Drab homes give birth to art idolatry...


(NOTE FROM TIM BAYLY: A large part of this post has been removed. A young man objected that I was replacing one idolatry with my own more sophisticated one, and I thought it best to pull the post rather than allow readers to conclude that I am promoting idolatry.)

Here's an interesting explanation of the worship of artists spreading through the PCA by way of Covenant, MNA, and Redeemer clones. George Bernard Shaw points out that this worship has its origin in artless homes and childhoods...

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"But there are more dangerous influences than ragtimes waiting for people brought up in ignorance of fine art. Nothing is more pitiably ridiculous than the wild worship of artists by those who have never been seasoned in youth to the enchantments of art. Tenors and prima donnas, pianists and violinists, actors and actresses enjoy powers of seduction which in the middle ages would have exposed them to the risk of being burnt for sorcery. But as they exercise this power by singing, playing, and acting, no great harm is done except perhaps to themselves. Far graver are the powers enjoyed by brilliant persons who are also connoisseurs in art. The influence they can exercise on young people who have been brought up in the darkness and wretchedness of a home without art, and in whom a natural bent towards art has always been baffled and snubbed, is incredible to those who have not witnessed and understood it. He (or she) who reveals the world of art to them opens heaven to them. They become satellites, disciples, worshippers of the apostle. Now the apostle may be a voluptuary without much conscience. Nature may have given him enough virtue to suffice in a reasonable environment. But this allowance may not be enough to defend him against the temptation and demoralization of finding himself a little god on the strength of what ought to be a quite ordinary culture. He may find adorers in all directions in our uncultivated society among people of stronger character than himself, not one of whom, if they had been artistically educated, would have had anything to learn from him or regarded him as in any way extraordinary apart from his actual achievements as an artist. Tartuffe is not always a priest. Indeed he is not always a rascal: he is often a weak man absurdly credited with omniscience and perfection, and taking unfair advantages only because they are offered to him and he is too weak to refuse. Give everyone his culture, and no one will offer him more than his due.

"In thus delivering our children from the idolatry of the artist, we shall not destroy for them the enchantment of art: on the contrary, we shall teach them to demand art everywhere as a condition attainable by cultivating the body, mind, and heart. Art, said Morris, is the expression of pleasure in work. And certainly, when work is made detestable by slavery, there is no art. It is only when learning is made a slavery by tyrannical teachers that art becomes loathsome to the pupil."


Well, at least the pull of lucre isn't strong enough for the city churches to go after the masters of the universe. It would be nice to get some of those guys' talents for the Church, tho.

The other problem with the arts, the visual ones in particular, is that they very easily become an alternative source of authority to whatever is in power at the time. The Catholic Church's struggles with Michelangelo are a case in point. This is then true to a lesser extent with music (rock music /used/ to be about rebellion against authority, I don't think it is any more) and then with writing.

This can also work in reverse, and in a positive sense. With writing, we have the 20th century examples of Havel and Solzhenitsyn. With music, we have Luther's hymns and the songs of protest. With the arts - well, art can speak truth to power as well. Just ask any cartoonist.

I suspect that the whole field of the arts is a two-edged sword for Christians to get involved in. Worshipping musicians seems to be common enough too!

Oh this is so true. I've seen this happen. Friends were raised in families where anything cultural was considered "sinful and worldly." When they reached a certain age and saw art and culture for the first time, they dropped everything and ran panting after it.

This post reminded me of something I wanted to ask you guys. What is your problem with Keller and Redeemer? Sorry if that sounds defensive. It's not--I just don't know how else to put it. I've never read his work and I've only recently heard of Keller. But I've seen a lot of solid leaders around the net refer to him. I thought he we Reformed and PCA. I am asking so that I might no what to look for when I come across him. Perhaps you could make your answer a separate post or just point me to some helpful links. Thanks for your help.

One of the highest comment counts I ever got on my humble blog was when I pointed out that Michelangelo's David--beardless, naked, and uncircumcised--shared a lot more with the Greek eromenii (boy-lovers of the Greek elite) after which Florentine high society (e.g. Michelangelo) was patterning itself than with the Biblical King of Israel. Maybe all that time I spent at the Art Institute in Chicago helped me out after all.....

.....though it does not make me beloved by the faux lovers of art. I angered my brother a bit one time at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (or whatever it's called ) when I broke out laughing at a small statue of a running female nude with a baby held with one hand at arms' length.

Regarding Keller and Redeemer, Mike, the big problem that our hosts (and this commenter) have is that all too often, they are going with the spirit of this age--feminism hidden under clever verbiage, hedging one's comments about homosexuality, and so on. But better than taking my word for this is to go to the "search" icon and see some comment by our hosts on actions taken by Keller and his staff at Redeemer.

Thank you for your thoughts, Bert.

>>What is your problem with Keller and Redeemer?

Bert gives you a good direction. Use the search box on the left and search for "Keller" and "deacon," Keller and "preaching," Keller and things like "homosexuality" and "abortion" and "Standing Judicial Commission."


Mike Lynch,

I too have missed the history of this blog but have dipped into the archives from time to time. Here is a most shameful quote Tim Bayly has posted from Keller:

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In a nutshell, our position is this: whatever a non-ruling elder male can do in the church, a woman can do. We do not believe that I Timothy 2:11 or I Cor.14:35-36 precludes women teaching the Bible to men or speaking publicly... Thus, women at Redeemer will be free to use all the gifts, privately and publicly. There are no restrictions on ministry at all. There is a restriction on the office of elder.

The Deaconnesses will be women elected by the congregation who will do discipling, counseling, and shepherding in the church, particularly among the women... They will probably also exercise a teaching ministry in the church, depending on their gifts.

...Deaconesses will serve on planning/oversight committees (e.g. evangelism, education, worship) with other officers and non-officers. Deaconnesses could chair such a committee if the group so elects. Also, the Elders, Deacons, and Deaconnesses will meet regularly for strategy and oversight of the church.

...The real challenge will not be to create a structure, but to create a climate in which men and women truly work together as equal ministry partners in the church, still recognizing the principle of male headship in the eldership. Will we really let women lead ministries? (Yes.)


in the comments section

Essentially, what Keller has done is substitute Paul's admonition:

"I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man"


"I do not permit a woman to hold the title of 'elder' "

There is a big difference between the two.

Sorry this is off topic. But I just found it yesterday.

Thank you.

A few years back I arrived early for a class at seminary and must have caught the tail-end of the "Art and Apologetics" course being taught by the faculty's resident Apologetics/Jazz-musician. I made the off-hand comment that I thought the Bible was in text because word trumps image, that the 2nd commandment was more than an accident, because words engage the mind, but images (and movies with sound tracks) engage the emotions. The word saves, but the image deludes. I also opined that Cro-Magnon's had cave paintings, but they lacked what Adam had--language--demonstrating that soul and word were much more closely linked than soul and image.

For the two seminarians who were enrolled in the class, I had uttered blasphemy. Not that art and culture should be denied our children, but we must show great wisdom, and perhaps await our children's maturity before venturing into a movie theater with them.

I find it intriguing that 20th c. fundamentalist Christians let themselves be taught by a WOMAN on the topic of how to build the Sunday School --Henrietta Mears.  I believe she was a Moody-related Christian leader -- and Presbyterian-affiliated.   She had the blessing of dying in her sleep --as I age, I would appreciate that.  My grandfather died the same way.  Both of them were in the same volume of 20th C. Christian Educators --publised by Biola, I believe.

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