Category Archives: Aesthetics

Finding the Gospel in Surprising Places

“Finale B”, by Jonathan Larson. From the musical/movie RENT

There is no future, there is no past.

Thank God this moment’s not the last.

There’s only us
There’s only this.
Forget regret or
Life is yours to miss.

No other road, no other way;
No day but today.

Will I lose my dignity (I can’t control)?
Will someone care (my destiny)?
Will I wake tomorrow (I trust my soul)
From this nightmare (my only goal is just to be)?

Without you (there’s only now)
The hand gropes (there’s only here)
The ear hears (give in to love)
The pulse beats (or live in fear)
Life goes on (no other path)
But I’m gone (no other way)
‘Cause I die (no day but today)
Without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you (no day but today)
I die without you.

No day but today.

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Aesthetics in Christian Education

In 1971, Frank Nelsen wrote an article titled “The aesthetic dimension of Christian education.” (Religious Education 66, no. 5 (September 1, 1971): 385-389.) In it, he argues that evangelicals take their distrust of art from the Puritans, who reacted to the misuse of art in their day and therefore made no distinction between “good” and “bad” art. He goes on to call for Protestants to create a theory and theology of art.

As one who values and appreciates multiple expressions of art (but especially a good story), I agree with his sentiment. Like Nelson, I think that Christian educators must ask and answer what place art, art appreciation, and aesthetics has in the place of the Christian education curriculum. I answer by saying that aesthetics is one of five fundamental values in Christian education because it concerns itself with humanity’s relationship to the environment. It asks the question, “What is of value?” and therefore ties directly to the issue and principles of stewardship.

Although typically framed as a philosophical question, I assert that aesthetics should start as a theological question. Why? (1) There is a God. (2) God reveals Himself through creation (in part). (3) We should study creation to understand God, ourselves, and the relationships between them. (4) In studying those relationships, we need to appreciate the beauty of creation in order to see the beauty of God and to appreciate His workmanship. (5) Artists, therefore, are theologians who study, see, and communicate the beauty of God, creation, and humanity as it is reflected in the created order and imagination.

This bears repeating: artists are theologians.

The artist in Christian education therefore needs the (1) theology to understand what (s)he sees, (2) the training to express that theology in various forms and (3) the requisite knowledge to express that understanding in a manner that others can understand it. Yes, this assumes that the artist creates in such a way that others can understand. I know that some disagree with that notion, but I believe that the Christian should speak in a manner so that those with ears can hear.

Give the artists the training to speak, the knowledge to speak, and the will to speak. Then let them speak.

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Filed under Aesthetics, Christian Education

Good books on art

Ever wanted to develop a theology of art? Begin by reading these authors. This should be standard reading for a Christian Education curriculum focused on art and/or aesthetics.

  Begbie,JeremyResounding Truth: Christian Wisdom in the World of Music.Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007.

2.     Begbie, Jeremy, ed. Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000.
(I’d also suggest the third section of his book Voicing Creation’s Praise: Towards a Theology of the Arts.)

3.     Brand, Hilary and Adrienne Chaplin.  Art & Soul: Signposts for Christians in the Arts.  Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 1999.

4.     Brown, Frank Burch.  Good Taste, Bad Taste, and Christian Taste.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

5.     Brown, Frank Burch. Inclusive, Yet Discerning: Navigating Worship Artfully. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

6.     Buechner, Frederick. Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy and Fairy Tale. New York: HarperOne, 1977.

7.     Bustard, Ned, ed. It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. Baltimore, MD: Square Halo Books, 2006.

8.     Crouch, Andy. Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 2008.

9.     De Gruchy, John W. Christianity, Art, and Transformation: Theological Aesthetics in the Struggle for Justice.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

10.  Dyrness, William A. Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.

11.  Guite, Malcolm. Faith, Hope and Poetry: Theology and the Poetic Imagination. Farnham: Ashgate, 2010.

12.  Guthrie, Steven R. Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2011.

13.  Jensen, Robin. The Substance of Things Seen: Art, Faith, and the Christian Community. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

14.  Johnson, Robert K. Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2007).

15.  L’Engle, Madeleine. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art (New York: Shaw Books, 2001).

16.  Maritain, Jacques. Art and Scholasticism. London: Sheed and Ward, 1933.

17.  Matthewes-Green, Frederica. The Open Door: Entering the Sanctuary of Icons and Prayer. Brewster, MA: Paraclete Press, 2008.

18.  Noland, Rory. The Heart of the Artist. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

19.  O’Connor, Flannery. Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1961.

20.  Peterson, Eugene. Subversive Spirituality. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.

21.  Potok, Chaim. My Name is Asher Lev. New York: Anchor, 2003.

22.  Rookmaaker,HansModern Art & the Death of Culture.  Leicester: IVP, 1970; reissued Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1994.

23.  Ryken, Leland, ed. The Christian Imagination: The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing. Colorado Springs, CO: Waterbrook Pres, 2002.

24.  Sayers,Dorothy L.  The Mind of the Maker.  San Francisco: Harper, 1987.

25.  Schaeffer, Francis. Art and the Bible. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP, 2006.

26.  Seerveld, Calvin.  Rainbows for a Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task.  Toronto: Tuppence Press, 1980.

27.  Seerveld, Calvin. Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art.  Toronto: Tuppence Press, 2000.

28.  Taylor, W. David O., ed. For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2010.

29.  Thiessen, Gesa Elsbeth. Theological Aesthetics: A Reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004.

30.  Treier, Daniel J. and Mark Husbands and Roger Lundin, eds. The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts. Downers Grove, Il.: IVP, 2007.

31.  Turner, Steve. Imagine: A Vision for Christians and the Arts, IVP, 2001

32.  Viladesau, Richard.  Theological Aesthetics: God in Imagination, Beauty, and Art.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

33.  Von Balthasar, Hans Urs. The Glory of the Lord: Seeing the Form, “Introduction.” San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982.

34.  Williams, Rowan. Grace and Necessity: Reflections on Art and Love. London: Continuum, 2005.

35.  Wolterstorff, Nicholas. Art in Action. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980

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August 7, 2012 · 11:28 am