A Reformed Vision of the Visual Arts - part 2 - page 5

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From the Summer 2014 issue of Knowing & Doing:  

A Reformed Vision of the Visual Arts: A Conversation with Abraham Kuyper, Nicholas Wolterstorff, and the Word of God
Part 2 of a Two-Part Series on the Arts and Theology

by Connally Gilliam
C.S. Lewis Institute Fellow

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1. Calvin’s move to outlaw the ballet in Geneva has been seen by some “anti-art.” But at the time, Calvin and his fellow reformers saw what was transpiring in the ballet as a debasement of women. (See J.T. McNeill, The History and Character of Calvinism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), 168.) Perhaps their decision was wrong, though one might look at, for example, Miley Cyrus’s dance moves and legitimately ask about the debasement of women.
2. Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 156.
3. John T. McNeill, ed., Calvin: The Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), II.2.14.
4. All Scripture quotations in this article are from the New International Version.
5. Kuyper, Lectures, 166.
6. H. Richard Niebuhr, Christ and Culture (New York: Harper & Row, 1951), 190ff.
7. Institutes, II.14.3.
8. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Art in Action (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980), 67ff.
9. Ibid., 60.
10. McNeill, Calvinism, 230.
11. Wolterstorff, Art, 70. C.S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University
12. Press, 1961), 19. Lewis also notes that we cannot know if the work deserves our surrender until we surrender.
13. Wolterstorff, Art, 71.
14. Ibid., 79.

Connally Gilliam is an author, speaker, and ministry practitioner serving with the US Navigators.  She serves on the board of Regent College in Vancouver, BC, where she is completing a MA in Theological Studies.  She holds a BA and MT, both in English, from the University of Virginia. Connally is the author of Revelations of a Single Woman: loving the life I didn’t expect.  She lives in Arlington, VA and mentors and speaks for the C.S. Lewis Institute.

Recommended Reading:
Art in Action: Toward a Christian Aesthetic by Nicholas Wolterstorff Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing

Taking vigorous issue with the pervasive Western notion that the arts exist essentially for the purpose of aesthetic contemplation, Nicholas Wolterstorff proposes instead what he sees as an authentically Christian perspective: that art has a legitimate, even necessary, place in everyday life. While granting that galleries, theaters and concert halls serve a valid purpose, Wolterstorff argues that art should also be appreciated in action—in private homes, in hotel lobbies, in factories and grocery stores, on main street.

His conviction that art should be multifunction is basic to the author’s views on art in the city (he regards most American cities as dehumanizing wastelands of aesthetic squalor, dominated by the demands of the automobile), and leads him to a helpful discussion of its role in worship and the church.

COPYRIGHT NOTICE:  Knowing & Doing is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.
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