Is My Art Authentic? The Importance of World Views in Art
Good art is a powerful expression of the artist’s worldview. The fact is that every artistic expression carries something of a worldview, whether or not the artist or
audience are aware of it. This is the view that Francis Schaeffer expresses in his book “Art and the Bible”. He lays out four categories by which he believes art can be judged and qualified:
a) Technical excellence, b) Validity (the reasons which the artist had for creating, i.e. is it a work honest to the artists interests, purposes and worldview or is it done only to be a commercial success), c) Worldview (is it right or wrong), d) Suitability of form to content (does the vehicle convey the message?)
Judging an artist’s worldview as right or wrong would obviously be frowned upon by our society’s relativistic worldview, but as Schaeffer stands firmly on a Christian worldview, he holds the Bible as his absolute reference and therefore a standard by which all worldviews are to be measured. But it is the category of “validity” I’d like to focus on here. Is my art true to my worldview? Is it authentic?
Once we understand how deeply our worldview (whatever it may be) molds our lives, decisions, words, actions and artistic expression, we realize that there is no such thing as neutrality in art. Most contemporary art expresses the predominant worldview of our society: secular humanism. This worldview has its roots in Nihilism and then by a leap of empty faith has reached an utopist belief in man and his ability to evolve, and to find love and happiness. It is marked by materialism, relativism, so called “tolerance”, but mainly narcissism. An example of this narcissism is the monotonous story telling predominant in blockbuster movies, in which the main character turns out to be a uniquely special individual on whom the world’s fate depends. It is the superman complex foretold by Nietzsche. It is a worldview void of any real purpose or meaning in life.
On the other hand, a Christian artist has the power to communicate an entirely different worldview. In fact, considering the predominance and oppressive nature of the worldview expressed in most mainstream and alternative art, I believe that every Christian artist has the responsibility to authentically express his worldview, as a light in a dark place, as salt in a tasteless world.
“Christian art is the expression of the whole life of the whole person as a Christian. What a Christian portrays in his art is the totality of life.” (Francis Schaeffer, Art & the Bible)
The Christian worldview is based on a personal knowledge of, and relationship with, the Creator himself. It is founded on the Bible and God’s redemption story. Therefore a Christian worldview is Christ-centered and focused on the Cross. So if I am truly a follower of Jesus, if he is truly at the center of my life, and I truly believe that I am only alive because of his death and his resurrection, then my whole life, including my art, will be drenched in this truth.
Therefore, if we look at a Christian artist’s work as a whole and find nothing of the character of God or His redemption story, then we might question if this artist is being true to his worldview, or if his worldview is that of someone who has truly encountered Christ.
As an artist, I have the power to communicate. If art is never neutral then I must ask myself what message my art is communicating. For instance, if I say I only create art for art’s sake, then my message is that art is the most important thing in my life. The predominance of a worldview void of purpose or real hope, in all modalities of contemporary art makes it all the more important for Christian artists to be authentic and true to their Cross-centered and redemptive worldview.