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.