Three offerings that address Christianity, culture
One of the joys of fathering a bunch of boys is taking them fishing. My oldest is only eight, so as of yet we have not had a lot of success actually catching fish! Nonetheless, there is a lot of joy in teaching them about bobbers, hooks, bait, casting the line, etc. – there is truly an art and a science to the task. One of the difficulties that little hands have is pulling all the information together and using it properly.
Just as little children need a good teacher to help them turn knowledge into wisdom, we also find ourselves in the same condition of needing mentorship in wisdom. Here are three books that have been around a while that can help us think comprehensively about theology, art, aesthetics, culture, philosophy, and history.
Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, by Hans Rookmaaker (256 pages, $14).
First comes a book that has been around a long time and for good reason. It is authored by the late Hans Rookmaaker, a close friend of Francis Schaeffer. This book focuses specifically on the philosophical ideas undergirding modern art. Beginning his overview with the dawn of the Renaissance and Reformation, Rookmaaker quickly covers a lot of historical ground in the journey toward the modern era. In the end, he reveals the roots of modernity’s despair. In a nutshell, a belief in autonomous reason pushed God outside of the box of the world and, as a result, humanity began a descent into subjective meaninglessness. Aesthetics is just one of the victims of the slide. If you have ever been puzzled at the message, or lack thereof, of modern art, Rookmaaker will help you understand and discern what you are seeing.
My Father’s World, by Philip Ryken (286 pages, $14).
The second book comes from Philip Ryken and is a compilation of pastoral “Meditations on Christianity and Culture.” There is an increasing amount of conversation going on in regards to how and why Christians are to interact with culture. Ryken talks about art, science, technology, entertainment, media, holidays, alcohol, sports, the church, etc. – with short two-page chapters. I like his approach because he both affirms and scolds (yes, scolds) culture. And why not? Intelligent interaction with culture demands both.
Art and the Beauty of God, by Richard Harries (150 pages, $14).
Finally, Richard Harries gives us his take on Christian aesthetics. Is beauty only in the eye of the beholder? How do the classical aesthetic judgments play out in a modern world? Can truth, beauty, and goodness still function as the parameter of critical evaluation? Harries answers these questions in very accessible language. His understanding of beauty as an aspect of God’s glory is right on target. He says, “The conjunction of beauty with truth and goodness has its origin in God and is what we mean by His glory. The Bible does not dwell long on beauty in isolation but it has much to say on the subject of glory.” (Scott Lamb is a founding pastor of Providence Baptist Church, St. Louis, and is the ongoing book reviewer for The Pathway. To read about other books, visit www.AChristianManifesto.com.)