Modern Art and the Death of a Culture
Reviewer: Discerning Reader Team
One of the joys of fathering a bunch of boys is taking them fishing. My oldest is only eight, so as of yet we have not had a lot of success actually catching fish! Nontheless, there is a lot of joy in teaching them about bobbers, hooks, bait, casting the line, etc. – there is truly an art and a science to the task. One of the difficulties that little hands have is pulling all the information together and using it properly.
Just as little children need a good teacher to help them integrate a lot of facts, so do we often find ourselves in the same condition. In writing Modern Art and the Death of a Culture, the late Hans Rookmaaker comes alongside us to explain how a lot of different topics intersect and interact with each other. Art, aesthetics, culture, theology, philosophy world history – these various areas are laid out on the table for discussion, and then integrated together to make a strong point.
Rookmaaker, a lifelong friend of Francis Schaeffer, provides us with a biblical perspective on the modern world, focusing specifically on the philosophical agenda behind modern art. Beginning his overview with the dawn of the Renaissance and Reformation, Rookmaaker quickly covers a lot of historical ground in the journey toward the modern era. In the end, he reveals the roots of modernity’s despair. The autonomous reason of mankind put God outside of the box of the world, and as a result began the slow descent into subjective meaninglessness.
Don’t let the topic of the book scare you. Even while addressing heavy themes, Rookmaaker writes with great skill and passion. He is not trying to impress you with ivory tower gibberish and a specialized insider’s vocabulary. Although he knows his material exceedingly well, his aim is to edify Christians. He wants to teach you how to pull a lot of cultural data together in order that you understand the times in which you live. If you have ever been puzzled at the message, or lack thereof, of modern art, Rookmaaker will help you understand and discern what you are seeing. I highly recommend this work, and wish that many more works like this will be written that help Christians to understand the worlds of high culture, popular art, and music.
Note: This 1994 Crossway edition is actually a reprint of this classic work originally written in 1970, about seven years before the author’s death.