April 17, 2014

David Naugle on Christian Aesthetics

I can’t help but think that God’s own beauty makes beauty itself objective. This would be similar to the way his righteous constitution grounds objective morality. In other words, beauty is not purely subjective in the eye of the beholder. Rather, it is really and truly there in God in a transcendent way. There are aesthetic red lights and aesthetic green lights in the universe. Certainly cultural and personal factors influence our expression, apprehension, and appreciation of beauty. The aesthetically subjective enters in at these and perhaps other levels. 
Of course, we don’t have ten aesthetic or artistic commandments like we have the ten moral commandments. Apparently, the infinitely beautiful God has left it up to us in our cultural undertakings to discern the character of true beauty. What have we come up with in our investigations? Theologically informed Christian thinkers have seized upon the notions of unity, proportion, harmony, order, brightness, clarity, color, and pleasure to describe, if not define, the beautiful as such. [1]
. . .
Unfortunately, sin has severely defaced us as God’s image and as artists. It has darkened our minds, perverted our wills, and put God’s very good creation into eclipse. Our ignorance is pervasive. Our desires have gone haywire. We are bent and broken, and our art follows suit. Can a ready-made object, like a urinal, really be great art? What about crucifixes immersed in beakers of urine? Is slicing one’s self with a razor blade in a performance piece to be admired? 
Art, in other words, frequently conveys the depravity of the human artists who make it.
These considerations raise important questions. Can art be redeemed? Does Jesus’s work of salvation have aesthetic implications? Undoubtedly! Jesus’s work of salvation is comprehensive in scope and encompasses the arts. Indeed, his death and resurrection entail all cultural enterprises, as his grace restores nature—and, yes, art. [2]

1. David K. Naugle, Philosophy: A Student’s Guide (Crossway, 2012), p. 91.
2. Ibid., pp. 92-93.

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