Three contemporary authors have helped me get a grip on right feeling and its applications in the church.
1. One of the 6 authors of A Conservative Christian Declaration is David de Bruyn who also wrote a 130-page book called Building Conservative Churches. In the back of that book is a great bibliography of recommended reading on orthopathy. I’ve got some of the books and hope to read through them slowly over the next few years. Mostly De Bruyn treats the practical side of beauty as it applies to the church. For example, he questions painting nurseries with Noah’s Ark cartoon giraffes when the Flood is a terrible description of judgment—a prefiguring of Hell.
2. Roger Scruton, Anglican philosopher who writes about beauty from a conservative perspective. Solid, but not much Bible. You can start with his excellent and short, Culture Counts. His long books are very heavy (like The Aesthetics of Music), but this one is readable. For example, what is culture? Scruton, “The collective pursuit of true judgment.” He also writes in the brief series, Beauty: A Very Short Introduction.
3. A third book deserves a recommendation, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns by David Gordon. Again, it’s neither long nor heavy, and it nearly earned my book of the year for 2013. He says things like, How can we worship a God whose name is the Ancient of Days when we are frantically trying to chase everything new? Gordon’s website has some interesting articles, and he also writes at Second Nature.
These three books by a Baptist, Anglican, and Presbyterian respectively would be the first three recommendations I would make for someone who wants to grapple with beauty and culture especially as they relate to the forms of worship like music, clothes, architecture, language, and technology.
If you are looking for perspective, these men all stand in contrast to the contemporary view of culture homogenized in the Gospel Coalition and promoted by men like D. A. Carson and Tim Keller.
Since these three books are all short, it’s not a great commitment to work through any of them. De Bruyn (the Baptist) uses the most Bible, Gordon (the Presbyterian) uses history and theology, and Scruton (the Anglican) is mostly philosophy.
If we care about loving God, then we should care about what love is, and these men point us in the right direction.