Baumgarten, in the middle of the 18th century, working from a mind set based in the thinking of those in the Enlightenment and Renaissance, wrote a book called Aesthetics in which he differentiated between things in the world that come from clear knowledge and those that come from feelings. This work introduced a divide into how we think about art and reason.
What subtly formed from Baumgarten’s work forward is what philosophers like Hans Rookmaaker call, a “two cultures” viewpoint of the world, in which the arts and sciences became two distinct things.¹ Rookmaaker says that art from this point on “became disconnected from the normal functions of life, and beauty was seen as an abstract quality, unrelated to what is depicted and carrying its own meaning.”²
Art and creativity would never be viewed the same again. Up until this point in the same time period, for men like Kant, Schelling, and Hegel, art was viewed as bringing conclusion to inner struggle, and giving answers to questions about the whole nature of reality. Art was thought to reveal things in us that by-pass reasoning, and yet can help us to analyze reason all the same. Music for example, helps us do this for it dismantles us emotionally in a way that can’t easily be understood, and yet in the tune and lyrics lies a carefully crafted message that makes sense of the world.
This poisonous “two-culture” view has influenced God’s people more than we think. Without knowing it we make a distinction between things all the time—what is sacred and what is secular, what is mind and what is heart, what is fact and faith, etc. Subtly we’ve compartmentalized our world into one or the other. God is the God of BOTH.
Why does all this matter? Well, here at Garden City and the Doxology Project, we think through how things help or hurt us in our worship unto God and our mission to love others. The kingdom of God is a both/and, not an either/or. He infuses art with reason, and science with art. There is no separation. We must be careful to preserve a whole-listic view of life. Mind and body interact and they can’t be separated. Fact and faith have to run together. Sacred and secular only exist in one’s heart. It is out of the heart that flows the motives for why and how one uses things—either to worship God or something “else.” Nothing is inherently “bad” or “good” as Jesus would remind us. Jesus is more interested in what glorifies himself. What matters is that he FILLS ALL THINGS, and through his death, resurrection, and ascension he’s given us a way to experience life where we can do more than right or wrong, but we can do ALL THINGS to his glory, and not our own.
Rather than spending our lives trying to avoid the boogey man behind everything in culture, Christians are called to embrace everything God has made available to us with a redeemed heart. We are to use all things not as the world does—idolizing some things and condemning others—but we are be like God. We are to enjoy the truly artistically scientific beauty that he has created and do so within the safe parameters that the Scripture describes.
¹ Hans R. Rookmaaker, Art Needs No Justification (Vancouver: Regent Publishing,
² Ibid., 14.