Christian responses to Arts has been ranging from ambiguous, extreme rejection, wild acceptance, constrained and many more variations that are not well thought nor in some cases even remotely accountable to the Biblical Faith that we hold.In many cases, such inadequate responses were constructed with similar weaknesses, unwillingness to think of philosophical underlying currents of any responses to Arts today. By rejecting to any deeper examination and constructing responses and debates purely at pragmatic phenomenon many such responses only manage to create more ambiguity, contradiction, and detrimental to Faith. How would an examination of philosophical undercurrents look like? well this model below is one of those effort to examine what are the fundamental distinction in philosophical structure that a Christian Art Education must developed, in effort to be consistent and not contradicting the basic structure of Christian Faith. These 5 Basic Assumptions below were constructed as part of a research in Theological Aesthetics, taken primarily from Protestant tradition.
1. REJECT The Concept of Autonomy: Autonomous Reasoning
I think that one of the most basic assumptions that resulted in incoherent expression of Biblical faith in Arts is to begin in any given point with the notion that human reasoning or emotional expression is capable of neutrality to the point that it may gave what can be considered as truth through its reasoning and emotional/experience based deductions. This is related to Biblical concept of Sin; a condition of total depravity that has polluted any reasoning or emotional faculties as such these can never be reliable acting independently from God’s sovereign Grace. From which we must not see any discipline, including Art, in its institutionalized freedom of expression to be the starting point, that any assumed neutrality or independency that Art claimed in every aspect of its articulations must be rejected. We gave Arts greater autonomy than any other structures in our society as we accepted the autonomy that Art claimed to be equal to, or at least not to be subordinated by God’s revelation.
2. SUPPORT The Concept of Beauty: relationship between Truth-Beauty-Goodness
3. To focus Arts and Aesthetics not as an independent and/or alternative access to ultimate reality and independent construction of human beliefs but as partial response in analogy to the ultimate reality and in articulating such belief.
How would a Christian Teacher respond to the notion of Universality of Arts, and how Arts is considered independent? I agree with Abraham Kuyper on this, that Arts should be accepted as Common Grace. I would like to quote my previous investigation about this: “As it should be accepted as common grace, it can only be situated under the same starting point of understanding reality, not autonomous in terms of human reasoning towards ultimate reality, but an independent sphere free from symbolism of religion. “What does this statement above means? The teacher should be able to balance between enslavement of Art under a narrowed religious symbolism or agendas (it can be in form of rejection to anything that is considered secularized forms or themes in Art), and granting Art to dictate conceptual/ philosophical constructs what is the definition of reality, truth, beauty etc. So I believe we examine and learn how Art is a response and articulation of every human belief, including how the antithesis remain between a starting point that is purely human reasoning, experiencing, emotional in origin, and Christianity’s starting point that is God’s revelation.
The distinction between autonomous reasoning and independent sphere is clear. Independent sphere is a freedom based on acknowledgment of Common Grace; a common unity that made each particularity possible to be known by itself, inseparable from its relationship with the other, but such unity is not based upon human construction or achieved through any autonomous reasoning or experience. Sphere-sovereignty in arts should then be understood as an extension in understanding of God’s sovereignty, that if Calvinism insisted in no other possible beginning point but an Absolute Person of God, then it resulted in two consequences, first, it is inconsistent to upheld one sphere dominion on all others without denying the existence of common grace and the sovereignty and centrality of the absolute person of God above all spheres. Thus it is also at the same time inconsistent to hold a position of any spheres or realms autonomy, or any possibility of secularization. Following this principle above any political or ecclesiastical control which subjected all spheres into constraints created in the context of fallen human knowledge, even in religious institutions, cannot escape the possibility of distortion. Even more, the subjection of all under one that is not absolute tends to eliminate antithetical arguments that are needed to sustain it.
We can see that Christian Education today mostly also dealt with Art at the realm of evidential and religious phenomena, although some has realized that it is a matter of knowledge and worldview construction. What Kuyper did in his lecture on Calvinism was to propose a different perspective to romanticism interpretation to the historical phenomena, and to demonstrate how this significant differentiation is resulted from epistemological difference. I believe this is where Art Education must begin.