Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Christendom and the Arts

Christendom is not simply a collection Christians living together in society. Rather, Christendom is the institutions, literature, manners, works of arts, values – in short, the entire fabric of the culture emanating out of Christian civilization.
 
As Christian belief has worked its way through Western culture, conquering the forces of barbarism and paganism, one very noticeable consequence has been in the type of art that Christendom has produced. The rise of oil painting, the Sonata, the sonnet, the symphony, the opera and dozens of other creative enterprises have all been products of Christian culture.
 
This is no coincidence, for many of the aesthetic norms and genres associated with Western art came as a direct result of the Christian worldview being deeply saturated in the fabric of our cultural ethos.
 
Although the doctrine of the image of God as well as the doctrine of God’s common grace mean that unbelievers are capable of producing artifacts which truly reflect Divine beauty, over long periods of time non-Christian cultures generally tend towards ugliness. They tend towards the ugliness that comes as a corollary of the relativism necessitated by the rejection of any final standard of truth.
 
Unfortunately many Christians today have been influenced by the pagan notion that aesthetic categories are subjective. Hence, a generation of young people are growing up who are unequipped to defend the great works of Western art as having any objective primacy over and against the ugliness of contemporary paganism. While rejecting relativism in ethics (“there are no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong”) and relativism in truth (“you have your truth and I have my truth”), many Christians have unwittingly embraced aesthetic relativism, unthinkingly repeating maxims like, “what is beautiful to you may not be beautiful to me,” and “beauty exists in the eye of the beholder.”
 
The following resources aim to debunk this relativistic myth by establishing, first, that beauty is an objective quality and, second, that when it comes to matters of aesthetics, a the worldview of a culture has a direct bearing on artistic production and notions of beauty.

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