ART & THE BIBLE
Christians ought not to be threatened by fantasy and imagination. Great painting is not “photographic”: think of the Old Testament art commanded by God. There were blue pomegranates on the robes of the priest who went into the Holy of Holies. In nature there are no blue pomegranates. Christian artists do not need to be threatened by fantasy and imagination, for they have a basis for knowing the difference between them and the real world “out there.” The Christian is the really free person–he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.
Francis Schaeffer was born on this day, January 30th in 1912. A gifted philosopher, he had a profound impact on Christian apologetics. My first acquaintance with him came during the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.
Francis Schaeffer wrote Art & the Bible in 1973 at the heart of that age. As a poet and musician, I found in it a unifying force that brought together every aspect of my life. In it he says
Trumpets, cymbals, psalteries, harps, all the various instruments of David-music upon music, art upon art-all pouring forth, all pointing up the possibility of creativity in praise of God, all carried to a high order of art at God’s command. And when you begin to understand this sort of thing, suddenly you can begin to breathe, and all the terrible pressure that has been put on us by making art something less than spiritual suddenly begins to disappear. And with this truth comes beauty and with this beauty a freedom before God.
Little did I know how much he would later influence my thinking with his clear eyed apologetics and social call to action with other books including What Ever Happened To The Human Race? Art is beautiful, but only to the extent that it inspires a love for God and one’s fellow man. If the Apostle John caused me to major in Theology, Francis Schaeffer made me add my second major in Sociology.
Make the robe of the ephod entirely of blue cloth, with an opening for the head in its center. There shall be a woven edge like a collar around this opening, so that it will not tear. Make pomegranates of blue, purple and scarlet yarn around the hem of the robe, with gold bells between them. The gold bells and the pomegranates are to alternate around the hem of the robe. Aaron must wear it when he ministers.
Art: Felice Casorati, Dreaming of Pomegranates (1912)
Literature & Liturgy – Francis Schaeffer and The Jesus Movement
It was called the “Jesus Movement,” and unless you were caught up in the midst of it, you might have difficulty appreciating what a liberating word, what a breath of fresh air Art and the Bible was. A lot of people talked, wrote and even fought over the Jesus Movement, but Francis Schaeffer did a good deal of thinking for us, and more importantly, he taught us how to think.
Almost as soon as the movement began it was plagued with confusion. While some of us were trying to embrace the gifts God was pouring out on the body, others were calling them a curse. They claimed that contemporary styles, even certain instruments (like the guitar) were not appropriate or acceptable in the church.
Into the midst of this confusion stepped a quirky, goateed man in lederhosen. He spoke words of faith and freedom. Into a world that had become suspicious of the beautiful Schaeffer reminded us that the Father of Jesus was also the God of beauty.
At a time when we needed concrete, biblical objectives, Schaeffer provided perspectives and structures (major and minor) while at the same time insisting again and again that it is our lives that are supposed to be the lived out works of art (poiema). We were free, he insisted, our imaginations were free. We were free to create, as long as we never forgot that we are slaves to Jesus.
Singer, songwriter and author of Scribbling in the Sand
Francis A. Schaeffer, Art and the Bible (Westmont, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2009).
Complete Works, 5 vols. (Westchester, IL, 21985);
Escape from Reason (London, 1968);
The God Who is There (London, 1968);
He is There and He is Not Silent (London, 1972);
How Should We Then Live? (London, 1980);
True Spirituality (London, 1972);
Whatever Happened to the Human Race? with C. E. Koop (London, 1983). L. T. Dennis (ed.),
Letters of Francis Schaeffer, vol. 1 (Eastbourne, 1986).
L. T. Dennis, Francis A. Schaeffer: Portraits of the Man and His Work (Westchester, IL, 1986);
R. W. Ruegsegger (ed.), Reflections on Francis Schaeffer (Grand Rapids, MI, 1986); E. Schaeffer, L’Abri (London, 1969).
Sinclair B. Ferguson and J.I. Packer, New Dictionary of Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 617.