What about Art?

“Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
“Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd, and do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit.
“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help them with it.
“Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty.

  • Exodus 23:1-7

Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.

  • Deuteronomy 16:18-20

The wicked flee though no one pursues,
    but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
    but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.

  • Proverbs 28:1-2

“The British philosopher of art, Richard Wollheim, believes that we should resist the tendency to see art as an abstract idea that needs to be analyzed and explained. If we are to fully understand art, he believes, we must always define it in relation to its social context. By describing art as a ‘form of life’, in Art and its Objects (1968), he uses a term coined by the Austrian-born philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein to describe the nature of language. For Wittgenstein, language is a ‘form of life’, because the way we use it is always a reflection of our individual experiences, habits, and skills. He is attempting to resist the tendency of philosophy to make simplistic generalizations about language and instead is pointing to the many different roles language plays in our lives.
“Wollheim is making the same point as Wittgenstein, but in relation to works of art. Artists, he states, are conditioned by their context-their beliefs, histories, emotional dispositions, physical needs, and communities—and the world that they interpret is a world of constant change. For Wollheim, one implication of this is that there can be no general ‘artistic impulse’ or instinct for the creation of art that is totally independent of the institutions in which it operates.”

  • Sam Atkinson (senior editor), The Philosophy Book, Big Ideas Simply Explained

Richard Wollheim (1923-2003) basically extended Wittgenstein’s argument regarding language to include the unwritten language, in some cases, of the art form.

But art does not need to be confined to photography and paintings.  Our son teaches elementary music. kindergarten through fifth grade in an impoverished area.  He always wanted to be a band director, but in not finding openings in high school bands, he found his niche in teaching elementary education.  But he does not simply sing a song or have the children play the tune on a xylophone, following the Orff methodology, he teaches the history of the area where the song was composed.  He teaches a bit of the language of that country.  He works in some math problems as the students piece the music together.  In essence, he provides a curriculum-wide enhancement in one simple song.  And the children love him.

He has befriended local rap artists.  He has taught children at the school how to write rap music, which started with lessons on improving their vocabulary and grammar.  And all the rap music composition classes were during the student’s free period, in addition to their other classes, and all because they asked to be taught.  And rap music is my son’s least favorite, but he operates with the philosophy of Wollheim in that the creation of art must include an element “of the institutions in which it operates.”

The book in which the quote came showed an Andy Warhol image of soup cans and explained how much of his art contained elements of the commercial side of things.

And in our churches, we have seen how worship has adapted in the same way.  Contemporary worship services use drums, guitars, and such while the traditional services might have a pipe organ or a piano.  Some larger churches have a full orchestra.  The music within the church adapts to the availability of talented people and the availability of the resources to make that kind of thing happen.

But in true adherence to the Wollheim philosophy, we must also recognize that the concept of “art is in the eye of the beholder” is a major factor.  Times change, but people rarely want to change.  I find the full-on contemporary worship experience to be ear splitting loud.  The flashing lights and frenzy of what is happening on stage is dizzying.  Even my son, the music teacher, watches the services from the foyer on a television screen so that the volume is a lot less of a problem.

In other words, the Church needs to understand the institutions of the times.  Without changing the message and the Scriptures, we can reach new generations, but we must not ignore those older generations that do not appreciate the changes in those institutions of the times.

I could not find anything to argue in Wollheim’s philosophy other than the rapid change in those institutions of the times within the past century or even half century.  Our worship needs to meet the needs of a tremendously diverse congregation.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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