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Taste is Black and White

One particularly common misconception in the realm of aesthetics is that “we all have different tastes, and that’s OK,” and Christians are certainly not immune to this errant perspective.

The error here lies once again in a careless use of terminology. If by “tastes” in such a perspective one means “preferences,” then I have no complaint. Different people certainly have different preferences, especially when it comes to art, whether culinary, visual, or auditory. One person may prefer Italian cuisine over Oriental — differences in preference abound and are perfectly acceptable. A person may prefer Mozart over Haydn, something which I certainly will never understand, and yet differences in preference here cause no real concern.

taste however is black and white. One has either bad taste or good taste. If two people differ in preference, both could be well within good taste. But if two people differ in taste, one (or both) is bad. Someone who claims that motor oil is good taste in culinary aesthetics, or one who proclaims fingers on a chalk board as beautiful music, possess inarguably bad taste no matter what their preference.

For example, both my wife’s preferences in decor and my mother’s preference in decor, while somewhat different, are both in good taste. Proportion, balance, and vibrancy are qualities that describe both preferences, placing them clearly in the realm of good taste. On the other hand, I know plenty of people whose decorating preferences are gaudy, loud, cluttered, and obnoxious. These preferences are clearly bad taste

As Christians, we are responsible to reflect the beauty and character of God, and God is described often in terms of splendor, balance, proportion, and modesty. Therefore for a Christian, in whatever aesthetic realm, it behooves us to strive for good taste by discerning those same qualities. Once inside the sphere of “good taste,” then, room for differing preferences exists in abundance.

So be careful the next time you are tempted to say, “Well, we just have different tastes.” If you mean preferences, then by all means, say it! But recognize that excusing mediocrity or immodesty for “difference in taste” is illegitimate for a God who describes himself in terms of good taste.

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.