Grace in the Arts: Some Personal Reflections On Dr. Arthur Farstad And This Section Of The Journal -- By: James A. Townsend

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 11:2 (Autumn 1998)
Article: Grace in the Arts: Some Personal Reflections On Dr. Arthur Farstad And This Section Of The Journal
Author: James A. Townsend


Grace in the Arts:
Some Personal Reflections On Dr. Arthur Farstad And This Section Of The Journal

James A. Townsend

Bible Editor
Cook Communications
Elgin, IL

I. Art and the Arts

Art was for the arts. That is, Dr. Arthur Farstad, long-time editor of this journal, appreciated the arts. In fact, he was a graduate of an art school. That in itself is fairly rare among evangelical Christians. There has long been a suspicion or mistrust of the arts on the part of many conservative Christians.

Back around A.D. 200 the Latin Church father Tertullian concluded that learning non-Christian literature was permissible for a Christian, but teaching it was not permitted, since such writing praised idols. The nineteenth century American evangelist Charles Finney asserted, “I cannot believe that a person who has ever known the love of God can ever relish a secular novel.”1 He proceeded to speak of “Byron, Scott, [and] Shakespeare” as “triflers and blasphemers of God.”2 (Ironically, Sir Walter Scott was a great Bible-lover.) Robert Louis Stevenson’s conservative nursemaid, affectionately nicknamed “Cummy”, warned her

little charge of the evils of the theater attended by both of Stevenson’s Calvinistic Church of Scotland parents. Reverend Charles Dodgson, whose pen name was Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, often accompanied his child friends to see adult theater. (Dodgson was probably the exception to the rule among devout Anglicans of that time.)

Part of the mistrust of the arts by conservative Christians is epitomized by the humorously flavored limerick:

There once was a sculptor named Phidias
Whose manner in art was invidious.
He carved Aphrodite
Without any nightie
And shocked the ultra-fastidious.
(Author unknown)

The fact that most art schools require fledgling artists to sketch the naked body of an actual model has been a stumbling block for many sincere Christians, thereby stereotyping all the arts as being tinctured with evil.

However, poet Robert Frost (no model of Christian morality) once said, “I like my potatoes, but I like them with the dirt washed off.” Most of us are not anti-vegetable despite the fact that there is still dirt on our potato or rutabaga when we purchase it at the grocery store. We remove the dirt, and we ingest the vegetable.

This procedure is the principle enunciated in 1...

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