Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beautiful Things.

What is the difference between symphony and cacophony? Between objectivity and subjectivity?
Between music and noise?

Short answer = Standards.

That's why, today, you can walk into a museum and see this -

Or this - 

...Our culture is rebellious and it resents any kind of standard, because standards point toward authority. They scorn structure and harmony, because they have been taught that nothing matters. Pattern require an Artist. And an Artist would have a purpose. But they have been indoctrinated to think that there is no meaning, no purpose, no reason for anything at all.  That's why so many people kill themselves. And that's why they call chaos "art". 

"There are truths," RC Sproul says of our culture. "But no Truth. There are beauties, but no Beauty. There are purposes, but no Purpose." 

And that's really what it comes down to. Postmodernism denies every big story. What's true for you 
may not be true for me. . . You have your way, I have my way, but as for the right way, there is 

Since this hatred for any kind of absolutes (....except for their absolutely sure absolute that you can never be absolutely sure of anything....) pervades nearly all areas of our culture, it is no surprise that it has found its way into every form of art as well. We see it in paintings, sculptures, dances, music, plays. . . Everything has become utterly random

At least, they try to make it random, but their very struggle for no norms becomes a norm, in and of itself.

True, we do each have our own preferences about what is beautiful. He may like classical music, while she thinks classical is boring and prefers Taylor Swift. Some people love country music, others hate it. Some people enjoy ballet, some would rather break dance. We are all unique and so we all like different things, and different music sounds pleasant to different people's ears.

But should that preference be our only guide? Or is there something more? I was listening to a lecture by RC Sproul today and in this lecture he says that God is the foundation for all truth, because God, Himself, is true. God is the foundation for all goodness, because God, Himself, is good. And God is the foundation of all beauty, because God, Himself, is beautiful.

If God is the foundation of all beauty, then He must have certain standards that are present, and necessary, in everything that is beautiful. He doesn't, however, give us a specific list of requirements for beauty. There is no simple step by step process for discovering beauty. This is one of those things that "For now we see in a glass darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as I also am known." (1 Cor 12:13).  

But the surest way to begin to know beauty, is to begin to know God. When we get close to the Artisit --- the One who is truly beautiful--- we are getting as close to pure beauty as is possible in this life.

If His standards --- the ones we see in His artwork --- are not there, then our artwork is not beautiful, no matter how much we might prefer it. Dr. Sproul made the point that we ought to embrace God's standards, even if they are not our personal preferences, because those standards are what separates music from noise, order from chaos, symphony from cacophony, beauty from ugliness.

Now, I've finished my rant and I suppose I'd better get back to studying for finals :) 



  1. This blog is very well written but I honestly disagree with it. To say that art is not beautiful once it reaches a certain level of "chaoticness" seems a bit unfounded. Sure, God's a God of order and I agree with that. But I don't see why art that's a bit different than God's "art" is automatically ugly. The urinal sculpture is a bit crass, so let's just leave that out for the time being. But taking the painting you posted as an example--Yes, it's chaotic but I actually happen to find it quite beautiful. That's the thing with art. I think different humans find different things beautiful. I know that I personally, among the many genres of music I listen to, I listen to screamo quite often. A lot of people would say screamo is not music, while I beg to differ. Is it noisy? Yes. Chaotic? Yes. But I personally am able to see a lot of beauty in it. If there were biblical evidence to support the claim that art must be similar to creation to be beautiful, I'd be more inclined to understand where you're coming from.

    1. Hi :)

      So, first off, if I'm understanding you correctly, you want to make the case that beauty is subjective....not objective? Basically beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

      Also, why do you think the urinal different from the other modern art? If you really wanted to stay consistent with your view on art, you'd need to say that the urinal could have a lot of beauty in it...

    2. Yes. That's correct. I 100% believe beauty it subjective.

      I just wanted to write the urinal out for that example because it was a bit crass and strange. But yes--To some, that sculpture might actually hold beauty. As hard to believe as that may be.

    3. If beauty is subjective, shouldn't everything else be subjective too?

      Like truth....(What's true for you may not be true for me. You have your way and i have my way, so gay marriage is fine for that guy over there, because thats just his way.)

      And goodness.... (Who's to say what's right and wrong..? Who's to say there even IS a right or wrong? Who's to say abortion is not right ...?)

      ....And pretty soon you're living in a sad, random world where nothing matters because nothing has purpose. With this worldview, you will be looking at the world through glasses that tell you that everything is only a matter of opinion, and not a matter of truth. Everybody is stuck in their own interpretations.....and there's really no way out. No way to find truth, goodness, or beauty.

      Now, I'm not saying you believe all that...but subjectivism is kinda where postmodernism begins.

    4. "If beauty is subjective, shouldn't everything else be subjective too?"

      ...Not as a far as I know. The fact that Barack Obama is the current President of the United States (albeit unfortunate) is a proven fact. Facts are never subjective. Christians like you and I hold to the standards of the Bible--We accept them as truth and fact. Truth is not subjective for the Christian. We have the Bible to tell us how it is. So, we know homosexuality and abortion are both evil because the Bible has something to say about both those things.

      But the Bible doesn't cover everything. These "grey areas" are areas in life where the Christian must use his or her best Biblical judgement to make decisions on what to believe. All Christian families, I think, have differences in what movies they watch or what music they listen to, for example.

      So I think art falls into a "grey area." God never said anything about man-made creative efforts being ugly/wrong if they didn't meet a certain level of order.

      I think as a Christian, I could say that at the very least the urinal is crude and crass. After all, the Bible does talk about dwelling on what is good and lovely. It's still art (because art itself is just a man-made creative effort), but I could say I don't think it's very beautiful art. However, even though it may be admittedly strange, a non-Christian may think differently. But as I said about the painting--You and I are both Christians. As far as I know we both hold to pretty much the same Reformed-type theology. And yet, you find the painting ugly and disorderly, whereas I find it quite beautiful. It's some men walking through a street, surrounded by fragments of American/city culture. Perhaps the painter was expressing his emotions about the city and just felt like doing something more creative than simply painting a city scene. I see no reason to argue that it can be in no way "good" or "lovely." And don't see a Biblical reason why I, as a Christian, should think it not a pretty picture.

    5. I agree that there are areas where we must use our best judgement...God does not spell it all out for us. Sometimes, we have to just look at the rest of scripture and base our judgments off of what we know about God's character.

      I guess where we differ, is that I believe we HAVE been given standards for creating...And you believe we haven't.

      Now, I really enjoy debating, and I'm really glad you made for a very interesting discussion! :) But, it's just kind of hard over the Internet :P

      So, I'm just gonna say this in closing - (and N.D. Wilson said this waaaay better than I could have, so I'll just paraphrase him) .... When artists create, they are imitating. They are trying to make their art look like the world....and the world that modern/postmodern artists see is an accident, an explosion. The world they see has no artist. And so they work very hard to kill themselves in relation to their canvas or sculpture or music. They try to make art that looks like it has no artist (that's why almost all modern art/music is dark and chaotic).....but they always fail because they DO exist. And their own existence destroys their argument.

      That's why I believe some art is not beautiful....because it is trying to portray a Creator-less world. It is not the chaoticness that makes it ugly. It is rebellion that makes it ugly

    6. I love debating things like this as well--I still disagree with you after this debate, but I'm glad that you're a well-spoken, good natured "opponent." Hopefully I come across the same way to you. Debating through walls of text isn't very efficient, I know. If you ever want to chat about stuff like this (or stuff that's not so controversial) you can Skype me at NintendoNaut sometime.

      Anyways, good talk!

    7. Yeah, we will have to agree to disagree on this one. *Shake hands* :)

      But it was great debating with you! And you definitely came across as very well-spoken and good natured as well --- a worthy "opponent" . It was fun :). If you feel up for another lively discussion sometime I'll be happy to join you.

  2. Amazingly written Allie!! and SO TRUE!


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