This chapter focuses on the applied aesthetics of Anglican worship. As a seventeenth-century development, with definitive roots in the sixteenth-century Reformation, as well as in the Western Catholic tradition, Anglican aesthetics is a complex interaction of all sorts of factors, theological, cultural, and historical, which at times make it appear contradictory, even dysfunctional. Beginning with the particular case study of the opening Eucharist of the 2008 Lambeth Conference, the chapter goes on to show how Anglican identity in worship has from its very beginnings been constantly evolving and responding to new contextual challenges. After discussing the importance of church music and hymnody and charting its development through the centuries, it moves on to describe the architectural shape of the liturgy which has also evolved along with changing patterns of worship. It concludes by suggesting that it will continue to evolve into the future in as yet uncharted ways.
Whether we are trying to judge issues of immediate interest or fathom matters of long-standing concern, history gives us the key for understanding the complex and often tangled relationship of evangelicalism to the arts. We need the help of that history for two reasons, the first of which is that the story of the evangelical engagement with the arts has largely been one of action and adaptation rather than one of theory and reflection. A second reason has to do with the fact that evangelical Christianity and the contemporary arts are fluid realities rather than fixed entities. Throughout their history, evangelical Christians have faithfully borne witness to what Karl Barth calls the “covenant of grace,” and in works of mission and mercy they have brought the message of the cross into virtually every culture and corner of the world. This article discusses the relationship between evangelicalism and the arts. It also examines Romanticism, Reformation, Protestantism, modernism, and fundamentalism as well as the resurgence of the relationship between evangelicalism and the modern arts in the mid-twentieth century.
A Christ figure in film illumines a theological dimension of the person of Jesus. The Christ figure in Babette’s Feast is a French Chef, Babette. The feast which she provides at great cost and sacrifice heals and illuminates a small Lutheran community in Denmark. The movie’s lesson is that, in a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice. The Shawshank Redemption illuminates the way in which Christ liberates us from the prison of sin. Gran Torino illustrates the theme of Christ’s defeat of evil and the devil. Its illustration of this theological theme is made much more powerful by the fact that the protagonist is Clint Eastwood. We expect Clint to play Clint, and blow the villains away. Instead, like Christ, Clint conquers by dying. Clint here plays Christ as the trickster who defeats the devil by a cunning and self-mortifying trap.
This chapter focuses less on the relationship of artists to Christian religious institutions, and more on how an artist’s Christian identity, ideas, and personal beliefs are themselves instrumental in shaping, even determining, artistic self-expression. An identifiable art-historical trajectory is followed, incorporating relevant and revealing case studies, including Fra Angelico, El Greco, Rembrandt, Holman Hunt, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, and Rouault. The twentieth century—with two World Wars, the Holocaust, the Cold War, globalization, secularization, mass communication, and modernity itself—profoundly transformed both the “traditional” relationship of art to Christianity (and vice versa) and that of Christian faith to artistic practice. In our own “post-modern” era, most artists and their publics are increasingly aware of two major cultural phenomena. One is the paradox of a highly visual culture in which Christian imagery is now, at best, intermittently visible. The other is a marked, perhaps inexorable, mutation away from religion and toward spirituality.
This article explores Blake's reading of the Book of Job as a transformative text that shifts and changes meaning through its affective reception by readers. While the Enlightenment attempted to shame not only religious believers but those who approached their society through any form of intense feeling (rather than more polite forms of sensibility), Blake sought to re-emotionalize readers by teaching them how to read the Bible, and thus how to read their world. Blake's Elihu shows that religious experience is affective, but further implies that its cognitive significance has material effects: emotional perception informs the imagination while the imagination allows the individual to see the world as human. Feeling is then ultimately responsible for compassionate acts engendered by an affectively fuelled capacity for invention and vision. This aspect of Blake's poetry is sometimes buried by historical readings because they are more interested in the letter of Blake's work than in its spirit, regarding his texts and images as receptacles of ideas rather than guides to feeling. The article considers Blake's own implicit resistance to historical decodings of his work. First, through a discussion of his understanding of ‘opposites’ and ‘contraries’. Second, in a reading of the Illustrations, which argues that the imagination, or ‘spiritual sensation’, offers the reader a way into Brennan's ‘living attention’ as an artistic as well as ethical way of relating.
Robin M. Jensen
Like other students of culture, historians of ancient Christianity deem the visual art, artefacts, and architecture of the early church as resources indispensable to discerning how various early Christian communities expressed and transmitted their religious beliefs. The study of visual images not only supplements and balances documentary research, but often affords scholars access to objects which are not only of great beauty, but which act as powerful agents of message and meaning. Furthermore, it opens the question of how vision itself functioned in religious practice. The insights gained from the study of visual culture are achieved not only from comparing textual evidence with material evidence, but also from the appreciation of the interpretive role, expressive power, and aesthetic qualities of physical remains in their own right, along with the analysis of the visual experience itself as a meaning-constructive activity.
This article examines how two Southern vernacular artists — one working in the late 19th century and the other at the end of the 20th — responded to the Bible, what they took from it, and how they made sense of what they learned. Within the century that separates Harriet Powers, the former slave, and the Revd Howard Finster (c. 1915–2001), space-age illustrator and folk-art icon, religious imagery dominates the creations of contemporary folk artists in the South. Moreover, untold numbers of both black and white artists found inspiration in the Bible. Making art intended for a variety of purposes — devotional, didactic, proselytic, and also as social commentary — these untutored artists searched the Bible to find meaning for themselves. Looking at the art of Harriet Powers, a black woman and former slave, living a century ago, and the creations of a feisty Baptist preacher who died in the 21st century, underscores not only the many differences they share but also a startling number of similarities.
In the wake of the Romantic movement, Christian theologians gave renewed attention to the arts, including painting, which entered one of its most turbulent phases in the nineteenth century. The chapter examines the revalorization of the Middle Ages as the epitome of a Christian culture; symbolism, especially as represented in the English painter G. F. Watts; and the emergence of French modernism as a secularizing tendency. Constructively, the chapter demonstrates that the nineteenth century can still provide a significant resource for reflection on theology and painting. Critically, it finds nineteenth-century theology was unprepared for the dramatic convulsions of the early twentieth century that would transform the landscape of modern art.
This chapter is an exploration of the visual culture of Quakers with the principal focus on two-dimensional figurative art and on the architecture and interior décor of meeting houses. From their earliest days and through the subsequent centuries, Quakers have applied restraint on visual expressions in keeping with other aspects of lifestyle and demeanour. In recent years former taboos have been relaxed along with a reappraisal of what it means to be plain and simple. Accounts are given of the restraints that emanate from within and harmonize with acceptable lifestyles, of disciplinary measures exercised by groups to control the habits of members, of the emergence of a stereotype, and of significant departures from it.