about Lascaux? I don't mean this to be facetious at all, as I have argued very frequently that a craft-based approach to art is the uniquely theological approach to art rather than an icon-based approach. But I wouldn't push that argument so far as to say that the purpose of art is craft-oriented rather than expression-oriented.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There was a time when I followed Schaeffer's - and Rookmaaker's - line on the visual (and other) arts completely. But that was a while ago. I think both of them hit on some important things, but also, that both missed (or misunderstood) many things that they were observing.

Indeed, it only took a few visits to various museums to find myself disagreeing with both while still an undergrad. I will always be sorely indebted to both for enabling me think Christianly about art, but they are both off on many important particulars. I like their approach and their desire to listen before responding, but as you say, I don't buy the whole "death of culture/escape from reason" metanarrative of art history. An unfortunate side effect of their work is that many casual readers of their generations tended to come away from these books thinking: modern art is bad.

Indebted am I to these writings (what I've read of their's) as well, although I never got the anti-modern-art vibe and I've read both ART AND THE BIBLE and ART NEEDS NO . . . a couple of times. Maybe just not close enough, eh?

One thing I would bring up here is that neither of these authors, influential as they are, were visual artists. They just wrote about the arts. As a visual artist myself, one of my beefs with Christian writing on the arts in recent decades (perhaps even centuries?) is that it has not been done by visual artists. Instead it has been done by writers, musicians and others possessing a valid interest — but not possessing a personal stake in the visual arts.

In response to my blog entry mentioning this Tony did post a link to a book by a man in Britain who is a visual artist and also wrote a book, but thus far this is the only one I know of. I know, I know, the next comment will be "Maybe you should write one!"

Are there still more Protestants who don't give a rip about art than those who care about it passionately? Probably, but I'm not convinced that theology has much to do with it, and my guess is that there are also more Catholics, Orthodox, and Episcopalians who don't give a rip about art than those who do. The solution, as always, is to look for and hang out with the people who do. But I'm not convinced that you'll find them more easily if you also look for candles and incense in the sanctuary.

This is a good post, Andy. That emperor wears no clothes even though it still dominates Emergent and post-liberal critique of Evangelicalism. Right next to all the church history and theology that contradicts such flawed reasoning are the countless practicing Protestant (even Evangelical...gasp!) artists out there. What a sad disservice a lot of the revisionism in the Emergent Church has done to Protestant (and in particular Evangelical) Christian artists.

Agree about Andy's post — so much so that I blogged about it this morning :)

Edited by Chashab

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

MLeary wrote:

: Who else is going to provide them the financial security necessary for them to get on with their work?

I'm not sure this is a relevant question.

You might just as well ask who else is going to help chefs develop their skills in the culinary arts. Yeah, sure, of course, we all eat food when we gather for fellowship, but is it really the Church's job to be a "patron" of any particular form of creative self-expression?

I mean, come to think of it, do people pay tithes just so that the Church can then go and pay artists to follow their bliss? Wouldn't that be a little too much like what government-sponsored arts agencies do with our tax dollars?

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
One thing I would bring up here is that neither of these authors, influential as they are, were visual artists. They just wrote about the arts. As a visual artist myself, one of my beefs with Christian writing on the arts in recent decades (perhaps even centuries?) is that it has not been done by visual artists. Instead it has been done by writers, musicians and others possessing a valid interest
Edited by techne

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I mean, come to think of it, do people pay tithes just so that the Church can then go and pay artists to follow their bliss? Wouldn't that be a little too much like what government-sponsored arts agencies do with our tax dollars?

well, i guess i wouldn't say that the role of artists is simply "to follow their bliss" - i think that without an audience it isn't truly art. the whole idea of art as self-expression is a thin one - i would maintain that a major purpose for art is to communicate something to someone else. i think that, historically, there was an intended audience to whom the work would be communicable, whereas modern artists (by which i mean artists working during the past 300 years or so) often are their own audience. which is also why so much art has such a small audience and is somewhat alienating. not that it can't be challenging, but if there isn't a shared language or vocabulary, how does one commune? even with guv'ment sponsored art, the artist still needs to justify their project and defines (at least by implication) their audience. i guess that the craftsmanship and serving aspect (or providing a product for a purpose) have more history and weight for me than simply self-expression (which seems more therapy than art as there is something therapeutic about expressing oneself; i'm just not convinced that qualifies as art, or Art - but perhaps that's a discussion for another day).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
or...what is the link?

Link to David Thistlewaite's website.

Amazon link to his book. Not very many of them available, it seems. Only four on Amazon right now. I don't have one yet, but liked some of the content on his website that I read (this was about four months ago now). Found the picture of the cover on this website:

THIARTOF.jpg

Edit: Spelling

Edited by Chashab

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You might just as well ask who else is going to help chefs develop their skills in the culinary arts. Yeah, sure, of course, we all eat food when we gather for fellowship, but is it really the Church's job to be a "patron" of any particular form of creative self-expression?

Yes. Not a particular form of self-expression, but a social-system which accords value to people gifted to practice self-expression full-time. The problem with the arts and the Church in America is that we have lost a sense of what a "patron" really is. Saying that a church or Christian community that buys artwork has given hard-earned tithes to an artist so that they "may follow their bliss" is patronizing at best, theologically absurd at worst. Artwork can play a dramatic role in the day to day life of a local church, and a church that recognizes this will see "patronage" as a practical means of incorporating the arts into the processes of evangelism, worship, and spiritual formation.

We could bat around a lot of theology relevant to this issue, but it is far more easily demonstrable in practice. I was commissioned at a church we used to attend to make a one-off book that would serve as a baptismal record. Another artist in the church and I worked on the book for a few weeks, and I recall that time being a reverent and worshipful experience in service of the future life of the community. At the same time, this same church also commissioned a number of works of art that would be exhibited during the period of Advent. Simply because our "book" had a craft-oriented practical value, it was of no greater significance then the more expression-oriented works that engaged us and focused us through Advent. In this one brief example, one can readily see the value a proper estimation "patronage" holds for a church willing to commit part of their financial resources to it.

For a couple grand, I would delight in being greeted by a Mako Fujimura every time I walk through the church door.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Just read an intersting blog entry by a priest, where he says:

Our churches used to be full of images, so did Catholic homes. Statues, paintings, icons: they saturated the imagination of generations past.

Today, at least in this diocese, most of our churches, being built since the 1960

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would personally ask something like "Have we really any business being so preoccupied with art when people are suffering in the world?"

As I have mentioned before, I find the film "Schindler's List" somewhat naff, but recently I have found myself haunted (as in lying-awake-at-3am-haunted) by one of its scenes: the one towards the end in which Schindler says that he could have saved someone's life if he had only sold his gold pin (at least, I think it's a pin - it's been a while since I have seen the film).

On Boxing Day I looked over my pile of Christmas bounty - all the books and the DVDs and the food and the after shave - and it made me doubt my integrity as a Christian. I mean, just how many DVDs does a person actually need? How many is an obscenity? A hundred? Fifty? One? I could have saved someone's life this Christmas but instead I chose to wallow in clutter.

Edited by The Invisible Man

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would personally ask something like "Have we really any business being so preoccupied with art when people are suffering in the world?"

Yes. The answer is Yes. It's not a binary choice. From a biblical standpoint, it would seem that God is concerned with both art and the plight of people suffering in the world. From that I deduce that God's people can be concerned with both as well. So do both. Are there times when those desires conflict with one another? Sure. But the solution is neither to let people starve as you enjoy sumptuous art nor to keep hungry people alive in a world devoid of beauty. You can care about art and care about suffering people, and wrestle with the tough choices that both entail. I think that's what we're all called to do.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I would personally ask something like "Have we really any business being so preoccupied with art when people are suffering in the world?"

Yes. The answer is Yes. It's not a binary choice. From a biblical standpoint, it would seem that God is concerned with both art and the plight of people suffering in the world. From that I deduce that God's people can be concerned with both as well. So do both. Are there times when those desires conflict with one another? Sure. But the solution is neither to let people starve as you enjoy sumptuous art nor to keep hungry people alive in a world devoid of beauty. You can care about art and care about suffering people, and wrestle with the tough choices that both entail. I think that's what we're all called to do.

I live this debate out in my own head just about every day. Even in high school, when I was thinking about what to study in college, architecture was pretty much a shoe-in. But my other idea was ministry (which I'm now in!). They seem to be at opposite ends of a spectrum, and that argument can be made. But it is the wrong angle. As Andy rightly says, you can do both. However, it's easier for us as humans to pick one end of the spectrum or the other, rather than find an approptriate balance and have to deal with these questions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think the dichotomy we see between art and ministry is artificial.

The first chapter of Genesis describes God's initial impulse. Be creative. God was alone, it was dark, and apparently it didn't suit him. He found a way to make the world he wanted.

I'm sure I have just run afoul of lots of theology. I like it when things stay simple.

There are lots of outlets for creativity. Wrestle with these impulses, struggle to discover where they come from and where they lead you.

I am increasingly under the conviction that if I allow creative opportunities to pass I am not allowing God to work in my life. Conversely; If I am not making my creative impulses part of a community, I am not allowing myself to be used by God.

I guess for the sake of this thread: my question would be, Am I off my nut?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
God was alone, it was dark, and apparently it didn't suit him.

LOL! This is now my favourite line.

I guess for the sake of this thread: my question would be, Am I off my nut?

You may well be. Maybe not so much regarding your view on art, however.

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
if you were to attend a conference or seminar about the relationship between faith and art, and you were given the opportunity to ask the speaker any questions related to that admittedly broad topic, what questions would you ask?

"Who cares?" or a variation "Why should I care?" or another variation "If no one else seems to care (and no one does seem to care, or at least very few do) why should I?"

And if the answer centers around "You/they should care because blah" the follow up is "How do we get them/us/me to care?"

Joe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...