Friday, July 07, 2006

What are such things?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8

What is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy?

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Garth said...

What was the question?

Gordon Hackman said...


Great question. This connects back to the entry I had on my blog about "The Things They Carried."

I believe it's Leland Ryken who raises the issue of how the things in this list can seem to conflict with each other sometimes. So, what if something's true but not lovely, or beautiful but has elements of falsehood in it? Can something have a strong redemptive value to it and powerfully express truth, while still having other elements in it that are offensive or ugly? I say yes, that potentially, at least, this is the case with almost all human endeavors. Very few human endeavors, including art, are totally pure and good, or totally evil and worthless. That's why I think we need to develop more nuanced and sophisticated criterion for judging works of art and literature.

One thing I'm certain of is that pure, noble, true, etc, is not synonymous with nice, bland, easy, undisturbing, or completely inoffensive. Such a view is what has lead to the propagation of so much of the schlock which passes for art, literature, music, etc. among Christians today.

Have you ever read any Frank Gaebelein? He was an evangelical thinker who had a very sophisticated and nuanced attitude towards the arts and he has some interesting things to say about the relationship between truth and beauty. Here are few good quotes from him in that regard:

"To identify beauty with what is immediately pleasing or captivating is to have a superficial view of beauty."

"The arts can't possibly be divorced from beauty. The problem is that there are those, some Christians among them, whose idea of beauty is just too small. It is not big enough to include the free use of dissonance and atonality in music, or to go beyond what is merely pretty or decorative in painting, traditional in architecture, or blandly nice in poetry and literature . . . Like the Bible itself, beauty can be strong and astringent; it has disturbing and shocking aspects, as in tragedy or in painting, that reflect the protest and disintegration within our culture. It has dark as well as comfortable moods."

"To identify beauty exclusively with harmony and orderliness does scant justice to the power and truth the arts are capable of."

"Dissonance in music, stark realism in literature, and the "ugly" in visual art all have an indispensable relation to beauty. the concept of beauty in art must be large enough to include the aesthetic astringencies."

Anyway, sorry to write so much. Don't mean to be pendantic, but these quotes are just so good, and I'm not sure this question can be given a short answer. Hope something said here was useful or thought provoking.


Paula said...

This verse has been used as a club to get me to stop exploring art in my culture, and I've never understood that. To me it seems obvious that this verse is asking me to LOOK for what is true, noble, right...etc. in whatever I am encountering, whether it be early Black Sabbath or the latest film by M. Night Shy-what's-his-face.

That's my short version of Gordon's excellent comment! LOL!

Jim Jannotti said...

This blog.

Ando said...

This is something I often wrestle with as it relates to my entertainment choices, specifically movies. I love movies. And while I may find Goodfellas to be admirable and praise worthy on some level, is it right or pure to watch people blow other peoples brains out and drop 300 F-bombs? Even if it isn't gratuitous and that's how gangsters really are?