Art: not a means to an end

Calvin Seerveld

‘Art is not a means to an end, it is not a function of something else. Art stands or falls on its own artistic contribution in God’s world, To think of art, or practise it, as a tool for some other purpose is to sell it out to a technocratic bent of mind, damning it to a permanent identity crisis and reducing it to a kind of colonial status at the beck and call of touring VIPs for approved cultural missions’. – Calvin Seerveld, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art (Willowdale: Toronto Tuppence Press, 2000), 11.


  1. I like this quote a lot.

    What would you say is the best Seervald book to read first (if you’ve read multiple)? I’m somewhat familiar with aesthetics, so I’m not worried about getting lost or anything. My chaplain is really into Seervald and I’ve been wanting to read him, so maybe I will add it to the summer list.


  2. Dave, that’s a good question. I’ve only read three (Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves: Alternative Steps in Understanding Art; Rainbows for the Fallen World: Aesthetic Life and Artistic Task; and Voicing God’s Psalms), but from those I suspect that where you start with Seerveld is probably not as important as it is with some other writers. To get your bearings, I’d probably start with Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism, and then possibly Part II/§4 of Jeremy Begbie’s Voicing Creation’s Praise wherein Begbie locates Seerveld by way of highlighting Seerveld’s and Rookmaaker’s points of correspondence to and departure from Dooyeweerd. I’d then move to Rainbows for the Fallen World.

    I’d be keen to hear how you get on with your reading.


  3. Sure thing. I hope to do a summer’s end review of books I’ve read in lieu of the typical summer reading list idea. I don’t know if I will get to it, because I don’t have any of his books right now. I’m kind of having a random summer, so I don’t know how much time I will make for reading, unfortunately. I’m in LA for a few weeks now visiting a friend, and later in the summer I hope to go to Brooklyn to visit Fordham University.

    Anyways, I’ve always thought Rainbows… would be a good starting point. I know who Kuyper is via my chaplain, who is pretty Dutch Reformed. I’ve always known I will need to get to Kuyper and Dooyewerd eventually.


  4. I’ve always understood the literary art in the Bible to be a means to an end, i.e. the end of witnessing to a divine reality.

    Does ascribing the function of “witness” to art reduce it to a “colonial status”?


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