KB Categories Archives: Arts

Art, Life, and the Church: Dr. Dianne Collard

Audio Resource: Dr. Dianne Collard was the guest on this edition of Ancient-Future Faith radio. Dianne is a member of the Ancient-Future Faith Network, an author, a sought-after speaker on issues related to the arts and the church, and a great blessing to the many artists she mentors and encourages. Join us for a conversation about her latest goings-on (which include a documentary film and a new arts organization in Charlotte, North Carolina.


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Dr. Lou Kaloger: The Story of Scripture and the Art and Architecture of the Church

Video-IconVideo Content: At June, 2016’s annual AFFN Convocation, Network member Dr. Lou Kaloger presented “The Story of Scripture and the Art and Architecture of the Church.”

With many examples and illustrations, Lou invited the audience to look closely at the architecture and imagery of church structures and their contents through the ages. He then focused on often overlooked, seemingly small, but extraordinarily significant details in the works that reveal how artistic and architectural elements instruct and tell the whole story of God.

Lou holds degrees in fine arts and biblical studies and a doctoral degree in Worship Studies from the IWS. In addition to serving as pastor of Tampa Covenant Church, he is a professor and regular contributor to the online Relief Journal.

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The Imitation of Christ: Original Art by Donald Richmond

Donald Richmond:

Self Portrait: Donald Richmond

Self Portrait: Donald Richmond

The Imitation of Christ, purportedly written and/or compiled by Thomas á Kempis, is one the most beloved and important books within the Christian corpus. It has been said that, until relatively recently, it outsold every other book except the Bible. Although this has now changed, the text is a treasure trove of Christian philosophy and living that is appreciated by every major Christian tradition– including the Coptic Orthodox Church.

The first copy I ever saw was a 1954 edition, published by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, that my mother had when I was a child. As I could not read at the time, I remember paging through the text and being deeply moved by the images which accompanied this particular publication. These images changed my life. Later, when I eventually learned how to read, the words shaped and changed who I was and how I thought. Apart from the Bible and my Prayer Book, The Imitation of Christ has been my constant companion for almost forty years.

Several months ago, I was impressed by these words from the twelfth chapter of the first book of á Kempis’ four-part collection:

“In the cross is salvation

In the cross is life

In the cross is protection

In the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness

In the cross is strength of mind

In the cross is joy of spirit

In the cross is the height of virtue

In the cross is the perfection of sanctity.”

These words, albeit modestly abridged from the Challoner edition (Tan Books), began to stir within my heart and imagination. Within a short time, I began producing images related to the quotation.

What you now have before you (below) is a selection of these images– and a bit more. I hope that you will enjoy looking at them as much as I have enjoyed creating them–  and this with the equal (if not greater) hope that you, too, will adopt á Kempis’ classic text and apply it.







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The Broken Baroque

Donald Richmond:

Duomo-detail-SicilyAccording to Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI), in his masterful The Spirit of the Liturgy, the Baroque represents a crucial period in the history of the Church, liturgy, and the arts. It is, according to Benedict, one of the three acceptable artistic frameworks for effective catechesis and liturgical renewal. This said, and not underestimating Benedict’s heart or mind, the Baroque poses significant problems for Protestants. Contrary to Benedict’s Roman Catholic assertion, the Baroque represents a broken system that militates against the fundamental premises of the Protestant agenda. (In fact it might also be argued that it militates against a broadminded understanding and application of Vatican II).

The Baroque emerged as an extension of Catholic renewal in response to the Protestant Reformation(s) throughout Europe. Any appreciation of Baroque liturgy and arts, most especially when considered within a catechetical setting, must be attained through understanding this historic context. As such, when it is evaluated within this framework, it is decidedly counter-Reformation in its priorities, principles and practices. And, importantly, these are precisely why Protestants– even High-Church Protestants– must reject the Baroque narrative while certainly appreciating, in some way, Baroque aesthetics.

There are at least three reasons for rejecting the Baroque as a theological enterprise:

"Sacrifice of Isaac." Caravaggio

“Sacrifice of Isaac.” Caravaggio

The Baroque presents a questionable ecclesiastical perspective. A case in point are the paintings of Caravaggio. There is no doubt about Caravaggio’s tremendous talent. His mastery of light and shadow is almost unparalleled. Nevertheless, his paintings reveal a dangerous orientation. In order to effectively view his works, we must step back twenty to thirty feet. If we were to get too close, all we would see is great masses of color– often unclear and untidy. Proper viewing, proper perspective, requires that that the viewer step back and step away from the visual narrative. And this is precisely the point. Protestant Theology, on all fronts, is based upon a “come unto me” perspective. The Church, and Jesus Christ himself, are meant to be intimately approached without the militating and mediating necessity of distance. The Roman Catholic Church at the time was trying to reinforce the doctrine of a holy (that is untouchable and unassailable) perspective about the Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholic theology, as gloriously but dangerously expressed through Baroque arts, was saying that we must keep our distance, and that it is only this distance (as moderated, mediated and occulated by Holy Roman Catholic Church) that provides proper perspective. That is, albeit briefly, Baroque Art seeks to present an Old Testament (the giving of the Law that required not touching the Mountain) orientation, whereas the Protestant perspective was more in keeping with the Sermon on the Mount (Christ’s disciples came to him). The Law, the Roman Catholic perspective artistically applied, implied “do not touch.” The Gospel, the Protestant perspective, implied “come unto me.” In other words, the Baroque militates against biblical, ecclesiastical, and relational accessibility.

Pope-benedict-XVI-Celebrates-MassFurther to this, the Baroque presents a questionable perspective on biblical simplicity. When we view Baroque art, or hear Baroque music, it is complicated, cluttered and excessively ornate. It is, in my opinion, highly distorting and distracting. It is affected in its Theo-speech, both liturgically and artistically. Does this not reflect, most especially under Pope Benedict XVI’s tenure, an excessive form of Roman Catholicism that sought to return the Church to a pre-Vatican II, which was Tridentine, mentality? The liturgical changes approved by His Holiness shortly before his retirement illustrate this. Is the vessel used at the Eucharist a “chalice” or a “cup”? Although this illustration may appear to be a “splitting hairs” argument, it is not. There are distinct theologies undergirding both the “chalice” and the “cup.” Chalice, reflecting a distorted perspective, presents a Baroque orientation that again asserts affected dignity and piety. Similarly, and supporting my thesis, is this retired Pope’s retrograde interest in the pallium and Prada. These, along with the re-assertion of the so-called “Extraordinary Rite,” that is a more Baroque Rite, illustrates Pope Benedict XVI’s affection for the affectations of the Baroque. His pontificate, personality, and theology were known by a marked distance and inaccessibly very much in keeping with his Baroque proclivities.

These are in stark contrast with a biblical, and far more Protestant, perspective. Protestant reform sought to return the Church to biblical and liturgical simplicity. Complications and additions, both biblically and liturgically, and on all counts, were minimized. One example of this is Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer as opposed to the far more complicated Roman Catholic rites and rituals. Cranmer sought Protestant simplicity and accessibility, whereas the Roman Catholicism of the time militated against such an orientation and perspective. The so called “stripping of the altars” (E. Duffy), although lamentable and at times politically charged, can also be understood as a means of removing every distortion and distraction that might hinder a genuine and unmediated (broadly speaking) encounter with God. A far more contemporary example of this is when I was asked to help a Roman Catholic parish of 2,500 families for about three or four months. What I found was that the established rituals of Roman Catholicism complicated, and frequently prevented, the establishing of God-centered relationships. Ritual trumped relationship although, ideally, good ritual always enhances healthy relationships. This, in essence, and although removed by time, reflects how Baroque art rejects theological and liturgical simplicity.

Ceiling (detail). Chiesa del Gesu (Rome)

Ceiling (detail). Chiesa del Gesu (Rome)

Finally, the Baroque presents a questionable perspective on anthropology. Baroque content, color, clutter, and clouds also obscure the biblical perspective regarding “man.” To look at a Catholic Baroque painting, or Baroque architecture, is to look at man in the act of aspiring. (I think Baroque music also reflects the same theology of ascension/sanctification/glorification). Often in these images, saints are centrally depicted– and often ascending through blue clouds accompanied by chubby cherubs. Although intended as inspiration to evoke emulation, as “the greatest sorrow is not to be a saint” (J. Maritain), the images often communicate a theology of works over grace. There are, of course, exceptions to this assertion.

"Ascension of Christ." Rembrandt

“Ascension of Christ.” Rembrandt

Why is there a preponderance of mystics, martyrs and saints? Why this emphasis upon ascension? While a diversity of reasons may be cited, they share a common theme contrary to the Protestant doctrine of grace. Although rather simplistic in its analysis, mystics displace the doctrine of revelation, martyrs displace the doctrine of Christology, and saints displace the doctrine of the “priesthood of all believers.” As well, and central to all of this, the idea of ascension suggests a doctrine of achieving instead of a doctrine of receiving. To be sure, this is an exaggeration (*see note below). There is a proper place to be given to mystics, martyrs, saints, and ascension. Mystics alert us to the need of genuine encounter over rote religion. Martyrs assert that Christ and his Church are things for which to live and die. Saints do help us appreciate the need to lead exemplary lives of holiness. Ascension, in keeping with the writings of Thomas á Kempis, asserts that “as is our purpose, so will our progress be.” That is, it is important to be spiritually attentive. There must be method to our passionate madness. These are all important. Nevertheless, within a Tridentine-Baroque perspective, they displace the Gospel narrative of underserved grace. As such, “man” is again left to strive without satisfaction and the Roman Church, and its extreme view of the Sacraments, is elevated as the exclusive means of meaningful meditation. While anachronistic, the Baroque asserts (again as articulated by Emeritus Pope Benedict) that art and the saints are the Church’s most powerful apologetic. Within a Tridentine-Baroque framework this cannot be denied. But what beliefs and behaviors are they defending? How are they offering a defense? Why are they offering such a defense?

As might be guessed, I am not an expert on Baroque art and liturgy. Nevertheless, a significant part of my theological education has been focused upon the intersection of the arts, liturgy and catechesis– and this, partially, through a pontifically-approved institution. I began ruminating on these ideas shortly after I studied with this institute and, later, with one of its instructors. But when a friend asked me my thoughts on the Baroque, I decided to put them to paper.

I am not opposed to Roman Catholicism. I was raised and educated within the warm and welcoming embrace of this robust Christian tradition. I have a deep and abiding respect for Emeritus Pope Benedict. I have enjoyed reading his liturgical and catechetical works, and derived many benefits from them. I enjoy Baroque art as Baroque art– but not liturgically or religiously. As such, if I have any “axe to grind,” it is an “axe” of caution. In this age of renewed liturgical interest, among both Romans and Genevans alike, we must be careful about blithely or ignorantly accepting or rejecting either fixedness or flexibility. The weight of Emeritus Pope Benedict’s (or any other saintly scholar’s) intellect and piety does not automatically provide tacit approval to every form of artistic expression used in a liturgical setting.  In this case, the case of the Baroque, he is wrong. Benedict’s Baroque predilections only serve to remind us that even “good” religious art may not always be utilized in a liturgical or catechetical setting.


*One exception is Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Here, erotically depicted, is a mystical experience that was entirely generated by God. However, in Bernini’s sculptural interpretation of this event, the sexual emphasis far outweighs the spiritual message. To be sure, as has been said by Charles Williams, “flesh speaks as spirit speaks, but spirit knows of what it speaks.” This said, however, Bernini’s sculpture illustrates an eroticism which is the dangerous underbelly of the Baroque ascension narrative.

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A Longing Fulfilled

9tB2M3cDianne Collard:

Adapted from a presentation given at the 2014 Ancient Future Faith Network Gathering in Orange Park, Florida.


Have you ever had a longing? That “yearning desire” for something that just doesn’t seem to be satisfied? A thirst that you are always seeking to assuage, even while going about your normal life?

The word for this longing in German is Sehnsucht— a soul search. I have known such a search. Perhaps you have as well.

The term for “longing” is used at least forty times in the Scriptures. King David, in the midst of deep pain over his sin and his need for God’s mercy, writes in Psalm 38:9— with great emotion— “O Lord, all my longing is before you, my sighing is not hidden from you.” In the ancient system of physiology, the kidneys were believed to be the seat of desire and longing— the deepest part of our being. David felt this longing in is deepest recesses of his being.

The Apostle Paul wrote of such a “longing” in Romans 8:19 as he writes that “creation itself waits with eager longing . . . to be set free from bondage”. In 1 Corinthians 5:2, he writes, “For in this tent we groan, yearning to put on our heavenly dwelling.” This is Sehnsucht.

Longing. . . . .

I’ve known such a longing. I want to share a couple of deep longings of my life.

Learning of the AFFN and attending the 2014 Gathering in Orange Park, Florida, was a partial fulfillment of a deep longing of my heart. I’ve been a Christian since I was a child and have always attended Protestant, non-liturgical churches— some really good, some not so good. Today my husband and I serve in a small, inner-city church that offers many opportunities for ministry in the lives of hurting people. And yet, as I have grown older, the longing in my heart for something more has grown— sometimes overwhelming me. That longing was for a deeper relationship with God and an experience & expression of worship that was authentic, powerful, and life-changing. In this search, I investigated Eastern Orthodoxy with Frederica Matthews-Green. I was introduced to the writings of Robert Webber and his concept of Ancient-Future Faith. My heart was stirred that it might be possible to drink deep in the Word of God and have worship enhanced by the writings of the early Church Fathers. I learned of an expression of worship that is more than perfunctory or emotional. I wanted with all my heart a CONNECTION TO AUTHENTICITY. But, member of AFFN, you already know what I mean, as you’ve been immersed in this search for many years.

In September of 2013, we re-connected with some long-time friends in California and learned, to our surprise, that they were deeply involved in AFFN and were serving in an excellent church that is, in its DNA , committed to the Ancient-Future Faith principles. Subsequently we spent time worshiping with this community and I have spoken there. I felt as if my parched “kidneys”— the seat of my longing— experienced a refreshing rain. We were so excited about this, we sent our pastor from North Carolina to California to spend a week with the leaders of this church. There we soaked in the “hows and whys” of such worship. Now, we are in the process our worship in our house church to one that begins to meet the “longing” of my soul.

The Longing for Healing: A Personal Testimony

In my life, I’ve known an even deeper longing, one of healing and wholeness following the murder of our eldest son in 1992. It was in this time of deep grief that God met the most severe longing of my life.

I had no background in art— either as an artist or a patron. Yet, it was through the powerful vehicle of visual art that I encountered God and He began a miracle of healing. In desperation, I ran from my flat in Vienna, Austria, and began walking the little lanes of the First District. As it was snowing and I needed warmth, I took rescue in the Kunsthistorische, the art history museum.

“It takes years to look at a picture,” writes Thomas Hess. I spent hours gazing at the various paintings. At first it was depictions of war and destruction which mirrored the despair of my heart. In the following days, paintings reflecting the Passion of Christ arrested my attention and I wept. I distinctly remember one large painting that pictured the act of taking Christ down from the cross and placing him in the arms of his mother. I wept as I entered into Mary’s grief. In that particular painting, a little angel, called a putti, was situated in the bottom right corner. This little angelic being was crying at the unimaginable death of the Son of God. My grief poured out in tears as well. From that time until now, all renditions of the Pieta, which reflected a mother’s grief, mirrored my own expression of pain.

1349767087451Everywhere I saw my pain and despair reflected. But, my longing for deep healing from grief and despair wasn’t assuaged. Then— after exhausting the Kunsthistoriche Museum and other traditional galleries, I found myself— for the first time— in a Museum of Modern Art, the Albertina. Here I encountered the art form most foreign to me— abstract or non-representational art. To my shock, without any preparation or understanding of this art form, God spoke to me in “sensations too subtle for words” (Robert Henri).

I gazed on various paintings done in abstraction, God spoke a truth into my heart that I’d never considered before. This is what I understood God to reveal, “I am the ORIGINAL abstract artist, Dianne. Before Genesis 1:1 when I created the heavens and the earth—all you can know and experience—I exercised my imagination, because nothing seen had existed before. Nothing in my original creation was representational. It was all abstract. And, before I spoke the world into existence, I formed the building blocks of all you see in nature and in art: line, color, design, texture, space, order.” And I worshiped the Almighty, Creator God.

Artists have sensed this reality of the “building blocks” of creation. American artist, Georgia O’Keeffe wrote, “I found I could say things with color and shape that I couldn’t say any other way– things I had no words for.” Another artist, French Impressionist Edgar Degas expressed, “In a single brushstroke we can say more than a writer in a whole volume.”

God “spoke” these words into my heart and soul– into the area of deepest need and longing, “These basic elements of line, color, design, order, space and texture are the underlying elements of all that is seen in creation.” I met– experienced– the Creator in a powerful and transforming way. I explained it in this way, God began healing me deep within my soul as the Creator who transformed chaos into the beauty of creation; turns mourning into dancing; and can enable a grieving, broken mother to thrive, not merely survive, after the murder of her son. The medium God used was abstract and non-representational art. The power was God’s alone.” The result? Profound worship…that filled that longing in my soul and in that worship, the healing began. God assured me, that just as all of creation is formed from these disparate pieces that formed creation, He could take broken pieces of my heart and make something beautiful.

In the intervening years of contemplation and research, I’ve come to believe that I experienced the “power of the abstract”. It is in the abstract that the mystery and transcendency of God can be displayed. It speaks of Creator, while representational art shows the Creation. Both point back to God, but it was in the abstract that my healing began.

As with many non-liturgical, “free” church members, I’ve known a “visual anorexia” in my life and my experience with church. I didn’t know how to live with this new reality of the power of art and the nexus of art and worship. I was afraid to share this experience for many years because it was so “outside” my conservative Christian box and I feared it would be criticized. But God not only started my healing and the met my deep longing for wholeness through this experience, He also gave me a new calling and purpose for my life. He gave me a passion for finding and encouraging artists of faith. This was so unusual— I could never have thought of it by myself!

We were missionaries in Europe, so I began looking for artists-of-faith in every European country where we worked. I would ask them about their journey of faith and their art expression. Repeatedly I heard the pain of alienation by artists-of-faith from the organized, evangelical church. Seldom did I hear positive stories, but rather, testimonies of rejection. My heart was heavy for these lovely, creative children of God.

At the same time, I began doing cultural investigation. I learned that in postmodern Europe, the arts were the language of spirituality but most of the “free” churches had rejected all use of the visual arts. I was perplexed and saddened.

In 2001, I attended the Hope 21 Congress which brought together Christian leaders from every corner of Europe. I timidly asked to observe in the track for artists. Again, I heard the pain and despair of these artists in relationship to the work and purposes of the church. At the end of the week, I asked to share my testimony of how God had used visual art in my healing process. I ended by imploring them to not give up the use of the creative gift in the work of the Lord as it was needed by the world, the church, and by non-artists such as myself. I sat down, feeling rather foolish, and left with a personal commitment to find out why the church treated artists, especially visual artists, the way that it had. This ultimately led to my doctoral research which was completed in 2004. I observed, researched and interviews pastors of (free) evangelical churches and artists-of-faith in Germany/Switzerland (birthplace of Protestant Reformation) and Spain (birthplace of Counter-Reformation) regarding the use (or non-use) of visual art. The essential findings of why visual art (and artists) were alienated were these:


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The Nexus of Prayer and Visual Art

Chris Alford: AFFN Contributing Member Dianne Collard is back with another terrific article, this time with a look at the places where visual art and contemplation and prayer come together.



VeraIconGerman19CenturySetting the context and stating the purpose of a paper probably should not be done in negatives— telling you what it is not. And yet it seems that is what I must do. This paper is an overview, a synopsis of some of the published writings on the subject. It is not a detailed analysis of the role of the visual in Christian practice. Likewise, I will not attempt to discuss the purpose of the visual in general worship services. There will be no discussion of the psychological issues regarding this subject, nor how postmodernism and the arts affect the language of spirituality. I will also neither attempt to be prescriptive nor pejorative.

What I do offer to the reader is an overview of the visual in devotional practices, as well as a short historical review of denominational distinctions. The paper will close with some examples of visual aids used in promoting devotion to God. I hope that it will encourage you to include visual art in your own devotional practices.


To download and read the complete paper, please click here.


Image above right: Vera Icon. Unknown German artist. 19th century.


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Jesus as Mother: Part Three

Chris Alford:

DeamBookCoverAFFN member and author Dr. Lisa Deam is offering an exclusive to Contributing Members of the Network: A book excerpt series from her latest publication, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps (Cascade Books, 2015).

Here now is part two of “Jesus as Mother”. Interested in reading part one? Please click here. And, also, here’s part two if  you missed it.


Jesus as Mother: Part 3

In this series, we’re looking at the Ebstorf Map in conjunction with the medieval and biblical tradition of “Jesus as mother.” You may want to take a moment to review the last post on the biblical imagery of Jesus giving birth on the cross. In this excerpt from my new book, I explore what the Ebstorf Map means in my— and maybe your— walk of faith.

I cannot look at the Ebstorf Map without remembering the birth of my own children. I remember the agony. The blood and sweat. The frazzled nerves. One labor was thirty-three hours in length— one hour for every year of Jesus’ earthly life, I like to say. The second lasted little more than sixty minutes. Both were excruciating. Although the pain no longer wracks my body, I doubt that I will ever completely forget the physical sensation of bringing life into the world.


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Jesus as Mother: Part Two

Chris Alford:

DeamBookCoverAFFN member and author Dr. Lisa Deam is offering an exclusive to Contributing Members of the Network: A book excerpt series from her latest publication, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps (Cascade Books, 2015).

Here now is part two of “Jesus as Mother”. Interested in reading part one? Please click here.


Jesus as Mother: Part 2

The Bible contains several images of a motherly God. In the Old Testament, God is described as a comforting mother (Isa 66:13) and a she-bear with cubs (Hos 13:8). In the New Testament, Jesus speaks of himself as a mother hen longing to gather her chicks to her side (Luke 13:34 and Matt 23:37). Peter even likens Christ to a nursing mother in a verse that recalls Aelred of Rievaulx’s description (quoted in last week’s article) of Jesus’ lactating breasts: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Pet 2:2–3). (more…)

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Jesus as Mother: Part One

DeamBookCoverChris Alford:

AFFN member and author Dr. Lisa Deam is offering an exclusive to Contributing Members of the Network: A book excerpt series from her latest publication, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps (Cascade Books, 2015).

Part one is available here and we’ll post the next in the series shortly. Enjoy!


A New Name: Part 1

What is your favorite name for Jesus? Is it brother? Friend? Savior? Are you ready to learn a new and perhaps startling name for the Son of God? The Middle Ages gives us a name that seems new but is actually quite old. In fact, medieval Christians borrowed it from the Bible itself. I like to introduce this name via one of the artistic treasures of medieval times: the Ebstorf Map (ca. 1300), a very large (over eleven feet in diameter!) map made in Germany around the year 1300.

On the Ebstorf Map, the city of Jerusalem centers the world and features a picture of the resurrection of Jesus. It is clearly the most important site on the map. And in this site is born a name for Jesus that takes many modern Christians by surprise. Read about it below in this excerpt from my new book, A World Transformed: Exploring the Spirituality of Medieval Maps (Cascade 2015).


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