Van Til Tool

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009


A Tribute To Rookmaaker

For Launching Today's Christian Appreciation Of Art

A Review Of:

Laurel Gasque Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H. R. Rookmaaker
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005)
$16.99 192 pp ISBN: 1-58134-694-8

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

Back in the 1960s perhaps the main thing that young educated christians were concerned about was demolishing the sacred/secular dichotomy and promoting the conception that christians were supposed to care about and be involved in all areas of life because God Himself cares about all areas of life and wants us to do likewise. One of our biggest heroes back then promoting this manifesto was Dr. Francis Schaeffer, so that it was not long before we began hearing about his associate, Dr. Hans R. Rookmaaker, who was then the Professor of Art History at the Free University of Amsterdam and who influenced Schaeffer's own view of art and who, at the same time Schaeffer began publishing books, published his own landmark book in 1970 Modern Art and The Death of a Culture. Wow, those were exciting days and Rookmaaker soon became added to the list along with Schaeffer as one of our heroes.

Laurel Gasque's book documents the great influence which Rookmaaker had, which was far more than I realized -- most of it was unknown to me prior to reading her book. It is well worth the read and is needed to assess the importance of Rookmaaker in promoting Christian concern for the arts in Reformed and in evangelical circles. I have noticed in a prominent Reformed email discussion group to which I belong that Reformed concern for the arts is now taken for granted and some of the younger people there are not even aware of the prior hostility to or indifference to the arts that once was very strong in many Reformed circles down to around the time of Rookmaaker had his famous work published. So, Gasque's book is also needed to correct that myopic view and to put matters into historical perspective.

The book also indicates the important point, which some still do not realize, that Rookmaaker's contribution, great though it was, should be regarded as of an elementary and introductory nature. There are huge questions that still need to be answered before we can develop the Biblical philosophy of art beyond the elementary stage at which it currently exists. For instance, Gasque's historical information discusses the debates which Rookmaaker had with other Christian intellectuals about art, including arguments even over such fundamental matters as the exact definition of the aesthetic modal aspect.
(He had that one with Calvin Seerveld.)

In this respect, our philosophy of art today is at about the same stage as our policitcal and economic philosophy. Today almost all educated Christians agree that we should be involved in and care about political and economics because God cares about politics and economics, but we still cannot agree on what the Biblical political and economic philosophy is.

To return to Schaeffer, Gasque's book has a copious amount of information on Schaeffer's relationship with Rookmaaker, again far more than what I had hithero known. In fact there is almost as much info in this book on Schaeffer as there is on Rookmaaker, which is understandable because their friendship was very important to both of them.

One final word, the publisher, Crossway Books, regards Rookmaaker's
Modern Art and The Death of a Culture as so important that they have republished it in 1994. (Inter-Varsity Press was the original publisher.)


  • At Tuesday, September 15, 2009, Blogger David Muir said…

    Forest, you ought to read also if you have not already Han's complete works which will give you an even bigger appreciation of Dr Rookmaakers expertise and breadth of learning,His books on Coleridge,on Jazz, on Synthetic art theory and his many reviews and other articles all translated fro the Dutch are all here in six beautifully produced volumes.They are on sale by Piquant.Also the complete works of Dr Schaeffer can also be bought.Bestregards David

  • At Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Blogger Forrest Schultz said…

    I have read all of Schaeffer's books. Thanks for your suggestion in re Rookmaaker's books -- right now I cannot afford to buy any but would be willing to read and review them if someone could provide me with them. If you have any ideas on this, email me at




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