Monday, November 29, 2010

OPTIONAL ENRICHMENT: The French Revolution in Opera

Final Scene from Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites

Based on true events

According to Grove Music Online , the story of the Compiègne Carmelites was first told by one of their number, Mother Marie of the Incarnation of God, who survived the Terror and lived until 1836. The publication of her Relation led to the beatification of the nuns in 1906

Set during the French Revolution, the story centers upon Blanche, the daughter of the aristocratic Marquis de la Force. Fleeing the wrath of the rebels, Blanche takes refuge in a convent run by Carmelite nuns. Deciding to devote her life to God, Blanche willingly undergoes the rigors and disciplines of her new life--only to have that life, and the lives of all the other nuns, placed in jeopardy when the rebels catch up with her. The production is capped by the harrowing "martyrdom" finale, in which the voice of each nun is abruptly silenced, one after another, by the sound of the headsman's axe.

The nuns march to the scaffold, singing "Salve Regina." At the last minute, Blanche, who had earlier run away from the convent, appears, to Sister Constance’s joy; but as she mounts the scaffold, Blanche changes the hymn to "Deo patri sit gloria" (All praise be thine, O risen Lord).

Be sure to watch to the end, to see what happens as the crowd disperses.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

OPTIONAL ENRICHMENT: How Nominalists Understand God

Here is a helpful introduction to the impact of nominalism on theology:

In relation to theology, the nominalist view goes something like this:

In speaking of the variously defined and described attributes of God, theologians are in fact only using different words to speak of the one and same thing. Again, for clarification - whereas the followers of hyper-realism [Platonism] had transformed the attribute of goodness from a subsistence existing in the mind of God to a substance existing autonomously of it, the nominalists went to the opposite extreme and denied the reality of goodness at all - whether as subsistence or as substance. The logic of nominalism declares a God with no attributes, and thus one with no nature.

But a God with no nature is essentially unknowable, for there can be no characteristics expressed or revealed. Yet the nominalist must then also argue that our experience of God"s seeming multiplicity of attributes is merely a subjectivist illusion, describing not God as he is in himself but only our own experiences as finite creatures. Thus nominalism offers us an unknowable God to whom we respond on the basis of feelings and intuitions.

Ronald Nash provides a good outline of the basic nominalist argument, as follows:

1. Universals (i.e., 'goodness') do not exist.

2. Therefore, properties (a species of universals) do not exist.

3. Therefore, God does not have any properties; God has no nature.

4. Therefore, words that apparently refer to divine attributes cannot possibly denote distinguishable properties within the divine essence. There are no properties of God to which they can refer.

5. Since words referring to divine attributes all have the same referent (nothing), all of God"s attribute-words mean the same thing.

6. Thus, absolutely no differences exist between the various attributes of God.

7. Thus, God"s omniscience is identical with his omnipotence, which is identical with his goodness, and so on.

With regard to nominalism, Charles Hodge notes that Lutheran and Reformed theologians have traditionally leaned heavily in that direction, to the effect that they have tended to emphasize, say, the logical precedence of the unity and simplicity of the divine essence over all other criteria of multiplicity. Hodge points out that the illustration which they usually employed to explain this view was drawn from the sun, by which God"s "ray, by one and the same power (as was then assumed) illuminates, warms, and produces chemical changes, not from any diversity in it, but from diversity in the nature of the objects in which it operates. The force is the same; the effects are different." But he then goes on to point out the dangers of such a leaning, writing that "to say, as the schoolmen, and even as so many Protestant theologians, ancient and modern, were accustomed to say, that the divine attributes differ only in name, or in our conceptions, or in their effects, is to destroy all true knowledge of God."

Nowadays, many theologians see nominalism as a path that leads directly to subjectivism, and to the replacement of Scripture-based theology with existentially oriented emotional responses to an unknown God.

Protestant Scholasticism

Here's yet another article I have stumbled upon that you might find stimulating. It's about how Protestants rejected Aristotle's metaphysics but couldn't abandon his logic. This led to rigid Calvinists who were "all head and no heart;" and later to the pietist reaction against them, (pietists = "all heart but no head.")

In the wake of the Reformation we are left with shards, not only ethically, as MacIntyre argues, but metaphysically and logically. This is why I am sympathetic to the Thomist understanding of Christianity. I don't want to abandon either Aristotle's metaphysics or his logic, but rather want to see them completed in Christ.

(the following is an excerpt from R. J. Vandermolen, Elwell Evangelical Dictionary )
Protestant Scholasticism
A method of thinking developed in early Protestantism, which grew stronger in the seventeenth century and became a widely accepted way to create systematic Protestant theologies. Even though the major Protestant Reformers attacked the theology of the medieval schoolmen and demanded total reliance on Scripture, it was impossible either to purge all scholastic methods and attitudes derived from classical authors or to avoid conflicts that required intricate theological reasoning as well as biblical interpretation.

Several factors account for the growth of Protestant scholasticism: formal education, confidence in reason, and religious controversy. Reliance on logical methods derived from Greek and Roman authors was purged from sixteenth century educational insititutions. Aristotle, for example, upon whom the medieval scholastics had relied, continued to be taught by Protestants: Melanchthon at Wittenberg, Peter Martyr Vermigli at Oxford, Jerome Zanchi at Strassburg, Conrad Gesner at Zurich, Theodore Beza at Geneva. Though these teachers did not accept Thomas Aquinas's medieval scholastic theology, which also relied heavily on Aristotle's logic and philosophy, they did teach Aristotle's deductive logic and gave reason an important place in theology.

Though Luther (following William of Ockham) and Calvin (following French humanists) decried scholastic reliance on reason and wanted instead to limit their theology to humanist linguistic analysis of Scripture, the Protestant scholastics, without breaking from the major Reformers, were more amenable to human reason. Reason became a means to develop coherent theology out of the great variety of biblical texts. Further, Renaissance learning, though it stressed textual analysis, also placed confidence in human rationality. The Protestant use of scholastic techniques and attitudes consequently kept them in the mainstream of early modern philosophy, which, though it moved away from deductive logic, maintained confidence in reason. Protestant theologians, especially the Calvinists, could use scholastic methods to inquire beyond biblical texts into the intricacies and implications of Protestant theology, especially when election and the will of God were considered.

Theological controversy also encouraged Protestant scholasticism. When Luther and Zwingli disagreed over the Lord's Supper and when Calvinists entered great controversies over predestination, protagonists often resorted to scholastic logic. The controversies themselves called for thorough, intricate argumentation; for biblical texts on the issues were interpreted in a variety of ways. Also, those who won the controversies embodied victory in tightly reasoned doctrinal statements. Thus, there is strong evidence of Protestant scholasticism in the Canons of Dort, the Westminister Confession, and the Helvetic Confession of 1675.

The influence of Protestant scholasticism was both immediate and long - range. Among Lutherans, the essential doctrine of justification by faith was transformed into a rather complicated theory of conversion by the most famous Lutheran scholastic, Johann Gerhard (1582 - 1637). Gerhard used Aristotelian and scriptural proof in his Loci Theologicae (9 vols.). While this work was important for shaping Lutheran orthodoxy, in the seventeenth century German pietists replaced scholasticism with a greater emphasis on experiential Christianity. Among the Reformed, two scholastic traditions were developed. Peter Ramus modeled his logic on Plato and Cicero in an attempt to avoid too great an emphasis on metaphysics. Though his work was banned in various continental Protestant centers (Wittenberg, Leiden Helmstedt, Geneva), Ramus had a great influence on Puritan thought in England and America.

The dominant Reformed scholastics, however, were Beza, Vermigli, Adrianus Heerebout, and, most importantly, Francis Turretin (1623 - 87). Turretin's Institutio became the standard work for modern Protestant scholastics, as it was used as a textbook to shape the modern Princeton Theology. Reformed scholasticism in this tradition led to what is generally labeled Calvinist orthodoxy.

The theology of this branch of Protestant scholasticism was, as in the case of Gerhard, dependent on scriptural evidences and Aristotelian logic. The Reformed scholastics concentrated for the most part on questions evolving from predestination, and thus produced a rather rigid Calvinism. At the same time, the movement was amenable to the use of reason, thus allowing the Reformed to adapt to modern rationalist and Enlightenment philosophy quite easily. Noteworthy in this regard is the rather easy accommodation of philosophy and theology in the Scottish Enlightenment. The impact of Protestant scholasticism's methods and outlook was threefold: it created a systematic, well - defined, and aggressive Protestant theology; it led to a reaction by those who emphasized the emotional character of Christian piety; and it encouraged accommodation to early modern philosophy.

---R J Vandermolen (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

BibliographyB Armstrong, Calvinism and the Amyraut Heresy; J W Beardslee, III, ed. and tr., Reformed Dogmatics; J P Donnelly, "Italian Influences on the Development of Calvinist Scholasticism," SCJ 7:81 - 101; J H Leith, An Introduction to the Reformed Tradition; NCE, III; O Grundler, "The Influence of Thomas Aquinas upon the Theology of G Zanchi," in Studies in Medieval Culture; B Hall, "Calvin Against the Calvinists," in John Calvin, ed. G E Duffield; P O Kristeller, Renaissance Thought: The Classic, Scholastic, and Humanist Strains; R Scharlemann, Aquinas and Gerhard: Theological Controversy and Construction in Medieval and Protestant Scholasticism.
The individual articles presented here were generally first published in the early 1980s. This subject presentation was first placed on the Internet in May 1997.
presentation was last updated on 12/31/2006 14:14:00The main BELIEVE web-page (and the index to subjects) is at

Protestant and Catholic Art

here is an interesting ppt about Catholic and Protestant art in the Reformation and the Counter-Reformation. It gives a closer look at some of the works we have encountered, and introduces some new pieces.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Preparation for Test #5: Northern Renaissance and Reformation/ The Baroque

There will be a test Friday Nov. 19 on Chapter 14, Northern Renaissance and Reformation and chapter 15, The Baroque.

define: Counter-reformation
“Cogito ergo sum” (I think, therefore I am")
line engraving
linear perspective

explain who or what these are and why they are important:
Henry VIII and the Anglicans
Hans Holbein the Younger
Ignatius of Loyola
The Spiritual Exercises
Council of Trent
Louis XIV
El Greco
Francis Bacon

Be able to identify and discuss:
Isenheim Altarpiece

Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights
Breugel's Hunters in the Snow
Bernini's David
Bernini, St. Peter’s Piazza
Bernini, St. Teresa in Ecstasy
El Greco, Burial of Count Orgaz
Frans Hals, Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St. George at Haarlem
Rembrandt's The Night Watch
Rembrandt's Self Portraits
Rembrandt, The Jewish Bride
Rembrandt, Bathing Bathsheba
Rubens' Helene Formant and her Children
Rubens, Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus
Caravaggio's The Calling of St. Matthew
Velasquez' Las Meninas (The Maids of Honor)
Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring
Vermeer's The Milkmaid
Holbein's Anne of Cleves
Hilliard's Ermine Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Discuss: (refer to readings and powerpoints)

  •  how were the Reformers and the Humanists the same? different?
  • Give some examples of how Europe shifted from a premodern visual culture to a modern aural culture.
  • explain the causes of and the cultural significance of the Reformation.
  • Briefly discuss the intellectual developments of the 16th and 17th centuries, including the growth of science (Francis Bacon and various other scientists)
  • Compare Dutch Protestant painting with painting in Italy and Spain.
  • What are some of the traits of baroque art and architecture? Give some examples.
  • How did Descartes upset the established order of philosophical inquiry and introduce a new narrative for western civilization?
  • How does modern explanation differ from premodern explanation?
  • Compare and contrast Hals' Banquet of the Officers of the Civic Guard of St. George at Haarlem and Rembrandt's The Night Watch.
  • Compare Versailles and St. Peter’s Basilica. How do they embody the Baroque  spirit?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Two Questions: What does it mean to be Human?

1. Which picture best illustrates what it means to be a human being?





a) Premodern Model (realism)

b) Modern Model  (nominalism)

c) Postmodern model (anti-realism)

2) Which model is closest to what Scripture says it means to be a human being?

Monday, November 01, 2010

PREPARATION for TEST #4: The Renaissance in Italy

There will be a test Friday, Nov. 4 over chapter 12, Early Renaissance, and Chapter 13, The High Renaissance in Italy

pyramidal arrangement
Christian humanism

Explain who or what these are and why they are important:

The Medici Era
Cosimo de'Medici
Fra Angelico
Lorenzo the Magnificent (Il Magnifico)
Fra Savonarola
Marsilio Ficino
The Prince
Pope Julius II
Leonardo da Vinci
St. Peter's Basilica

Be able to identify and discuss:

Giovanni Amolfini and His Bride by Van Eyck
Florence Baptistry doors (Gates of Paradise)
The Holy Trinity by Masaccio
The Tribute Money by Masaccio
The Annunciation by Fra Angelico
La Primavera by Botticelli
The Birth of Venus by Botticelli
Adoration of the Magi by Botticelli
Dome of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Florence Cathedral) by Brunelleschi
The School of Athens by Raphael
Madonna of the Meadow by Raphael
The Transfiguration by Raphael
The Last Supper by Leonardo
The Last Supper by Tintoretto
Donatello's David
Sistine Chapel ceiling, by Michelangelo
Creation of Adam, by Michelangelo
Michelangelo's David
Michaelangelo's Moses
Michaelangelo's Boboli Captives
Venus of Urbino by Titian
Enthroned Madonna with Saints by Giorgione,
Madonna of the Long Neck by Parmagiano,
Deposition by Pontormo

 Discuss: (Refer to readings and/or powerpoints)
1) What were some of the causes of the Renaissance?
2) What were the primary sites of the Renaissance, and in what order?
3) What are the characteristics of Early Renaissance art?
4) What was the role of the Medici family in the Florentine Renaissance? Discuss the three greatest of them.
5) "Man is the measure of all things" has been said to be a fitting motto for the Renaissance. Discuss why, and compare the Renaissance to the "dark ages." From a Christian point of view, was the Renaissance really an improvement?
6) Compare and contrast the two styles of humanism represented by Machiavelli and Erasmus.
7) Compare Michelangelo's style with Raphael's style. How would you tell them apart?
8) Discuss Michelangelo's ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
9) Compare Leonardo's Last Supper with Tintoretto's Last Supper. How could you tell who painted which?
10) What are the characteristics of Mannerist art?
11) What are some examples of neoplatonism in Renaissance painting?