Clapham Christian Classical School

Clapham Journal

A Conversation with an Art Dealer

by John Creswell, Clapham Parent


I was downtown recently meeting with a few people at a well known Furniture and Art dealer when the topic of modernity versus antiquity arose.  The owner of the store made a comment about “Europe being on Sale”.  I inquired further, and he elaborated, explaining that while he usually went to Europe to buy Asian related pieces in Paris, he was picking up a lot of European Furniture and Art currently.  As he put it,

“Europe has just lost its sense of history and there is no one under sixty years old that desires any of their parent’s art, furniture, or for that matter, anything old and European; they are just giving it away.” 

He went on to explain that he had just found some unbelievable Flemish paintings from the 1600s that he bought at rock bottom prices – and then he said something very interesting. 


He said he was surprised how much he liked the old stuff because there was a real sense of power and beauty in them that he thought was somewhat transcendent.  A few things struck me about this comment; the first was that it came from a very progressive person, who in no other area of their life would espouse objective truth.  I was also reminded that because God has put enough into the world to make Faith in Him a most reasonable thing, anyone can find it (Truth) through natural law and the natural world – even this wealthy, progressive and cultured store owner standing right in front of me.


The Raising of Lazarus by Rembrandt


I couldn’t resist the soft pitch I had been given and very gently laid out the idea about a belief in something called Objective Beauty and Goodness.  That in the universe there is beauty that is transcendent, not abstract, not prone to interruption, but fixed – fixed just like the power and perspective of Rembrandt’s The Raising of Lazarus. 


I went on to talk about what led to Europe’s decline in culture and society and how this decline was related to the decline of the church, which represents Truth.  Of course a few people in the conversation clearly were not getting it – this was very much a modern abstract type of crowd, but amazingly, the owner of the store saw it!  His eyes lit up and he told me, “Yes, I agree with what you are saying, there is a such thing as a fixed perspective.”  And with that, it was well after lunchtime. 


Everyone went back to his or her office, but I took a few things away from this episode. Firstly, some who would normally be very hostile to the gospel, may gladly engage in a conversation about art or culture – these are the very types of conversations that can lead to questions of the Objective versus Subjective nature of things.  And if you can get someone that far, it is really then not much further to ask the question – if there is Truth, who is the author of it? 


Second, as Christians we cannot forget that God owns it all, or as Abraham Kuyper, the Dutch version of Wilberforce, once quipped,


“God looks over all creation and says – mine”. 


There is nothing in the natural world that contradicts the gospel so as Christians we will never be caught off guard with the latest fad by modernity that supposedly disproves the gospel.  The Psalmist says “the heavens declare His glory” and so it is even today. 


Lastly, Truth/Beauty/Goodness, does this sound familiar?  Yes, this is why we are at Clapham, to reinforce, not just to our children, but also to our entire circle of influence, that God’s presence is expressed in every part of our lives and world, and we are living testimonies to His mercy, justice and love.  Let us all persevere in being the Body of Christ this week and in the weeks and months to come.


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