Monday, May 15, 2006

The Arts: not an optional extra

The arts are useful – even essential and unavoidable. Culture, which is promoted by the Arts, is what creates a civilisation. Art, culture and civilisation are symbiotic. It is not possible to sort out education, housing, unemployment, health care and so on and then bother about the icing-on-the-cake arts. Culture and civilisation depend on and grow out of the arts, which are all essentially religious in their ideology.

Creativity is integral to human beings as creature in the image of God. They are to rule and glorify creation, making is better and more productive, beautifying it.

God's project is to build a City, a great new glorious city, The City of God, a civilisation. The new creation will be outstandingly beautiful so to love good art is to cultivate appreciation for what God is going to do.

These thoughts were stimulated by (which means stolen from, misunderstood and twisted) Linda Elliot (in her excellent seminar for Evangelical Public Theology on The Arts). She did her dissertation on Jonathan Edwards’ aesthetic and how we should ethically evaluate an image. If you can, you should talk to Lynda: she knows her onions and says interesting, surprising things. And I understand a gallery tour with art talk explanations might not be out of the question.

Lynda argued (with Edwards, I think) that harmony (the supreme of all, everything in ideal agreement and relation, total communication, no barriers and rightness) and consent (a recognition of and love for harmony) are the underlying principles of beauty, which are perfectly exemplified in the perichorisis of the Trinity.

Because of the appeal to the full orbed Christian doctrine of the Trinity, this isn’t just some Natural Law One God of the philosophers stuff.

Even unbelieving art can participate in consent and harmony and thus bring glory to God, though the artist does not intend to do so.

Augustine might also be a model for us in this all.

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