Presenting the good news in borrowed commercial art forms.Dr. Jorgenson is head of the division of fine arts at Northeast Missouri State University, Kirksville, Missouri.

To contemplate the 46 volumes of the Gesellschaft Edition of J. S. Bach’s complete works may be comparable to a midlander’s first view of the Pacific Ocean. The dimensions of this churchman’s life achievement are awesome in both the quantity and the integrity of his art. The enduring power of the music witnesses to both Bach’s incomparable craftsmanship and his commitment.

Bach’s lifetime discipline and growth in his art is also awe inspiring. Though he was blind, his last work, The Art of the Fugue, nevertheless represents some of his deepest and most intense contrapuntal creation. A Lutheran Christian, Bach felt no need to differentiate between “religious” and “secular” aspects of his art, and “did not shed his religion when he composed for instruction or other secular purposes.”

Curiously, evangelical attitudes today toward value systems are objective when it comes to ethics, but unabashedly subjective when dealing with the arts. Such a view can lead to mediocrity, superficiality, cliché formulas, and a pragmatic “Do people like it?” basis for sacred music, architecture, and literature. It has no way of dealing with the commitment, the craftsmanship, the sweat and tears of a J. S. Bach. “Situation ethics” has also become a concern within the church.

Joseph Fletcher, a principal advocate of contextual (situation) ethics, describes his first proposition in morality thus: “Only one thing is intrinsically good, namely, love: nothing else.” His fifth proposition gets down to the essence of the matter: “Only the end justifies the means: nothing else.”

In his book ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.

Tags:
Issue: