07 June 2011

Man the easels!

"Beauty is a salve for a wounded culture"
"we cannot dine on the dust of the past"
"Art must come to grips with the tragedy of life in a fallen world"
" 'All truth is God's truth,' says Augustine, and the same goes for beauty"
"go knee-deep into the messiness of God's world and make beauty of it"

"we seem to be in the midst of a renaissance of Christian humanism"
writes Brian Dijkema in his review of two new (well, one new and one new-ish) books on faith and culture:

1. Beauty Will Save the World: Recovering the Human in an Ideological Age, by Gregory Wolfe (a recent "Where Are We Now?" interviewee)

2. Making the Best Of It: Following Christ in the Real World, by John G. Stackhouse.

As Brian explains, Stackhouse's book is basically a new look at Reinhold Niebuhr's classic Christ and Culture, whose categories can still, with some modifications in their application, help structure and guide Christians' thoughts about engaging with the larger world of art and all those human products collectively known as "culture."

In his comparison of the two writers, Brian also asks a question relevant to my recent article about church patronage of the arts, in which I advise arts not to compromise theological truth for originality. Brian writes that Wolfe implicitly raises: "the question of whether or not it is easier for [Roman] Catholics—for whom theological orthodoxy is given from on high and communally—to exercise the freedom necessary to grapple with the messiness of human life, than for the Protestant who must work with art individually while also being concerned with doctrinal rightness is something worthy of further exploration. Perhaps it is not just a latent sense of Puritan pragmatism or iconoclasm which plagues Protestant artists—perhaps ecclesiology also matters?"

As a side note, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, whom Brian discusses, is also President of the Charles Williams society--so there's another interesting connection to my perennial interests.

I've put all three books in my shopping cart and plan to purchase, read, and review them as soon as I can scramble up the $$ and time from other projects. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, if you read them yourself, I'd love to know your thoughts.


Rosie Perera said...

You said "all three books" after mentioning Wolfe and Stackhouse. What's the third?

I ordered Beauty Will Save the World the other day. Might have to wait a while for it to arrive because Canada Post is on strike.

Iambic Admonit said...

Niebuhr's "Christ & Culture."

My "Beauty Will Save the World" arrived yesterday!