Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Anemic Influence of Evangelicals on the Arts and Culture

Since the emergence of Francis Schaeffer, there has been a steady stream of evangelical Christians who want to see evangelicalism shape culture and the arts. This has not happened and evangelicals who care about these questions are continually troubled by these things.

So why has evangelicalism still not shaped arts and culture (or Books and Culture if you like)? Two reasons. The first is power. The last time Christianity shaped culture and there was a flourishing of hristians in the arts was the late middle ages. If you check your European history you will notice that the Roman Catholic Church was, well, in charge. They had the money and the political power to decide what ought to be painted on Basilicas and what music ought to be written. This reality continued into the reformation era because in Europe reformed churches were state churches. The second reason is that North American evangelicalism is a child of revivalism and pietism. Simply put -- revivalists and pietists don't care about culture -- they care about going to heaven and being holy. (Holiness defined in terms of personal piety with no room for holiness in terms of beauty and public culture.)

So what's my point? I just don't think traditional, North American evangelicalism has the ability to stir a new flourishing of arts and culture along Christian lines.

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