This comment is not all that rare anytime someone from Christianity specializes in, well , anything. This same comment was leveled at Mozart by the Court of Austria when they critiqued his opera. It motivated the Nazis to ban artists and composers like Schoenberg and Hindemith. And it continues to ring in the hallways, conferences and eardrums of arts and music ministers in churches throughout the world. It is true that fields like avant garde art, and academics require some education before their full significance can be understood. It's also true that some forward thinking scholarship and avant garde art isn't good (in that it's bad work).
But what continues to befuddle me in these conversations is that the party raising the issue isn't a "common man." In this case the gentleman who spoke those words has a Phd. in New Testament! The Opera committee at the Court of Austria all had musical training, Hitler's Arts council included numerous Musicologists and Composers. In short, the challenge to "create for the common man" always comes from an Elitist position, with a insulting view of rest of society. If perhaps, someone were to take a poll at a Wal-Mart or Shopping mall that information could purport to represent the views of the "common-people" of the U.S. But I'm not sure they'd be insulted by abstract art, dissonant music, or a scholarly paper even if they lacked the training to appreciate it fully. As an artist, I want people to "get" what I create, but ideas at hand get first priority, just like the scholars. Giving justice to the idea is first, and hopefully it can be presented in a way that communicates well. In many cases, the training just helps a knowledgeable person appreciate the idea extra, it's not often a prerequisite to understand the work at all.
I'd love to hear some feedback from people without advanced training in the arts.. I'm not a "common man" either, so I'd love some insight.
P.S. I'm not sure that in 21st century America, in an Information Economy, that anyone is a "Common man" The guys at Car Talk went to M.I.T. My mechanic knows as much about cars as I do about music. Where are the cars for the "common man?" They keep building cars that only trained mechanics can appreciate.... (you see my point)