Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Calvin, Sam, and Boyd on Stained Glass

So I posted a link to a video clip from one of Greg Boyd's sermons on Facebook not too long ago. The video was called "Imagination, John Calvin, and Stained Glass". In the clip Boyd talks about how the Protestant Reformation had as one bad side effect the discouragement of Christian art.

I think it is truth; the Reformation did create a general suspision of art. I've noticed that Protestants tend to be very jittery about pictures, movies, or arts used in religion. Any depictions of Jesus often come with a lot of disclaimers and people are very shaky about things.

However, shortly after I posted the link, Sam messaged me. I think he had some excellent things to say, so I will post his message.

Greg Boyd needs a little help with his history. The reason why the reformers where against the statues and windows was because of who was on them. Go to a church today that still uses these methods and see who it is that is being shown in the windows and statues. While it may be true that John Calvin was totally against these things, the reason for his being totally against it was probably because of its former abuse, as Boyd said. So Calvin may be wrong in this regard, so what? As for the iconoclasts who did the breaking of all the statues in the churches, John Calvin was against this sort of violence. There are Calvinists who still use stain glass windows of Bible characters and statues and the like. One of them is R.C. Sproul, who you know of very well.

I would like to make a few points.

In Boyd's favor:
  • Boyd doesn't talk about Reformers in general; he talks about the "culprits" who threw suspicion onto the arts, one of them being John Calvin.
  • Calvin's being wrong in this area was the point Boyd was making here. He wasn't critiquing anything else Calvin had to say, although Boyd did make it clear that he wasn't a Calvin fan. I would also like to note that Calvin's being clearly in the wrong on this issue makes him more suspect to be incorrect on other issues.
  • The Platonic otherness theory was also clearly a "culprit" here, and I agree with Boyd that as a result of Plato's (and Socrates and Parmenides) musings, we have had our picture of God skewed and corrupted.
In Sam's favor:
  • It's true that the Catholic and Orthodox churches fell into a lot of idolatry and twisted practices involving their statues and pictures. As a result I can see how being suspicious of such images would be beneficial.
  • When you think about it, the statue-smashing rather corresponds to the Old Testament idol smashing. I'm not sure if smashing stuff is quite as acceptable under the new covenant as it was under the old, but it's still a radical way to deal with sin, and I like it.
  • I'm guessing you mean that Virgin Mary is shown on windows from such churches today. And I agree she is a very, very dangerous figure idolatry-wise. In fact, I would guess that during the end times she's going to be one of the main rigs Satan uses, and she has been a favorite of his for a long time.
So in the end, I agree with Sam that at least some Reformers (maybe most) had good motives for destroying the statues and stained glass windows, and I commend those Reformers for doing so. I agree with Boyd that a total suspision of arts is wrong and that the Platonic model of God's otherliness makes God into a big shiny nonpersonal floating gem. So I still think Boyd's sermon is excellent, but best taken with a grain of salt, i.e. a dose of Sam.

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