Truthscript Tuesday: Appreciating Art


Jon discusses the past week's articles on Truthscript.


Welcome once again to TruthScript Tuesday. It is that time of the week where we go over the articles on the TruthScript website and we have two really good ones today.
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Now, we have two articles, as I said, to go over this week.
We have one from Chris Ames called, the title is, Why? I should say this before I get into the article.
I forgot about this. If you notice, TruthScript has also, it looks really nice, on the mobile and the desktop, it has a style makeover.
Check that out. Go to the TruthScript website. We're constantly improving it. Joel, our web guy, is amazing.
He does this because he believes in it, not because he's being paid or because there's any prestige connected with it.
He just really wants to make sure that TruthScript is as good as it can be. He does an amazing job, beyond any expectation
I ever had, so thank you, Joel. First article, Why Should Christians Care About Art?
by Pastor Chris Ames. Now, Chris Ames is a pastor in the great state of Wisconsin.
Boyceville is the actual town he's in, but he loves doing outdoor sports like riding his bike, hiking in the woods.
I actually had the privilege of hiking with him a little bit at the men's retreat that TruthScript sponsored this past October.
No, it was actually September. He came all the way out from Wisconsin to enjoy the
Adirondack Mountains of New York. He's sharp. He knows his stuff, especially when it comes to art.
He knows more than me when it comes to art. I gave a lecture at a church in Wisconsin last year.
He came, and I was talking about sublimity and beauty and what
Edmund Burke had to say about those things and Thomas Cole. He knew all of it.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting into this with you. The article starts off this way. It says, As Christians, we believe that God communicates truth about himself through the things that he has made.
There are examples in scripture where he invites man to communicate truth in similar ways. To cite an occasion we wouldn't argue over, he commanded
Moses to construct an ark, a tent, and a courtyard, and to cover them with pictures of angels, so that his people could understand what it was like to be near him.
Also, he further appointed Moses to make an altar and a washbasin to teach people what it meant to come into his presence.
These few examples demonstrate to us that God expects us to pick up on these things, which in turn requires that mankind have the equipment to do so.
God makes us perceptive to his language and nature so that the unbeliever is without excuse and the believer may perceive his glory in the heavens.
He made us sensible in such a way that we could look at something like the tabernacle and see something of God's dwelling place in the heavens.
God made us to understand a kind of language that speaks not merely to our rational faculties, but to our souls.
But we use this faculty for understanding more than just decoding God's nonverbal communication.
We are not only able to receive such communication from the Creator, but also we are able to communicate with other people using nonverbal language.
This is what happens when we make the experience and experience art. I believe that good art is one of the best ways to communicate with other people in terms of goodness, truth, and beauty.
The question is whether we or other people really understand the message well enough for art to have its full effect.
Now this is great. I mean, this is reminding me a little bit of—there's a great documentary, you can still probably get it online, called
Why Beauty Matters. Roger Scruton put it out. He hosts this particular documentary.
It's short, maybe an hour if that, but it's so good.
And one of the things that impressed upon me when I watched it years ago was how art has changed so much, at least what we call art, because what often passes as art today isn't really art, it's anti -art.
It's the deconstruction of art. It's trying to take legitimate art from the past and things that reflect the reality of life in the real world as God created it, as we experience it, and then turn it on its head and show that it's a sham, it's a lie, it's not as glorious, or it's not as beautiful as we really think.
There's hidden under the surface. There's either evil or trash or just nihilism.
It's just meaningless. You can apply any meaning to it, and really that means there's no meaning. So it was interesting, though, because he talks about these faculties being, in the past, being somewhat encouraged and strengthened through discipline, really.
I mean, how many people, just to pick one example in the arts, knew how to play an instrument because they were required in school to know something about music?
Today, you can't really even give someone a hymnal and expect them to know what their part is.
They don't even know what a soprano, a bass, an alto, a tenor, a baritone, they don't know what those things are.
We've lost a lot in this regard, and I think it appears in our musical taste today, and in our art, and in our media.
And so really cultivating a good taste for what is true beautiful, which of course streams from the
Lord Himself, is helpful to producing quality art.
So he says, he talks about his pilgrimage. He says, when I was first encouraged to be interested in any kind of art higher than my beloved shoegaze music, a type of alternative rock, see
I don't even know what that is, I found a world so abstracted from reality by an impenetrable hedge of incomprehensible symbolism.
It was like a foreign language made of signs that had no significance for me.
They pointed to exactly nowhere. I found classical music unlistenable. Anyone relate to that, by the way?
You just can't, you'll never turn on that station if you happen to come across the classical music station, if you still listen to the radio.
You just, unless it was in a movie or something, you just have no interest, right? I thought of painting at its best as people doing their best when photography was unavailable to them.
See, I actually relate to this, I felt similar. Poetry to me was a secret language between pretentious people.
In summary, I believe that high art was a waste of time, a luxury pursuit for people who, in the words of a friend, needed something to do.
To be fair to myself and others, some music that we call classical is indeed unlistenable because modernists intended it to be so.
Some paintings were indeed bare representations without having anything worthwhile to say to the observer.
Some poetry was and is a way for pretentious people to signal their in -group status to other pretentious people.
In summary, some art really is bad at being art, but does that imply that there is not such a thing as good art, and why should
I care if there is? I know I'm adding my little personal asides, which hopefully people don't mind and glean from, but I remember the
North Carolina Museum of Art a few years ago when I was living in Raleigh area.
My wife and I went, and of course they have a number of modern art pieces there, and exhibits really is what they are, because they're not even pieces in some ways.
They're just experiences you're supposed to have to reflect on, I don't know, something profound, but we don't know sometimes exactly what it is.
But then they had, I believe it was a renaissance art section, and just the contrast was incredible how at least the attempt was to be true to life with the renaissance art, way more so of course than the modern art.
Of course there's many different genres of art, and art critics can get into all the nuances of all of that, and impressionism, and the neo -romanticism that impressionism came from, and how that was a reaction against some of the renaissance art, and how they're both new.
But I think no matter what kind of art you're looking at, you have to admit, some of the modern stuff that's out there is such a departure from any of it.
It's so outside the scope of things that it's actually laughable.
It's funny. It's like a parody of itself. You can't parody it, because it in and of itself is a ridiculous thing, often.
I think it's okay to say that's bad. That's what I said. I think my wife might have even thought
I was a little judgmental that day, because I was really bothered by some of these pieces. I'm like, what am
I looking at? I think there is bad art, objectively bad art.
There's good art, and it's not the same as morality. It's not in the sense that we don't have a thou shalt, and then there's particular measurements, or curves that you're supposed to have, or colors that you're supposed to have.
It's not rigid like that. That's part of the reason some people think it's so subjective, because it's not like morality in that way, where you have some very rigid rules.
Thou shalt not murder. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt honor your father and mother.
These are things that we have in the Ten Commandments. You don't have the same kind of guidelines for art, but I would like to suggest that there are guidelines.
We're going to get to some of that, I think, in this piece. He says, to get to the point where I could even begin to think in terms of good art and bad art,
I needed to undergo some deep changes in my own thinking. Believe it or not, the changes began when a preacher told me that rock music was an awful, evil thing that would kill things like house plants, pets, and brains.
Actually, they'd done experiments, and yes, you play classical music, you play rock music, plants die, and they live, but it's classical.
It's interesting how that works. I did not, and do not, believe him, though I will defend his right to say what he said.
However, he did make a tangential point about the moral formation that happens with what he called good
Christian music, examples of which he conveniently had for sale on the back table. This tangential point struck with me because it was reasonable.
Why wouldn't good Christian music be more suitable to moral formation than my then current diet of fendered jazz masters through fuzz pedals?
Here arose a problem. The music he was selling simply wasn't good, nor did it strike me as particularly
Christian. I knew enough to tell that much. I did not know what good music was, but I did know that this was simpering, worbly, sentimental stuff, and it just wasn't good.
So the stuff in church, he says, wasn't particularly good. He recalls thinking that holy, holy, holy seemed to be written by a different type of person altogether from the person who wrote
Jesus Is All the World to Me. There was something there beyond my taste, beyond the bare words, that was real.
But I could not explain the difference, and often failed in trying. It is so true, by the way.
I have some of these exact same thoughts at times, and I mean, I sound like an old man,
I guess. That's what my wife will tell me at times, but oh, so many, I would say the majority, the vast majority of new
Christian music, when I hear it, I don't listen to CCM, if you want to,
I don't even know if they call it that still, Contemporary Christian, but when people send me something,
I'll listen, and so much of it, it's just so poor musically. It's just so bad. Not because it's, well, sometimes the words are also bad, but I'm saying the music itself.
And it strikes me as odd because the sacred music is, you think of like the hallelujah chorus in Handel's Messiah.
I mean, it just stirs your heart. How come we don't produce music like that anymore? Not as much.
I mean, it's a fair question. Providentially, I had a professor in college and in seminary who could steer my confusion about art toward understanding.
They encouraged me to keep interacting with art, insisting that behind that impenetrable hedge was something worth pursuing.
Slowly but surely, I began to see glimpses of sunlight through the thorns. They told me what I would tell you, keep interacting with art until the sunlight shines through.
The simpering, worldly, sentimental stuff really is deficient, and there is something out there that is real and worth pursuing.
To this day, I am no scholar of aesthetics, nor really a scholar of any stripe. I am a second generation bicycle mechanic who responded affirmatively to a call to ministry.
My high school and undergraduate education, with a few bright exceptions, could justly be compared to the larval stage of a beetle.
My seminary degree was mostly designed to help me understand and teach the Bible. Aesthetics were not part of that.
Along the way, though, he says I read a handful of books and articles that were truly helpful and helped him understand this.
So he says this point in the essay, we should be in a convenient time to transition to a nice, tidy method for understanding why the tacky, sentimental stuff is objectively inferior to the good stuff.
Okay, so have you wondered why a song that's sappy and sentimental...
Should I pick one? I'm trying to think now. Man, I know so many of them, and now not one is floating to the surface, though.
Oh, man. Oceans. Oceans, if people know that song. Think of that song.
Compare that to A Mighty Fortress, all right?
Very different, you know, hundreds of years apart from each other. What is it about A Mighty Fortress that stands the test of time?
And that ocean's just... In fact, some of you who are younger might not even know what I'm talking about.
Why is that? Why is that something that will fade away? Now, here's a modern song that I think will stand the test of time more so than, say,
Oceans, In Christ Alone. Why is In Christ Alone better music than Oceans, right?
He says, there really isn't one. However, because we encounter art... And I should probably back up instead of...
I'm almost starting mid -sentence, it seems. Okay, so it would be a convenient time to transition to the method, right?
Let's give us a rule. How do you know what good stuff is versus bad? He said, there isn't one. There's not a rule. Because we encounter art in a way...
Not a strict, rigid rule, I should say. We encounter art in a way that involves the soul and not just the intellect.
Even reading helpful art critics is like looking at a cookbook. You don't really know what the food tastes like until you experience it for yourself.
It is our souls that need to improve and not merely our intellects. It was worth fighting my short attention span to listen to Handel's Messiah because it repays my attention with glimpses of glory.
It was worth teaching myself to stop and look at paintings. So in other words, you're forcing yourself to eat the broccoli when you're used to chocolate.
That's what he's saying. Look, I like chocolate when it's got nuts in it or something else.
I'm weird. I don't like a lot of straight dark chocolate. My family does. I'm not into that.
The thing is, rock music or... I listen to a lot of not really modern country that's on the radio as much, but I listen to the country genre.
I used to listen to the stuff on the radio. Now, it's more curated stuff from iTunes that is more traditional sounding.
That's not the same quality. It's not in the same... It's good. Some of it's really good, in my opinion, and there's really good rock music out there, but there is a difference.
I think we can sense it when you listen to something like Handel's Messiah. So it's good to have the candy.
It's good to have to eat some bread and meat too, but it's also good to have the vegetables. So sometimes you have to force yourself to acquire a taste for something.
He says, it was worth my time to slog through some poetry, and it was a slog, as I recall, because the good poets could get past the barricades of my secularized mind and tell me something true about the world.
Good art is good and true and beautiful, and it's worth your attention. As stated above,
God himself communicates with us in ways that are not merely statements of fact. We should not be surprised to find the same faculty that allows us to interpret art has a primary place in the intellectual life of the
Christian disciple. Roughly a third of the Bible is poetic in form, teaching us not only what we need to know, but also how we ought to feel about it.
Symbolism of a highly visual sort abounds in the apocalyptic writings, where the point that God is making is often not, here are the bare facts, but rather something more like, you are too puny to understand me.
We are to minister to one another not simply with propositions, but with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Why should you care about art?
Because when you listen and you learn to interact with art, you have new tools at your disposal to understand and appreciate
God, his word, and his works, and perhaps you will have new tools for expressing your appreciation for his goodness, truth, and beauty as well.
So great article from Chris Ames. I hope he'll write more on this. There's so much to explore with art, and you know,
I was driving the other day with my wife past a hospital in our area that's a new build, and it's right along the
Hudson River, and it's modern looking, which
I tend to like traditional looking houses or buildings with some 3D structure to them, but I have to say, for a modern building, it's actually pretty good.
It's kind of in an S shape. It's creative. It's not just a box, which, you know, for so long, that's what it seemed like government buildings and just like hospitals were boxes, and it also goes along,
I think, with it flows with the scenery around it to some extent with the river, with the kind of the hills, the curvy hills that are right near there.
It just kind of it blends in better than if it were a box. It would stick out like a sore thumb.
Like there's something to that, and architecture used to be more like that, where it was the point wasn't necessarily to make a big statement about the architecture, but instead to complement the scenery, to fit in, to blend with what
God had already made there, and so even something like that, you look at it and you get a certain feeling.
It produces within you a certain, and you might not even have words for what that feeling is, but it's there, and so that there is something that you can identify, which means there's something you can sink your teeth into.
There is an objective nature to this, even though certain pieces of art could potentially hit us in different ways depending on a number of factors, but that doesn't mean that there isn't meaning or that there isn't, you know, that God did not design us necessarily to interpret certain sounds and things we see in certain ways, even if we can't put those things to words.
So how's that for clarity, but it's the closest I can come in this particular article, and I think he did a great job just encouraging us to take that step.
Maybe turn on the classical music station for a little bit. Just listen to it for a bit and see what you think. I never thought,
I'll say this in closing, I never thought that I would be interested in listening to the
Anglican choirs chant psalms, and I love it. I mean it's just, it took time for me to get there, and it doesn't mean
I'm holier or anything like that. It just means I appreciate something before I did not appreciate, because I experienced enough good art that I could recognize what good art is.
All right, well let's talk about this next article by Justin Puckett, When Life, Politics, and Theology Collide.
This is a sad story, and man, I was hoping to cover this on Conversations That Matter, and I'm glad I'm covering it here, and I'm glad Justin Puckett wrote this article.
It has been a long -standing trope on both sides that there is to be a separation of church and state. Some say it's constitutional, even though it's found nowhere in our founding documents.
It's a topic that many of us should be familiar with right now, given all the talk about Christian nationalism, which regardless of what it is you believe that term means, is a relevant topic.
I'm not here to discuss that topic, as there are far more qualified, intelligent, and learned men doing so already.
However, I would like to look at a clear example of why we need to be discussing these issues and why it matters.
So here's a example. The AP just published a piece about a baby named
Indy Gregory in the UK. The Guardian put out a more detailed article, but Indy was born with a rare disease leaving her mentally incapacitated.
She was deemed incurable and died after being removed from life support per her government's orders.
You heard that right, not her parents, even the government.
Both articles claim the child died as though the disease had just run its course and her death was a natural result.
The truth is the government and their team of highly educated medical experts murdered a child against her parents' will because it was in the best interests of the child.
And according to the Guardian, it is the parents' fault because they failed to convince the judge otherwise.
Now, this story should concern us for many reasons. This is a continuation of our culture's fascination with death and utter destruction of the image of God.
This also took place in England, a country where a king was recently established through a very Christian ceremony.
It's archaic, but it's still there. England has not been a Christian nation for some time, mostly due to the
Anglican Church's capitulation, but it is a stark picture of the future of our country. So, you know, England—he's saying
England's ahead of us, and I think that's true, or you could say behind us. I mean, it's going into the abyss.
England is ahead of us at this point. There is no such thing as separation of church and state, despite what some recent evangelicals say about it.
I'm not going to get into all of this. Let's see. The tragic situation is entirely consistent. So what's happening right now, he's saying with abortion and all this, is that people are living out their new faith, their new pagan faith, and they have their their own sources of authority.
According to their scriptures, it's a waste of space, time, and resources to try to keep a sick baby alive, because they don't contribute to society in any way, right?
So they have their philosophies that tell them this makes sense, to let this baby die.
And, I mean, it's treating us like we're animals. I mean, there's an evolutionary component to this. Since 2020, there has been incredible clarity of our world around us.
And, I mean, how many of us have changed what we think about the world and about our government and healthcare and so many things because of 2020?
Even our churches. How many of us have a mistrust that was not there before? We have technological advancement and education that have deceived us into thinking we are morally superior to our tribal pagan ancestors.
We scoff at ancient paintings of Aztecs and Canaanites sacrificing children to their gods, while we do it by the millions.
Such a good point. To think we've made moral progress is insane. This is actually,
I'm just gonna go on a little tangent here. I'm planning at some point, I don't know if it'll be this week, because so many things keep coming up that need my attention.
But I'll just say a little aside here. There's an article, and it's from someone who's an evangelical who's in a conservative news organization on the topic of slavery.
And I think I'm probably going to be talking about this a whole lot more, not because I want to, but because it doesn't die.
It doesn't go away. This is a constant discussion. And I think
I may even do a four -part series, just trying to...
I mean, I've read enough about it that what we're being told, or what's even just commonly assumed, is not true.
We are so duped into thinking... It doesn't mean that it's all good.
It's not at all. But it's also... I don't want to get into the details of it right now, but it's also something that when you compare to the depravity that is around us right now, it's insulting.
It really is. If you compare... Okay. There was a time in world history, and it's not just the
United States, okay? The United States, 5 % of the slaves that came from the transatlantic slave trade wound up in the
U .S. The rest wound up in the Caribbean, in South America. And of course, a greater number went to the
Arab world from the sub -Saharan Africa. And that's just one slave trade.
You have what happened in Europe with the Turks, and with the Muslims in southern
France, and what... I mean, you know, even the word slave comes from slob, right? I mean, this is...
Every people group has experienced this on some level, going back, you know, to the beginning almost.
And so this was just a labor relationship that existed in different forms in different times.
And today, when we supposedly don't have it, although I think there's a number of things that you could say might qualify, but we don't have chattel slavery.
So we think we're so better. This is the thing that bugs me. We're so much better than the people of the past, than our forefathers.
We've advanced so far beyond them, haven't we? And then you look at what we're doing.
This is just one example, but it doesn't even stack up to the millions of children that have been murdered.
The most innocent among... I mean, it's unbelievable. And then you have a state like Ohio, and you look at the demographics.
I mean, women, I mean, put that through. I mean, it's amazing.
And demographics matter too. I was looking at... They broke it down.
I guess it was an exit poll, but I think it was Latinos. It was over 70 % voted in favor of legalizing abortion in Ohio.
And so the border crisis, you know, that all plays into this. Point being, though, that it's incredible to me that this is acceptable to a large portion, a majority in some places, of the population, and especially among mothers.
Among the people, or I should say women, who potentially could or have been mothers, they're the ones that are voting in this stuff.
How do you make sense of that? That's a level of depravity that we're so used to. We don't see it necessarily as depravity, but it's egregious.
I'm off my soapbox now. I think I've spent more time on my soapbox than I probably have reading the article, but I felt like I needed to say it, and the
Lord is going to judge those kinds of things. All right, we can no longer continue down this road as the people of God and be ignorant of his word, which is our only foundation and weapon.
Our worldview must be biblical, informed, and spoken. This means we must be as familiar with that dusty first third, three -fourths,
I should say, of our Bible as the last quarter. So, in other words, our Old Testament. No more softening, no more euphemisms, no more compromise.
Let's be clear, bold, truth, proclaimed against the prophets of Baal. Neutrality with the world has never been a luxury of God's people.
James 4 .4, you adulterers, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world sets himself as an enemy of God.
Luke 11 .23, he who is not with me is against me. He who does not gather with me scatters.
So anyway, quotes Elijah. It says, we cannot merely destroy what the enemy has built with nothing to take its place.
We must be building at the same time. This is a point I make a lot on my other podcasts.
We need to build churches, communities, families, institutions, all of these things, and there's room for everyone with every skill that you can possibly have.
Okay, so as I read those articles, all I could wonder was, where is the church? Where are the men? Where are
Moses, Elijah, John the Baptist, men who will stand for truth, speak the truth, and give their lives for truth? In England, they're all but extinct or under house arrest, which allowed for this to happen.
Ultimately, the only way to win this fight is with the sword of the gospel. Repentance and forgiveness of sins through the shed blood and resurrection of our
Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the only way, and we must not kid ourselves into devising any other means.
The actors of evil and their victims need a miraculous change of heart and mind, which can only be done by their
Creator. So this is a great article and encouraging at the end.
I mean, it can be pretty dismal as you're leading. You're just thinking about this little baby who is not even...
I mean, look at the picture here. It absolutely breaks my heart that this precious life was allowed to die the way that it's...
because the government determined it was more efficient. Yeah. Well, that is it for TruthScript Tuesday.
Again, if you want to support the kind of content we're putting out, go to the donate tab.
If you want to submit an article, go to the publish tab at the bottom, and I do look forward to seeing you,
Lord willing, next Tuesday for our TruthScript Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Maybe we'll have some articles on Thanksgiving.
Maybe some people will submit some. That would be great. And in fact, let me give a suggestion as I close here. It would be awesome if there's a historian out there who can write something on the first Thanksgiving in America, and I'm not talking about the pilgrims.
So I'll just leave that hanging there to see if someone writes. If not, I'll just explain it next week on the podcast.
But I hope you all, if you don't, if for some reason it doesn't happen next week, hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.