This short book contains as concise and well-reasoned a defense of art from a Christian perspective as you're likely to find. Ryken posits the primary function of art as the illumination and exploration of truth, beauty and God's character, and presents these marks as the litmus any work of art must pass to be considered good or valuable. The postmodern "anything goes" attitude toward art not only allows obscenity and bad art to be approved and even welcomed, it removes any standard of evaluation. If Christians are to appreciate and make art, Ryken urges, it is necessary to uphold an objective standard and to reflect it in each act of creation—from painting to writing to sculpting to making music.
Rejecting the concept of "art for art's sake,"he argues for Art for God's Sake, art that seeks to serve and glorify God. Art that fails in this is not only bad art, it is pernicious and should be avoided. Following Gene Veith, Ryken upholds as an example of the Christian artistic model the work of Bezalel and Oholiab on the Tabernacle. While they were given guidelines within which to work, these men who had been specifically blessed with the requisite skill and talent constructed one of the world's most opulent and aesthetically pleasing worship centers as a work of creativity and worship.
Ryken stresses that there is no blanket approval for the arts—art that controverts or denies God's beauty and glory is not fit for Christian contemplation or appreciation, at least not in the same way good or beneficial art is considered. But this isn't simply a critique or analysis of what art is; it is also a call to Christian artists to stay true to their calling, despite the resistance often encountered in the Church. Art is God-sanctioned, and while everyone is not an artist, artists (like everyone else) are free to pursue their calling within the bounds of Christian ethics and a biblical worldview. Encouraging and highly readable, Art for God's Sake is good for artists and non-artists alike for perspective and focus.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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