Review: Art and Music: A Student’s Guide

Art and Music: A Student's GuideArt and Music: A Student’s Guide by Paul Munson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was really an excellent little book. Accessible, perceptive, engaging, and rooted in that Christian intellectual tradition this little Crossway series is aiming to reclaim. It loses one star on a technicality: if we’re really reclaiming an intellectual tradition, I think we should get a little more hint—in the footnotes, at the very least—that the discussion is in fact tied to that tradition. The authors claim Augustine, Calvin, and Edwards for their side (and I believe they were accurate in doing so), but that was the closest I remember the book getting to explicit Christian-intellectual-tradition-reclamation.

The authors teach art and music, respectively, at Grove City College. They tie beauty to goodness and truth, as Christians have long done. And they persuasively argue that the denial of truth in our postmodern era has had an organic relationship with the rise of the idea that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that it is entirely subjective. The authors helped crystallize for me the idea that beauty is tied to the created order.

I wrote my own perceptive comment in my notes (“wow”) after this perceptive comment:

Aesthetic relativism is an attack on revelation resulting in moral and epistemological relativism. Where does it come from? Sins like sloth, lust, and pride may play a part, but most fundamentally our attraction to aesthetic relativism suggests an aversion to God’s glory. Could it be that we hate beauty because we hate God? That we hate real pleasure?

I’ve got no time to write a fuller review and, frankly, I consider myself a newbie in the arena of aesthetics, but here’s a hint of the meaty stuff you’ll chew on if you take up and read this little book. Here are “four reasons, based on the Christian doctrine of general revelation, why we should enjoy art and music.”

  1. Artists and musicians expound general revelation in much the same way that preachers expound special revelation
  2. Art and music are communication from our fellow man.
  3. Art and music help us avoid being desensitized.
  4. Failure to enjoy art and music invites folly.

It’s a travesty to quote these without explaining some of the development the authors provide, but my aim is appetite-whetting. Buy this book. It’s a quick but deeply insightful read.

Author: Mark Ward

PhD in NT; theological writer for Faithlife; former high school Bible textbook author for BJU Press; husband; father; ultimate frisbee player; member of the body of Christ.

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