The Pleasure is Mine
To my shame, I have not updated my reading list on my blog sidebar for some time. Currently, I just finished reading Lover of My Soul by Alan Wright, a gift from my dear friend Becky. There are a number of other books I have going too.
In the past 2 months I started to reread The Christian Imagination by Leland Ryken. The end of this summer, I had an awakening, an opening of my eyes that I never expected. Here I am daring to write about it, in an indirect way by quoting from this book, that I think every Christian ought to read. It is profound. It is truthful. Creativity, the arts, beauty are being neglected by a number of churches in the States. As Christians this is to our collective shame. We need to be willing to do something about it and draw people back to God through all of the Fine Arts and to support and encourage our own young people to embrace and cultivate their talents as well as continue to develop our own.
From the chapter, "Words of Delight" A Hedonistic Defense of Literature
"A person's attitude toward pleasure is actually a comment on his or her estimate of God. To assume that God dislikes pleasure and enjoyment is to charge him with being sadistic toward his creatures. The Bible, of course, does not allow such a conclusion. Someone has aptly written that 'God is not a celestial Scrooge who hates to see his children enjoy themselves. Rather, he is the kind of Father who is ready to say, 'Let us eat and make merry; for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'
What does the biblical affirmation of beauty and enjoyment have to do with the reading and production of literature? Primarily it validates the enjoyment of literature as a Christian activity. When we enjoy the beauty of a sonnet or the artistry of an epic or the fictional inventiveness of a novel, we are enjoying a quality of which God is the ultimate source and performing an act similar to God's enjoyment of his own creation. The way to show gratitude for a gift is to enjoy it. Literature and art are God's gifts to the human race. One of the liberating effects of letting ourselves 'go' as we enjoy literature is to realize that we can partly affirm the value of literature whose content or worldview we dislike. If God is the ultimate source of all beauty and artistry, then the artistic dimension of literature is the point at which Christians can be unreserved in their enthusiasm for works of non-Christian writers. John Milton gradually came to deplore the ethical viewpoint of pagan authors, but he noted that 'their art I still applauded' (Apology for Smectymnuus). Werner Jaeger, in his book on the classical tradition, claimed that 'it was the Christians who finally taught men to appraise poetry by a purely aesthetic standard - a standard which enabled them to reject most of the moral and religious teaching of the classical poets as false and ungodly, while accepting the formal elements in their work as instructive and aesthetically delightful.
The modern age has generally regarded the arts as dispensable because they are non-utilitarian. But if we look honestly and deeply within the human spirit as created by God, we will find a hunger for human creativity, for artistry, for beauty. And if we look beyond the human spirit to the God of all beauty and creativity, we will conclude that literature and the arts are not the unnecessary pursuit of an idle moment."