Every sketch is a question about what God sees.


If you treat your sketchbook as a book of answers you’ll suffocate from the presence of the inner judge, who will demand a certain finished quality to those sketched answers.  No, see your pencil as a questioning stick.  It is a divining rod, doodling among the surface textures of what you see in front of you, stopping to drop deeper into the picture when it passes over the pixel that really pulls at your attention.

So your drawing is questioning and answering all at once and you are utterly given up to the process.  Whatever the page looks like at the end of the day is the right answer.

It might be that what God sees in the treeline at dusk is not what you see.  We are not pantheists.  But we are also not docetists; it is certain that your path to seeing what God sees runs through your own vision, and not around it.

Christian Art Without Trying.

I do think there is an ongoing abandonment of the bible both in the wider culture — which is as you would expect in a post-Christian culture — but also in our churches. And by “our” I mean conservative evangelical and confessional churches. I believe the praise and worship movement, with the excitement it has generated in the Gen X’s and whatever else they are calling those young’uns these days, has cloaked an underlying loss of interest in the biblical text which has been going on for decades and decades and decades in the West.

This is nothing new, it has been documented over and over, but it means more than that there are “liberal” churches who are abandoning the bible and “conservative” churches who are holding fast — no, the entire spectrum is shifting leftward in the sense that the conservative churches themselves are losing interest. It is not so much the conservative pulpits, but the conservative pews.

But this is a theological point. The aesthetic side of it is not solved by hearkening back to “the beauty of the [biblical] language”. One does not produce Christian art out of an appreciation of the beauty of the text; Christian art comes out of a biblical culture which is strong enough to form intellectual worldviews.

Said differently, art does not come out of a theological viewpoint held by institutions, nor does it come out of an aesthetic theory propagated by faithful academics; rather, it comes out of an individual character who has internalized these.   What we need are people who naturally think in biblical categories after long years of formation, and then let these people create – and this is the point –  without trying at all to be Christian.

But even reading what I just wrote it is not enough; “Christian worldview” is such a cliche and does not express what we need…much of the time a “Christian worldview” simply means we remember to think like a Christian.  But that is not enough.  If you have to consciously “think” a “worldview”, you’ve not internalized it to the depth of your creative fountainhead.

Think of Bach: you never get the sense he is trying to create a religious work. He seems to have had a musical impulse, ineffable like all other aesthetic pulses are, and then when he reached out to grasp language in which to express it, found on his tongue and in his fingers the most natural language, that which was closer to his heart than any other vocabulary, St. Matthew’s text. There is no aesthetic distance between impulse and text.

Some times it seems the Texts are falling away from us, even the best of us.

Chivalry as Formalized Courtesy

Romantic courtesy is a liturgy of service which springs from the veneration of the Lady.   Its goal is simply the lady’s felicity,  and her looks and gestures are signs of acceptable service.   All veneration is a selfless art, requiring patience, constancy, and discipline — in short, virtue.    Eros may or may not attend.

The high art of courtesy requires, above all, a gentle heart, but this “aristocracy of the gentle heart” is not passivity. Rather, it is an honoring of the fair sweetheart by carefulness with subtleties — carefulness and rapt attention.  The tone is attention, rather than the languor of the bower.

The lady owes similar carefulness to her lord, and will seek his felicity.  However, our written records of chivalry omit her devotion and may allow a one sided view to be taken for an entire relationship.

There is also a kind of courtesy, called by Maurice Valency “heroic”, which resembles in some language and externals the romantic kind, but is quite different.   This “courtesy” is actually courtship,  a mutual negotiation of the terms of erotic pleasure,  and so has gratification as its object.  It is hardly selfless.   Disciplined devotion may be required to overcome the coquetry of the lady,  but we all know how easily this devotion is killed by both success and failure.