The two quotes below come from my reading of Edward T. Oakes' essay, "The Apologetics of Beauty," in The Beauty of God: Theology and the Arts. The video clip comes courtesy of a group of British thespians who play the most wondermous jest on unsuspecting travelers at Stansted Airport, London.
Balthasar's comments, though arriving from a mid-20th century German Catholic, ought give us evangelicals great pause, and beyond that, Americans in general. Barzun nails one of the worst habits in the contemporary art world. The thespians make me jealous that a) I didn't think of it first, and b) they didn't invite me to join in!
Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics (Ignatius, 1982, p. 152).
"For the moment the essential thing is to realize that, without aesthetic knowledge, neither theoretical nor practical reason can attain to their total completion. If the verum lacks the splendor which for Thomas is the distinctive mark of the beautiful, then the knowledge of truth remains both pragmatic and formalistic. The only concern of such knowledge will then merely be the verification of correct facts and laws, whether the latter are laws of being or laws of thought, categories and ideas.
"But if the bonum lacks the voluptas, which for Augustine is the mark of its beauty, then the relationship to the good remains both utilitarian and hedonistic: in this case the good will involve merely the satisfaction of a need by means of some value or object, whether it is founded objectively on the thing itself giving satisfaction or subjectively on the person seeking it."
The key words to pay attention to are: pragmatic and formalistic, utilitarian and hedonistic. That's what he claims our lived and taught gospel will become if it is devoid of Beauty, its apperception, appreciation and application.
In short: not a good thing. Nor true.
Jacques Barzun, The Use and Abuse of Art (Princeton Press, 1974, 17):
"Nowadays anything put up for seeing or hearing is only meant to be taken in casually. If it holds your eye and focuses your wits for even a minute, it justifies itself and there's an end of it. . . .
"The Interesting has replaced the Beautiful, the Profound, and the Moving. [But] if modern man's most sophisticated relation to art is to be casual and humorous, [if it] is to resemble the attitude of the vacationer at the fair grounds, then the conception of Art as an all-important institution, as a supreme activity of man, is quite destroyed. One cannot have it both ways--art as a sense-tickler and a joke is not the same art that geniuses and critics have asked us to cherish and support. Nor is it the same art that revolutionists call for in aid of the Revolution."
And now for the British hams at the Stansted airport. . .