Christian Faith and the Contemporary Arts

Christian Faith and the Contemporary Arts

Christian Faith and the Contemporary Arts

Christian Faith and the Contemporary Arts

Excerpt

"THE HUMAN RACE," SAYS GRAHAM GREENE, "is implicated in some terrible aboriginal calamity." It is this fact, reported and interpreted in the art of our time, which gives to the forms of contemporary art the appearance of "chaos." It is this fact also which forces upon the artists of the present age their prophetic role. Indeed, it is not the preacher or the historian or the sociologist who speaks to us most clearly of the "crisis of civilization" in which we are involved, but the artist. Our art, then, is an art of anguish and guilt, of isolation and emptiness, of doubt and damnation. Contemporary art has rediscovered the irrational--in the depths of the demonic! Yet our art has discovered, as the art of no other generation has, the meaning of freedom, of courage, of inwardness and honesty. Clearly, modern art is the child of the twentieth century! To receive it is to receive a mixture of blessing and pain.

The Christian may well ask why he should give attention to an art which embraces so much that is-antithetical to his faith. Indeed, if Robert Penn Warren is right than art reawakens "the lusts of the eye and the imaginations of the heart"--which even the anchorite in the desert overcomes only with great pain and discipline--why should the Christian submit himself to the temptations of art, especially modern art? A great many answers will be given in this symposium, but I would like to take this occasion to offer four of my own.

For more than five centuries we have witnessed a gradual despiritualization and, finally, a dehumanization of man's life. Modern art, with its loss of God and the human image, is the drama of our age. Here we see what really is happening to man, to society, and to man's faith in God.

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