Historical Perspectives on the Reformed View of the Arts in Worship

Of all the theologians and church leaders who are cited as being opposed to the use of visual arts in worship, Protestant Reformer John Calvin is perhaps the most famous. The following article describes the cultural context in which Calvin worked and the specific nature of his views on the visual arts in worship, suggesting that Calvin was more concerned with confronting idolatry than with opposing the visual arts in worship.

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Congregational Worship in the Post-Reformation Period

Congregational worship was influenced by the radical wing of Puritanism, which stressed worship shaped by biblical teaching alone. Worship was stripped to its New Testament essentials, centering on the exposition of the Word and the observance of the sacraments. Customs and features of worship not expressed in Scripture were dropped.

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Baptist Worship in the Post-Reformation Period

Baptists, like the Puritans, desired pure scriptural worship. Early Baptist worship sought to maintain radically biblical worship that the Spirit was free to direct. Later, however, in response to what they considered to be excesses in other movements, Baptists came to place more emphasis on worship according to biblical form and order.f

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