How should we react if some villain crept into our churches and ripped from our hymnals all the profound hymns of the faith, confiscated the majestic church music of Bach, silenced every note and “Hallelujah” of Handel’s Messiah, and permanently erased the religious works of all other great composers?

We should be enraged! We should pound our fists and plead and pray for the return of our heritage.

This very crime has been committed against our heritage of Christian painting and sculpture. Yet few are crying, “We’ve been robbed!” The situation is more tragic because we are not even aware of our staggering loss.

Through the ages God has enabled men of vision and genius to convey his truth through masterpieces of art. But reproductions of these masterpieces, though available, are unused by our evangelical churches. We use mediocre art to illustrate when we could use great art to inspire.

Even great art is subject to being injured (although never fatally) by overuse. One’s appreciation of the “Mona Lisa,” for instance, is dimmed by the haze of overexposure. A few evangelical works outside the courts of the great have been further weakened by becoming visual cliches. Sallman’s “Head of Christ,” although meaningful to many, has been used so profusely that it has become, as one writer recently stated, “an evangelical icon.” It is found framed on countless walls, laminated on platoons of plaques; it appears on thousands of church bulletins, bookmarks, key chains, coin-holders, dangle bracelets, and illuminated clocks. One may even buy a silver-plated Sallman-studded Christmas star for the top of the tree.

Meanwhile the marvelous “Head of Christ” by Rembrandt (a 14” by 18” reproduction of which costs $2.95) hangs in New York’s Metropolitan ...

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