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Calvinism and the arts: A re-assessment

Joby, Christopher Richard (2005) Calvinism and the arts: A re-assessment. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Although many believe John Calvin had a negative attitude towards the arts, particularly visual art, my contention is that we find within his writings and the development of the Reformed tradition a more positive attitude, to the arts than has hitherto been recognized. In chapters one and two, I look in detail at Calvin's own writings. I begin by examining exactly what type of visual art he rejected and what type he affirmed. I then look at how his eschatology and epistemology, particularly his use of the metaphor of mirror, allow us to argue for the placing of certain types of art within Reformed churches, notably history and landscape paintings. In chapters three and four, I consider music and architecture within Calvin's writings and the Reformed tradition. I suggest that the respective ontologies of metrical psalms and Reformed church-buildings both share something with those of history and landscape paintings and that it is inconsistent to allow for the former, but reject the latter. In the last three chapters, I focus on visual art. I examine the development of decoration and forms of visual art such as stained-glass windows in selected Reformed churches and suggest that it naturally follows that history and landscape paintings should be allowed for in such churches. I look at examples of these from seventeenth- century Netherlands, when Calvinism was the pre-dominant mode of religious expression, and argue that their form and content provide us with ontological and epistemological arguments which inevitably lead to the conclusion that their continued exclusion from Reformed churches is no longer tenable. In short, the use of appropriate works of art in Reformed churches is wholly consistent with the fundamental notions underpinning Calvin's theology and liturgical practices in the Reformed tradition, and their continued exclusion from most of these churches is an anomaly.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:2005
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Sep 2011 09:56

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