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Flow of Western Culture
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The Flow of Western Culture

Rich Milne


All of art can have purpose and a place for us. It can help us see ourselves and our world more clearly than we will ever know it by ourselves. But it can also be a reminder of what the world is like apart from the meaning that a personal Creator can give to it and to us. Robert Rauschenberg makes the challenge of painting clear: "If you do not change your mind about something when you confront a picture you have never seen before, you are either a stubborn fool or the painting is not very good."{85}

Hopefully, as a result of seeing these pictures, you have both a greater sense of beauty, and a greater sense of the darkness that is all about. These pictures make me thankful that I know Jesus Christ as the one who has forever secured my salvation. But at the same time, they give me renewed compassion for the ones who do not have this security. I feel more than ever the isolation and alienation that so many artists seem to sense more acutely than the rest of us. Like people with the tips of their fingers sandpapered off, artists seem the first to sense what is in fact all about us. And while they may bring what they see and feel to our attention in a way that is unsettling, if we do not pay attention we may well miss the opportunity to turn those who are suffering to the one and only Hope in Whom they can put their trust.


  1. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1950), 9.

  2. Ibid.

  3. Pablo Picasso, quoted in Herschel B. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art (Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1968), 272.

  4. Roughly quoted in Arthur O. Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936; New York; Harper & Row, Harper Torchbooks, 1960), 24.

  5. The Platonic Tradition in English Religious Thought, 1926, 9. Quoted in Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being 35.

  6. Plato, The Republic, Book VI, Paragraph 508, in Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1952), 7:386.

  7. Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1945), 159--60.

  8. Shirley Letwin, "Aristotle," in Edward de Bono, The Greatest Thinkers (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1976), 35.

  9. Augustine, The City of God, Book VIII, Chapter 8, in Great Books of the Western World, 18:270. But see also Book VIII, Chapters 4--13, especially 11 in which Augustine considers whether Plato could have heard Jeremiah preach in Egypt or perhaps had the Old Testament translated into Greek for his own reading.

  10. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 84, Article 5, in Great Books of the Western World, 19:446.

  11. Frederick Copleston, S. J., A History of Philosophy, Vol. III, Part II (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Image Books, 1963), 239.

  12. Dmitri Kessel, Splendors of Christendom (Lausanne: Edita Lausanne, 1964), 145.

  13. Ibid., 147.

  14. Marcel Aubert, quoted in Ibid., 158.

  15. Quoted in Plato, Theaetetus, 160, Great Books of the Western World, 7:522. This was apparently the first line of a book entitled On Truth, now lost.

  16. Giocanni Previtali, Early Italian Painting (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1964), 10.

  17. Evelina Borea, The High Renaissance (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1963), 35.

  18. Horst de la Croix and Richard G. Tansey, revisers, Gardner's Art Through the Ages, sixth edition (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 498.

  19. Quoted in René Descartes, Discourse on Method, Part IV, in Great Books of the Western World, 31:51.

  20. T. Z. Lavine, From Socrates to Sartre (New York: Bantam Books, 1984), 117.

  21. David Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature (New York: E. P. Dent & Co., 1911), 1:254.

  22. William Fleming, Art and Ideas (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1955), 533.

  23. Emil R. Meijer, Dutch Painting (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1962), 46.

  24. Chilvers, Dictionary of Art, 416.

  25. Ibid.

  26. Kenneth Clark, Civilisation (New York: Harper & Row, 1969), 205

  27. Meijer, Dutch Painting, 22.

  28. This is the opening line to Kant's essay "An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment?" first published in the Berlinische Monatsschrift, December, 1784. Reprinted in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, translated, with introduction by Ted Humphrey (Indianapolis, Ind.: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983), 41.

  29. Ibid., 44.

  30. The Philosophy of Kant, edited with an introduction by Carl Friedrich (New York: The Modern Library, 1949), xviii.

  31. "Hegel's philosophy is very difficult ­ he is, I should say, the hardest to understand of all the great philosophers," Bertrand Russell, A History of Western Philosophy (New York; Simon and Schuster, A Touchstone Book, 1972), 730.

  32. Carol Strickland, The Annotated Mona Lisa (Kansas City, Mo.: Andrews and McMeel, 1992), 69.

  33. Clark, Civilisation, 300.

  34. Hans R. Rookmaaker, Modern Art and the Death of Culture (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), 50.

  35. Plate 43 in the first edition of Caprichos, 1799. For more information see the book below.

  36. Alfonso E. Perez Sánchez and Eleanor A. Sayre, Codirectors of the Exhibition, Goya and the Spirit of Enlightenment (Boston: Bulfinch Press, Little, Brown and Company, 1989), 114.

  37. Chilvers, Dictionary of Art, 505

  38. Clark, Civilisation, 284.

  39. Strickland, The Annotated Mona Lisa, 80.

  40. Fleming, Art, Music, & Ideas, 320.

  41. Ibid., 323.

  42. Letter of July, 1876, from Isleworth, quoted in Irving Stone, editor, Dear Theo (London: Constable and Company, 1937), 11.

  43. Ibid., 12.

  44. Ibid., 13. From a letter from Dordrecht, January, 1877.

  45. Ibid., 16.

  46. Chilvers, Dictionary of Art, 209.

  47. Alfred Werner, Painting by the Post-Impressionists (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963), 13.

  48. Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 79.

  49. Ibid., 79. From a letter to J. F. Willumsen (1863-1958, a Danish painter), autumn, 1890.

  50. Chilvers, Dictionary of Art, 194.

  51. C. Stephen Evens, Kierkegaard's "Fragments" and "Postscript": The Religious Philosophy of Johannes Climacus (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities, 1983), 274-75, quoted in Ruegsegger, "Francis Schaeffer on Philosophy" in Ronald W. Ruegsegger, ed., Reflections on Francis Schaeffer (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, Academie Books, 1986), 120.

  52. John Updike, "Midpoint," section V, in Collected Poems, 1953--1993 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993), 96.

  53. William L. Reese, Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion (Atlantic Highlands, N.J.: Humanities Press, 1993), s.v. "Sartre."

  54. Walter Kaufmann, The Portable Nietzsche (New York: The Viking Press), 105.

  55. Ibid., 447--48, Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Part V, Section 343.

  56. Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, "Why I am a Destiny," 1, in On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo, edited, with commentary, by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage, [1966]), 326.

  57. Ibid., 328.

  58. Ibid., 332--35.

  59. B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Bantam/Vintage Book, 1972), 191.

  60. Ibid.

  61. Ibid.

  62. Ibid., 18.

  63. Ibid., 188--89.

  64. Sidney Hook, "Politics Tests Philosophy's Meaning," Insight, October 3, 1988, 62.

  65. Alfred Werner, Painting by The Post-Impressionists (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1963), 6.

  66. Edvard Munch, Lithographs Etchings Woodcuts, (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum, with an introduction by William S. Lieberman, 1969), ix.

  67. Ibid., xvi.

  68. Ibid., xiv.

  69. Chilvers, Dictionary of Art, 346.

  70. Strickland, Mona Lisa, 123.

  71. Chip, Theories, 146-47.

  72. Stanley Meisler, "Sharing the wealth: access to Dr. Barnes' art," Smithsonian, May 1993, 101.

  73. Strickland, Mona Lisa, 137.

  74. Chipp, Theories, 265.

  75. Ibid., 271.

  76. Ibid., 270.

  77. Ibid., 548.

  78. Rookmaaker, Modern Art, 164.

  79. Chipp, Theories, 415.

  80. John Russell, Francis Bacon (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1979), 10.

  81. Ibid., 21.

  82. Ibid., 86.

  83. Ibid., 90.

  84. Chipp, Theories, 621.

  85. Rookmaaker, Modern Art, 168.

For Further Reading

The following books are icebergs in the sea of philosophical/theological books. There are many others but these are fairly widely available and generally helpful except with the most recent trends in theology.

Allen, Diogenes. Philosophy for Understanding Theology. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985.
Allen teaches philosophy at Princeton Theological Seminary (with a name like Diogenes what else would one do?) and his title explains the reason for the book. What philosophy do I need to understand in order to understand theology? Allen is very good at setting out the basis of philosophy and takes fully half the book with Plato, Aristotle, and scholastic philosophy. His coverage of modern theories is rather brief, but given his goal of laying out only the philosophy that one needs to understand theology, this fits his theme.

Lavine, T. Z. From Socrates to Sartre: The Philosophic Quest. New York: Bantam Books, 1984.
Based on the PBS series of the same name, this book is one of the best surveys available. Lavine is especially careful to draw out the intellectual and social landscape that surrounded a particular thinker, and to show how what a philosopher writes is a reaction to his times. his only fault is very uneven coverage (56 pages for Plato, 8 for Aristotle, 70 pages for Hegel, and only 5 for Kant!). Available in paperback, this book is both deeply engaging because of the writer's concern that we really understand what philosophy is about, and frustrating because it lays out so much undocumented material.

Roberts, J. Deotis. A Philosophical Introduction to Theology. Philadelphia, Pa.: Trinity Press International, 1991.
Writing with a full awareness and appreciation of Allen's book, Roberts intends to reach those readers whom he feels may find Allen's book requires too much philosophical understanding. His goal is to "demonstrate the profound way in which the development of theology in the Christian West has been undergirded by the encounter with philosophy in every period of history." The book's didactic structure is at times too apparent, and this book as well is too light in its coverage of twentieth-century philosophy. But Roberts, who is a black theologian, and who has traced out the influence of our African heritage in other books, does a helpful job of demonstrating what influences have been at work in philosophy from the Greeks on. Kant and Aristotle are both covered more in proportion to their weight in the world of philosophy.

Thielicke, Helmut. Modern Faith and Thought. Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1990.
Among German theologians, Thielicke stands as the preeminent member of a sadly small group, those academic theologians who are (or were) also evangelical in their thinking. This is not a bedtime book (unless taken to induce sleep), but with its deep involvement in critical issues and rigorous documentation, it is immensely useful, especially in understanding German theologians, where the book is unexcelled in my experience. His book effectively ends with Ernst Troeltsch, who lived until 1923 but was essentially a nineteenth-century theologian. Thus, once again, this book does not deal with philosophical streams in the twentieth-century or their effect on recent theology. Don't read this book first, but you may well find this book worth rereading several times.

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