How to Judge Art-Pt. 2

In the previous post, we examined the first of four general criteria Francis Schaeffer proposed for judging art: technical excellence—the skill (or lack thereof) an artist or artists exhibit in using the elements of their particular art form.

In this post, we move on to the second criteria: validity. As Schaeffer defined it, validity refers to “whether an artist is honest to himself and his world view or whether he makes his art only for money and for the sake of being accepted” (Art and the Bible, 42).

This is not to suggest that an artist should not desire to make a return on her work or be accepted amongst her artistic community or the public at large. If these are the only motivations, however, the artist’s work runs the risk of taking on a mercenary or prostituted character.

To further illuminate the idea of validity, Schaeffer draws an analogy with the task of preaching:

There is many a preacher who does not have validity. Some preach for material gain and others to be accepted by their congregation. It is so easy to play to the audience, to adjust what one says or the way one says it to produce the kind of effect which will be most beneficial to the preacher himself. And when one sees the issue in relationship to the gospel, the force of the dishonesty is especially obvious (43).

Along the same lines, we would rightly detect a lack of validity in, say, a Christmas album containing traditional Christian hymns performed by an artist who doesn’t share their perspective—but nevertheless believes their inclusion will boost his sales. Or again, consider an actress firmly against the sexual exploitation of women. If she would decide for whatever reason (salary, exposure, fear of expressing her views, etc.) to take a role in a film that ultimately employs its female characters to do little more than titillate its male audience, we might rightly judge her work as falling short of validity.

Up next: evaluating art for its content.

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