I am late to the Francis Schaeffer party. This book is more than 30 years old. And it is only the second book by Schaeffer I have read.
But I think it is as readable (and important) today as it was when it was written. I was talking with my wife a couple days before I started reading this about the differences that technology has made to the arts. We were talking about how tools made it so that anyone could edit movies or take pictures.
But we thought that the changes in technology made artistic skill more, not less important. Anyone can take a picture. But it takes a person with an artistic vision to be able to create that image in a way that evokes beauty. Most of us at least occasionally create beautiful art accidentally. We see that something we have created is beautiful. We take a picture and it happens to be beautiful. Instead, artists see a composition and then move to capture the composition. My suggestion is that the difference between artists and everyone else is that the artists see the work before it is made.
The cultural pressures on Christianity are different today than when Schaeffer was writing. There are not many Evangelicals that suggest that Christians should not engage in the arts. There are few Christians today that suggest that no Christian should listen to rock music or watch movies as when Schaeffer was writing.
But the problems with the Arts as a whole are still present. Instead of a rejection of the arts, Christians today often reduce the use of the arts by Christians to propaganda or evangelism. Evangelicals are used to using movies or radio or TV to evangelize. And Christians are supportive of (mostly political) efforts to use the arts to change ideas. In very different ways, political ads, Tom’s shoes and Compassion Bloggers all use the arts to convey their message.
Schaeffer takes a step back and looks at why the arts are important for Christians and then walks through how Christians should use them.
“The Bible, however, makes four things very clear: (1) God made the whole man, (2) in Christ the whole man is redeemed, (3) Christ is the Lord of the whole man now and the Lord of the whole Christian life, and (4) in the future as Christ comes back, the body will be raised from the dead and the whole man will have a whole redemption.”
It is interesting that a figure that might be best known for the defense of creation and his pro-life stance would be also be so clearly stressing the importance of Christians working in the fields of art and science.
“There is much, of course, in Francis Bacon with which I would disagree, but one of the statements which I love to quote is this: “Man by the Fall fell at the same time from his state of innocence and from his dominion over nature. Both of these losses, however, can even in this life be in some part repaired; the former by religion and faith, the latter by the arts and sciences.” How I wish that evangelical Christians in the United States and Britain and across the world had had this vision for the last fifty years!”
I am increasingly convinced that many of the problems of Christianity’s submission to the modernist worldview is because we misunderstood our relationship to the arts. Arms of Protestants in the reformation rejected the arts because they were viewed as Catholic. That rejection helped to move Christianity to a status of understanding faith as purely rational. And a rational faith does not understand the need for arts to communicate truth.
Schaeffer shows here that arts are part of the role of the Christian. Christians need the arts in a similar way to Christians needing teachers, pastors, servants and other members of the body.
I like the way he ends the books, by exploring our lives as an artistic expression.
“No work of art is more important than the Christian’s own life, and every Christian is cared upon to be an artist in this sense. He may have no gift of writing, no gift of composing or singing, but each man has the gift of creativity in terms of the way he lives his life. In this sense, the Christian’s life is to be an art work. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.”
This is a quick book, just under 100 pages. And it was on sale for $1.99 on kindle when I bought it. It is a book well worth picking up.