Saturday, October 20, 2007

Biblical Criticism and Art Criticism

Many people look at the Bible as a CNN news report that explains exactly who did what, when, and how it happened. In doing so they completely neglect the various types of literature that make up the canon of Scripture, the context in which they were written, the mindset of the communities who produced the book, the social customs of the community, and so on. Because they are blind to these things, or do not consider them, when reading the Bible, they often come up with bizarre interpretations of certain passages. But employing tools like genre criticism, canonical criticism, narrative-historical criticism, and all of the rest of them, help us understand the text better. This is one of the main reasons why seminarians spend so much time studying higher criticism in seminary! It is helpful in most ways.

I think the same thing goes on when some people view art. Works by modern masters, such as Anselm Kiefer, are misunderstood and often derided by the average person because the viewer knows nothing of what the artist trying to say or accomplish. He doesn't understand the point of the medium or technique (genre). For many (but not all) great modern and postmodern artists, the last thing they are interested in doing painting a very realistic Madonna... not because they can't paint it, or don't see the value in it, but because they are trying to accomplish something else. We can appreciate modern and contemporary art (and music, and literature) if we try to learn something about what is behind the piece.

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