Francis Schaeffer

Schaeffer’s four key criteria for approaching art and media

About the Author

Lars Dahle

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Lars is the Lausanne Catalyst for Media Engagement, as well as being a member of the Lausanne Communications Working Group. He is Associate Professor in Systematic Theology at Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication, NLA University College (Norway). He lives in Kristiansand, Norway, and is married to Margunn Serigstad Dahle, who is Associate Professor in Communications and Worldviews at NLA Gimlekollen. See all Lars’s articles on EngagingMedia.info.

In his ground-breaking 1973 essay Art & the Bible, influential evangelical author Francis Schaeffer (1913–1984) proposed four key criteria for enjoying and evaluating art and media messages.

This is still a highly relevant and significant resource for practicing appropriate media awareness and media critique – even in today’s postmodern media world.

Schaeffer’s four criteria are

  • technical excellence: how well the elements of a specific medium are employed
  • validity: ‘whether an artist is honest to himself and his world view or whether he makes his art only for money and for the sake of being accepted’
  • content: the worldview or ideological perspective expressed in the art object or the media message)
  • integration of content and medium: how well a communicator has matched her medium to the ideas that she wishes to express

These four criteria proposed by Schaeffer are certainly worth reflecting on, and applying in practice when engaging with media messages. They are also very helpful criteria to use in relation to our own production of media.

Photo credit: © Reformatorisch Dagblad. Used by kind permission.

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