Theology And Art -- By: James Lindsay

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 062:247 (Jul 1905)
Article: Theology And Art
Author: James Lindsay

Theology And Art

Rev. James Lindsay

It seems time to gain some closer and more sympathetic relations between theology and art. Not only has the close pre-Reformational connection and correspondence between these two been for more than four centuries severed, but it has even become imperfectly understood and inadequately recognized. Intense was the intimacy of their mutual relations in that vast pre-Reformational period. Theology was now reflected in art: art now anticipated the formal dogmatic teaching of the church. What majesty in the mission, and what reality in the message, of art when it embodied the best Christian thought of the time in forms which the humblest could understand, and which led their thought! The days had not come when art should be supplanted by letters.

In Puritanic and later days, strained and inharmonious relations have existed between man’s artistic instincts and his theologic teachings. The spiritual problems of life, and the transitoriness of things earthly and human, have often enough been presented in ways that seemed to carry, by implication, condemnation and rejection of art. The need has arisen to make clear how sense may, and should, be made to minister to a richer spiritual service—how true an expression art may become, in a broad way, of Christian faith. It must be made clear that, in respect of the long conflicts between the classical and the religious, quite new possibilities of harmony have been introduced in the transfiguring light of the Incarnation.

The ministry of the beautiful, in color, form, and sound, must be claimed and consecrated, under a due sense of such consecration of art being a prime spiritual concern.

How should theology be indifferent to the attitudes of painting, sculpture, music, architecture,—should we not even add, poetry?—when its own God is but the Absolute Artist, with nature for his universal art work? The “interior bond” which, as Schelling pointed out, “unites art and religion,” may, perhaps, be said to be now so far recognized as to make scientific knowledge of art, if not more needful to a truly religious mind, at least more consonant with it. Beauty is finding equal place with goodness and with truth. Art is, to our late thought, with Emerson, “the path of the Creator to his work.” The Ruskinian teachings have greatly helped men to feel how religious is art, how fitted to inspire to belief in God, and worship in the spirit. Why should not these things be, when art is really spiritual and synthetic, as theology is? Why should they not obtain when art is teleological, and tends towards the spiritualistic ideal, not less truly than does theology?

As we have sought a deeper anal...

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