Book Review: “Art and the Bible” by Francis Schaeffer (1973)

“The Christian is the really free man—he is free to have imagination…The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” (91)

In this short collection of two classic essays, Francis Schaeffer shares both the biblical precedent for the Christian’s freedom to create and enjoy art and a series of guidelines for how a Christian should go about creating this art. Not limiting himself to just one art form, Schaeffer expounds upon the principles which should guide the painter and novelist, as we as the musician and the preacher, as they seek to communicate through their art their own biblical worldview. As Michael Card points out in his “Introduction” to this IVP Classic: Schaefer shares “the idea that we create out of a worldview and that it is our responsibility to align that point of view with Scripture before we continue on.” (9)

Schaeffer’s reasoning for providing the Christian community with these thoughts comes from his recognition of this reality: “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.” (14) While evangelization is a high calling for every believer, the worship of God is the highest. One form of this worship is to concern ourselves with His creation, the physical as much as the spiritual, including the physical needs of the people around us and the creative outgrowth of our God-given imaginations as displayed in the arts. Such a dual concern can guide into an understanding that covers both the spiritual and the physical, an understanding that is essential, since “Christianity is not just ‘dogmatically’ true or ‘doctrinally’ true. Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole are of the whole man in all of life.” (16)

What I gained most from these essays was the perspective I need as an Christian artist seeking to glorify God through my medium, while at the same time desiring to generate creative works that can both challenge and entertain. Collected advice such as the following, for example, inspires me simply to sit down and create:

  • “To worship art is wrong, but to make art is not.” (20)
  • “The artist makes a body of work and this body of work shows his worldview…I emphasize the body of an artist’s work because it is impossible for any single painting, for example, to reflect the totality of an artist’s view of reality. But when we see a collection of an artist’s paintings or a series of a poet’s poems or a number of a novelist’s novels, both the outline and some of the details of the artist’s conception of life shine through.” (56) “If a man is to be an artist, his goal should be in a lifetime to produce a wide and deep body of work.” (93)
  • “If you are a young Christian artist, you should be working in the art forms of the [twenty-first] century, showing the marks of the culture out of which you have come, reflecting your own country and your own contemporariness and embodying something of the nature of the world as seen from a Christian standpoint.” (76)
  • “The Christian is the really free man—he is free to have imagination. This too is our heritage. The Christian is the one whose imagination should fly beyond the stars.” (91)

Whether or not I will ever have a “body of work” that clearly evidences my world view or not is yet to be determined. Nevertheless, I will pursue this goal, for through it I can leave a message to the world that my God is supreme, He has gifted me with creative abilities to be used for His glory, and whether I can produce whole volumes of writing that evidences this fact or not, I will spend eternity creatively thanking Him for the salvation and hope that He’s given me. For that I’m grateful, both to God and to Francis Schaeffer who helped articulate this truth for us all.

©2015 E.T.

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