Francis Schaeffer and the Love of Culture
A year ago, I read several books by Francis Schaeffer, primarily his classic How Should We Then Live? Like many artistically minded readers before me, I found myself not only touched by his love of culture, but inspired to respond to culture.
Schaeffer provided hope for Christian artists when there was little hope to be found. What was a Christian artist to do in the 60's and 70's? Art was incomprehensible to anyone not trained in the current trends, and many Christians believed that visual art was past saving, at least in the professional realm. The same seemed to hold true for movies and music. If a young Christian was intent on being an artist (or author or musician) and retaining the goodwill of his fellow Christians, he had to make specifically religious art, usually of a rather predictable and cliched variety. An artist had to be either part of the mostly irrelevant church subculture or abandon the church tradition that he had been brought up in.
Schaeffer offered hope to these young artists (as well as successive generations of artists). He taught people how to analyze and understand culture, and how to love what was really good, without consuming what was harmful. He taught the artists to be discerning. He used art history to inspire artists to make art that was truly progressive, rather than merely innovative. Schaeffer called for good art that engaged culture, instead of ignoring it; he called for art that might be criticized, but could not be ignored.
He believed, and helped others to believe, that Christian art should be of the highest quality, and not merely well-intentioned.
Thank God for men with vision, like Francis Schaeffer. God grant us the grace to live up to his vision.