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The Reformation & the Arts

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A major controversy during the time of the Reformation involved the proper use of the arts. Despite the artistic glories of the medieval church, the Reformers believed that art was being misused, that it was obscuring the Gospel behind a haze of aesthetic experience. In some ways, the medieval approach to the arts, as condemned by the Reformers, is coming back among contemporary evangelicals.

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1 [ Back ] Some of the material in this article is adapted from my book State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991).
2 [ Back ] See Kenneth Myers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1989).
3 [ Back ] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, ed. John T. McNeill (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), Book 1, Chapter 11, Section 12.
4 [ Back ] Quoted in Charles Garside, Zwingli and the Arts (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1966), p. 171.
5 [ Back ] Quoted in Garside, p. 182.
6 [ Back ] Luther's Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1959), 51:84-85.
7 [ Back ] Ibid., 49:428.
8 [ Back ] Werner Jaeger, Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture, trans. Gilbert Highet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), pp. xxvii-xxviii.

Gene E. Veith is academic dean at Patrick Henry College (Purcellville, Virginia) and cultural editor for World Magazine.

Issue: "The Word Became Flesh" Nov./Dec. 1994 Vol. 3 No. 6 Page number(s): 21-24

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