FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 247 A Review by A. Zahn of Art and the Bible by Francis Schaeffer (Featured artist is Yun-Fei Ji )


The Story of Francis and Edith Schaeffer and Swiss L’Abri

Francis Schaeffer: Art and the Bible


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Book Summary of Art in the Bible by Francis Schaeffer


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Francis Schaeffer – How Should We Then Live – 03.The Renaissance


HowShouldweThenLive Episode 6



In Francis A. Schaeffer’s small book Art and the Bible, he explores several aspects of art in the context of what the Bible has to say about the creative process used to produce works of art, the philosophy a Christian should take when analyzing art, and the art itself. It should be noted that the term “art,” from henceforth will be understood to mean all branches of art including performance arts, visual arts, and musical arts unless otherwise specified. In his discussion of art, Schaeffer divides his booklet into two distinct sections.The first section, titled “Art and the Bible,” discusses the importance of art as directly related to the Word of God and the importance of art to the Creator Himself. This expository section contains several Old Testament references to the importance the Lord placed on art. One such example concerning sculpture is found in Exodus 20:4-5 where God states that “thou shalt not make unto thee a graven image.” This command must also be seen in the context of the Leviticus 26:1 passage which makes it clear that God does not condemn the making of a “likeness” of something, but rather the worshipping of that likeness. Yet another example found in the Old Testament of art is found in Exodus 25:9-40 where the Lord gives Moses specific instructions on how to build the tabernacle, and as Schaeffer puts it: “what is being commanded? Simply this: A work of art is to be constructed . . . A statuary of representation of angels was to be placed in the Holy of Holies.” Similar Scripture passages which give extremely specific detail to various creations are littered throughout Schaeffer’s book. Schaeffer then continues to delve into the importance of secular art, poetry (citing many examples from the poetic books of the Bible), music, drama, and dance.

Eleven Perspectives for Art Evaluation
In the second section, titled “Some Perspectives on Art,” Schaeffer offers his readers what he terms “eleven distinct perspectives from which a Christian can consider and evaluate works of art.”The first of these perspectives is that art has value in itself. When this principal is adopted, art is no longer viewed with the utilitarian mindset-such as: that picture would look nice in the living room over the mantle because the colors go well with the couch. Conversely, the viewer looks at the art to appreciate it, not to see how it can be of benefit to him. Schaeffer makes the point that the artwork of the tabernacle was for the sake of beauty-God wanted it to look beautiful and to be enjoyed by its viewers.

The second perspective is that all art reflects a world view, and this always shows through regardless of whether the view is Biblically accurate or not. The third proposition Schaeffer offers is that in literature there must be a “continuity . . . with normal definitions of words in normal syntax.” He proves his point by stating that poorly written literature which expresses an unbiblical world view is not nearly as harmful as well written poetry or prose which expresses the same unbiblical world view (such as the Zen following). The forth perspective is that just because a world view is expressed expertly by an artist that world view need not be immediately accepted. Schaeffer says that “the fact that something is a work of art does not make it sacred.”

The fifth, and perhaps most practical, perspective offers the reader four standards of judgment which Christians should apply in evaluation of art. They are: 1) Technical excellence, 2) Validity, 3) Intellectual content/world view, 4) The integration of content and vehicle. Should I choose to delve into any of these four excellent suggestions now, I would no doubt write a book, but the basic premise is that one can appreciate a work of art for a variety of reasons, and Christians should not make broad brush-stroke statements when evaluating works of art. There are several criterion for art evaluation and one should not view a work as invalid simply because there is a different view of life represented.

The sixth perspective is that art is not limited in the message it is able to deliver: fantasy and non-fiction alike are all game for artistic representation. The seventh and eighth perspectives discuss the controversial topic of style. The ninth perspective as well as the tenth perspective apply to all Christians but are geared toward the Christian artist himself. These two perspectives delve into subject matter and focal point of the particular work of art. The final perspective, number eleven, desires that the art evaluator realize that a single work of art is not sufficient to determine the artists world view and statement to his viewers. Schaffer makes the parallel that “no single sermon can say everything that needs to be said. And no one can judge a minister’s total theology or the content of his faith on the basis of a single sermon.”


As I would not hesitate to consider myself an artist of sorts as well as an appreciator of all forms of art, I found Schaeffer’s booklet refreshingly interesting. I found several parallels to Franky Schaeffer’s (Francis Schaeffer’s son) book Addicted to Mediocrity, which is also an excellent thought-provoking book about art in the 20th century. Granted, there were a few statements Schaeffer said that caused me to raise an eyebrow in mild consternation, but then again, I have yet to read a philosophy book I have agreed with entirely. As I read Art and the Bible, the thought kept blazing through my mind that most Christians are missing almost everything that God has given them to enjoy. Followers of Jesus Christ have been conditioned to accept a minimum standard. Why has much of “Christian art” been reduced to plastic praying hands, traditional Bible story paintings, and bumper stickers with catchy Christian sayings? Must a Christian artist be reduced to producing merely “Christian” art or is he commissioned by God to express his Biblical world view by creating truthful “secular” art. Perhaps too many Christians have forgotten that although Heaven is their eternal home, they currently live on earth and are in daily contact with those who see the things of God as “foolishness” until they are converted (I Corinthians 2:14). Thanks to Schaeffer’s booklet, I now am more fervently interested in seeing beyond the paint, hearing beyond the notes, and imagining beyond the written word. It should also be understood that I am in no way condemning current church songs, bumper stickers, and Bible paintings-these things are fine and perhaps even needed for nearly every aspect of our culture has actively pursued a minimum standard.

Painters, actors, singers, authors, and composers are those that I would classify as “my people.” Others would say “their people” are the church people, the young, the elderly, the athletic, the entrepreneurs, or the inner city. Should I choose to neglect the people God has given me the ability to reach because of the intricately extraordinary manner He has fashioned me, I would be doing just as great a disservice to the cause of Christ as a someone who refused to preach the Word of God when he knew the Lord made him to be a preacher Schaeffer states that “the arts-the vehicle of human expression-are the root of all ideas, and ideas are the foundations on which history is built (emphasis mine,).” If this bold statement by Christian film maker and artist Franky Schaeffer is true, Christians must relinquish their fear of the arts, see what the artist is telling them, and act on that information with passion, excellence, and truth.


Featured artist is Yun-Fei Ji

Yun-Fei Ji

Yun-Fei Ji was born in 1963 in Beijing, China, and now lives and works in New York, Ohio, and Beijing. Using traditional Chinese painting techniques and addressing contemporary social, environmental, and political issues, Ji’s work marries history with the present.

Having studied Song-dynasty painting practices, the artist moved to Arkansas in 1986, where he continued to paint in watercolor and ink, using his scroll-style works to depict narratives about industrialization and its attendant environmental destruction. Often described as disturbing and fantastical, Ji’s work is inspired by the ghost stories his grandfather told him as a child, growing up on a collective farm. For the artist, however, ghosts function as a metaphor and means of satirizing human problems.

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