Modern Art And Ancient Faith


Sovereign Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Davenport, IA will be hosting a “Modern Art and Ancient Faith” conference at the Figge Art Museum auditorium, Davenport on November 14, 2015 at 7:00 PM. The presentation will focus on appreciating and understanding modern art from a Christian perspective. Rev. Ken Golden, organizing pastor of Sovereign Grace OPC, will be the speaker. He holds a Masters in Fine Arts from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY (1992) and a Masters in Divinity from Westminster Seminary California (2005).

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. Thanks for promoting this event, Scott. This is an exciting opportunity to bring together two passions I’ve held over the last 20 years. The “prolegomena” will tackle questions such as “What constitutes good art?” and “What constitutes good Christian art?” (Various slides will accompany these questions.) The rest of the lecture concerns the movement from 19th Century “academic” departures to their 20th Century logical conclusions (e.g., Cezanne to Picasso to Pollock). Broader themes (e.g. Classical vs. Romantic trends, abstraction in form or color, postmodern reaction, etc.) will also find their way into the presentation.

    The Figge boasts a state-of-the-art 140 seat capacity auditorium that we are praying to fill. We are running an ad campaign on NPR and through the River City Reader bi-monthly newspaper. If you know anyone in the quad cities or surrounding vicinities, please let them know about this event.

    Thanks for your prayers in advance.

  2. Professor whatever happened to Classic Art with its beauty, symmetry, proportion, balance etc.,
    Modern “art” with its repulsively ugly &/or distorted (read grotesque) forms looks as if it has been
    spued out of the mouth of the 3 frog spirits which have themselves come forth out of the mouths
    of the dragon, beast & false prophet, the counter (Protestant) culture movement is anti-christian.

    • Hi Robert,

      I’m no expert in modern art so I hesitate to comment but art does reflect and express the culture in which it is created. The late modern world has given up on the notion that the world is ordered. If the world is not ordered then art should reflect that chaos. To be sure, art has always reflected, in some ways, the disharmony introduced into the world by sin and I don’t think we want to argue that the only sort of art that ought to be produced must be realistic but as as the culture continues to be marked by chaos, fragmentation, disharmony, and alienation, art will surely reflect those experiences.

    • Hello (Rob)Scott,
      I’m no expert in art either, There is no doubt that art is influenced by sin and since man is fallen,
      and hence sinfu,l art is influenced by this factor, it seems the more depraved the artist the more
      depraved the art.
      It is mind boggling to think that people cannot/will not see order in this world, pity the person who
      has such a judicial blindness on his heart, we can give thanks to Our God that he has had mercy
      on us through Jesus Christ our Lord.

  3. This sounds right up my alley!! For those of us who do not live in the area or cannot travel to attend, will there be some way to access information presented after the event?

    • Dear Roxanne:

      Right now there are no plans for digital recording, etc. If you want, I can add you to the distribution list requesting slides. Just send me your email.

      Warmly, Pastor Ken

  4. Dear Robert:

    Thanks for your comment. Many people love classic(al?) art with its qualities that you mention. Some of my favorite artists hail from late-Medieval through Baroque periods. That said, I think there are some assumptions about “pre-modern” art that need to addressed.

    Renaissance art with its exacting proportions, nativity scenes in Italian squares, etc. exudes humanism–whether the content is religious or pagan. The so-called “Protestant” landscape painting of the Hudson River School (e.g, Cole, Durand, Bierstadt) is burdened by Romanticism. Every art form has presuppositions. Do you have any specific period in mind that reflects the Protestant aesthetic?

    As far as modern art being repulsively ugly or distorted,

    (1) I think it would be helpful to be more specific. There are various styles of painting that use resonant colors and forms.

    (2) The “academy” often dismisses new expressions that don’t fit its rigid criteria. Also, some forms of modern art express a new vocabulary that needs to absorbed.

    (3) Daniel Siedell, “God in the Gallery” does a good job of exposing the cultural laziness of wanting visual art to simply “speak” without any work on the part of the viewer.

    Hope this helps.

  5. Dear Robert:

    Everything is influenced by sin. My point is that the “symmetry and proportion” you mentioned earlier is also influenced by sin, specifically a different philosophy (humanism). I’m not arguing that symmetry and proportion are bad things, but neither am I willing to concede that asymmetry and disproportion are ugly qualities. They’re different. Some of the old masters (El Greco, Peter Bruegel the Elder) specialized in elongated forms or exaggerated features. Even the later work of Michelangelo (e.g. Last Judgment) is exaggerated. This wasn’t a result of a chaotic downward spiral in painting; rather it was a commentary on the times (e.g. sack of Rome in 1527 and ensuing chaos).

    Also, your thesis that depravity being proportional between art and artist doesn’t quite work. Much of classical art in recent times has given way to aristocratic voyeurism (Bouguereau) or been co-opted by fascist/totalitarian regimes. It’s true that many artists (and musicians, writers, etc.) are degenerate people who live tragic lives, but that doesn’t mean their craft has no merit.

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