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Volume 8, Issue 2: Verbatim

Quotations on Arts and Aesthetics

Various Saints and Observers

The Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; . . . To give them beauty for ashes.

Isaiah 61:1,3

Whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy; meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:8

That an artist might have more fun if he were lawless is obvious; so might anybody else.

G.K. Chesterton1

Many modern novels, poems, and pictures which we are brow-beaten into appreciating are not good work because they are not work at all. They are mere puddles of spilled sensibility or reflection. When an artist is in the strict sense working, he of course takes into account the existing taste, interests, and capacity of his audience. These, no less than the language, the marble, or the paint, are part of his raw material; to be used, tamed, subliminated, not ignored nor defied. Haughty indifference to them is not genius nor integrity; it is laziness and incompetence.

C.S. Lewis2

If God is and remains Sovereign, then art can work no enchantment except in keeping with the ordinances which God ordained for the beautiful, when He, as the Supreme Artist, called this world into existence. And further, if God is and remains Sovereign, then He also imparts these artistic gifts to whom He will, first even to Cain's, and not to Abel's posterity; not as if art were Cainitic, but in order that he who has sinned away the highest gifts, should at least, as Calvin so beautifully says, in the lesser gifts of art have some testimony of the Divine bounty.

Abraham Kuyper3

I can paint my Heaven but it looks like Hell.


To interest is the first duty of art; no other excellences will even begin to compensate for failure in this, and very serious faults will be covered by this, as by charity.

C.S. Lewis5

Our excuse for our aesthetic failure has often been that we must be about the Lord's business, the assumption being that the Lord's business is never aesthetic.

Clyde Kilby6

However, you're my man, you've seen the world
The beauty and the wonder and the power,
The shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades,
Changes, surprisesand God made it all!
For what? Do you feel thankful, ay or no . . .?

Robert Browning7

Biblical aesthetics in music are difficult to pinpoint, until the larger issues of purity and excellence are addressed. Mere enjoyment is not enough. Doctrine alone is not sufficient. Sincerity does not excuse shoddy workmanship, nor does high art excuse borderline idolatry. Adjectives like distinctive , heartfelt, true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, reputable, excellent, praiseworthy these are the Bible's ideal for music.

Terry Yount8

The Lord told Bezalel, the artist of the Tabernacle, to make the garments of the high priest, with their dazzling gems and elaborate design, "for glory and for beauty" (Exodus 28:2 KJV). God's purpose for these particular works of Bezalel suggests a purpose for all of the artsto glorify God and to manifest beauty.

Gene Edward Veith9

The point is that beauty is seen not only as a pleasant diversion, but as one of the ways God reveals Himself in His creation. This is not to say (as the Romantics did) that the artist is a prophet, or that what he reveals should in any way overshadow specific revelation, but beauty cannot come from anyone other than God Himself, and it is a window into heaven for those who have ears and eyes to see and hear. If this is the case, then what Christians call beautiful says a great deal to the watching world about who we call beautiful.

John Mason Hodges10

In my heterodox heart there is yearly growing up the strangest, crabbed, one-sided persuasion, that art is but a reminiscence now; that for us in these days prophecy (well understood), not poetry, is the thing wanted. How can we sing and paint when we do not yet believe and see ?

Thomas Carlyle11

To draw attention to these individual cultural embarrassmentsto these exposures, if you willis also to describe the fundamental deficiency (and the fatal weakness) of an entire class of self-proclaimed artists and thinkers . . . They were artistic and philosophical xenophobes without intellectual definition or social purpose, even in their own mindsfuzzy minds devoid of soul, pretentious craftsmen devoid of discipline . . .The progeny of resentment had embraced their cultural isolation (and its attendant ignorance) as a matter of artistic principle; and because they knew so little of the purposes or the history of life, they knew even less of art. Inevitably, they had tried to divorce the art from the lifeto make a closed shop of the human psychology and spiritand in so doing they had signed their own cultural death warrants.

Bryan Griffin12

The willingness to differentiate between the purely artistic dimension of a poem or song or painting and its subject matter may, in fact, have been something that Christianity contributed to aesthetics. John Milton, in a famous autobiographical passage in which he outlines the history of his own literary development, writes that the Roman elegiac poets exerted an early literary influence on him. Milton gradually came to deplore the ethical viewpoint of these pagan authors, but he notes that "their art I still applauded."

Leland Ryken13

Literature exists to teach what is useful, to honour what deserves honour, to appreciate what is delightful. The useful, honourable, and delightful things are superior to it: it exists for their sake; its own use, honour, or delightfulness is derivative from theirs.

C.S. Lewis14

The artists themselves didn't seem to have the faintest notion of how primary Theory was becoming. I wonder if the theorists themselves did. All of them, artists and theorists, were talking as if their conscious aim was to create a totally immediate art, lucid, stripped of all the dreadful baggage of history, an art fully revealed, honest, as honest as the flat-out integral picture plane. "Aesthetics is for the artists as ornithology is for the birds," said Barnett Newman in a much-repeated mot . And yet Newman himself happened to be one of the most incessant theoreticians on Eighth Street, and his work showed it. He spent the last twenty-two years of his life studying the problems (if any) of dealing with big areas of color divided by stripes . . . on a flat picture plane.

Tom Wolfe15

If I am walking in an art gallery and see a beautiful painting, it may be good to praise the Lord, and to thank Him for that great gift. The thing is beautiful, and therefore a joy and spiritually rich . . . But more than likely it will not even occur to us, for we place the arts out of the context of life, making them something autonomous; or say that the gift is just 'natural,' so opposing nature to grace, forgetting that there is no 'nature' that is out of God's creation. No: let us give praise to God for every manifestation of His gifts.

H.R. Rookmaaker16

The Church anathematized the pseudo-Romantic heresies; there could be no superiority except in morals, in labour, in love. See, understand, enjoy , said the Gnostic; repent, believe, love, said the Church, and if you see anything by the way, say so.

Charles Williams17

The Vandal aesthetic may be coming back in the anti-intellectualism of the mass culture and in the Postmodern nihilism of the high culture. Christians may be the last readers.

Gene Edward Veith18

I will go so far as to maintain that the extraordinary confusion of our minds about the nature and function of Art is principally due to the fact that for nearly 2,000 years we have been trying to reconcile a pagan, or at any rate a Unitarian, aesthetic with a Christianthat is, a Trinitarian and Incarnationaltheology.

Dorothy Sayers19

It is worth noting that the same difference of attitude is displayed about the other arts and about natural beauty. Many people enjoy popular music in a way which is compatible with humming the tune, stamping in time, talking, and eating. And when the popular tune has once gone out of fashion they enjoy it no more. Those who enjoy Bach react quite differently. Some buy pictures because the walls "look so bare without them"; and after the pictures have been in the house for a week they become practically invisible to them. But there are a few who feed on a great picture for years.

C.S. Lewis20

Has the Lord adorned flowers with all the beauty which spontaneously presents itself to the eye, and the sweet odor which delights the sense of smell, and shall it be unlawful for us to enjoy that beauty and this odor? What? Has He not so distinguished colors as to make some more agreeable than others? . . . In short, has He not given many things a value without having any necessary use?

John Calvin21

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