The Gospel Coalition

"Don't blame that trash on God." So responds pastor Scotty Smith of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, when someone presents him a song "from the Lord" that falls short of a good, true, and beautiful aesthetic.

We evangelicals tend to want our art to be pristine, easy on the eye, as with Thomas Kinkade paintings. Our music and films often reflect this desire. We envision Christian worship as an escape from reality, where life is hard, filled with sickness, death, and lament.

Yet good art, especially the Bible, knows better. Greg Thornbury, dean of the school of theology and missions at Union University, suggests reading a Flannery O'Connor short story to see how art can awaken you to creation's groaning. Even better, take a look at the tortured beauty of the cross. Or see what Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, sees in the Book of Esther: an R-rated tale of sex, murder, and seduction. This is the scene of God's redemption.

Bad art encourages escapism among Christians. Good art, epitomized by the Psalms, helps us long for the new creation even as we learn to love all God's creatures.

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Comments:

[...] Year’s Eve and Day. I’m back from my family vacation and just got around to watching this video/post about art and Christianity. Now, such a topic may not grab your attention. But, I encourage you to [...]

Jason Ricarden

December 30, 2011 at 10:11 PM

So...hiding the gospel really well inside your artistic music is to be praised? Jon Foreman's music is not gospel-centered and points noone to Christ. Singing about our broken world doesn't present the gospel. The gospel must be preached, not hinted at.

David Strunk

December 29, 2011 at 05:31 PM

Based on the tenor of this conversation, Charles Dickens wouldn't represent good Christian art. He ties up every loose end and wraps it with a bow.

And yet, I like Dickens and not Flannery O'Connor.

Dickens ties up every loose end and is fully redemptive, even while showing grim life realities. O'Connor is esoteric and downright weird at times. I still have no idea what "Wise Blood" is all about.

So, let's move beyond some trite examples, positive (ie O'Connor) and negative (ie Kincaid). Good Christian art should have aesthetic value, but who gets to create that value? Trite examples are no place to start.

Jay Mathes

December 28, 2011 at 01:58 PM

Maybe I missed it, but I was waiting for a list of songwriters/bands who are Christians (IE: not "Christian songwriters") that are doing a good job of bridging this gap - singing about our broken world through the lens of Scripture. Here are a few guys/groups that I think are doing this well:

Jon Foreman - http://www.jonforeman.com
Derek Webb - http://derekwebb.com
The Autumn Film - http://theautumnfilm.com
Sleeping at Last - http://sleepingatlast.com
Andrew Osenga - http://andrewosenga.com

And I do think I'm doing a half-way decent job at it, too:

The City - http://thecitymusic.com
Jay Mathes - http://jaymathes.com

WenatcheeTheHatchet

December 27, 2011 at 04:39 PM

Nate, I'm inclined to agree about "the tortured beauty of the cross". It comes off more like a catchphrase than a meaningful statement about artistic activity. There's music that gets the tortured part about the cross across but I don't know people lining up to hear Penderecki's passion according to Luke that often.

Bad “Christian” Art «

December 24, 2011 at 09:45 AM

[...] out this video, found on the Gospel Coalition’s blog. Make sure to read their [...]

Bad Art and Christians | PastorPelton

December 23, 2011 at 12:43 AM

[...] http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2011/12/21/bad-art-and-the-tortured-beauty-of-the-cross/ [...]

Daniel Chappell

December 23, 2011 at 08:19 AM

Thanks for the input Jeff and David! many of your thoughts I share. I feel that this is an important conversation to have in today's Christian culture. It is too important to though to be hurt by some of the unintended arrogance that came across in the conversation. I agree with much of what was said in the video, perhaps even the vast majority of it. However, this was presented in a way and in a context that did not allow for a substantive balanced back and forth. You may not like Thomas Kinkaids art and you may even find it to be less that realistic (I might even agree with that) but to relegate him to being a "joke" is unhelpful and lacks charity. It certainly is not the way to proceed with a helpful conversation.
I have been concerned for years now with the sentimentality that we see in Christianity and the way in which we anesthitize everything. However, Victory is also at the heart of the Gospel and overcoming is to be celebrated and to the extent that modern worship does that in a theologically sound way we should be thankful for this perspective. I would guess that these men were calling for balance but that is not what came across.
Less hubris more humility needs to be had in such an important conversation!

Nate

December 23, 2011 at 02:52 PM

Yeah, you know, as you indicate, we have to be wary of hunger for worldly accolades, for a seat at the table, as it were. These guys might be very tired of hearing that (contemporary) Christian praise music is junk, and they want to (1) defend its artistic credentials, and (2) distance themselves from Christians with uncool taste.

Maybe we could say 'as a church,' good art is not a central issue, or even an important one; but 'as an artist,' if you are one, your concern is to do the best art you can - the same duty for a Christian in any walk of life.

When the average folks sit around and talk economics, it's pretty basic stuff; when the average folks cook themselves dinner, it's standard fare. No moral offense there. When the average folks listen to music or discuss art, there is nothing intrinsically unjust in average or common taste.

For this reason I think it is dangerous when Pastors and Ministers begin to chide the lay folks for their taste in art - their concern is arbitrary (they don't post videos about fine French cooking, for example, and against hot dogs and Wendy's), and since it is arbitrary, motives come under question.

But for Christian artists, I think the question is different. I know many believing fine artists, and indeed T. Kincaid is a joke in those circles, and with good reason. If I met a Christian who claimed to be trained in the fine arts, but had a high view of Kincaid's work as art, I would raise heartfelt objections: either dishonesty or serious ignorance.

But aesthetics are not identical to biblical ethics. This relates to Paul's point in 1 Cor - everything is lawful, but not everything builds up. Flaunting your aesthetic sophistication is unbiblical; preaching aesthetic sophistication as a biblical-ethical imperative is incorrect and will probably be hurtful.

Dan

December 23, 2011 at 02:41 PM

I think you're missing the point here; mainly as a result of making some unfair assumptions (the biggest one being that positive Christian music amounts to nothing more than escapism, which is also assumed to be bad art).

Art is the most subjective thing in the universe, you can't just categorise it into "good" or "bad", and to suggest somehow that art that reflects the darker side of life is more realistic and therefore more worthwhile is just crazy (I say this as a BIG Radiohead fan).

Christians are supposed to be inspired by a creative God, so their art should have a high quality to it, but He's also a joyful God so there should always eventually be some kind of hope in it. I don't think you can just throw out positive Christian music as unrealistic or escapist.

But I also don't accept your conclusions about the whole of Christian music being unrealistically positive. What I see with many Christian bands is unrealistic melodrama and intensity. Arguably the most influential field of Christian music hitting the secular scene at the moment is in the so-called Screamo genre. Check out Underoath, Emery, The Devil Wears Prada, and Norma Jean...there's plenty of miserable Christian bands out there if you really want to listen to them! Personally, I find them extremely annoying and self-indulgent.

My definition of poor art is this kind that has nothing to say except "poor me, I'm so miserable because I come from a middle class background, and this girl wouldn't let me take her out for a date". Who wants to listen to to that? Is this really the be all and end all of life? Is it really a realistic take on Christianity in a modern world? It seems to be the message we're presenting!

I know that there's lamenting in the Bible. But joy comes in the morning. There's always hope; ultimately in the finished work of Christ and our eternal home. Job tells us a lot about God, but the final and perfect representation of God is Jesus Himself. He lived His life joyfully - this is even how He endured The Cross. Life is tough at times, we know Jesus was acquainted with sorrow and grief. How did He deal with it? The joy that was set before Him. We can't have a theology that makes the story of Job greater than the story of Jesus in the gospels. That's why we can't always stay in lament and anguish in our lives, or indeed our art. That's not the end of the story. We have nothing but good news in the end. Every loss is temporary, every victory is eternal.

So here's an alternative. Let's equip artists who are not afraid to take risks musically, are realistic (when necessary), but who are also able to reflect their faith in a positive, uncompromising, and artistically successful way. That's the kind of Christian music I want to listen to...in fact, I think I'll go and listen to some Danielson Famile right now :-)

Rick

December 23, 2011 at 02:28 PM

So,
Christianity isn't artistically cool according to the young with it hipsters. So what.

Dale

December 22, 2011 at 12:05 PM

So within the first minute of discussing bad art, there is a bad handheld camera shot, and then the camera crosses the vector line more than once. Funny! butI had to turn it off :)

Nate

December 22, 2011 at 11:47 AM

Hi John,

I'd like to suggest that "artist" and "art" are being used too broadly here. We're paving over important distinctions. Popular music is pop or popular art, not high art; country music, same. T. Kincaid is called a painter by some, but that is popular too. These are more craft than art, in my view - aesthetically basic, because the goal or end they serve is NOT an aesthetic one. Worship music, you know - "contemporary" worship music - is the same; it is not art. If by "art" we mean this kind of music, I hereby take my leave, on account of the discussion having nothing to do with "art" or even serious music, as I understand these things.

Thanks

Nate

December 22, 2011 at 11:40 AM

Absolutely, thanks. I just wonder what's going here - there are no pastoral councils on playing football or on being a sports fans, and the sports world exercises a vastly more religious role in our culture.

I am afraid that we must take notice of a significant role for trendiness here: interest here in art because it is cool to be interested in art. If that is your congregation, ok then, it's your calling, but a pastor's role in that situation is as a pastor, not as an aesthetician for the body of Christ.

p.s. regarding the title, I'm not sure the cross is aesthetically "beautiful." I'd rather say it was violent and ugly. "the tortured beauty of the cross" to me sounds a little more poetic than factually accurate.

John Starke

December 22, 2011 at 11:34 AM

Hi Nate,

Mike Cosper is a practicing artist and both him and Greg Thornbury are active in art communities where they train and instruct Christians in their field. Scotty Smith is no slack himself on the subject.

John

nate henderson

December 22, 2011 at 11:06 AM

Let me second the motion for at least one practicing artist who is a strong believer to be invited to get in on the conversation for the next video round of "Art Talk" at the Gospel Coalition...please.

And yes, appreciating (good) art requires training/instruction. If these pastors are so concerned with how the evangelical world views/consumes/appreciates art, maybe their focus should be practical: how can my (and other's) church train the sheep in art viewing, aesthetics, and appreciating God-honoring art (visual/written/musical)?

Gratuitous

December 22, 2011 at 10:56 AM

David,

If you're equating large portions of the Bible to violence and pornography, then why do we need Flannery O'Connor, etc.

If a man is tried in court for rape and murder, when the prosecutor details all the alleged facts to the jury, is this the equation of going to an adult bookstore.

In the meantime, I've had enough fawning over a Catholic with an inferiority complex in the South, etc.

Looselycult

December 22, 2011 at 10:51 AM

Suspicion of anything that smacks of elitism is also a very American trait going all the way back to the colonies and the founders. Alexis De Toqueville writes about it in "Democracy In America." He talks about how we as a culture pride ourself on being both hyper individualistic and hyper homogenous at the same time. Nothing much has changed and American evangelicals seem to excel at this the most.

Justin Stone

December 22, 2011 at 10:26 AM

nhe,

Perhaps I was overly presumptive in categorically stating the views in the video were over-corrective. I probably should have said that the tone of the video and points that were expressed could leave one with the impression that the underlying desire is over-corrective in nature. I cannot absolutely judge it as so, however.

I am very sympathetic to your point about contrast. We can only appreciate God's grace when contrasted with our sinfulness; we can only appreciate God's mercy when contrasted with his wrath. The Prodigal Son illustrates your point well. I would add another biblical story, which is the woman whom Jesus said she loved much; she only loved much because she was forgiven much, and she only realized how much she had been forgiven because she knew how much she had sinned. Again, stark contrasts provide the necessary comprehension of these various attributes.

I would ask, then, when creating images of restored creation (whether verbal or visual), should we always include aspects of the curse, since our appreciation for the restoration of all things is largely dependent on our awareness of the curse?

Thanks for your thoughts.
Justin

Nate

December 22, 2011 at 08:59 AM

Another thought in terms of "elitism" - good art, as I've said, is "elitist," in the sense that access to it - appreciation - requires things of the audience/viewer which not everyone has. I think generally speaking, the more sophisticated something is, (1) the greater the aesthetic value, and (2) the smaller the audience. So good art is by definition 'elitist' or exclusive.

I think where we tend to get our wires crossed is when a pastoral ethic bleeds into the aesthetic world. The evangelical has a natural aversion to things exclusive; but I think this comes from a rather monotone view of the kingdom of God.

So we reflexively start to pre-determine, from a pastoral point of view, who art should be for or appeal to, or to whom it must be accessible. This is a mistake. Artists, and art, should make that decision. That decision is integral to the creative process; it cannot be fabricated and imposed from the outside without turning art into propaganda (and propaganda is always crappy art).

There is something superficial and unsettling about a bunch of non-artists talking about how art should be, what artists should do, and what kind of art people should like. I don't see this kind of trendy interest in other Christian pastimes: what kind of sports Christians should like, how they should play them, and so on.

Thoughts?

Nate

December 22, 2011 at 08:20 AM

I think this is a great conversation, and I appreciate the general perspective. Two things I would want to avoid: (1) aesthetic biblicism, which is, in effect, harnessing Christian art to pastoral concerns - let the artists do the art; and (2) elitism: appreciating good art requires training, natural gifts/ability, and the right temperment - and that's the way it should be. We don't want to lose that through a resentment of the elitism of good art, but we also want to recognize that the vast majority of evangelicals will not appreciate the most serious kinds of art and music, but that is ok! If we're making art that everyone loves, by definition it is not very good art. No one is to blame for that. So I think we should avoid any hint of arrogance relative to the average Christian's aesthetic sensitivities. If I may, I've written something to this effect on my wife's blog: http://artgrind.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/breaking-news-aesthetic-utilitarianism-is-a-sure-loser/

[...] I just watched an amazing video from the Gospel Coalition on the role of art within Evangelical culture. One of the main causes of [...]

J. Joyce

December 22, 2011 at 02:48 PM

I agree totally with the sentiment, but not with how it was said. I frequently discuss this with others who agree, but at the same time, the comment about avoiding the three C's, bad cologne, bad conversation, and bad clothes?

I have to be honest, I'd like to protest the three C's from the ethos of this video: cool, current, and condescending. You shouldn't like good art because it's cool, or trendy, or allows you to be condescending to others because of it. I say this, not to cause strife, but that's very much the way the video came off (and I'm on your side)!!!

While our points may be valid, if they come off the wrong way, it seems like we're just trying to be elitists who use art to divide the church into the highbrow and lowbrow Christians. They will know we are Christians by our disdain for the Left Behind movies.... seriously?

In addition, I think the answer is not better art, the answer is better theology which eschews escapism. This would result in real, organic, authentic art (did I use enough hipster words for you?). =)

In essence, this is a plea for better art and better ways of pleading for it.

Dale

December 22, 2011 at 02:27 PM

And when you put a lower third under two people - confusing and a "no-no." I don't know about bad art, but bad craftsmanship...

Good News and Bad Art | Gareth's Art Blog

December 22, 2011 at 02:00 AM

[...] It’s about time I posted something Christmassy, or in fact anything at all…  I’ve got a Christmas post ready to go up in the next day or two, but for now I thought I’d point you to this great video conversation at The Gospel Coalition: Bad Art and the Tortured Beauty of the Cross. [...]

Bo

December 21, 2011 at 11:48 AM

That is a very excellent quote: "God being present with us is the 'answer' to our suffering, not the end of our suffering." Very profound comment--one of which I plan on using in my Sunday sermon!

[...] video below accompanied an article on the Gospel Coalition Website and brings up some interesting issues regarding how Christian arts are and should be [...]

David LaChance

December 21, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Well said Jeff. If we are God's "art work" then elitism in a Christian is "bad art". Forced aesthetic--whether through condescending attitude or unthoughtful execution--for the sake of those who "don't know better" (specifically in a corporate setting) is equivalent to "fathoming all mysteries and all knowledge" (1 Cor. 13) while missing the only meaningful quality of love for our brethren. Christians, outside of the corporate setting, will choose art and music according to their taste regardless of what is available or is objectively "good/serious art". So, this really is a discussion that should pertain to the corporate gathering. The corporate setting is always about the artist (the one who knows) sacrificing their right and objective critique in favor of the Body's subjective critical mass, while making a humble and loving effort to expand their tastes.

However, the root of this discussion does not having anything to do with objectively good art as opposed to bad art, but is concerned with why our Christian culture has gravitated toward certain art genres in the first place, the elitist Christian artist included.

In creative-centric Christian communities, I think the missing gap in Christian aesthetic can be over-corrected with too much emphasis on the dark, "true-to-reality" experiences of the Christian life; the "lamenting" trend. I've observed this lamenting emphasis as a product of Christian guilt combined with an, ironically, unrealistic spiritual self-assessment. I think this is a question that needs to be asked in this discussion:

In light of what God has provided in Christ, could it be possible that our "experience" as Christians in America is not what it can or should be?

The darker experiences of the OT were pre-Magnificat, and if you hold to a Romans 7 interpretation that has Paul alluding to his pre-conversion state, then we have a huge problem as a Christian culture. This is one major factor in a judgmental processing of seemingly vacuous Christian aesthetic.

The less-spiritual factor is a matter of truly knowing how to critique. Harold Best has a good way to think about how to accurately process any particular aesthetic. He uses the contrast of expanse and degree. He explains that a blade of grass and the universe are equal in degree of quality but are almost infinitely opposing in their expanse.

Don't misunderstand me, there certainly is inferior Christian art, but there is good Christian art that may not be as expansive in capturing every Christian experience simultaneously--or at least including or focusing on the bleaker experiences (e.g., Kincaid)--but the quality of skill and output is potentially equal in degree. When elitists paint the evangelical world (e.g., Kincaid, CCM) with such a critical broad brush stroke it is an example of 1 Cor. 8, "If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know." This is not speaking to "knowing" in a technical sense but in a comparative sense. This goes full circle into 1 Corinthians 13. It also takes us full circle to the purpose and usefulness of aesthetic. Bach, arguably the most innovative Christian musician, said, "Everything I do is for Sunday." He had a corporate emphasis with his artistic output. It was not esoteric yet foundationally innovative. I'm arguing that, as Christian artists, this should be our focus and balance as well; figuratively and literally.

If we are using the proper filter of degree vs. expanse our contrarian (as you said) representation does not have to be... contrarian; it can instead be 'complementarian'. The truly vacuous Christian aesthetic is irrelevant, whether people enjoy it or not, which means there is no need to point it out specifically. On the other hand, the Christian aesthetic that creates a seeming "escape from reality" does not make it any less true. The missing gap can be filled without creating another gap.

Joe S.

December 21, 2011 at 10:05 PM

The points in this video are helpful and valuable for the church. I'm especially glad the concept of lament made it into this conversation. However, I have to agree with Jeff that the tone of this video bothers me. For the sake of brevity, I will only mention the first 20-25 seconds of this video. Why, I ask, is it a good idea to essentially make fun of someone who claims to have "a song from the Lord?" Why call this "trash" and then laugh about it? For sure, people might be misguided when they claim to have songs from the Lord. But it seems that the way to help these people grow is not to make fun of them publicly. Imagine if someone who recently claimed to have a "song from the Lord" just watched this video. The same points about good/bad art could have been made without this 20-25 second intro.

Justin Stone

December 21, 2011 at 09:48 AM

Nathan,

Excellent points. And I agree with Jeff that the video offers some great points as well. I would only differ from your viewpoint in the sense that I probably align more with John Calvin regarding my view on creating visual images of God/Christ.

Perhaps this video is lamenting the unbalance they perceive currently existing in mainstream Christian art, and that lament has turned into an over-correction where folks like you and me might ask, "Well, what about scenes where everything is made right, and there is no more darkness? Should we not illustrate those in our artistic medium?"

Perhaps a discussion on how to correct the imbalance without over-correcting would be helpful.

Blessings,
Justin

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

December 21, 2011 at 09:38 AM

Nathan, you are right about Scripture speaking of such things. I think the challenge is to accomplish those themes in art while making it compelling. To show the hope of Peace and World Made Right in such a way so as it wouldn't seem boring or trite. My hunch is that to do that one would have to stir up the desire for it, which might require a vision like what our 3 speakers are discussing.

David

December 21, 2011 at 09:34 PM

So true, it's like a young english student calling their teaching elitist because the teacher believes there is such a think as good english grammar.

Nathan

December 21, 2011 at 09:30 AM

Well said Jeff. I would add that while we live in a world warped and twisted by sin and riddled with suffering, Scripture presents some pictures of a coming reality that is free from these things. Which, according to this conversation, would be suspect "aesthetically speaking." Scripure speaks of lions and lambs laying together, children playing at the den of the cobra... a world at peace, a world made right. Sounds pretty tame, I know. But again, it is simply a glimpse of the reality to come. I eagerly await that coming day. Or would a painting of the risen Lord, standing in front of the empty tomb lack "authenticity" because there is no darkness? Would it not inspire hope in those "whose marriages are falling apart" and need to be reminded of Whom they trust, of the One who keeps them? Keep painting Kinkade, use your God-given creativity to honor your Maker!

Looselycult

December 21, 2011 at 09:25 PM

I always find it funny when people bat around the word elitist in such an overtly antagonistic way. This is usually an indication of what I call "Reversed Elitism” This is essentially the same thing as elitism but favors artistic and cultural mediocrity over creativity and refinement in one's craft (Kincaid, CCM) Either way "Reversed Elitists" can be just as pompous and snobby as regular elitists. It's just that they get a free pass because their cultural and aesthetic tastes are more accepted and palatable to main stream evangelical tastes, and so whenever somebody offers something artistically unique, slightly different or eccentric they are labeled a freak, weirdo, or worse arrogant. And when that doesn’t work and they refuse to actually try to understand what the artist is wanting to get across they pull out that tried and true label of “elitist” which usually automatically destroys all credibility that the artist could've had among those in the church. It’s sooo hypocritical and sad but hey insecurity is a very powerful medium.

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

December 21, 2011 at 09:00 AM

I once got into trouble knocking Thomas Kincaid as well!

Jeff

December 21, 2011 at 08:55 AM

There are a number of valuable insights offered in this video. But, I have to say, there is also a tone of arrogance; an "insider - we know ... these superficial, anti-suffering, evangelicals don't." Believe me, I'm not about fluff or Kincade or escapism or materialism. One of the most influential psalms in my life has been 88 - which is entirely dark and negative. Nevertheless, I found this conversation a bit pompous and hubristic. It would be better to have these conversations in which there is a bit of a contrarian view offered - to give some balance - rather than all three patting each other on the back. That said, several good points are offered here.

We live in the convergence between new creation and old creation. These are days of suffering & death but also days of resurrection and hope. There is sorrow and joy. While most of the Psalms are laments and that has been overlooked; many psalms are also filled with joy. The problem in "church" culture is we want to cover up the bad; escape it; but we can't. We must recognize the darkness; the death; the evil; the sinfulness & brokenness even permeating our own personal world. Yet, at the same time, affirm - artistically as well - that there is hope. That there can be love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Gentleness ... all in the midst of despair, suffering, darkness and incompletion that cannot be ignored.

Chris Julien

December 21, 2011 at 07:48 AM

I think another good book to read would be C.S. Lewis' relatively unknown (as far as well-read by Christians compared to his other works) "An Experiment in Criticism," which looks at proper and invalid ways of reading. This can likewise be applied to viewing art and listening to music.

In addition to escapism, bad art such and Kinkade's encourages sentimentality, one in which the viewer does not pause to observe the beauty in art and the ways in which the forms relate to color and theme and how the message is communicated, but rather, we thrust our own mind and desires into the painting, virtually ignoring what truly is in front of us.

James Ward

December 21, 2011 at 06:54 AM

Hearing this conversation takes me back to the first years of Schaeffer conferences in the US, and lectures by Graham Brithwhistle and Hans Rookmaaker of the Free University. As a former CCM recording artist, I was never fully understood by my record company when I presented songs that were paraphrased Psalms!

Now, I find as a church musician that a cross-cultural worship setting has lament built into it from the music of the African American experience. "There a Leak in this Old Building" for example.

Young CCM song writers need to study the origins of pop and rock for an authentic portrayal of real life. CCM song writing can get incestuous.

nhe

December 21, 2011 at 06:31 PM

I'm not sure where I see the "over-correction" in the video.

They're not proposing a anything particularly radical, where the pendulum swings to the opposite side.

Why do we set diamonds against a dark background? Because brilliance and radiant beauty sing the loudest when they're contrasted with that which they are opposite to.

For example, the Prodigal Son story would not be as "good" if we didn't get a fairly graphic depiction of the futility and hopelessness of the younger brother's rebellion. If we gloss over that part with a "PG" rated version of that part of the story, we lesson the impact on the reader/viewer.

I've always thought that a realistic portrayal of the Prodigal Son story (again, for example) should be at least PG-13.

[...] Collin Hansen has a note on the Gospel Coalition blog exploring “Bad Art and the Tortured Beauty of the Cross.” [...]

Mike Lynch

December 21, 2011 at 06:01 AM

Any recommendations of good Christian art that isn't by a Roman Catholic? Seriously, I've been looking.

David

December 21, 2011 at 05:01 PM

Gratuitous,

If you're equating violence to pornography, then I suggest you skip reading large portions of the Old Testament and some parts of the New. In the meantime, you might try checking out this article:
http://carnageandculture.blogspot.com/2007/08/whos-afraid-of-flannery-oconnor.html

[...] some evangelicals have a more robust aesthetic, and this give me hope. For examples, in a recent video posted at The Gospel Coalition, Scotty Smith, Greg Thornbury, and Mike Cosper don’t mince words: this is simply bad [...]

David

December 21, 2011 at 03:26 PM

I'm biased, but I'd start with stuff from N.D. Wilson. He does children's literature in the tradition of C.S. Lewis and has marinated in lots of good authors like O'Connor, Chesterton, Lewis, & Wodehouse.

Marvin Olasky interviewed him recently:
http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/18452254

Steve

December 21, 2011 at 03:13 PM

Very important conversation. We need more serious art in Evangelical circles!

Deof Movestofca

December 21, 2011 at 02:54 AM

"Good art, epitomized by the Psalms, helps us long for the new creation even as we learn to love all God's creatures."
On that note, I wonder if you've seen Chris Koelle's art from his digital graphic novel of The Book of Revelation? Powerful stuff (wish I could make an avatar out of it:)). I especially like the "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes..." pic.
BTW, I can't seem to get the video to work. Any chance you could provide another link where it could be viewed?

Steve, Winnipeg, Canada

December 21, 2011 at 02:37 PM

I personally loved this conversation.

Someone has got to change the video still for the media player though. It makes Greg Thornbury look like a madman.

Gratuitous

December 21, 2011 at 01:07 PM

*I* think Flannery O'Connor's work is trash not to be blamed on God. Must I watch pornography to understand the creation groans?

The answer to Thomas Kincaid is the same answer to all the pain and suffering and/or sin in Esther, Job, Psalms, etc: our hope is in the Lord.

Instead of worrying about whether Thomas Kincaid is cool, whether we are cool and well-read by a secular world standard, or whether we have more people being entertained (and putting coins in the coffer) in the building this week, let's worry about feeding the sheep.