Culture and Scripture

Welcome to the Brickyard. This is a place to find quotes for use in your own research. The bricks are free but the building is up to you. The following quotes are from Hans Rookmaaker’s Modern Art and the Death of a Culture published first in 1970. The Scriptures have been and continue to be, though to a lesser degree, a cultural fixture. It is a common cultural artifact in the West and it is certainly the central element in ecclesiastical culture. Rookmaaker observes that culture has changed particularly in the realm of art and music. In terms of poetry, prose, story telling and the majesty of the subject, Scripture is also an example of art, indeed, of some of the finest art the world has ever seen, but it also has changed.

Consider the words of Rookmaaker as he comments on music starting in the seventeenth century up to the end of the nineteenth century. See if you can spot an correlation between the way music has changed and the way we now talk about the Bible. Rookmaaker writes,

“[I]n the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before the deep, dissolving effects of the Enlightenment became apparent, there was a unity in the whole culture.”

Rookmaaker, Death of a Culture, 186.

During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, did there not seem to be a unity of the whole ecclesiastical culture on the point of which English Bible to read? By the mid-seventeenth century the KJV was the near exclusive text of the English speaking world. Rookmaaker goes on to observe of these same two centuries,

“Ordinary churchgoers in Leipzig would listen to Bach’s cantatas in church. Even if they did not understand the supreme quality and depth of the music, they could enjoy it. The music was not written for an elite.”

Rookmaaker, Death of a Culture, 186.

Imagine everyday churchgoers listening to Bach played in their church. Imagine they did not understand the finer points of the music played but it was still beautiful and pleasant to the ear. Imagine an ecclesiastical community that had such a sense of beauty which counted Bach’s music among other things of beauty. Imagine Bach was not written for the elites. Imagine now everyday churchgoers listening to the KJV read in their church. Imagine they did not understand the finer points of the language read, but it was still beautiful and pleasant to the ear. Imagine an ecclesiastical community that had such a sense of beauty which counted the KJV among other things of beauty. Imagine the KJV was not written for elites but for the common man with less leisure time, less education, less peace, less healthcare than we do now. Rookmaaker continues,

“Nor were the simpler and folksier kinds of music strange to the ears of the cultivated. There was a sense of normality and genuineness about all this music that made it everybody’s music.”

Rookmaaker, Death of a Culture, 186.

So what Bible is everybody’s Bible? What Bible unites the cultivated and the uncultivated? The KJV did in the past, but what Bible does that for us now? It seems we have lost our Bible along with our art and culture.

In part because things shifted in the culture/art world in the nineteenth century. Rookmaaker writes,

“The nineteenth century made music into a kind of refined, cultural, almost pseudo-religious revelation of humanism, composed by the great heroes and prophets of mankind.”

Rookmaaker, Death of a Culture, 186.

And the same goes for the Scripture. In the nineteenth century the Bible became a human endeavor to find what words were indeed the original words of the New Testament. The Bible was treated like any other book. The manuscript tradition was interpreted and served up by the great scholastic heroes and prophets of mankind, and this trend continues to this day. They will find it for us [hero]. They told us they will [prophet]. And what was the result for the people in the pew? Again, something like what happened to music. Rookmaaker concludes,

“Everyday music became vulgar and coarse, low and without true human qualities.”

Rookmaaker, Death of a Culture, 186.

Everyday Scriptures are now vulgar [i.e., common] and coarse, or in common parlance, more wooden or technical. Everyday Scripture is not now the Scripture of our parents or grandparents. We have broken from them. Now the CBGM is going to do the work for the heroes. Talk about an effort lacking “true human qualities.” That is the goal. One of the main arguments against the KJV is that it is not vulgar enough, it is not common enough. The American culture which has more freedom, more time, and more leisure than any culture maybe ever in the history of man now says Kanye West is an great artist, Marvel Comics are great art and film, Steven Furtick is a great preacher, and the King James Bible is too hard to read. It all makes sense now.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: