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Art Archives ~ Aletheia Baptist Ministries Skip to main content

Philip Doddridge

Philip Doddridge

by Rick Shrader

“Unveil every dishonest art.  Disgrace, as well as defeat, the wretch that makes his distinguished abilities the disguise or protection of the wickedness which he ought rather to endeavor to expose, and to drive out of the world with abhorrence.”

Philip Doddridge, The Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul, p. 290.

 

Arts, Entertainment & Christian Values

Arts, Entertainment & Christian Values

by Rick Shrader

Jerry Solomon is the associate pastor at Dallas Bible Church.  This is an attempt to justify the use of any methodology in the church by calling anything anyone does “art.”  There is a large movement going on now to introduce even “secular” music, dance, drama, and other forms of human expression into the church.  The proposition is that God made the world and by His common grace even the sinfulness of humans does not necessarily affect what they produce.  In addition, this culture must be experienced, never shunned  if we are to be good stewards.

 

 

Technological Symbolism Over Substance

Technological Symbolism Over Substance

by Rick Shrader

Postmodernism’s pragmatic instrumental view of language is why image is everything in our culture.  Language is not neutral but a tool by which those in power or in control of the media can manipulate and construct reality.1

Timothy Phillips and Dennis Okholm

I believe it was Confucius who said, “When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.”  History is full of examples of tyrants and other manipulators who changed the course of nations by redefining words and concepts.  That’s why I was interested when I saw an article entitled, “Juliet and Shakespeare’s Other Nominalists.”2 Nominalism is a centuries old philosophy that says there are no universal truths outside one’s own perception of truth (just because I can think about you doesn’t prove you exist except in my mind).  The author of the article is pointing out that Shakespeare wrote in light of the ideas circulating in his time.  In that day, Juliet’s proposal that Romeo change his name (because, after all, “What’s in a name: That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”) was a way of proposing that nothing that existed outside the two of them really mattered.  There were those nominalists in Shakespeare’s day who first removed anything eternal from their existence, then anything outside their empirical world, then anything outside their own mind.  Reality was reduced to the “nominal.”

Young says, “Nominalist epistemology is a step in the direction of postmodern liberation from the constraints of political and religious hierarchies.”3 We have a generation of Romeo and Juliets today who care about nothing outside themselves.  We have spent thirty years educating them in this self-centered philosophy that nothing really matters but them.  Why should we be surprised when a skin-head shoots a black man “because he was in the wrong place”?  He doesn’t really exist anyway!

The Christian point of view is vividly seen in the Book of Hebrews. There we see the tabernacle of the Old Testament as an earthly representation of a heavenly tabernacle; the earthly priesthood as fulfilled in a heavenly priesthood.  That is, living by faith is living with a constant realization that the universal exists.  God’s sphere of existence is out there too.  In fact, we are instructed to look for that world at the expense of this world (and never vice versa).  Nominalism is at complete odds with the biblical view of life and faith.  Faith is the ability to see much more than inside one’s own world.

The writer of Hebrews addressed a unique problem.  Whereas the temple trappings and symbolisms were supposed to remind them of God, they were keeping them from seeing Him by faith.  It was easier and more enjoyable, not to mention more acceptable, to worship with the sights and sounds of the temple than in the plain, simple service of the Christians.  That is, the symbols and the sounds of the place can either serve as a reminder of the God we worship, or they can become the god we worship.  In the Jews’ case, the temple was their worship.  They had become nominalists in the sense that they reduced their worship down to the place and experience, but it was not connected to anything outside themselves.

There was a time in history when the Greek Orthodox Church stressed so much the beauty of the Byzantine architecture and church buildings, that their icons became idols.  “On the surface this conflict, which raged for over a century, was a disagreement over the use of icons.  But at a deeper level it was a disagreement over which things were sufficiently sacred or holy to deserve worship.”4 It was what I call “worshiping worship.”  Gene Veith calls it “a conceptual shift of focus away from the object of art to the person of the artist.”5

We see the potential for modern nominalism all around us today.  The elaborate structures have been replaced by electronic sights.  The stained-glass windows have been replaced by rear-screen projectors.  The moment these keep us from faith rather than helping our faith, they are icons that have become idols.  How else could I explain the phenomenal growth of the local Unity Church due to an aggressive use of electronic, high-tech methodology, even though their doctrine denies the existence of a personal God?  Their worship service is virtually the same as many evangelical churches but evidently that is all many people are seeking—the worship experience.  Francis Schaeffer described modern man this way:  “The tragedy is not only that these talented men have reached the point of despair, but that so many who look on and admire really do not understand.  They are influenced by the concepts, and yet they have never realized what it all means.”6

In reading a recent article about church technology,7 the author states, “As more churches attempt to reinvent themselves as relevant institutions in a society driven by images, speed and information, technology has become an increasingly important worship and marketing tool . . . . The trend is feuled by the convergence of paradigm shifts in both religious worship expression and technology.”  The article gives advice to corporations which can learn what works and what doesn’t in attracting people to their product.  Neil Postman is correct when he observes that this “Technopoly” only “blocks the way to such consideration by beginning with the question of how we should proceed rather than with the question of why.”8

The Brazen Serpent was first an implement, then an icon, then an idol.  The process caused a whole nation to miss their Messiah.  Praise God for its implementation when it was a tool that gave people faith but cursed it was, when it became an idol for worshiping worship, a technological symbol that had lost its substance.

Notes:
1. Timothy R. Phillips and Dennis Okholm, Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1995) 14.
2. R.V. Young, “Juliet and Shakespeare’s Other Nominnalists,” The Intercollegiate Review, Fall 1997.
3. Young, 21.
4. Bruce Shelley, Church History In Plain Language (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995) 147.
5. Gene Veith, Jr., State Of The Arts (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991) 93.
6. Francis Schaeffer, The God Who Is There (Downer’s Grove:  IPV, 1968) 33.
7. Dave Zielinski, “Churches Go Hi-Tech: Delivering Presentations from the Pulpit,” Presentations Magazine, December 1997.
8. Neil Postman, Technopoly: The Surrender of a Culture To Technology (New York: Vintge Books, 1992) 171.

 

Addicted to Mediocrity

Addicted to Mediocrity

by Rick Shrader

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This is a ‘93 edition of the ‘81 book by the son of Francis Schaeffer.  I have always enjoyed Francis, and Franky has a lot of his father in him.  I do find Franky to be more caustic and possessing less patience with us Philistines than his father.  He is, however, obviously well-versed in the field of art.

Art is a field that we less-gifted are just now beginning to realize mirrors our culture.  This is especially true in our postmodern culture where language and literature speak less truth than symbolisms such as art, music and technology.  It is interesting to see Schaeffer’s references (in 1981) to such things as early postmodernism (p. 69), Tony Campolo’s socialism (p. 69-70) and the violent result of television (p. 80,118).

 

Modern Art and the Death of a Culture

Modern Art and the Death of a Culture

by Rick Shrader

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This book, first printed in 1970, was just reprinted in 1994.  Rookmaaker was a life-long friend of Francis Schaeffer who also wrote in this area. This is an evaluation of art from the middle ages through the 1960’s. He says, ‘‘My aim in this book is to show the relationship between the great cultural revolution of our time and the general spirit of the age.’’

After reading a few books on art as an expression of our culture, I agree that ‘‘Too many have bypassed modern art with a shrug of the shoulder, failing to see that it is one of the keys to an understanding of our times.’’ Rookmaaker sums up his aim by asking, ‘‘How should we react as Christians to the pressures around us? What does it mean to trust Christ at such a time as our own? In the battle against the spirit of our age, how can we use the weapons that have been given to us, our humanity, our understanding, our emotions, our artistry–and, of course, the written revelation of God?’’

 

State of the Arts

State of the Arts

by Rick Shrader

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This is the third book I have read by Gene Veith and I have yet to be disappointed. They are always informative and have a unique Christian insight.   This book is for the layman in the field of art.  It is not until we at least attempt to understand what God intended for art to be and represent that we can discern the low estate of the art world today and the Christian’s obligation to art in  God’s world.

Veith explains, ‘‘In every dimension of our lives, including the arts, we need to be able to discern between good and evil, truth and falsehood. Art calls also for another level of discernment—between the aesthetically good and the aesthetically bad. If much of art is tasteless or idolatrous, much is excellent. This book is designed to help Christians tell the difference.’’

 

All Hallows’ Eve

All Hallows’ Eve

by Rick Shrader

‘‘Knock knock.’’ ‘‘Who’s there?’’ ‘‘Trick or treat.’’ ‘‘What?’’ ‘‘Give us something we want or we’ll play a trick on you.’’   Why is it that that little greeting doesn’t seem as innocent as it once did?   It wasn’t that long ago that no one cared that Halloween is one of the eight Sabbats of the WICCA church and it didn’t seem to matter that our little children dressed up like them and mimicked what they take very seriously.   Now, all of a sudden, it does! And it’s about time!

This strange holiday comes from the religious and pagan traditions of two countries that merged into a national event in a new country. We might say it started in Rome before the time of Christ. In 27 B.C., Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, aid to Caesar Augustus, built a temple in Rome to the gods called the Pantheon (‘‘all the gods’’). When Constantine ordered the Romans to become Christians in A.D. 313, the pagan systems of the old empire slowly took on Christian names and forms. The Pantheon remained a symbol of that dark past until A.D. 610 when its name was changed to the Santa Maria Rotunda (from which we get the shape of modern rotundas such as our capital buildings and White House) and November 1st chosen as a day when ‘‘all saints’’ would be remembered rather than ‘‘all the gods.’’ This converted pagan holiday was now called ‘‘All Hallows’ (saints) Day.’’

All Saints’ Day was practiced by the English church as well, where, in the tenth century, it found a strange mix. The ancient Celtic empire (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) had long been led in pagan worship by the Druids, the priests of Bel. Their two holiest days were May 1st, the celebration of Beltane (‘‘fires of Bel’’), and November 1st, the celebration of Samhain, the Celtic New Year. Samhain was also the end of harvest with its ingathering of grains. The Druids, however, celebrated much more than grain. They also celebrated the dying of the summer sun with festivals to placate the Lord of Death.  At this time they believed the spirits of the dead were released on the night before November 1st (October 31st) to roam about the world. The Druids built huge fires on the hilltops (Stonehenge was one such site) to warm the spirits and even made human and animal sacrifices in these fires (the derivation of ‘‘bonfire’’ is ‘‘bone-fire’’ due to the bones of people left behind).

Since the English church was trying to celebrate ‘‘All Hallows’ Day’’ at this time, October 31st was simply called ‘‘Hallows’ Eve’’ or ‘‘Halloween,’’ but it was pagan from the beginning. The Druids released spirits and demons on this night to terrorize Christians who were at home preparing for ‘‘Hallows’ Day.’’ Witches (women who had sold themselves to the devil) were believed to have flown about on broomsticks and danced with imps around the fires as the devil played on bagpipes made from dead men’s bones. Christians were known to place crossed branches of ash and juniper at the stable doors to keep the spirits from stealing animals for sacrifice.

In America, Halloween was only scarcely known until 1845-46 when the massive Irish immigration took place. Bringing a milder form of the Druid rite with them, these immigrants eventually established a national event. The Celtic influence in this country only occasionally saw outbreaks of witchcraft (for which they got a taste of their own fiery medicine). For over a hundred years children innocently (seemingly) dressed up as spirit creatures and went to the houses of their Christian neighbors with a simple request: ‘‘trick or treat.’’ All seemed like fun and games. We were a Christian country and put no stock in superstitions.   As one reference book put it, ‘‘Thus the basic Celtic quality of the festival as an evening of annual escape from normal realities and expectations has remained into the twentieth century.’’

Dealing with the pagan customs of Halloween is not a new exercise for believers in America. Volumes have been written on the pagan sources of many holidays. We know that the mother-son worship at Babel of Semerimus and Tammuz can be traced to Phoenicia (Ashteroth and Baal), Egypt (Isis and Horus), Greece (Aphrodite and Eros) and to Rome (Venus and Cupid). We know that the old English name ‘‘Easter’’ is from the feast of Ishtar, the ‘‘Queen of Heaven’’ (see Jer 44:17-19) and that Herod, no doubt, was thinking of that rather than Passover in Acts 12:4.

The Easter Bunny was associated with Easter because the Romans believed Venus fell from heaven and landed in the Euphrates river, was pushed out onto the bank by fish and was hatched out of an egg by bunnies. Christmas trees were first used to worship Tammuz when he was brought back to life on December 25. Birthday cakes were then baked to worship him on his ‘‘birthday’’ (see Jer 44:19) which was the celebration of the winter solstice or the resurrection of the sun. Fireworks were originally part of the Druid celebration of the Summer solstice or the dying of the sun. On and on the pagan accounts go.

So what is a Christian to do? I don’t advocate that we do away with birthday cakes or Christmas trees unless they begin to encroach upon true faith and belief. Old religious nonsense often becomes harmless national custom. If, however, old religious nonsense begins to be resurrected as religion and not custom, the people of God will have to separate. It may be that we are watching the revival of occultism associated with Halloween being resurrected in our country now. Besides, when did we ever not believe that witches and demons are real?  On October 31, 1993, there may be as many people worshipping the Lord of Death through witchcraft and sorcery as there will be worshipping the Lord of Glory in Sunday morning services.  I don’t think that we need to amuse the enemy by playing at his altar.