What is truth in art? What does a symphony or novel, a painting or a play, have to do with truth? Aesthetics has few more difficult questions than this. Yet the difficulty gives no excuse for not thinking about it, for the arts in one form or another pervade our environment and influence us all.
Genius and talent come from God. He gives some men and women the ability to make or perform works of art. To think of literature, painting, music, and the other arts as merely peripheral to the main business of life does no honor to the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Man’s aesthetic faculty reflects the image of the God who created him. While only a minority write, compose, paint, or design, everyone has some capacity for responding to art. As Abraham Kuyper said, “As image-bearer of God, man possesses the possibility both to create something beautiful and to delight in it.”
All truth is of God. Every facet of it is related to the Father, who is the God of truth; the Son, who is the truth; and the Spirit, who is the Spirit of truth. Moreover, truth is related to Scripture, the written word of truth. All the arts must be judged by Christians in relation to truth. They are, as Calvin Seerveld has said, not to be “excluded from the test of truth as if [they] were simply a collected insight in a realm outside of verifiability.”
My purpose in this essay is to propose several marks of truth in art—not to attempt to give a complete answer to the question of truthfulness in art but simply to shed some light on it.
1. A good place to begin is with durability. Truth is not transient. It never wears out. If something is true, it keeps on being true. One of the early works in aesthetics, the Greek treatise Longinus on the Sublime, expresses ...1
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