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    Book Club: Ideas Have Consequences{Chapter 4}

    August 1, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    Ideas Have Consequences
    by Richard Weaver

    This week’s chapter, Egotism in Work and Art, reminded me of Francis Schaeffer’s work. I’ve read a number of his works, so I might have them mixed up, but I’m pretty sure it is in The God Who is There that I first noticed someone trying to trace the decline of culture using art. Weaver includes music, and it’s been too long since I read Schaeffer to remember if he does the same thing. I found myself wondering if Schaeffer had read Weaver; my guess is that he probably did.

    The Decline of Children’s Bible Storybooks

    The Bible in Pictures
    for Little Eyes
    by Kenneth Taylor

    When I was a child, I remember poring over Kenneth Taylor’s Bible in Pictures for Little Eyes. The fine art was enchanting, and it really did inspire a sense of awe and reverence. To be honest, I do not remember reading the words. I remember looking through the pictures as lovingly as any connoisseur in an art gallery.

    The Gospel Story Bible
    by Marty Machowski

    Today, my children are exposed to Bibles that are filled with modern and post-modern art. Some of the pictures actually look to me like things my oldest child could easily make himself, if he wanted to. Marty Machowski’s Gospel Story Bible is definitely the worst offender on my bookshelves. More than once, my children have even looked at the pictures and asked, “What is that supposed to be?”

    Now, I’m not using this as an argument against using said Bible. I don’t remember the content from Kenneth Taylor’s Bible book, but I know that my husband is quite pleased with the content in The Gospel Story Bible. But I think we’re all familiar with the fact that Christian publishers tend to follow the world into decline in almost every sense of the phrase, and this is one way that happens.

    Weaver makes a few comments about Impressionism and its descendants that are worth noting.

    The movement of Impressionism, which is the revolutionary event of modern painting, has been attributed to a variety of causes. Clive Bell is inclined to see it simply as a rediscovery of paganism. This meant the acceptance of life as good and satisfying in itself, with a consequent resolution to revel in the here and now. The world of pure sensation thus became the world of art.

    And later:

    The broad character of the movements we have been following represents a psychic urge to collapse all order, a technical effort to get something without tolerating a medium, which is but another exhibition of the passion for immediacy.

    Honestly, I think my example above of modern art in a child’s story Bible is showing the end result of this process. I don’t think the artist for the latter Bible was making any sort of statement about art. Like a lot of things, when art stopped seeing and expressing timeless truths, it devolved into silliness and commercialism. I do think it is valid to hold up the latter Bible as a sign of the decline of our culture, and naturally it shows the decline of art. But more than that it shows a decline of the respect we once had for children. The most obvious difference is that Kenneth Taylor reveals a belief that children are human and have souls, that even at the youngest ages they can contemplate and appreciate truth and beauty. Marty Machowski’s Bible {and I highly doubt he had control over the art, by the way} reveals a belief that children are silly and sensual and that, in order to reach them, we must cater to their base affections.

    A “passion for immediacy” indeed.

    Let’s guess which children’s Bible Charlotte Mason would have chosen, shall we?

    Knowledge and Power

    As you know, I’ve been trying to focus on the implications of Weaver’s thoughts when it comes to teaching and learning. Weaver doesn’t use the word hubris in this chapter, but with the word egotism all over the place, I’m surprised.
    We need to remember what Weaver already told us. To the ancients {pre-Bacon, really}, learning–the acquisition of knowledge–improved the soul and prepared it for the afterlife. It made good citizens, who would lead or serve sacrificially. It gave the student the knowledge of ideals, to which he attempt to live up. And so on.

    An opposing conception comes in with Bacon’s “knowledge is power.” If the aim of knowledge is domination, it is hardly to be supposed that the possessors of knowledge will be indifferent to their important. On the contrary, they begin to swell; they seek triumphs in the material world.

    Perhaps this explains the utter arrogance of many of those who have received much higher learning?

    In Greek fable, as in Christian, it is asserted that there is a forbidden knowledge which brings nothing into the world but woe. Our generation has had ample demonstration of what that knowledge is. It is knowledge of the useful rather than of the true and the good, of techniques rather than of ends.

    This is the reason why understanding what a good king is, or what makes a man heroic, is far more important than knowing the names of decent kings and the dates of when they lived. There is nothing wrong with facts per se, but when we reduce learning to facts, we miss the truth, and it is truth which transforms and sets free.

    Weaver says:

    Nothing can be done until we have decided whether we are primarily interested in truth.

    What does it look like to be “primarily interesting truth?”

    [E]levate the study of essences above that of particulars and so put in their proper modest place those skills needed to manipulate the world.

    Might I suggest we get really brave and spend the whole of next year on essences? Manipulation skills will come about naturally enough, I think.

    Read More:
    More book club entries linked at Mystie’s blog
    Buy the book and join in the conversation!

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  • Reply Pilgrim August 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    I had this Bible as a child as well. I am at my mom’s house and I was hoping to find it here – but we haven’t yet. This is also the reason why I really want The Storybook Bible on CD – because although the pictures are great – they are still comic looking. Listening to it would produce different images I think.

    Thanks for the link to the PNEU article. I think the church falls into a consumer mentality about children’s programming – somehow having a program and doing a coloring sheet “brings the lesson home”. It just isn’t so. But if we followed the PNEU’s instructions we wouldn’t need much more than a Bible – and how could you sell that?? Our budget for children’s ministry would be small and doesn’t more expense mean we are investing in our kids?? I think this is very encouraging in terms of missions -wherever you go if you have a Bible you are prepared to give a great lesson.

    I do agree with the author’s big IF – if we can get out of the way. I get excited about what I am learning and want to share with the children – but that is my learning – not theirs. I appreciate her wise words to do your studying beforehand and set the stage well but then stand back and let them tell it for themselves. Allow God’s word to speak to God’s children. What a novel thought. We have a new children’s minister and I might share this article with her.

    Often the problem is filling up time. I appreciate her suggestions about reading Pilgrim’s Progress or missionary stories – that would be great for the kids. I am trying to remember constantly that “slow and steady” wins the race. Doing a little bit well is much better than whole chunks done poorly. Somehow our “get through the curriculum” is now found in the church. Do you ever finish reading the Bible?

  • Reply Crunchy_Conservative August 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    I still have my childhood copy down in the basement! (On a side note, as a Jew, I remember looking at the pictures and wondering why everyone in them was so WHITE!) I might have to bring it up for the kiddos to look through. Thanks for the reminder.

    “Marty Machowski’s Bible {and I highly doubt he had control over the art, by the way} reveals a belief that children are silly and sensual and that, in order to reach them, we must cater to their base affections.” Yikes – this comment gives me a lot to chew on. I have recently been struggling with children’s ministry for this very reason; it seem so shallow some of the time, and focused on entertaining the kids most of the time. How to we raise self-sacrificing, mature adults when we send them the message that they must be entertained at all times?

  • Reply rebecca August 1, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    No wonder we are friends! Our church library had The Bible in Pictures For Little Eyes and I would check it out as often as they would let me. The picture of Miriam and baby Moses was my favorite. My children have a new version of TBPFLE, but the pages are not the glossy pages I remember and the content is certainly aimed for very young children (a few sentences and then a question or two).

    Sorry to hijack your comment section. I know that wasn’t really the point of your post. 😉

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts August 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm

      That is *exactly* why we are friends! I knew it!

      I think my mom still has her copy. I should borrow it. I’m sure the kids have seen it at her house, but I think that is the sort of thing that benefits from hours of staring, as you obviously understand. 🙂

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