14 July 2006

Classical Concerti, Computer Code, and the Kingdom

This was going to be just a comment, but I decided to promote it (more because it was long than because I liked it). I already have the next post written and it deals more thoroughly with the relationship between the categories of aesthetics and ethics.

As far as the Fine Arts are concerned, I think that the Biblical foundation for them is found in the fact that Adam and Eve were created to appreciate the beauty of God's creation. This may be implied by the fact that throughout the Scriptures, God's people actually do appreciate this beauty (Pss 8, 19 come immediately to mind). This appreciation first becomes explicit in the account of the fall where Eve sees that the forbidden fruit is "pleasing to the eyes" (Gen 3:6). God created humans with affections--the capacity to appreciate beauty.

God's creativity, as evidenced in that ideal world, provided the standard for man's creative expressions. Man's imagination was directed to think God's thoughts after him. Unfortunately both our ability to interpret God's world and the world itself suffer now from the effects of the fall. Without clear Scriptural guidelines, we are not able to be as precise and dogmatic about beauty as some may wish to be. However, that does not really concern me.

Here's why: I am very comfortable working on a laptop, the technology for which proceeds off of knowledge which is not gained immediately through the Scriptures. The Scriptures endow the Christian worldview with the only adequate explanation for science. Once that foundation has been laid, scientists, engineers, factory workers, and robots do their thing, and voila, I have a computer.

In a parallel way, the Scriptures endow the Christian worldview with the only adequate explanation for the fine arts. From there painters, playwrites, novelists, architects, musicians, actors, choreographers (maybe;), and film directors do their thing, and voila, I have art.

The Bible teaches us few of the particulars in computer chips or charcoals, html code or violin concerti. But it does give us the foundation for those things so that whatever our hands find to do we may do it Christianly as service to our Master.

How do these things relate to moral categories? They relate in that we are commanded to cultivate all of creation as God's vice-regents (Ps 8:5-7). They relate in that we ought to do everything for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). They relate in that we are commanded to do everything as in submission to Christ as our Master, as Paul said to the Colossian slaves, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men" (Col 3:23). I think these passages assume standards of efficiency and beauty. Specifically, they assume that believers are to strive to cultivate creation to reach the standard of beauty and efficiency seen in the pristine world and in the eschatological kingdom. If we have been given responsibility by God to cultivate creation, then that cultivation is a moral obligation.

Obviously, as a premillennialist, I see the goal as unattainable before Christ (himself responsible to cultivate creation as a human) sets up his earthly kingdom. At that time "the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God" (Rom 8:21). However, as a premillennialist, I see Christ's future redemption of the created order as a vindication for the efforts of believers who now concern themselves with cultivating in creation the same efficiency and beauty Christ himself will bring when he comes.

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