The Eliot Society is named after T. S. Eliot, the modernist poet who insisted that Christian faith and artistic culture are inseparable. In Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, Eliot writes,
“The artistic sensibility is impoverished by its divorce from the religious sensibility, the religious by its separation from the artistic.”
Once upon a time, the church was an incubator of the arts and of some of the world’s finest artists. Michelangelo, Dante, Milton, Tallis, Donne, Herbert, Bach, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, El Greco, Handel, the Inklings: all these drew nourishment from their mother, the Church. They believed that human creations may reflect the beauty, truth, and goodness of the Divine Creator and draw human hearts toward God. Their fine architecture, sculpture, music, painting, drama, and poetry have formed the imaginations of audiences for centuries.
Today, signs of divorce are everywhere. Christians are often strangers in the world of secular art, and artists just as often feel alienated in the church. Many Christians have, as Francis Schaeffer says, “relegate[d] art to the fringes of life.” But if Eliot is right, then the arts belong at the vital center of life and worship. Pastors, theologians, and ordinary believers need art, and artists need a home in the church where they can find discipleship and inspiration. A reunion of the religious and artistic sensibilities is crucial for the health of the modern church.
The Eliot Society exists to enrich the church and foster spiritual formation through art.