The Second Renaissance

You may not know it, but we’re in the beginning of what will one day be defined by historians as the Second Renaissance or “rebirth” of arts and culture.

The First Renaissance started in Italy in the 1300’s, lasted several hundred years, and centered around the rediscovery of ancient texts and classical learning that was dormant Europe during the Middle Ages. This rediscovery brought about profound changes in every area of society that formed the basis of what we now consider Modern society. The First Renaissance witnessed the birth of the Reformation, the rise of Humanism and the spark of the Scientific Revolution. And the institutional Christian church played a significant role in funding and shaping much of the major movements during this period. As a result, the art, philosophy (minus humanism) and music of that period bore the distinct marks of the church and a calling to a higher, deeper Purpose that those disciplines serve.

The Second Renaissance is quite different. While technology still fuels it–the computer and Internet taking the place of the printing press and monks–the Second Renaissance signals the transition of the Modern era into a Post-Modern one. This Second Renaissance is not being shaped by institutions–the Church or otherwise, but by individuals and organic groups formed and reformed for specific purposes. The focus is largely now on the rediscovery of pre-classical, ancient themes of good ol’ hedonism and primitive thinking. And the flourishing of the arts is not funded by the church with a Higher vision, but by business via advertising and design with a singular vision of profit and materialism. These differences between the First and Second Renaissance raise several important questions for us as designers.

What philosophies will the Second Renaissance give birth to? Will business continue to be the primary patron of design? What will be the impact on society? I’d like to suggest that the institutional or organized, visible Christian church will have minimal impact in this Second Renaissance in the arts. I’m not being harsh here, secular institutions will be equally as ineffective. The Internet has profoundly shifted the balance of power away from institutions toward the organic and the individual. The work being done by the visible Christian church in the arts is mainly copy work. The few sparks of life touching design that I have seen exist outside the visible church and with individuals functioning as the organic Church. The same can be said of design in general as it flourishes beyond the boundaries of the profession’s institutions and corporate structures.

Designers must shed these institutional shells that have served their purpose and be transformed into new creatures that look and function differently. Only then will they be able to speak life and meaning into design, find it’s true heart purpose and give birth to a Divine purpose that changes society for the Good.

9 Responses to “The Second Renaissance”

  1. Dailey Crafton

    Good to here from you again Frank. I’ve been missing your posts.

    We do live in a society were design is corporately driven, which isn’t necesarily bad, it just isn’t an ideal creative situation for a lot of designers who seek to be more creative than there employment conditions would allow. This can be countered of course with pro-bono projects like show posters, invitations for friends, and even design “fine art” pieces, what I like to call “high design.”

    Still, art or design in the church has it’s place. We’ve recently moved to Brooklyn, NY to help plant a church and I was able to provide all the design for the materials that the church would need. We made posters and flyers and the like which have attracted a few, if only a small few. So “invasion,” is still a somewhat necesary tactic of drawing people to Christ, however, “infiltration” will be a much more effective method of introducing our Savior.

    For example, because I work at L’Oreal as an art director, I have an audience with the people at L’Oreal, and other designers and artists that I come in contact with. I am “one of them” in a sense. I’ve been able build a relationship with a couple of individuals and share the explicit gospel with them, as well as have specific testimony with many others.

    So design as it relates directly to the church is helpful, but design as it relates directly to me, a Christian, who in turn relates directly to Christ and His church, seems to be more effective in this generation.

  2. Frank McClung

    Been a long summer Dailey. Glad to be back on the design wagon or is that off the wagon?

    I’d love to here more about your time at L’Oreal (if you can). Sounds like quite an interesting spot to be in as a designer. Do tell us when you get a chance what you’ve learned there that could be helpful to us all.

    Adrian, I’m wondering what a “good use” of the web by the organic Church would look like or function like? If you have any Flickrs of a vision, I’d like to hear it. I sure don’t.

  3. Adrian

    “I’d like to suggest that the institutional or organized, visible Christian church will have little to no impact in this Second Renaissance in the arts.”

    Sadly, you are probably right. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. The church has the same access to the internet as everyone else. I would point the finger more at the Church rather than giving them a pass along with all the other “old institutions.” I mean the news institutions are suffering too(newspapers, network news), but there is still news that is thriving in the new environment (blogs, cable news, talk radio). The thing about the church’s position is that the old institution is dying without being replaced by a new Christian model. That is the really scary thing as I see it, the Renaissance is leaving it irrelevant and powerless. Sorry for the pessimism. I guess there are probably many examples of good use of the web by the church, but nothing revolutionary – like a Flickr, or anything.

  4. Adrian

    Frank, I do have ideas, maybe not a vision exactly. If I were to take those ideas to my pastor, I think I would be laughed at, or at least politely turned down. I just don’t know if there is desire by the Church to move out of their comfort zone. They would rather pat themselves on the back for the work they supported back in the Renaissance than try something new. Innovation is scary and the Church (especially the denomination I belong to) is extremely afraid of change. There I go being pessimistic again…

  5. Frank McClung

    Boy, can I understand that Adrian. My mom (a fine artist) wanted to donate one of her best paintings to her church, they said they didn’t want it. Instead they bought something that looked like a velvet Jesus and hung that instead. My mom was and still is greatly discouraged about their response.

    Part of the problem is that we think that the organized, institutionalized, denominationalized church carries the Divine authority to validate and innovate in the arts. It does not. When they brush us of we get upset because there seems to be no other place to go. There is though.

    Could you share some of your ideas. We’d love to hear them. Maybe we can find a place for them to grow.

  6. Frank McClung

    dailey, just curious, but do you see the church as something outside yourself?

  7. dailey

    I am in love with church planting. A good way to get others to move out of their comfort zones is to get out of our own comfort zones first, no? Step out on faith, help a young pastor plant a church in a highly unchurched area, preferably in an extremely urban area (because that’s where the people are). There you will find fertile soil for new ideas about what the church is, and hopefully, while still grounded in the Word, change some of your own ideas about the church. Revolve your life around the church, not the church around your life.

  8. Dailey

    I can’t really answer that yes or no, so here is my answer; If the church were a building, I’d be a brick in that building. If it were a physical body, I’d be a hand or foot or pinky finger or whatever. So I am part of the whole yet disinct as an idividual member. The last part of Ephesians 2 sums it up the best.

  9. Adrian

    Frank, I do have ideas, maybe not a vision exactly. If I were to take those ideas to my pastor, I think I would be laughed at, or at least politely turned down. I just don't know if there is desire by the Church to move out of their comfort zone. They would rather pat themselves on the back for the work they supported back in the Renaissance than try something new. Innovation is scary and the Church (especially the denomination I belong to) is extremely afraid of change. There I go being pessimistic again…

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