Reading Art and the Bible – Pt. 4 “Critiquing Art and Worldviews Separately”


1.  Schaefer lays out detailed way to critique art not just for the christian but for everyone. Separating technical achievement and worldview messages is the main distinction here.

We are not being true to the artist as a man if we consider his art work junk simply because we differ with his outlook on life.

Again, something I’ve always tried to explain, and here, it’s validated.  The form and worldview of an art piece should be critiqued and evaluated separately.  Don’t dismiss it because you don’t agree. You might be missing excellence at work. In art school, we were never allowed to say wether or not a piece was good or bad, but rather we were encouraged to say wether or not the piece “works.” I think that type of critique is what Schaeffer gets at here.

2.  He also separates the worldview/form distinction by pointing out that art isn’t sacred.  This point serves the religious more than anyone, but he does a good job reminding the reader that one’s faith takes precedence over any art piece. So if a masterful artist creates a magnificent piece of work and it doesn’t line up with an audience’s worldview, that doesn’t validate or reject either of them.

As Christians, we must see that just because an artist-even a great artist-portrays a world view in writing or on canvas, it does not mean that we should automatically accept that world view. Art may heighten the impact of the world view, in fact we can count on this, but it does not make something true. The truth of a world view presented by an artist must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness.

The truth of a worldview must be judged on separate grounds than artistic greatness. I’m stealing that.

3.  After reading a hundred or so pages of this book, I can tell that Schaeffer has an aversion towards the “art-for-art’s-sake” approach to creativity.  And “aversion” might be a strong word for his feelings, because I see him constantly correcting this artistic outlook. His point is more, “Whether you like it or not, what you truly believe shines through the work. Art can’t simply end for the purpose of being.”

Some artists may not know that they are consciously showing forth a world view. Nonetheless, a world view usually does show through. Even those works which were constructed under the principle of art for art’s sake often imply a world view. Even the world view that there is no meaning is a message.

So, even though the intent of no meaning may be present, it still holds a worldview that displays itself in the work. I agree in principle, but the specifics of this still cause me to say “But…but…” Like, what kind of worldview shines through this piece?

“The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living” by Damien Hirst (1992)

I don’t have an answer. I would agree that a worldview exists, I just can’t see it. (I’m not too familiar with Damien Hirst, but I’m betting one can use the context of his body of work to find out what he centers himself around. We talked about this principle early on in this series! How exciting!)

4.  The greater the artistic excellence, the more impact the message possesses, the more seriously the piece deserves critique. Schaeffer makes the point that often, critique seems to lessen the more excellent the piece. And by critique he means mostly about the worldview of the artist.

We should realize that if something untrue or immoral is stated in great art it can be far more destructive and devastating than if it is expressed in poor art or prosaic statement. Much of the crude art, the common product of hippie communities and the underground press, is laden with destructive messages, but the art is so poor that it does not have much force. But the greater the artistic expression, the more important it is to consciously bring it and its world view under the judgment of Christ and the Bible. The common reaction among many, however, is just the opposite. Ordinarily, many seem to feel that the greater the art, the less we ought to be critical of its world view. This we must reverse.

Lol, hippie hate.

He goes on a long rant about Zen, how the worldview is about becoming nothing, and nothingness is an end goal, how this message had been said in many crude underground settings, (“We believe in nothing, Lebowski!”) and how due to an excellence in hightening the message through artistic beauty, the worldview has had a bigger impact and has had less critique. Interesting thoughts and I can see what he’s getting at. I would say that this is more a testament to the power of art.  It brought validity to the worldview because of the beauty that it showcased.  Good point to say that excellence should always be critiqued, no matter the beauty. 


2 thoughts on “Reading Art and the Bible – Pt. 4 “Critiquing Art and Worldviews Separately”

  1. Great post! I would generally agree that art for art’s sake isn’t possible, especially taking in an artist’s full body of work as you mentioned. I think the worldview of the piece you posted is suggested in its title.

    Also, I think its great to realize that accurate worldview and great art are separate things, and art is a great way to gain another’s perspective that otherwise you may never consider. That’s one thing I love about art – seeing the world thru someone else’s eyes.

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