Francis Schaeffer on Art
This is my interactions with Francis Schaeffer’s Art in the Bible.
As evangelical Christians, we have tended to relegate art to the very fringe of life. The rest of human life is more important. Despite our constant talk about the Lordship of Christ, we have narrowed its scope to a very small area of reality. We have misunderstood the concept of the Lordship of Christ over the whole of man and the whole of the universe and have not taken to us the riches that the Bible gives us for ourselves, for our lives, and for our culture. (p. 375)
Not only have we relegated art to the fringe of life, we’ve relegated artists to the fringe of church life. Most evangelical have no idea what do with artists. They see ones Spiritual life and art-life as unrelated or as totally separate things. I suspect that if you ask an artist if their art has a spiritual element, most of them would agree.
Schaeffer identifies the problem as a narrowing of the scope of the Lordship of Christ. This narrowing has been to exclusion of anything outside of formal “religious” practice.
The Lordship of Christ over the whole of life means that there are no Platonic areas in Christianity, no dichotomy or hierarchy between the body and soul. God made the body as well as the soul, and redemption is for the whole man. Evangelicals have been legitimately criticized for often being so tremendously interested in seeing souls get saved and go to Heaven that they have not cared much about the whole man.
The Bible, however, makes four things very clear: (1) God made the whole man; (2) in Christ the whole man is redeemed; (3) Christ the Lord of the whole man now and the Lord of the whole Christian life; and (4) in the future as Christ comes back, the body will be raised from the dead and the whole man will have a whole redemption. Therefore, let us consider more fully what it means now to be a whole man whose life is under the Lordship of Christ. It is within this framework that we are to understand the place of art in the Christian life. (p.375-376).
This conversation doesn’t only apply to art but all areas of life. The Lordship of Jesus is over the whole of the person and the whole of the persons life. Art, social activism, and vocational calling has generally been labeled as “liberal” endeavors. This label has wrongly been applied because these things are not directly related to “evangelism” or “church life/activity.” However, Schaeffer says that these areas of life, under the Lordship of Christ, is in fact at the core of what true “conservative”/”orthodox” evangelical ought to be about.
But there is another side to the Lordship of Christ, and this involves the total culture – including the area of creativity. Again evangelicals or biblical Christianity has been weak at this point. About all that we have produced is a very romantic Sunday School art. We do not seem to understand that art too are supposed to be under the Lordship of Christ… The arts and science do have a place in the Christian life – they are not peripheral. For a Christian, redeemed by the work of Christ and living within the norms of Scripture and under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Lordship of Christ should include an interest in art. A Christian should use these arts to the glory of God – not just as tracts, but as things of beauty to the praise of God. An art work can be doxology in itself. (p. 377)
The thought that everything a Christian does ought to be connect with evangelism stem from the 2nd Great Awakening. During this time in history, leader like Charles Finney, emphasized evangelism. Although evangelism was important, it was eventually elevated to the MAIN thing of the Christian life. Instead of being holistic, Christianity began to separate secular and sacred. It began seeing certain activities, especially those that relate to evangelism, as sacred and other activities as “normal” or secular activities.
Today many evangelicals have difficulty shifting the paradigm away from the church being about evangelism to being about the total Lordship of Christ. Yes, under His Lordship we preach the Gospel. But this is not the only thing nor is it the main thing that Christians are about. It is a PART of the Christian life, just as art, work, studying is. EVERYTHING under the Lordship of Christ and to the Glory of God.
*Schaeffer, Francis “The Complete Works of Francis Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview. Volume 2″ Westchester, Ill: Crossway Books, 1982.