As Christians, do we treat the world fairly? In Matthew 7:12, we are exhorted: ‘So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.’ We cry out at perceived (or real, even) injustices where bias is given to non-Christian worldviews, whether in schools, colleges, the workplace or government, but are we any more fair ourselves?
I’m busy reading Francis Schaeffer’s essays collected in Art and the Bible, and there are some eye-opening statements. Ones that, I believe, should make the entire Christian community sit up and rethink their position on several levels.
In Schaeffer’s second essay, ‘Some Perspectives on Art’, Schaeffer motivates that art should be judged by four standards, namely (1) technical excellence, (2) validity, (3) intellectual content (the worldview) and (4) the integration of the content and the vehicle. With regards to validity, he writes:
Validity is the second criterion. By validity I mean whether an artist is honest to himself and to his world view or whether he makes his art only for money or for the sake of being accepted. If an artist makes an art work solely for a patron–whether that patron is the ancient noble, or the modern art gallery to which the artist wants access, or the modern art critics of the moment–his work does not have validity. The modern forms of “the patron” are even more destructive than even that of the old noble.
To bring it down to earth, let’s see what happens in the art form of preaching. There is many a pastor who does not have validity. Some preach for material gain and others in order to be accepted by their congregation. It is so easy to play to the audience, to adjust what one says or the way one says it to produce the kind of effect which will be most beneficial to the preacher himself. And when one sees the issue in relationship to the gospel, the force of the dishonesty is especially obvious.
Even more damning, though, are Schaeffer’s observations with regards to styles of art form a little further on in the same essay.
Many Christians, especially those unused to viewing the arts and thinking about them, reject contemporary painting and contemporary poetry not because of their world view but simply because they feel threatened by a new art form. It is perfectly legitimate for a Christian to reject a particular work of art intellectually, that is, because he knows what is being said by it. But it is another thing to reject the work of art simply because the style is different from that which we are used to. In short: Styles of art form change and there is nothing wrong with this.
To whit: There are wide swathes of Christians around the world who will not touch a fiction book that a) is not written by a Christian author AND/OR b) does not carry an evangelistic message. It is that ‘or’ word that is so damaging. It marginalises a whole community of writers and authors who write speculative fiction. Schaeffer’s thesis is that a book does not need to be evangelistic in order to present a worldview; if the author (or artist, to widen the range of the statement) is a Christian and is true to their worldview in their art, then the worldview will shine through the artwork, no matter the wrapping. The corollary to that is that a non-Christian artist can work in a worldview that is compatible with Christianity, and can be accepted by the Christian as such. I guess the question that arises is: ‘How sure are we of the rock on which we stand?’
I would encourage every Christian to pick up any of Francis Schaeffer’s books, and let’s return to an intelligent Christian worldview!