In recent years, evangelicalism has been coming of age intellectually. With the strengthening of academic standards in many of its schools, colleges, and seminaries, its tendency toward anti-intellectualism has declined. More evangelical educational institutions have been accredited by the great regional associations since 1950 than in the preceding half century. An increasing number of scholarly books are being written. And one of the major developments in religious publishing during the past decade has been the willingness of leading secular publishers to bring out the work of evangelical thinkers.
But a parallel tendency toward what may be called “anti-aestheticism” remains. In Dorothy Sayers’s introduction to “The Man Born to Be King,” an essay every Christian student of the arts should know, she speaks of “the snobbery of the banal.” It is a telling phrase, and it applies to not a few evangelicals. They are the kind of people who look down upon good music as highbrow, who confuse worship with entertainment, who deplore serious drama as worldly yet are contentedly devoted to third-rate television shows, whose tastes in reading run to the piously sentimental, and who cannot distinguish a kind of religious calendar art from honest art. For them better aesthetic standards are “egghead” and spiritually suspect.
The arts pose uncomfortable problems for many evangelicals. There are those who question the relevance of the arts to Christian life and witness in these days of world upheaval. “Why,” they ask, “spend time in this tragic age talking about such things as aesthetics?” The answer is that art belongs to human life. Pervasive and influential, ...1
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