Whence evangelical art?

In a brilliant essay in this month’s Touchstone magazine, Donald T. Williams examines an obvious missing product of evangelical writers: good literature.

Viewing this problem through the lens of one of my favorite writers, Flannery O’Connor, Williams observes:

O’Connor complained that too many Catholic writers were too utilitarian in their approach, but at least their theologians thought art a topic worthy of attention. Indeed, Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar made it the organizing principle of his systematics, with series entitled The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics and Theo-Drama.

So it is not surprising that, with no such emphasis coming from its leaders, the popular Evangelical subculture seems even more addicted to pragmatism in its approach, as a brief trip through the “Christian bookstore” will show. Fiction can only be justified if it has an overt evangelistic purpose; works of visual art must have a Scripture verse tacked under them.

Rather than merely griping about absent evangelical excellence in literature, Williams proposes, following O’Connor, that doctrine and dogma hold the key. Living by the whole counsel of the word of God can better train evangelical artists to better display these lost aspects of God’s glory.

Like I said, it’s a brilliant piece, and worthy of a read if you’re interested in evangelical Christianity and the arts.