Saturday, November 03, 2007

Fallacy # 4: The Usefulness of Art Depends on Its Philosophic Viewpoint

I have been discussing, for sometime now...(I know, perhaps too long), that the imagination, and art, convey truths. And that this has great benefit for us. But what are we to do when we run into a piece of imaginative art where the truth is not told? What do we do with the musical compositions of John Cage, whose nihilistic philosophy shaped his approach to composing? The answer for those who hold to this particular fallacy is that we throw it out! There is no value, they say, in works that do not tell the truth. The value is wholly dependent upon the artwork's worldview.

At one level we can appreciate this group's adherence to objective truth, and applaud them for not simply lumping all art together as present viable options for truth. On the other hand, their view is extremely narrow and misses a key feature of all artwork. As Leland Ryken writes, "Works of art clarify the human situation to which the Christian faith speaks, even if their interpretation of reality is wrong."

Art, whether it is visual art, music, or literature, tells us something about the people who create and enjoy it. A painting paints for us a picture of the thoughts and feelings, and values of the culture. If Christians wish to have relevant ministry to their neighbors they can learn something from their art. Picasso's painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon reveals a man who had shifted his thought from humans born in a state of innocence to the loss of humanity (observe the picture moving from left to right). Of course Christians deny this to be true...the fall did misshape humans, but we still bear the evidences of being made in the image of God. But this does tell us something about the deeply depressed soul of a man.

Art's value far exceeds its philosophic viewpoint (not that it should be ignored or downplayed. Art tells us about the world, art furthers thoughts about specific worldview points, and art, even with its sometimes fallacious views, can be of good to Christians for evangelism, apologetics, and general life in this sinful world.

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Blogger noneuclidean said...

In addition to giving believers a profound insight into the human condition, I think secular art can aid us in reaching out to unbelievers as it always demonstrates the contradiction inherent in a secular worldview: they act and create and rejoice as if life is meaningful, yet lack the philosophical basis for such meaning.

I think it's profitable to think in terms of how secular art displays a tension between the Truth which is apparent to all people and their desire to distort or abuse that Truth (I guess it's the presuppositionalist in me).

I don't believe that any work of art can be completely devoid of Truth, no matter how hard the artist tries. And often there is great benefit in showing the artist or their audience the tension they have between the Truth and the untruth they claim.

For example, existentialist literature often struggles with how to explain the meaningfulness of life if we live in a purely materialist world. That's a tremendous tension. Romantic art is based on the presupposition that romantic relationships between human beings are inherently meaningful, and yet they tend to undermine that meaning with sin.

Anyway, great stuff. Keep it coming. I'm looking forward to downloading the latest podcast and hearing you guys's take on the whole Harry Potter fiasco.

8:09 PM  

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