Friday, February 27, 2015

Art for God's Sake by Philip Ryken

I am very concerned with our present culture's definitions of beauty since "repulsive" is fast becoming the new normal. When I see people disfiguring their bodies in the name of youth and beauty, it hurts my heart and makes me think this must be part of a diabolical plan to thumb our noses at true loveliness, which points to the presence and goodness of God.

Philip Ryken addresses some of these issues in his booklet, Art for God's Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts. It's a manifesto for artists of all types to do what they do for the glory of God, basically debunking the addage that art needs no reason for being, i.e, It's just "Art for art's sake." Not only is the book meant to encourage artists in their calling, it is also meant to give nonartists a short introduction to thinking Christianly about the arts.

Some reviewers at Goodreads said it was too simplistic, but for someone like me (with no art background), the simplicity was a huge plus. I underlined something on almost every page, but will try to include just a few of the most salient quotes:

As Christians we should aspire to high aesthetic standards. All too often we settle for something that is functional, but not beautiful. . . . . Sometimes we produce what can be described only as kitsch-tacky artwork of poor quality that appeals to low tastes. The average Christian bookstore is full of the stuff...

When we settle for trivial expressions of the truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished, as we suffer a loss of transcendence...

The problem with some modern and postmodern art is that it seeks to offer truth at the expense of beauty. It tells the truth only about ugliness and alienation, leaving out the beauty of creation and redemption. A good deal of so-called Christian art tends to have the opposite problem. It tries to show beauty without admitting the truth about sin, and to that extent it is false - dishonest about the tragic implications of our depravity. Think of all the bright, sentimental landscapes that portray an ideal world unaffected by the Fall, or the light, cheery melodies that characterize the Christian life as one of undiminished happiness. Such a world may be nice to imagine, but it is not the world God sent his Son to save.

That last quote that was worth the price of the book!

(Footnote: When I bought this book I thought the author was Leland Ryken, an English professor who has written many books about literature from a Christian perspective. It turns out Philip is his son and is an author, pastor and president of Wheaton College.)


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I have a very minor obsession with art, especially the making of it for therapeutic and at times spiritual reasons. I think I'd enjoy this book! Thanks for the review!

Barbara H. said...

This sounds like a book I would love to read. I love the quotes you shared, especially the last one.

Mary Hill said...

Thanks for sharing this book about Christian perspective on the art. I love this quote: When we settle for trivial expressions of the truth in worship and art, we ourselves are diminished, as we suffer a loss of transcendence.. I hope you will stop by Literacy Musing Mondays regularly. ;)